|Posted on 2004-05-25 02:34:12 by Denver|
MONDAY: 12 NOON: Citibank
At lunchtime he stepped out in the lobby looking for an ATM. He thought he would ask the receptionist if there was one in the building.
"Hello" he said, smiling at a clump of hair hanging over the desk, "I wonder if you could tell me where the ATM is around here? I just started and I'm afraid I don't know where anything is."
She looked up from something she was writing, smiled and said-
"You have to walk out of the front of the building, take a left onto Park, walk past the entrance to 399, and then make a sharp left, you'll see it."
"I'm sorry" he said, momentarily dazzled by something, "Could you repeat that?"
"Let me draw you a map."
She flipped over the note she was writing and drew him a diagram on the back. He thanked her, put the paper in his pocket, went back to his desk and pulled it out again. On the back of the map was a letter-
Your mother told me you got straight O's on your report card. She said you can do cursive now. I am so proud of you and I cannot wait to see you. I want you to write these words for me in cursive and send them back to me as soon as possible.
I love you and I know we're going to have a great Summer Vacation together.
He puzzled over the note's contents. Was this note to little Jimmy a coded message for him? At 5:25PM he packed up his things and left his office passing by the receptionist's desk.
"Hello" he said to the sweet young woman with the little nephew Jimmy who was just learning cursive writing.
"Hello" she said. Tra la la, was the message he heard. Her smile. The color of her cheeks. Her beautiful brown eyes. He tried to guess her age. He wanted to say her name but he wasn't sure how to pronounce it.
"Are you.Armenian?" he asked.
There was an awkward pause after which he tried again.
"I ask because you look a lot like a friend of mine, who is Armenian."
"I'm half puerto rican and half ukranian."
"Ah, the ukranian. That must be it." he smiled.
"Yeah." Her lips curled in the slightest sign of amusement.
"So are you excited about the parade?"
She looked at him quizzically.
"The, er, the Puerto Rican parade?"
"I'm not from Puerto Rico. I don't really care." she said matter of factly.
"Yeah. Right. Well, I was just wondering, just. been. in the news." he mumbled as his legs took him to the elevators.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he finished quietly, "Thank you for the map."
And he stood at the elevators and tried to glance at her through the glass doors. She stared intently at her computer terminal. At something more important. He stared at the citibank carpet, at the elevator buttons. At his hands. Not soft. Not small. Not pretty. Citibank hands.
He stopped at her desk as she was packing up her things.
"So how are you?" he asked.
"I'm fine. How are you?"
"Good. I gotta get home and feed my cat."
The phone on her desk rang. She held up a finger and said something quietly to the caller that he couldn't hear. There was a conversation. He lingered and fiddled with his backpack. He took a step towards the elevator and stopped. Thinking. Thinking. What should he do? Then she put the phone down.
"I'm uh.just a temp." he explained.
"Yes. Me too."
"Oh. really?" he asked and then he, oh, he hesitated, she had a look on her face and the look was finally spoken-
"I have to take this." she said.
He stood there awkwardly.
"oh yeah, okay. well, I'll see you tomorrow."
And he crossed to other side of the glass doors and waited for the elevator. He didn't look back. He knew what she was doing.
He walked out into the lobby and said boldly
"Lini. I was saying your name."
"Livia?" he asked, cringing at his mistake. "But I read it in your note" he explained. "I thought it said "Lini".
"No. It's Livia."
"Oh." He paused, desperately, and continued, "Who were you named after?" (pause) "Olivia Newton John?" He paused and considered if he had just said what he had heard come out of his mouth.
"Was it a family member?" She seemed younger and more distant than he had ever imagined her. More so than at lunchtime when she had walked across the street in the brilliant pink gown that highlighted the fullness of her bosom, her deep tan and flowing brown hair.
"No. My parents got it from a baby book."
"A baby book. huh?"
'Didn't her parents listen to music' he wondered, 'Or read poetry or have any immediate ancestors of noble bearing?'
"Well, I guess, I'll see you tomorrow." he said as he stepped through the glass doors trying not to look back at her fair countenance.
"You're here late tonight." she said as he walked through the door.
"Yeah, trying to get something done." He tried to hint at the mystery of his activity but it fell flat. He redirected.
"Well," he started out with, "It's my last day tomorrow."
"Mine too. I'm going back to school." she said.
"SUNY Albany." she replied.
"Albany." He tried to find some association, and then suddenly he blurted-"Have you ever read any William Kennedy?"
"His novels are all set in Albany. Iron Weed? It's a good one. Or Legs? Or Billy Phelan's Greatest Game? Or you can watch the movie with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Or.."
"Uh huh" she said as she jotted the name down half-heartedly.
"Are you going to take your dog?"
"I don't have a dog."
"Oh, yeah, me neither. Well, I'll see you tomorrow.Last day!"
He grinned and gazed at her. She smiled. He turned his head shyly, walked through the glass doors, and pushed the escape button.
He clenched the flower in his hand and prepared to make his final exit past her desk. A couple of older women, secretaries on the floor, were standing at the reception desk, saying their goodbyes to Livia. He waited on the other side of the door for them to leave, all he wanted was one final opportunity to share his enthusiasm for her life. The minutes ticked by as he stood awkwardly on the threshold. He stalked back to the pantry, grabbed a bottle of water. He came back to the door and listened. They were still there, those old cronies, babbling about this or that summer vacation spot. Finally he pulled the door open and swept past the desk, head down, flower turned to the floor. Livia raised her head politely and stared bemusedly along with the secretaries. He returned their gaze and muttered-
"I have to put this flower in some water."
"Who is that guy?" one of the secretaries whispered.
"He's a temp."
"What's he talking about?"
"He's got a flower."
"Good luck. Livia."
"Thank you guys."
He stood at the elevator, pushing the buttons, waiting, pushing, and felt the sweat streak through the sleeves of his polyester button down oxford.
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