Are You Alienated (part five)
( part five)
“I suppose…” Emmett studied Minta.
Now, when he seemed finally saying it…the promised thing…he’d spoiled her concentration with Quentin. She eyed him back, and he flashed her the smallest of grim little smiles.
“If you had ever been aware of my pathetic debut as a public figure, you have forgotten. The scandal took place in 1980. My father, the elder John Emmett, had been caught spying. He was welcomed to a place of refuge, where he had so often run his little errands. Leningrad…now St. Petersburg…is, of course, that city to which I refer. My mother had offed herself, a year earlier. I didn’t know my parents, so you mustn’t feel bad for me.”
Minta saw a picture of herself in high school, slumped at a desk in bored misery. A television, set up on a cart, played a video. But the cart had been placed near a window; the school year was nearly over. The teacher himself, knowing his audience, glossed past these latter events of world history. Maybe, like Minta, he’d been staring at the immediate world on the other side of the window…thinking of freedom, and his summer job.
But, remembering this, she recalled also, that she had once heard the name John Emmett.
“Well,” the namesake of the disgraced British ex-diplomat observed, “shall I walk you back to our hotel? Although, truthfully, you are capable of finding your way. We could say goodbye here.”
He spoke in the withdrawn manner of one affronted. Minta did feel bad now. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I was daydreaming for a minute…” She was struck, suddenly, by an understanding. He had told her his mother committed suicide. And mentioned it in such an off-hand way…
“Goodness,” Minta said.
“Is your father still alive?”
“My father was born in 1921. He was well up in his fifties when I came along. It wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility, I suppose. However, I have been informed that my father has been dead for many years. I had meant to natter on a bit with my story, but it seems to have had a stultifying effect on you.”
In the interest of mending fences, Minta tried to show some intelligence. “Your father was living here, as an exile?” Exile might not be the word. “And so, you wanted to find out…”
“I found out nothing. The first time I came to St. Petersburg. That was ten years ago. I will admit to you, since you raise the point, that at the time I had some hope of discovering him alive. If in childhood you had ever been prodded forward to say hello to some elderly person with no idea of who you were, you can readily visualize the joyful occasion, as it might have unfolded. Only, being that I was well into adulthood, and of a generally disappointing demeanor, so much the more awkward and painful. But it was not to be. I thrust my father’s photo into dozens of faces, but met no one who claimed to have known him.
re You Alienated
(2015, Stephanie Foster)