As the evening sky grew dark
She looked at him and he felt a spark tingle to his bones
Bob Dylan, Simple Twist of Fate
Not in the pantry. Not on the porch. Not in the basement or the mezzanine. . Not coming or going on any of the 131 stairways, 19 escalators or 13 elevators. I searched each of the 284 rest rooms to no avail. I know how silly this seems, nonetheless, I even looked in each and every one of the 672 fire hose cabinets. I agree, all of this seems desperate if not downright insane. Hey, what can I say? That’s what love does to people. “This is the brain on love.” Fried like an egg. Love can make fools of people easier than rabbits can make babies.
I went to the garden for a smoke, sat down on a bench next to an old bewhiskered man in a ratty black trench coat and asked him if there were any secret corridors that the average visitor like me wasn’t aware of. He looked kind of official. There was some sort of insignia on his red beret and he was wearing a badge of some sort, mostly hidden by the lapel of his coat, making it impossible for me to read what it said. He definitely had a strange demeanor; a presence that was not ordinary. Stately, I would say. Yes, stately is an apt way to describe him.
He appeared to be thinking. His eyes seemed to be riveted on something far away. I wondered for a moment if he was a Knight Templar who somehow got lost in time. Me and my imagination. Watching the History channel too often. It was more like a Monty Python skit. He was eating a bologna sandwich. There was mayonnaise on his bottom lip and some more of it dribbling down his chin. It was nasty. I felt a bit bad for the old fellow, and yet, at the same time, I didn’t want to embarrass him and bring it to his attention by offering him a napkin. I never know what to do in cases like that.
Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to let anything sidetrack me. I was on a mission. I showed him the photograph I always carry. The one where we are sitting together on a park bench feeding pigeons right next to the “Do Not Feed the Pigeons” sign. He looked at it, took it from my hand, moved it closer to his eyes and peered at it as if he was examining evidence. Forensic love evidence. I was afraid he’d get mayonnaise on it so I took it from him quickly and slipped it back into my pocket. I persisted. “I’ve looked everywhere. I can’t find hide nor hair of him. He can’t have disappeared into thin air.”
He cocked his head to one side, smiled cynically, and looked to the sky as if searching for an answer, then he raised one bushy eyebrow and said, “Who knows. Maybe he did.” He reached into his pocket. “Oh good,” I said to myself, “he’s finally going to wipe that mayonnaise off his face.” I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Instead of a napkin, he retrieved a harmonica. Yep. That’s right. A harmonica. I handed him a napkin. He wiped his face. And then he started to play; “It ain’t me, babe, no, no, no, it ain’t me, babe, it ain’t me …….."
*The letter “U” is nowhere to be found in the above short story, except for the title of course.