Alexandria (Burning Man 11)

Blankly she stared at the traffic below rushing away on 395 even though it was almost 3 am. The news had hit her hard and was totally unexpected. She had listened to the recorded message from the Paris hospital three times. She truly regretted never giving her father her cell phone number and now he was gone. A stroke had taken his life. Never again would she be able to defend her politics to the expat.

Margaret’s father was a veteran of the Korean war. He had been in the United States Air Force. He was a lieutenant and had served as a B-29 navigator in many bombing missions during the conflict. He was a stubborn man with strong political convictions. When she was young she loved to listen to his rambling stories of the decent republican president, good old ‘Ike’ Eisenhower. Her Father had worked as a defense contractor when he returned. A civilian consultant for the defense industry. Plenty of work fighting the cold war in those days. Lots of money to be had for the military industrial complex as it was known around their house in McLean Virginia.

Shortly after Margaret had been born the Watergate scandal occurred. This and maybe all the antiwar protests had changed her Father for good. When she was four she remembered her Mother and Father having world war three in the parlor. It was sadly one of her earliest memories and as far as she was concerned the beginning of the end of her parents’ marriage even though her Father had stuck it out until she was thirteen. Their political battles were never ending. Her Mother ever increasingly Republican and her Father a liberal Independent. Not surprising in fact because her mother had come from old southern money and her Father had come from a New Hampshire farm.

In 1982 her Father had moved to Paris to work for UNESCO. It was a change of pace for him but something he truly believed in. She had stayed behind in McLean. After graduating high school she had been accepted at Georgetown. In fact although she had traveled extensively her home had always been in the nation’s capitol. She knew the city well. K street was her domain. The American Petroleum Institute payed her grandly. Her Mother was very proud, but her Father had disagreed with her decision from the very beginning. She had turned down an offer from the CIA.

She reached down for the bottle of Pinot on the glass table and refilled her tumbler. The pack of Benson & Hedges was half gone already. The first cigarette had tasted okay and took the edge off the bad news but now she was smoking and trying hard not to think about the pain that was building inside her. It was her first cigarette in seven years. The first time she had listened to the message she had run downstairs to the Korean market at the base of the apartment building and bought wine and cigarettes. The owner, whom she had know for years knew this was not the regular Margaret. The wine was relatively normal but the cigarettes meant something was wrong. He had sensed the pain in Margaret’s face but he had kept his silence in the intuitive fashion of the orient.

She wondered about the funeral arrangements. Since her Father was a veteran would he be buried at Arlington? She wasn’t sure he would’ve gone for it. She had remembered one time when he came to visit he befriended the store owner downstairs. Despite the fact his Korean wasn’t very good he still managed to have a decent conversation making friends for life in the process. That was her father. He could make friends standing on the platform at the train station. He was too friendly for DC. She wiped a tear from her eye. So much to do now. She dreaded the call she would make to her Mother. Had she heard already? She just wasn’t sure.

She closed the sliding glass door to the balcony and sat down on the couch carefully placing the bottle and glass on the coffee table. She had left the cigarettes outside. She might be smoking but she detested the smell of smoke inside. The big screen TV blared the endless news of the day. Something about the missing plane, maybe it had been found. Tomorrow she would make plans to fly to Paris. She had the name of her Father’s attorney on her cell phone. She scrolled through her extensive address list. There it was, Marcel Lemieux Avocat. She began to sob gently. She still couldn’t believe she hadn’t given her father her cell number but here she had his attorney’s number at the ready.

Australian authorities had maybe located the plane. The blaring TV had jolted her out of a half sleep. She grabbed the remote and turned it off. Her mind drifted. Australia, just the name stirred something inside her. She didn’t know why. Tomorrow was another day. She fell asleep on the couch. A siren wailed down 395.

“I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.”                 — Geronimo

Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween

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