Friday, July 15, 2011, 09:06
Brother what a night it really was… Brother what a fight it really was… Glory be, I sang under me breath. I felt his need to connect with me as I’d felt it that day in the conference hall. I waited to for the line to connect. “Meet me at the Chicago and Wabash Starbucks!” he said. That’s all. No whispered endearments, no sounds of kisses. Not even the usual “See you!” which he knew could make shivers run up and down my spine.
Oh heavens, he knows I get tired driving. Why didn’t he make it somewhere closer? He knows I get lost easily. Moreover, he knows I daren’t kiss him with all those people watching. It will be all over the papers tomorrow, if I do. I will never understand that man as long as I live.
I bunched up my hair, jammed on a crocheted beret, stood up, and as I struggled to put on my parka, I hissed Cover for me, will you? To the journalist in the next booth, and went down to the car park to fetch my car.
“You look excited”, the Security Officer remarked. Oh yes, I have a lead… I blushed, and turned my key in the ignition. I began counting. Ohio. Ontario. Erie. Huron. Superior. At the back of my mind, there were those dreary geography lessons in which I had had to learn the names of the Great Lakes – this was easy, they formed the acronym “Homes”. Mnemonics helped me get by in the world, most of the time. However, learning their position on a map was extremely difficult for me, what with being dyslexic and all.
Me English language teacher, in fact, had laughed in me face when, during the Careers Convention, I had declared I wanted to become a journalist. “You can’t even read a Primer!” I had exclaimed. I’ll show me, I’d thought… and the said teacher had even had the audacity call the editor to say that someone must be ghost-writing my articles, when my name had appeared under the story about how it had been was Danny Ainge of the Celtics who gave Vinnie Johnson the nickname ‘The Microwave’ – as a foil to the one for William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry.
It had been pure happenstance – shopping at Nordstrom I’d noticed that the sales assistant’s nametag said “Ditka”, and when I’ commented on it, it turned out that I was the Coach’s niece –and I took it from there.
Ye heavens, I nearly missed that turning I gasped, and squealed me brakes just in time before turning left. In the heat of a summer night… In the land of the dollar bill… mmmmmm… oh, how I wish it was last summer again. One dose of Mediterranean sun, sand, and sea, isn’t enough for one lifetime… I reminisced.
Suddenly the Starbucks sign loomed at me through the rain, and looked around for a parking space, not bothering to go to the lot because I was not expecting to be there long.
I pulled up the parka hood and held one side of it in front of me face with my teeth. By now, the rain was lashing down, and I knew my new cloth moccasins were ruined.
“You made it!” he said, from the table nearest the door, as soon as I walked into the café. I noticed that he looked pale, and that his eyes had acquired bags underneath them that had not been there six months before, when we’d met as both of us were holidaying in Malta. It was only when I went to hug him that I noticed he was sitting in a wheelchair, and I instinctively flinched.
“They broke both my legs. And they kneecapped me, to make sure I never walked again…” he sighed. “But it doesn’t matter. Here, take this,” he said, as he handed me a big manila envelope, bulging with who-knows-which-secrets. “Leave. Now.”
I made to complain – but he shook his head; and suddenly the wheelchair was empty. I gasped, and realised that I would be better off if I left the building immediately.
I turned the corner and made for my car. No sooner had I got into the driver’s seat and chucked the envelope on the passenger side, than there was an almighty explosion.
There was shouting in the street… And the sound of running feet…