Are You Alienated: part five
They’d woven across a broad, intersecting street, and begun retracing their steps. Emmett pinched Minta’s sleeve at the elbow. He stepped up into an entryway; following, she saw a white sign, cheerfully lit, its lettering blue, and to her eyes unreadable. The sign was framed in the window beside the door’s closed blind.
“What have I come here to find out?” Emmett asked. “Will you let me show you something?”
“We’re friends, now,” she began. “You know, I think we really are. So you understand…my mother-in-law…I can’t just…”
“Seriously,” he said. “Please let me have your phone.”
“Are you going to take the voodoo off?” Again, she rummaged in her bag.
He tapped and scrolled, this time with a face that struck Minta purposeful, angry possibly—not smug. He held the screen before her eyes. The image was an angled view. She saw a steering wheel…her own car. She knew this, because the sun-catcher, swinging from the rear-view mirror, was hers. And the light, shining through the spotted skin of a tree frog, casting irregular scintillations of blue and green, fell across her own head, as her face loomed in, ballooning over the lens. She cringed. She was talking to herself. Her phone had been filming her from the passenger seat.
“Quentin, don’t lie to me,” Minta’s voice was saying. She heard this rattle on, hoarse, adenoidal, spitting out a little diatribe. It was not the first time Quentin had taken the garage door opener from her car.
She felt odd.
She felt mortified, of course…and felt undercurrents, also, of a kind of panic, tiny needles pricking her skin.
“I don’t get it. I must,” she added, “have hit the wrong button…” She said this, but it came out a question.
“You might have hit the wrong button.”
Emmett tapped, the phone deedled, and the screen went dark. He dropped it in her bag. “You might have got into a habit of doing that. And never realized it. Your husband might have organized these clips and put them into a passworded folder because he thought you wanted them. He might tell you so, if you asked.”
“Is it supposed to be a joke?”
“As an outsider, I am not in a position to say. But consider: does an individual who practices, in secret, to observe ordinary human behavior, find such behavior inherently humorous…or, does this type of person need to share his secret, in order to find it gratifying?”
“I don’t want to consider that.”
“My father,” Emmett said, “was assigned throughout the sixties to an embassy post in Helsinki. He’d been rather an elderly bachelor at the time he softened on the wedlock scenario. You and I, Minta, are rough contemporaries. My mother was a native of Leningrad, a journalist by profession. She had fled the Soviet Union with her mother, in 1952, and settled in London. They―my parents―had presumably never known one another, but met for the first time, when my father took up journalism on his own account.
“He was hired by the Times to visit Leningrad―this was in 1971―and to write a series on contemporary Soviet life. He was a fluent speaker of Russian. He, of course, had many contacts in the region. I mention it, because on this pretext of his needing to prepare for the assignment, he began fraternizing openly among the Russian expat community in London.
“I suppose…” Emmett studied Minta. Now, when he seemed finally saying it…the promised thing, thoughts of Quentin intruded at the periphery. Still, she was alert to Emmett’s words.
“…if you had ever been aware of my pathetic debut as a public figure, you have forgotten. The scandal took place in 1980. My father, the elder John Emmett, had been caught spying. He was welcomed to a place of refuge, where he had so often run his little errands. Leningrad…now St. Petersburg…is, of course, the city to which I refer. My mother had offed herself, a year earlier. I didn’t know my parents, so you mustn’t feel bad for me.”
Are You Alienated
(copyright 2015 Stephanie Foster)