Sweat perspired on my forehead, glossing it like a shiny plastic doll. The heat was rising out of my head at an alarming rate, warming my thoughts to mush. I couldn’t think straight; everything was a magical blur of words and sounds.
The hard toe of my black Salvatores gently tapped the grey berber that covered the room. Puh. Puh. Puh. The rhythm brought some comfort to me. Something familiar, consistent.
There was a lady across the way. Mid-thirties, blonde, attractive. She wore a short navy blue skirt and polished white top. Her neck was curved to the right as she flipped through a magazine. Her long nails scratched the surface.
I looked up. A woman stood at the door of the office entry, questions posed on her face. A pleasant face though.
“Yes,” I got up tugging my briefcase along, “yes, that’s me.” I smiled briefly and offered my hand. She returned it with a casual shrug and motioned for me to follow.
We filed past rows of glass doors. Each tightly closed with people inside bent over desks, their eyes constricted to screens. I caught a glimpse of one office that housed a plant. It’s bright red flowers a striking contrast to the bleakness that surrounded it.
“Here we are.” She stopped abruptly at a door labeled ‘Conference.’ “Good luck,” she said with a smirk.
I pushed on the faux gold handle and entered the room. A draft of cool air surrounded me as I looked around. The long windows at one side had been covered by a dark curtain, secured neatly at the sides. A long boardroom style table held most the space with recessed, circular lights along the walls perimeter. At the end sat a man slumped over a stack of papers and writing feverishly.
“Sit,” he commanded, not bothering to look up.
I made my way to the opposite end and drug out a chair. It was surprisingly comfortable. I rubbed the soft arm rests with my hands, flushing the material. It occurred to me after some time that the man had stopped writing and was observing my behavior. His face was cold and wrinkled. His glasses barely hung onto his paunchy face, his body an overflowing tub of grease.
“David, is it?” His voice separated by the effort to speak.
“Yes, sir. David Urnst.” I sat up and straightened my tie.
He made a mark on the paper in front of him. “Ohio?”
“Yes, Cleveland. Born and raised there.”
He grunted. “Kids?”
I paused and looked at the grisly man. “At one point.”
His laughed stifled into a cough and he continued. “Past?”
He nodded and continued to write. “I could have guessed that. Future?”
I bit my lip. This answer was the crucial one. A wrong answer here and I would lose it. Or at least that’s what they told me. It would mean back to the grunge. Just another day, like everybody else.
The man looked up, surprise covering his face. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” I smiled.
He raised his eyebrows and wrote down a long note. “Very well then. You may go.”
I looked around. “That’s it?”
He nodded. “See yourself out. Veronica is not the best at knowing when these little things are over.” He ginned, exposing his yellow teeth.
I got up but paused at the door. “When will I know?”
“Two weeks or so.”
He sat back in his chair and looked at me for a moment. “You’ll know. There won’t be any toe tapping for home after that point, though.” He winked. “No such thing as a home really.”
I nodded and went out the door. No such thing as a home repeated in my head. What did that mean?
At the end of the hall Veronica waited with door help open into the waiting room. I noticed the bright red flowers were now wilted as I passed.