Indian fashion, I sat, cross legged, and commenced to read in the sepia light. Before long, a tall man strolled into the precinct. There was a sudden tension in the air, suddenly, as when two walkers approach on an isolated midnight sidewalk. I stared up at the figure in a worsted navy blue suit and off-off-the-rack tie, set off by a clean but cheap white shirt, dreading that he had come to mess with me and yet half-entertained awaited signals that his path was going to swerve away from an encounter with me and leave me in peace.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, capsizing my cheerful anticipation of preserved solitude.
“Are you a guest at the hotel?”
“I’m here with the film festival people.”
“The lobby is that way, and there are chairs you can sit in.” Eric pointed to where I’d come from. If the Biltmore had road signs, the sign would read: Lobby ¼ mile ahead.
“I wanted to go to a bookstore corner,” I advancing cheerfully, hoping that Eric might be able to confirm its existence. I stood my ground, that is, I continued sitting. I stood just at that point when he was about to say, “You can’t be here,” and soon we were strolling amicably down the descending carpeted stairs and the faint cloud of light coming in from Grand Ave. I stopped midstride and said, “We really need to correct the world and make it possible for people to sit down where they like.”
He looked at me, truly listening, and said after a reflective pause, “I just do what they tell me to do.” That chestnut, betrayer of petty tyrants, and people incongruent with their jobs, fell effortlessly from the tree of abominations. I hadn’t really pressed the point, and there it was, reminiscent of the oft-voice rationale at Nurenberg: I was just following orders. I was both amazed and embarrassed for Eric.
“I understand,” I said, implying I knew he had a job to do and feeling wimpy for not holding my ground till security ejected me, kicking and screaming from the deserted loggia.
“There is a Starbucks around the corner,” Eric suggested sunnily. “And there’s the Central Library across the street.” He succeeded in opening my eyes to an amazing bibliophile’s temple a few short steps from where I was being rousted. We parted on a cheery note at the glass door on
Grady Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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