The Calling Part 7

January 14th, 2011 by Wordsman

Seeing her in motion for the first time, he noted that the woman was short, but not as hunched over as he had expected.  She moved quickly despite her awkwardly long and shapeless garment, quickly enough to catch up with the speed-walking man.  She reached out but stopped just short of seizing his jacket sleeve.  “Don’t you feel that there’s something missing from your life?”

She was loud enough to be heard throughout the busy passageway, but her voice appeared to have an effect on only two people: her target and Officer Escobar.

“Uh . . . no, actually,” the man said, after giving the question far more thought than Escobar would have predicted.  “No, definitely not.  I’ve got a great life.  I love my job, my beautiful wife, my three spunky daughters.  Here, I’ve got pictures.”

The man set down his briefcase, took the woman by the shoulder, directed her away from the line of traffic, and reached into his pocket.  A rookie cop might have thought that she was about to get mugged.  The woman might have thought the same, though the look on her face was more surprised than afraid.  Escobar knew better; the only thing that came out of the pocket was a cell phone.

He flipped around to give the woman a better view and promptly started pushing buttons with the eager glee of a child.  “This is Briana, our youngest.  Just turned two last month.  She’s a bundle of energy.  It’s all we can do to keep up.  Taylor, on the other hand, just started middle school, and I’m sure you remember what that’s like . . .”

Whether out of petty revenge for the attempt to waste his time or a genuine belief that she was interested in his family, the man proceeded to share his entire photo library.  The woman, trapped in a perplexed daze, could do nothing but nod politely at appropriate intervals.  Escobar waited, unsure if she should be laughing or trying to rescue her.

Thirty minutes later the slide show ended.  The man returned phone to pocket and picked up his briefcase, which anyone could have easily lifted if Escobar hadn’t been keeping an eye on it.  “Thanks so much, miss!  That’s just what I needed to cheer me up after a long week at work.”

The man departed, waving cheerfully.  The woman waved half-heartedly back.  Then, as though someone had just pulled a chair out from under her, she slumped to the ground.

Escobar wanted to go over and talk to her, to finally figure out what her deal was, but he refrained.  She looked tired, and after the ordeal she had just been through he couldn’t blame her.  Besides, how would that conversation go?  In his experience, “I’ve been watching you” is never a particularly good ice breaker.

The walk home was more troublesome than it should have been.  For the first time since his own experiences in the horrifying era we call middle school, Escobar ran into a wall because he was trying to figure out what to say to a girl.

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