I’m not sure what finally put me over the limit on waiting. I just spoke up. “It has now been ten days for the readers.”
“For the what?” She responds as if we’d been conversing all along, without actually looking at me. She is looking up at the small balcony above the entry arch.
“The readers. Whoever might still be reading. We may have lost some because we’ve just been sitting here so long.”
She looks over at me with no particular facial expression. “It has seemed like quite a while. Was I supposed to speak first?”
I shrug. “I’m not sure.”
“So it’s been ten days for readers. How long has it been for us?”
“Somewhere between ten minutes and ten years.”
She looks at the balcony again. “A helpful response.”
“The homelessness motif is kind of lame, you know.” I hadn’t exactly intended to launch into it so suddenly, but there it is.
She seems unmoved. “I think I understand my instructions now. She told me I was to show you certain things that I have with me…” She gestures a bit dramatically. “…in my bags, in my cart. She said that if I showed them to you, you might have something important to say to me.”
“That I might have something to say?”
She smiles slightly. “That something might be said to me.” The smile vanishes. “But that if something is said, it will be important. The conditionals were rather odd, as was the one who told me.”
“The one with the Bible.”
“She had a Bible. Am I correct that she is, in some sense, the man who had THE Bible before?”
She hesitates for a moment, then reaches out, pulls a paper grocery sack out of the cart, and places it in her lap. “I think everything you’re supposed to see is in here.” She reaches in and pulls out two 8 by 10 picture frames, and leans forward to hand them to me.
I take one in each hand and examine them. Both of them are diplomas, one for an M.A. degree, and the other for a Ph.D. degree. I hand them back without comment. The important part is not that I am seeing them, but that she is showing them to me.
She places them back in the sack, then pulls out a manila file folder and hands that to me.
When I open the folder, it contains another certificate, this time unframed. It is a certificate of baptism. The date on the certificate is smudged, but I can still just about make out the year: 1974, I think. In the folder with the certificate is a dried flower. It seems to be a rose, and it has apparently been pressed in a book. I hold up the rose and examine it curiously.
“That was used in my first baptism. A minister used it to sprinkle me. I once saw the certificate that accompanied it, but it seems to be lost now.”
I return the rose to the folder, carefully close it, and hand it back. She returns it to the sack. She then peers into the sack and begins fishing in the bottom.
“There’s more?” I had expected what I had seen so far, and was genuinely unsure what might come next.
“Yup, there are two more things.” She seems to locate what she’s seeking, and pulls it out of the sack. She holds out her fist.
I look in her eyes and see nothing but the purpose at hand. I hold out my hand under her fist. She opens it, dropping two small metal objects into my palm. My first impression is that they are tokens like those used in the game of Monopoly, like the dog, the top hat, or the race car. But both figures are animals. One is a donkey and the other an elephant. I stare at them for a moment, and then the light dawns. I look up at her. “Politics, right?”
“Toys that I’ve sometimes played with. But yes, they have to do with politics.”
“But you reject the binary opposition that these two symbols represent.”
She nods. “Toys. That’s why they are only toys.”
I smile. “Nothing for libertarianism?”
“Another toy.” She looks at the tokens in my hand and frowns. “It’s a game I do not wish to play, as you probably know. That I supposedly must choose between those two is central to my dislike of the game.” She meets my eyes again, still frowning. “You obviously think all of this is cheesy, but that does not matter.”
I can think of nothing to say to this, so I only nod again and hand the tokens back to her. “Is that all?”
She appears to think seriously about this before responding. “Yes, I believe that’s all.”
I look her in the eyes for several seconds. Then I sigh and pretend to become interested in the back of my hand.
“If there is something to be said to me, it won’t be here and now, will it?”
“No, it won’t.” I stand up. “I think that you are to remain here, but I must leave. For now, at least.”
She does not answer, but turns and places the grocery sack back in the cart. She then sits back in her chair and closes her eyes. I am no longer significant.
I leave the room quietly. I know that she will continue to wait.