The Lady (and her husband) Vanishes Pt2
A panster story (continued)
The skunk juice proved to be too much for my clothes. No amount of washing could save them. A heavy-duty trash bag I tossed in the dumpster behind the Monster Cafe was their final resting place.
I jumped in the shower. Still fresh, the cuts and scrapes on my face and hands, revealed themselves with sharp stinging pain as the soap washed over them.
The next morning, with my coffee cup in hand, I took up my post at window. The old couple walked by once more. I didn’t follow them this time.
Nurse those cuts, scrapes…and bruised ego.
With a French Press in hand (coffee beans from Monster Cafe), I walked across the street to Maria’s house.
Maria is a sweet woman afflicted with agoraphobia. In 10 years that I have lived across from her, I have never known her to leave her house.
She teaches English to Chinese students online.
I knocked on the door. The door opened. Maria hid behind it. Come in, she said without looking at me. The door closed.
“Hey. You’re lucky you caught me at home. I was going to my Agoraphobics Anonymous meeting, but then I remembered….I can’t go,” Maria laughs. She is a coffee snob like me but she also has a sharp self-deprecating sense of humor.
That is what I like most about her.
We sat at her kitchen table. The street is in full view from there. I asked her if she has noticed the old couple who walks by each morning. No, she said almost cutting me off. Then she listed all the other people who walk by each day.
Maria spends her days in her office upstairs. It also has a window facing the street. Perched up high like a small unassuming little bird, she watches over the entire block.
It’s impossible for her to miss them walking by. Impossible.
Why would she lie about not seeing the old couple?
“I might be a loca who can’t leave my house, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what happens outside” she said as sipped her coffee. Her eyes locked on me.
Crap! She saw me fall on my face.
I did not include my face plant- or how I came to that point- with Maria.
Why pour salt on an already-wounded pride?
I ignored her comment and continued on with the topic of the couple. The old woman, the walker, the tennis balls, the old man, the white fluffy dog.
“No. I’ve never seen them”, she says shaking her head. Her eyes remain on me for a moment, then she looks out the window to the stretch of sidewalk the old couple walks on every day. She turns slowly back to me. “Yeah, no. Never seem them,” she whispers as she looks away.
She quickly switched the conversation to her cats, her herb garden, her Chinese students, and her mad crush on the UPS delivery person.
She knows something.
We exchanged goodbyes at her doorstep. I walked to the end of the porch. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Maria standing at the doorway. Door wide open.
As I walked down the porch steps, I remembered I left my French Press behind. I decided to leave it behind
It will give me an excuse to come back.
The next morning I rode my bike to the Monster Cafe. I hoped to be at the Cafe when the old couple arrived. If they arrived.
A cortado and a scone, please.
I didn’t drink the coffee nor eat the scone. Rosie, my favorite barista, noticed my distraction and brought me a glass of ice water. She asked me if I was ok.
“Yeah, no. Uh,” I stumbled. I ask if she’s seen an old couple (old woman, walker, tennis balls, white fluffy dog, husband). No, she says as she wipes the table next to mine and quickly walks away.
I sipped my cortado, dropped a tip on the table and walk out. As I unchained my bike, I caught a glimpse of Rosie on her phone. Her mouth moved fast, her free hand rubbed her forehead, her head turned side to side as though she was looking out for something or someone.
Soon a car drove up to Rosie. The passenger door flies open. She jumped in like a Hollywood stunt person. As the car passed by me, I noticed something familiar about the driver.
What the fuck?! That’s Maria!
(to be continued….or is it?)