She sits looking out the triple glass doors into the mountainside. She recognizes spruce, firs and pines without being able to put names to them. Which has the short needles, which the long? No matter; evergreens belong to mountains. These trees belong. She enjoys the outcroppings of basalt rocks, so massive, so solid looking, even though she can't remember which is granite, feldspar, igneous, shale, or limestone. She just cannot name what she sees any more, can't remember which definition goes with which term. She knows that once she had been able to identify both the rocks and the trees, but now it is enough to just relish the sight of them and recognize their rightness. The blue patch of sky with a few white puffy clouds is also right. Cirrus? Cumulus? Stratus? Nimbus? She can't remember which are the long, streaky clouds, and which the strong, leaky ones, which pile and which poof in delicate layers like cake frosting. No matter what they are called, she is comfortable with them. She is totally at peace.
Two young men, dressed in parkas and heavy gloves, enter the first set of doors, shedding the gauntlets before progressing through the next set. Parkas removed reveal jeans and LL Bean style flannel shirts on nicely muscled forms. The mountain version of yuppies? she thinks. Hikies? Were exceptionally agile ones called goaties? And should he possess external chin whiskers, did he become a goatee?
In answer to the smile that plays across her lips as these thoughts flit through her mind, one man meets her eye, "Hello. You must be new here. I'm Ethan, and this is Macon."
Standing, she takes his proffered hand. "Leanna. Yes, very new." She returns to the waiting room style chair she's been occupying after shaking Macon's slightly bigger hand. Excusing themselves, they disappear into what Leanna thinks of as the "young men's side" of the foyer.
Several young men engaged in a heated debate enter and sprawl onto a couch/easy chair combo clustered in one corner of the room against the windows. Leanna finds they do not disturb her view, but rather decorate it. She does not make eye contact with them, but lets their sudden laughter play pleasantly across her inner landscape.
Or is this a recreational area instead of a foyer? She watches in spectator mode as groups come and go, the sound of enthusiastic game participation and animated discussions ebbing and flowing through the tidal lowlands of her thoughts. None of it touches her.
Suddenly, one man comes over and stands too close. "Where do you want to go tonight?"
At first, not realizing the question is addressed to her, she looks around in confusion. "Go? Tonight? To bed, I suppose, like any other night."
As he leers down at her, she suddenly decides he is including himself in a rosy little picture she has not intended to intimate. "ALONE," she adds forcefully.
"Not even with a wittle bitty teddy bear for comfort?" The leer grows larger, the eyes more predatory.
"A 6' plus, leering teddy bear? I think not."
Putting a hand on his hip and cocking it suggestively, he murmurs, "I'm real cute and cuddly in the right setting." He licks his lips indolently, lasciviously.
"I'd feel more as if I were on the menu than part of the entertainment package of the suite. As is, Brown bear seems more suitable, don't you think? Paste on a beard and grizzly might become you more. Paint your hair white and we could call you a polar bear."
"Bare... I can just see it all now: two brown headed, bare-assed bodies frolicking about the boudoir."
After his first word, she stands and leaves the area without another sign that she has heard a thing he's said. The last of his imaginings are shouted the length of the room, causing a ripple of laughter as she makes the doorway.
It's silly to avoid the only inhabited area I know where people are relaxing, not working. If I expect to get to know people and fit in at all, I need to keep making contact, even if it is light. Picking up the book she is reading and her glasses, she exits, locking the dead bolt on the door behind her.
All the seats seem occupied, so she moves into the opposite corner from the triple glass doors and slides down the wall into a graceful cross-legged position, dons her glasses, opens her book and reads. The steady wash of conversation is easy to incorporate into her book's landscape.
Suddenly, two feet nearly bump into her legs. Staring at them in irritation, she decides to ignore them. I wish I'd faced the wall.
"Well, what would you like to do right now, if you don't like nighttime sports?"
When the voice comes, she recognizes it as that of the young man whose unwanted attentions had driven her from the area three days ago. Doggedly, she keeps reading, turning the page even though she can't remember a single letter it had on it. She flinches back, banging her head into the wall when a giant hand slaps down on the book.
"Leave me alone! Whatever did I do that makes you think I want to be around you? For whatever it was, I apologize deeply and beg you to erase it from your memory." She scrambles awkwardly to her feet, ducks under his arm as it rests above her head against the wall, and slinks abjectly from the room, followed by many curious glances.
Hunger finally drives her from the safe haven of her room. She has run out of everything edible, even cough drops. Taking her purse and her parka, she leaves, entering the foyer apprehensively. Slowly quiet descends as all eyes focus on her. Slipping into the parka, she tries to walk toward the triple doors without looking at anyone.
Macon stands, venturing into her pathway. "Hi, Leanna. Where are you heading alone?"
"I-I I'm just going to the store for a few things."
"Reality check. The nearest store is a several day's walk out that way. People leave in pairs or more. That way, they are able to come back."
Her eyes dart wildly about. Macon's hand raises slowly, underhand, palm open, in a gesture Leanna recognizes as one she herself has used to reassure a frightened horse. She forces herself to take a deep breath. Her voice is wobbly when it comes out. "Wh-what do you suggest?"
