We always walk. But the stems of steel and the leaves of concrete extend outward everyday, by the time we arrive exhausted at the resistance meetings, we collapse like garments thrown over our red-vinyl padded chairs. The black sedan sitting alone in a parking structure, a path of oil slicks and rubber scuffs leading us like breadcrumbs, seemed like a gift materialized to answer our prayers.
If it was a gift, it was not from God; it was from a respectable-looking, middle-aged woman named Guo Li. We found her ID card in a black pocketbook in the backseat, along with an umbrella and many species of lint interbreeding with the camel-colored fuzz on the floor. The keys were ‘hidden’ in the sun visor. Hilda and I scooched into the beige pleather seats, the car was old, with a stale smell like soggy newspapers.
“We’re taking it.”
“Are you sure?”
My kid sister Hilda. She had little choice but to follow me when I joined the resistance after our parents were selected for rehumanization. I turned on the engine and we whirled round the corkscrew down the countless parking levels. I paid the guard with a few wrinkled bills and Guo Li’s coins from the floor.
“Nobody is going to stop us. We’re white,” I rationalized to Hilda, although my heart pounded low and hollow in my chest. “And if someone stops us, we’ll say that Ms. Guo is a family friend.”
“Right, she wouldn’t get us in trouble,” Hilda reasoned.
We arrived so early that morning shadows still cloaked the streets in an aura more night than day. The meters weren’t working, so we parked and walked up a flight of stairs into a McDonald’s where homeless people spent the night and subsisted on the contents of their handled pans. I bought coffee while Hilda waited on a stool, watching pigeons fleeing the first pedestrians on their way to work.
“WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THAT?”
It was Sargent Mark. He was a sympathizer, but he lost it a long time ago in the war. His massive torso wearing a greasy stained khaki-colored tee blocked my path. I stood agog holding the two small cups of black coffee.
“It’s nothing, Mark. There’s nothing wrong.”
“YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT!” Mark’s blue eyes blazed through his thick ruddy head and his voice rose in a slight whine.
“Please, Mark, just calm down. Maybe forty years ago, you could talk to people that way. The war is over now.” I spoke loud enough so the other bums would overhear.
“Stand down, Mark.”
“Come on over here, buddy.”
They cajoled Mark back to his seat and I sat down next to Hilda. Mark’s crazy intuition had set fire to my frayed nerves and now I felt as composed as a pile of ash. Hilda took the lid off my coffee and blew the steam off the surface.Share...