Tuesday, August 7, 2012

episode 2, lunch with Esmerelda

continued from last post

Esmerelda drove with Lohbado to a restaurant at a plaza overlooking the runways of Yamaville Airport. She parked her Range Rover under the shade of a lone tree at the edge of a grassy boulevard where plane watchers sat in lawn chairs, or spread out blankets to enjoy the afternoon. They were like people at the beach, only instead of being on the seashore, they lounged at the edge of the sky. Instead of watching waves roll in, they saw jet planes come in for landing, or take off.

A large dog barked from the end of a chain attached to the post of a radiator repair and propane refill sign. The dog reminded him of the wild dogs he had frequently encountered on the Plains of Radiation. Occasionally he had to scare them off by throwing rocks. Usually they were ingratiatingly friendly. He got to know some of the dogs of the Secret Desert, when he ventured out of the dome for exercise. Colleagues warned him to stay in the dome. They thought he was foolish. People died out there on the Plains of Radiation. Lohbado was glad they were afraid to leave the dome. It meant more space to himself. It was exhilarating to wander in such a desolate landscape, where a person could die of exposure, or get lost, if he or she got careless.

Esmerelda grabbed Lohbado's arm as her foot wobbled and twisted a little on the broken pavement as they crossed the parking lot to the entrance of Lumpie's Donuts. A warm feeling spread throughout Lohbado's chest as she held his arm. She grumbled about how she wasn't happy with her summer shoes. They were expensive, but didn't provide adequate arch support. Usually she didn't wear high heels. At her height, it wasn't necessary. She was nearly as tall as Lohbado. She bought them because they were so stylish and comfortable. The rust brown colour meant they would go well with most of her summer outfits.

Lohbado ordered a hot chicken wrap and a large coffee. Esmerelda had a croissant and a small apple juice. They sat by the window, offering a view of the plane watchers and the vast, clear sky.

"I've been so under pressure lately," said Esmerelda, "And by the way, friends call me Eva. Esmerelda is part of the office persona I use to intimidate grasping, sucking people. I rarely get a moment to myself. If it's not Harry and his sensitive ego making unreasonable demands, it's someone in the department trying to drag me into a conflict. They're forever asking me to take sides. I wish they'd leave me alone."

Lohbado nodded his head and mumbled something about how jealous colleagues said bad things behind his back when he worked in the Dome. They bullied him because he didn't have permanent status. He worked on contracts, which had to be renewed each year. After a few years, colleagues pressured administration into letting him go. Gretel, who worked in the next cubicle, even went so far as to phone district headquarters to say that Lohbado had consistently been leaving fifteen minutes early for lunch each day in order to have a thirty minute nap. Of course, Gretel did the same, but she was more skilled at concealing it. In fact, she set up her work schedule so she could go back to her housing unit an hour early at the end of each day.

"Then Ann came over last night," continued Eva, "Her husband called the cops on her. She's fifty years old and quite thin. He's a huge guy, but he can never be wrong. Ann said it started because he was yelling at her and wouldn't stop. He was jealous after she went away for the weekend to visit her family. Finally, she punched him lightly in the chest, to try and make him snap out of it. I think she wanted him to give her a hug. Then she went to the back yard. Fifteen minutes later, the cops showed up and told her to leave. She'd have to stay at a motel. Now she has criminal charges and has to hire a lawyer. It will cost a fortune. He's sneering at her, because he's buddy buddy with the cops and has a good reputation in the community. He's sixty-five. I think he's got brain disease or something."

"That's a depressing story," said Lohbado, "It's amazing that all someone has to do is call the cops and accuse a person and the cops take the accused away."

"I told Ann she could stay at my place. She's staying with her sister for now. It's such a shock. I knew they had a troubled relationship. But nobody expected a drama like that. I was so stressed after she told me about it, I only got four hours sleep."

"Ann must be totally traumatized."

"She's in total shock. I held her in my arms to calm her down. Sometimes that's what I wish somebody would do to me. Sometimes it would be nice to be held and comforted. I certainly can't count on Harry for that."

A huge jet plane roared overhead and for a moment, blocked out the sun and drowned out what Eva was saying. Severe pain hit Lohbado's right eye. The reflection of sun on the plane wing  sent stabs of tearing, burning, crushing pain into the eye. Lohbado pulled a bottle of pain killers from his pocket.

"Stop!" said Eva, "Let me."

She leaned her elbows on the table, removed his glasses and placed the palm of her right hand over Lohbado's right eye. The warm heel of her hand rested against his cheek. Her fingers pressed his eye brow. The cup of her hand blocked out light, without exerting pressure on the eyeball. Unexpected waves of relaxation swept through his skull and relaxed his eye. The pain rippled and dissolved as she held her hand there, for about thirty seconds. He felt so peaceful when she finally pulled her hand away.

He leaned forward to give her a kiss. "Don't," she warned, "You don't even know me."

Lohbado straightened up, startled and sat flustered, in silence and looked at her, as if waiting for an explanation. She said nothing. She'd just performed magical healing in ridding his eye of pain.

"How did you do it? That felt wonderful," he asked.

"I'll tell you another time," she said.

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