“I don’t remember how I got there, I think I must have sleep walked…Do you mind not writing while I tell you this?”
He looks over his glasses, glances at the pencil and pad of paper. “I need to take notes, miss. I’ll be going over them later to try and understand your situation.”
"You’d understand if you listened to me.”
Folds his hands, “Alright, I’ll refrain from writing.” His lips attempt to lift into a smile. His eyes say what his mouth won’t.
“You know, no, it’s fine. I’ll be going…Thank you for your time.”
“You’ve hardly used twenty minutes. You’ve still got—”
“It’s fine.” Pulls her jacket off the rack, shuts the door a little harder than she means to.
Pushes a few coins into the payphone in the lobby downstairs. Ring…Ring-ring, click-connect.
“Hey, how’d it…You left early? Ah, hun. What happened this time?”
“He kept on scribbling on his stupid paper.”
“That’s his job, love. They take notes.”
“He wasn’t listening to me.”
Sigh--sounds like snow blown against a window at night. “Sam-Sam-Sam, you can’t keep doing this. You need to talk to someone.”
“And I want to, but no one wants to listen. They either ignore me, think I’m a nut, or just do the whole ‘Oh, yes, sure-sure, go on’, thing. Laughing at me. No one believes me.”
“Well, hun, to be honest what you’ve been saying does sound a little—”
“Don’t. Just…I don’t even know why I called.” THUNKS her head against the side of the booth, winces, rubs her palm there. Hopes a lump doesn’t form.
“Let me talk to some more of my friends at the school, I’ll try and find someone that’s a little more, ah, open-minded about these things.”
“No, I’m done trying your way. I’ll figure something out.”
“Samantha, please. What does that mean?”
Watches traffic pass outside. A bus rumbles by, the windows shiver, dust parts. “Huh.”
“I’m worried about you, Sam.” Mom says.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll call you again soon. Love you, hugs and kisses.”
“Love you too.”
Samantha heads out the front door, checks the street, dashes across. Pushes the door open and the smell of incense hits her like walking into a tree. Someone unseen tells her to make sure she pulls the door closed tight. Sam gives the door a tug, latch snaps into place. Folds her jacket over an arm. A draft might be nice, the air is still and warm.
“Something didn’t go so well for you, mm?” the old woman asks.
“You can tell?” Pushes aside the thin curtain separating the entrance from the main room. A little old woman, with a dried apple face, hovers over a spread of Tarot cards lit by candle light. “Did your cards tell you that?”
“What?” looks up, honest confusion. Looks back at the cards. “Oh”—laughs, coughs, grunts—”goodness, no. Hand me that glass, would you?” points a crooked finger.
“Oh, of course, here you are.” Gets a whiff of the contents, not water.
“Mm, thank you. Whew, oh that’s the ticket.” Gathers the cards up, shuffles them into the deck, her nimble hands work like a practiced magician’s. “What can I do for you?”
“How did you know something was bothering me?”
The woman laughs, “Because you’re a human. I may as well have said, ‘Ooh, tasted some air today, eh?’ Something has goes bad for everyone. It’s my way of saying hello. I’m an old woman, let me be weird.”
“Well, you’re right. I was just across the street at Doctor Kleper’s. Know him?”
“Know of him. Never talked to him.”
“Went to the same school as my mom…Or knows someone there that did? I’m not sure. My mom got me in contact with him. Wanted me to talk about something that happened a few years ago. He’s…Oh, maybe the twentieth person I’ve gone to. No one believes me.”
“So you came to me?”
Samantha shrugs, a subtle gesture. “I need to talk to someone that doesn’t think I’m crazy.”
“Then you should go see Tom Paine. Off Ninth and…Ah, oh, hmm, I don’t remember. Look him up and give him a call.”
Sam heads towards Ninth, ducks into a café, dials the operator, asks for Tom Paine on Ninth. Line clicks a couple times, then rings.
“Oh, hi. Is this Mr. Paine?”
“Are you a head doctor?”
Twenty minutes later she’s breathing heavy at the top of fourteen flights of stairs. Catches her breath and knocks on the door marked PAINE. Funny name for a doctor. When he answers the door she tells him so.
“Oh,” he smiles, “I’m not a doctor. I just talk to people. Never bothered with the schooling. Want anything to drink? Water maybe? Bit of exercise, hm? Those stairs.”
Samantha nods, “Water, yes please. Thank you.”
After introductions they sit across from each other in a semi-circle room full of light. The windows overlook the busy street below. An occasional horn blast cuts through the hum of city life, but otherwise the sounds are dull this high up. Smoke drifts from chimney’s, a woman hangs clothes on a line, a cat paws the air as a bird passes.
“So what is it you want to talk about.”
“I’m just going to spill it and if you think I’m nuts, that’s fine. I’ve done this more than a dozen times, I’m used to people thinking I’m crazy. Only my mom doesn’t, but she isn’t sure what I am. Confused I guess”—shakes her head—”but I’m not. I know damn well what I saw…What happened. It was more real than this,” taps the side of her glass. “Or you.”
“Death. It wasn’t a he or a she, it just was. I don’t even know how I ended up in the woods. I’ve tried to find that place, but I can’t. How is that possible?” she asks. His brows and shoulders lift. “Well it happened, and you know how I know it happened? Because I changed.”
“I used to be sad all the time, worried about each day, what I would do, what might happen. Practically afraid of my own shadow. But after I met Death, that hasn’t been the case. Usually when I get to this part the Doctor tells me that’s what matters, that I changed. So what does it matter what I saw. They tell me let my dream, or vision, or whatever it was go. But it wasn’t a dream or a vision or anything like that at all, it was real.”
“I see. And how come you wanted to tell me this? How come you’ve gone to so many others to talk about this?”
“Part of it is my mom. Says I need to reconcile this, figure out what I actually saw. I don’t think that’s going to happen though. I just want someone to believe me. Believe that there are things that can happen that we can’t explain. That’s all I want.”
“Then you’ve found what you’ve been looking for. I’ve seen a lot of things that I can’t explain. I believe you.”