WAITING FOR THE FAMILY J. Brennan
I sat on a park bench, opened my briefcase and pulled out a dull report to proof read. I heard, before I saw the girl as she sat under a tree sobbing softly. I planned to ignore her and continue my work, but she sounded so distressed I walked over and asked if I could help.
“I wish you could.” She looked up at me blinking back her tears. “I’m lost and alone.”
Although I judged her to be in her mid-twenties, she sounded almost child-like as she enunciated every word she spoke. It was as if she read from a primer.
“Tell me where you live and I’ll see if I can point you in the right direction,” I said.
“That’s the problem, I don’t know. They were supposed to come back for me but they must have forgotten. They told me to wait right here and not wander off.”
“Your family?” I asked.
“She hesitated, “Yes, my family.”
“Do they have a phone? I could call them.”
“They’re on a trip. They have no phone.”
I thought it strange for someone to go on a trip and leave a family member sitting under a tree. Perhaps, the girl had a mental problem or maybe amnesia. I sat beside her to see if I could garner additional information. She chatted about everything except where she lived and who planned to pick her up. She told me she had just learned English, which accounted for her almost too perfect pronunciation. I gathered she came from a different country but she wouldn’t say where, only that the trip here took a long time. After an hour, I suggested we share the lunch I brought with me. As we ate, the girl entertained me by naming all the trees and flowers in the park. She knew the states and capitols and the names of all the Senators. I was impressed. The new citizenship test for immigrants must be very informative these days.
The sun began to set and I worried about my companion.
“Maybe I should call the police,” I suggested.
The girl paled. “Please don’t do that. My family would be very angry with me. I must do as I’m told…and wait. She opened a tin of mints and gave one to me.
The rest of the day passed in a blur. I remember feeling incredibly sleepy. At dusk, people swarmed around me, everyone talking at once. The girl’s precise voice rose above the din. She said she had obeyed orders and stayed until she found a companion.
At some point, many small hands lifted me into a vehicle. Then, I felt as if a vacuum had sucked me through a spiral tube. The trip was intense and I lost track of time. After days, weeks, or maybe months they placed me under an unusual tree-like growth in a strange place and told to wait until they returned for me. I began to speak an unfamiliar language. My facial features changed. My weight dropped and I looked ten years younger. Day after day, I waited. One afternoon someone sat beside me and asked if they could help. Of course, they couldn’t, and I couldn’t tell them. We had to wait for our new family.