Are You Alienated: part three
“Uh huh,” she answered. “She does. We do.”
“You live in a neighborhood within a community. You hob-nob among family, friends, co-workers…and neighbors, as one supposes. Many of these people are known to you; many are liked by you. Some, you dislike.
“Let us postulate, for the sake of example, that you dislike a man named Smith. Let us suppose, as well, that a new family has moved into the erstwhile empty house on your street; that you don’t in the least know them. You do not envision yourself making an injurious assault upon Mr. Smith, reasoning that the world is better off without Mr. Smith, on the strength of your disliking Mr. Smith? You do not wish to campaign against this new family; to drive them from their home, on the strength of not knowing them? You do not, as you picture your family, your friends, your co-workers, and your neighbors, imagine them the sort who would, on the pretext of not liking or not knowing a person, launch a criminal attack against him?
“And yet you believe that this quality, this state of mind, can be attributed to someone, that such dangerous people are out there, although you cannot find this quality in yourself or in the people you know and trust. You do not see the world as consisting of people like yourself. You, trustworthy and law-abiding, hopeful for the future, fearful of strangers; they, also trustworthy and law-abiding, also hopeful for the future, and fearful of you, a stranger to them.
“You find the world to be constructed like a pyramid. You and yours sit at the top.”
Valerie let out a breath. “Oh, Jesus! You wanna pretend I’ve done something to these people you’re just now making up? Did I hear you right? I’m minding my own business here!”
Emmett, like many who expound, had—to the extent the room allowed—paced and gestured as he spoke. He’d come to rest against the closet door. She was closer, now, to his phone, than he was. But Valerie was not a practiced plotter…her eye had fixed on its object, and Emmett discerned her intent.
“I am perfectly amenable to negotiation,” he said. “I am speaking to you, Valerie. Rather than do violence to my property, you may ask me to leave.”
“But is that it?”
He smiled kindly on Minta. “I have three points to make. After which, I had meant to answer your question. That is to say, I promise, if Valerie approves, to tell you what I came to St. Petersburg to learn.”
“Deviation from the norm,” Emmett said.
He walked street-side, speaking whenever a lull in traffic permitted his voice to be heard. Minta followed her own rhythm, leaning to stare at window displays, straightening to exchange a glance with Emmett while they passed the architectural line of demarcation dividing concrete embrasures from tinted, insulated glass.
Emmett had held up a finger and left her, wordless, zipping down the corridor and popping into the elevator. Minta shrugged, and lingered, for embarrassment’s sake. A woman, seeming only to wait in the alcove, had ignored the chime and let Emmett board alone. Her eyes stared, focused and not focused, in Minta’s direction; a stare, if the thing were possible, both bored and penetrating.
Minta’s mother-in-law could not accept John Emmett, as a package-deal, but at the last could not persuade herself he was a criminal. Pleading a sinus headache, she’d consigned them to one another. “Do what you want. I can’t stop you.”
“Valerie, you must lie quietly in the dark. I will take Minta away for an hour.”
Emmett crossed the room to peer down at her. She grimaced and put a hand over her eyes.
“Mom, should I get you a washcloth?”
“No! Being left alone, that’s what I need. Both of you leave.”
Minta jerked up her anorak by its hood, and stooped to snag her purse. That her stock at home not lose excess value, she’d tried, “John and I could sit with you, if you’d rather.”
“Oh, shut up!”
Are You Alienated
(copyright 2015 Stephanie Foster)