“Sir, Mr. Roger sir…, may I ask, before we turn for home…, what’s with these rules of non-visitation…. It really seems unethical….
Nate continued with eloquence,
“With all the news around town, around the world really, of the new construction…, surely you allow curious visitors get a taste of the place…. What’s the meaning of sharing the news when there is no reciprocity? Surely, with your rank here, Roger, you do have the power to make and enforce decisions like this…, don’t you?”
Roger’s posture changed immediately. He puffed up, becoming twice as large. Nate hit his spot--power. Roger had taken a hit. His eyes opened wide. Nate remained calm, and continued….
“I would think a man entrusted to guard this entire property would have the power to choose who could and could not visit the school.”
Roger stoutly defended.
“Listen…, Saturdays are our visiting days, and that is the time when guided tours are available.”
Roger looked like he was going to shake a fist at us.
Nate leaned quickly into me, grinning, he knew something I didn’t. I was enthralled and betwixt. Captive in company with someone who argued persistently about something he didn’t really care about, just to engage. I felt like I was being shown something behind the scenes of the human drama through Nate. And, I wasn’t even sure if Nate’s story about the construction was true. Then I wondered how Nate would have even known about the construction or the building. Seeing as though he thought it was a castle a few minutes ago.... Or was he playing me too? Maybe he knew I’d be a person willing to go see a castle, but less willing to go see a school.
I followed Nate’s eyes. He looked back to Roger and locked with his gaze, direct. He purposely hung in the silence for a few extra moments before saying,
“Well, great, today is Saturday, so…, let’s go”
Roger’s irritation was beginning to break through. I was certain he was either going to get angry and swing at us, or break down. It also crossed my mind that he might call back-up security to escort us away.
“Look,” he said through clenched teeth, “the students are on break, and so are the guides, so there are no tours today…. I - am – the - only - one - here.”
There was a very long pause and no one moved. I felt like we were playing chess. I felt myself beginning to lose patience, as the three of us exchanged stares in the thick silence. The center of my forehead was getting hot and I started to tap my foot.
“Do you two understand me?”
Roger spoke solid.
“I - am – the – only – one - here.”
I was getting ready to speak, when Nate cut in.
“Well, certainly then the school entrusts you with the power to allow two curious and distant travelers….”
I felt my head spin and my heart leap into my throat as a laugh. Surprised at this expression, I tried to contain this by coughing and covering my mouth. But my laugh spilled around the edges. None of us could keep gesturing anymore. Nate didn’t even finish his sentence before the three of us began to laugh in unison. No one knew who was laughing at what or why.
“Alright you two hop on, for the tour!”
Roger’s angry face turned to a smile and he whisked his arms toward the jeep.
I was amazed. The vanishing of the power play caused me to step back before forward. Nate swung open the door and offered me the front seat, and jumped in the back. Roger went up front and started the jeep.
“So where are you two from?”
I took a breath in to tell the truth…, and Nate chimed in,
Roger either didn’t care, or believed us, and drove through the security gate up the hill towards the main entrance. I looked back at Nate from the mirror on the window visor. He was smiling into the sky with his head bobbing back and forth. He floated there in the mirror like every day of his life was like this, a wandering mystery of chance happenings all folded into laughter. I was unsure right then if he was really a person at all. Maybe he was a figment of my imagination, or maybe the sun was getting to me. I did only have a few hours of sleep; I am at a high desert altitude. This is the Land of Enchantment, after all. I looked back through the mirror until he recognized I was staring at him and he puffed his cheeks out and waved. I smiled back.
Roger parked the jeep in the turnaround in front of the main entrance and we jumped out. He led us up the marble stairs, unlocked the cavernous doors and escorted us into the main lobby. The interior was massive, cathedral ceilings with glass chandeliers, ornate bric-a-brac on ever surface. Roger closed the door behind us and pointed to the dining hall. He walked in front of us and opened the dining hall doors. We stepped through into another room twice as large, with blown class chandeliers and a black and white checkered floor. The dining hall was filled with fine sturdy medieval-looking tables. Roger walked us around the room, chatting with Nate the entire time. He led us out of the dining hall, across the main entrance and into the “historical collection room,” a place with floor-to-ceiling books and portraits of important men.
I tuned in and out to Roger and Nate’s specific chatter, I only took note of the quality of their interaction. Nate decided to milk Roger for all he was worth, pelting him with question after question about specific historical details of the construction of the building, and Roger was delighted. It was as if he’d been waiting for someone to ask him so many questions about this place, which he knew everything about. They became very close, very fast. It was starting to feel as if I was watching old friends chatting, walking arm in arm, room to room. I lingered behind them for a while, and then scooted out an open door on the balcony to get some space. I stared for long time into the desert. I stood, taking slow breaths of dry pinion and heat. What was I doing here? How did I get here?
I thought about going with the flow, and accepting the gifts of the universe. I looked into the mountains and asked what I was supposed to understand from this.
I heard the balcony door close with a creak. Nate came up behind me, and put a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to face him and squinted. He smiled and turned away from me to Roger,
“And my wife here …. she’s one who likes to linger in beauty.”
Nate turned from Roger to face me again, still smiling,
“Isn’t that right dear?”
End Part III
End Part III