I arrived early.
Some of you (anyone who’s ridden in my car, for example) may be surprised by that. (Move on, people.)
The building was on a busy street. It was 1970’s construction, red brick, rectangle. Two floors. No windows facing the street. The parking lot was nearly empty. Deserted. Cement cracked. Weeds knee-high toward the edge, where I parked.
The only other car in the lot was a sleek, black Lexus.
The back of my neck began to prickle.
Okay. This is where I have to admit. I grew up on the Southside of Chicago. This is the point in the story where my life experience began to…engage.
I was there to deliver books to a group of women for an ESL class. I lugged two heavy bags of children’s books to the front door of the building. It was hard to see anything through the glass door. Someone had covered the inside with a reflective cling-film. The door was locked. I’d ventured to say, it was more than "locked." It was super, ultra-locked. I could see the metal dead-bolt through the gap in the aluminum door frame.
I rang the bell.
I turned around and stared at the empty lot and my 12 year old mom-van...
Back in the day, kids would say, “You know he didn’t inherit the money.” A Lexus? Hmmm.
I reminded myself I was still a wee bit early. I knocked again.
The door opened suddenly. A man appeared. He was a foot shorter than me. Older maybe? He had a bushy white beard and his teeth had not had the benefit of American dentistry. He was wearing traditional Middle Eastern clothing, including a knit cap on his head.
“What?” the man says to me.
I picked up my bags of books. Immediately, he held up a hand. “No.”
“I have books for the ladies. The meeting?”
“No. Not here. No. You can’t come in.”
He was brusque. He hardly looked at me; his gaze was fixed about three feet to the left of my head.
I could feel myself getting irritated. I pulled myself up taller, which is useful. I'm six feet tall in shoes. Seriously? I’m bringing books, dude. Who was this guy?
For half a second, I had the urge to crowd him. To push forward. Are you talking to me? Are you using a tone…with me?
Instead, I stepped back. “I’ll wait in the car.”
“Yes. You wait. In car.” He shut the door in my face. I heard the lock snick.
The books were heavier on the way back to the car.
About two minutes after I sat down in the car to think, the building door opened, and the man came out. He got into the Lexus and drove off.
Now, I was alone in the parking lot. The neck prickles were back. I imagined the man picking up the phone to report to his associates the strange, white woman in the parking lot.
This is the point I must pause to remind you, I write fiction.
So what happened?
The ladies drove up. They were sweet and welcoming. I carried the books back to the door and into the building. They didn’t seem as heavy.
What did you think would happen?