He’d told me to look down, that I’d find it there in the station–a red balloon–though I didn’t expect it to be a two-dimensional image. I thought I’d find it, a day or two beyond bouyancy, meandering along the floor. He told me to keep my eyes on it once I found it, not to look up regardless of the pull.
He said I should find a blue bench near the front entrance and sit. And so I did.
I sat on that blue bench, waiting maybe three hours, absently pulling at a loose thread in my black tights until I’d caused a run that snuck underneath the hem of my pink skirt, not knowing what he would ask of me beyond this simple obediance.
Over the loudspeaker, I heard my name and a simple directive: Emily Bennett, please find a yellow courtesy phone and dial 9. Emily Bennett…
The instruction repeated three times.
Keeping my gaze down, I made my way to one of the many round pillars in the station. I took the phone from its cradle, dialed “9,” and held my breath until I heard his voice.
“I’m glad you came.”
“Of course I came; why wouldn’t I have come?”
“And you are following directions so well, so patiently, even when you don’t know you’re being watched.”
“I always assume I’m being watched, but that’s not why I did what you asked.”
“Because I need this.”
“But you have no idea who I am; what if I lead you astray?”
“I hope you do. That’s the point.”
“Of being here.”
“Ah….well…I’d like you to board train 6. It will bring you west into the country. I’ll send a driver to meet you there. Have you brought much luggage? It will determine the type of vehice I send.”
“I’ve brought nothing but myself.”
“Interesting. Why bring nothing?”
“I need a new beginning.”
“I see. That I can provide. Before you board the train, go to the clothing shop by the cafe. It is called Bethany’s. Choose anything. Remove everything you have on and leave it in the dressing room. I will call ahead. Best that you bring nothing from your life…even your underwear…if you are in search of a fresh start.”
“I look so forward to meeting you in person…you are a colorful woman.”
“I need to lose that color, sir. I need to lose it and find my black and white.”
“Ah…a need for boundaries…yes. I can give you that.”
There was a pause.
“We’ll discuss the details when you arrive. Go now, find yourself something suitably colorless and leave the mess to someone else.”
I heard a click and knew that he was gone.
This was my chance. I breathed in deeply and made my way to the shop.
I saw before I heard her voice, “Mr. Smith has called, and I think I have just the thing for you…size 16?”
I marvelled and grimaced at her accuracy.
“Yes, that’s correct.”