The Blue Bird (part three)
“Hey, I forget your name!”
Gitana turned and saw Dave, his hand fall away from the stairwell door. He jogged to her, stepping over the yellow bumper, nodding at the camera. “Getting some shots.”
“Gitana,” she told him. “Did your radio come on?”
She wanted to ask, half-serious, if they were the only two people left in the world. But it sounded like a line, and she was hardly flirting.
“Did they give you flashlights?”
She spoke tramping over the unmown grass where violets and dandelions grew, and where she saw not a bee hovering, not a robin foraging.
He fell in behind her. “No. For some reason, I’m persona non grata down there. You saw how they blocked me in when they brought the stuff.”
“Oh. Are you the only one in the basement?”
“Seems like. You don’t really keep track…I mean, I wouldn’t. Is every place on your floor rented?”
Two thoughts had come at once…to share with him the weird emptiness, the boxes in the halls untouched, and that he should go take one, why not? She looked at him, and instead of either thing, said, “Why are we waiting?”
They were at the bench. She sat, positioning the camera. She trained the zoom, and caught a human being. Furtive in movement, dressed in white jumpsuit and dark glasses.
“For the power, I think,” he said, and stood near her, but didn’t sit.
“It’s not going to keep us all quiet, promises.”
“Well, but we don’t need anything. We don’t want to get in the way. I guess we’ll know what’s up when we see the news.”
“Do you have a mother and father?”
“I have a mom.”
“So do I. I’ve been telling myself everybody’ll be in a panic, trying everything at once. I mean, for me, I don’t take it as a desperate problem, because we’re adults… I want to know she’s okay, but I don’t have to step on other people’s emergencies to know it.”
“But you think about it…you’ve gone over it in your mind, haven’t you, what you’re going to say when you call? What she might say to you?”
“She’ll say, you okay? And I’ll say, fine, how bout you?”
“No,” Gitana said. “You’ll say, what does it look like where you are? Was there fire? Was it like an earthquake? Are a lot of people dead? Did a bunch of officials come and shut things down and leave you without explaining?”
“Well, words to that effect, sure. But first things first.”
“So,” she told him, standing. “Here’s what I’ve decided for today. I’m going to Glimmerings. I’m putting a note on the board, get in touch with me. I don’t care…”
She raised her voice. Dave was comfortable with his set expressions, and she had no use for another.
“…that the power will come on in a day or two, and that we’ll get to see a press conference and listen to a statement. I want to know if what I saw was what other people saw, what they thought. When it happened.”
Flatfooting up the slick park pavers, speeding along the pebbly walk…after a minute, she heard him there, a pace behind.
“You mean the bookstore.”
“I know it’s the other way. I saw someone up here, who might be one of them. I tried asking already. Only I hadn’t got mad yet, you know? I let myself be put off.”
This place had been a coffee shop. Would be, if the world was really normal, again in a day or two. The person had tinkered with the lock, body blocking the handle. Inside, more than one moved; from tables under windows to the service counter, light receded to shadow.
No one had announced martial law. She was free to walk the streets…she ought to be free to speak as she chose. She banged the window with a fist: “Hey! Open up!”
The figure looked at her through its aviators. It sipped from a paper cup.
Dave, seen over her shoulder in reflection, seemed to offer a sheepish smile. Gitana raised her camera and snapped a picture, the reflection catching the swing of the lens cap and the flash.
“They’re not coming out,” Dave said. “You walking on down?”
He turned, and made for the intersection. Maneuvering himself in charge…
But no. Leave it aside, she told herself. It was handy Dave had been willing to be her companion on this errand.
Gitana this time caught up. And here, on the multi-laned street that exited to the beltway, something had happened. They saw two cars parked in a loading zone, doors and front seats removed. Vandalized…stripped for evidence… No signs about the darkened storefronts, or the clean pavement, of disorder.
From below the overpass came the sound of engines, almost the everyday highway traffic. Opposite was an outlet store, organized as ateliers, each with one designer’s seasonal failures. The façade was sheathed in glass, imprinted with huge photographed scenes. Gitana had never shopped here.
An inside door stood open. The outside door was unlocked.
The Blue Bird
(2019, Stephanie Foster)