Gently taking her arm, he turns her around and heads her back to the doorway she has come from. "There's a service area in Corridor D that might carry the things you want. There's also a "supplies wanted" sheet where people can list the odd things they hanker for. On the orientation tour, most people are shown the gym, laundry, pool, library, cafeteria, and service area. If you've forgotten how to get anywhere, I'll be glad to..." Unobtrusively, once out of sight of the people in the foyer, he helps her remove her parka.
"Orientation tour? I never had any orientation tour. I know how to get to the foyer and my room. The people who packed up my house told me how to order my things sent to my room from a storage area via the computer. The first thing I ordered was my OWN computer, and... uh, I unhooked the original one, so I haven't been able to access any of my things since. When I tried to re-hook the first computer, it wouldn't operate at all."
A rich laugh fills the hallway. "You disconnected BIG BROTHER? I've never heard of anyone being able to do that before. So, what did you replace him with?"
"My mom’s old Apple G-4. It has all my stuff on it, in a format I know and like."
"You must have taken good care of it to keep it going so long."
"My first Mac lasted nearly 10 years, and when she went, I was able to get all my data off. I was ready to change by then, as the Internet had come into existence, and to use it, you really needed a colored monitor."
"You used one of those tiny black and white screens for ten years? Incredible."
"When I bought it, I got the most computer I could afford, and bought what it needed to be able to do my job. Then, when it became obsolete three months later, it didn't matter. I could combat new computer envy with the satisfaction that mine worked well and gave me what I needed. That satisfied me until the Internet came along with a whole new ball game, and me without the tools of the trade."
Macon guides her carefully into the commissary area, then goes to the counter after seating her in the corner furthest from the door. Soon he returns with a heaping plate of biscuits and turkey gravy, green beans with chunks of bacon, cranberry sauce, and a huge glass of chocolate milk. Setting it down in front of her, he raises his eyebrows and asks, "How'd I do?"
"All but the chocolate milk. With a meal, I only use white . How did you know?"
"Well, I'm real tempted to claim clairvoyance, but it is actually today's special, except for the milk. I figured milk because if you've been here a week without knowing how to get to this area, and disconnected the in-room ordering computer, I thought it would be more healthy."
"Are you a health food nut?"
"I understand the relationship between a healthy diet and human body chemistry, if that's what you mean. It also helps to live far from any fast food franchises."
Reaching into her purse, Leanna pulls out her billfold. "How much does all this run?"
Macon's eyes widen in surprise. "When you were brought here, what were you told?"
"To keep my eyes open, my mouth shut, and to stay put."
He gazes at her with piercing blue eyes for an incredibly long period of time. "No orientation. Unhooked "big brother". No known connections to anything or anyone here. Just who are you really, Leanna, lovely mystery lady?" Macon catches both of her hands as soon as they reappear from returning her billfold to her bulky shoulder purse.
"Lovely? Are you blind? I'm probably old enough to be your mother."
"What? Thirty something? Well, maybe if you started at age five..."
Suddenly, he looks down, releasing one hand to do something mysterious beneath the edge of the table.
When he continues to stare downward, Leanna begins to get up, but he quickly recaptures her other hand and guides her out of their corner, leaving her parka and purse on the floor by the table.
"Nobody will touch it. I've got to get you back to your room."
Alarmed by his tone, she stares deeply into his eyes as he faces her before releasing one hand to open the door. "Is there some trouble?"
"I'm not sure."
They hurry rapidly down the deserted hallway and through a maze of connecting tunnels Leanna knows she'd never be able to retrace, coming at her door from the opposite direction. She is totally confused to the point that when he opens the door and her stuff comes into view, she freezes before entering. With gentle pressure, Macon guides her inside, following quickly after and pulling the door shut.
The door is in a tiny hallway that opens on the bathroom door. Ignoring it, Macon continues his light pressure until they arrive at the widened area that serves as a living/bed room. He sees the "big brother" computer sitting by the window in the corner under the counter that serves as a desk/table area. Raising his eyebrows for permission, he opens the half-sized refrigerator that occupies the other corner, noting its total emptiness. Centered over the open space between the two obstructions is an old-fashioned 17' flat screen monitor. Bending over, he spots the G-4 tower turned sideways behind the unhooked computer that the room had been furnished with. Pulling it out, he carefully examines the bare wiring that hot-wires the G-4 to the cable of the original machine.
"I wouldn't touch that if I were you," Leanna says, eyeing him apprehensively. "It carries quite a jolt."
"The voice of experience, huh? I'll take your word for it." Carefully, he repositions the other computer to again shelter the area so nothing accidentally hits the open connection. "Guess that's one way to mouse-proof your room."
Last updated 8/12/08 - Removed ? after limestone.; reversed polar bear and grizzly bear references in the sentence; changed ballgame to ball game; (6/8/06 - woman to lady; 11/17/04.)
Word Count: 2109
Reading Level: 5.8