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three| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | ZERO Today is moving day for Victoria. She completed the mandatory thirty days of Blackout and just this morning passed her written Blackout quiz. She was able to answer the chain-­ of-­ command questions, including the one that asked her to identify “who I can go to and can’t go to” for information, complaints, or assistance. Victoria appropriately repeated the prayers and pledges of Alpha Omega House sisterhood and correctly identified the cardinal rules. Despite having been reprimanded, written-­ up, and fined for violations such as talking back to monitors, wearing earrings, and being late for her shower, Victoria still may be considered the “new girl,” but she can leave Blackout behind for a room upstairs and officially settle in as a second-­floor resident. Like other so-­ called “new girls” fresh out of Blackout, Victoria is no longer subjected to wearing black or being isolated from other women, and she will never have to attend another Blackout class. Before she leaves the Blackout bedroom for her quarters upstairs, Victoria rushes out of her blacks into a comfortable pair of cream-­colored slacks and a soft blue sweater. She relinquishes the label of “Blackout girl” (though remains a “new girl”) and steps into O Level or, as the women call it, Zero. During this second phase of stay, which lasts at least thirty days but can be as long as three months, women have more freedom than they had in Blackout but are under tighter surveillance and control than women further along in the program. The physical and social scene has changed for Victoria and other “Zero girls,” including Adeline, Violet, Amelia, Billie, Freya, Candy, and Clair, who now have a broader experience within this old convent structure. 88 a halfway house for women Layout Stepping out of Blackout into the narrow cinderblock hallway, Victoria carries a bundle of personals and clothing. She passes a stairway descending to the basement , a laundry room, a conference room used for Blackout class, and the administrative offices. Just steps outside the Blackout door she reaches the ascending stairway, grips the wood handrail, and sighs heavily. She announces, “Going up!” as she slowly climbs, pulling herself by the handrail to the halfway-­point landing, where she takes a rest. Candy turns the ninety-­degree corner in midair, announcing , “Comin’ down!” as she disappears into the hallway below. This phrase is heard many times each day because residents must announce their travels each time they ascend or descend the stairway. At the top of the stairs, the second level is laid out like a hospital ward with bedrooms along a long narrow cinderblock corridor. The doorways on one side of the hall do not face the doorways on the opposite wall. Rather, the view out the doorway of any room is always of cinderblock. Each of the eight bedrooms is marked with a simple black plastic number, similar to those typically found on home mailboxes. Numbered from two to nine, the rooms are roughly identical, distinguished only by residents’ personal touches. They are small, with two cots, a dresser, a closet, and a small window. Sometimes a woman has her own room, especially when the house is not so full, but women usually share rooms. Mimi and Phoebe share a room and so do Violet and Amelia, who advanced to Zero the same day. Adeline rooms with Raquel and hates it. Candy has her own room and so does Freya. Henrietta has her own room too. Video surveillance stops at the hallway; personal spaces such as bedrooms and the bathroom area are off-­ limits to cameras. In this building constructed specifically for women’s communal living, it is only inside her bedroom that a woman might maintain a separate personal identity—if she can carve a private life at all in a public space. Women may go to their rooms any time after noon unless they are required elsewhere, such as meetings with staff, meals, or occasional classes. The upstairs rules are simple: no shutting the bedroom doors, no entering another residents’ room, no mingling in the hallway, no congregating in the bathroom , and lights out when instructed. The women must always observe the “no naked” rule, as the women call it. In addition to the obvious prohibition against being naked, this rule prohibits women from exposing their breasts or under­ garments at all times, even in the privacy of their beds. Like the nuns who lived at the house before, women must...


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Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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