Sleeping Giants Page 19

—Does that mean you can make her walk?

—No, not quite. Even with Kara helping with the balance, I’m still short one leg joint. I can’t seem to get the upper legs to move quite right. She has really short thighs between her hips and her actual knees. I don’t have that; my legs connect to the braces just below. I have to thrust my whole body upward at every step to get a natural movement out of her and it’s really hard to keep that going for more than a few steps.

But we’re making progress. Perhaps that’s what got Kara to open up a little. Perhaps it’s because we started pulling even longer shifts. But one night she asked me out for a drink. It wasn’t the first time, but she always made sure Dr. Franklin or Vincent tagged along. We usually go to the Aviator’s lounge at B-Gate. Our exit inside the terminal is past security so it’s convenient and Dr. Franklin can smoke. She doesn’t, really, but she likes to light one up when she drinks. She mostly stares at it. Anyway, it closes at ten thirty so we drove to a real place that’s open late. It was a bit of a dive, but anything where normal people go feels pretty special these days.

I don’t know if I was nervous, or just really tired, but I got drunk. Plowed. One bourbon, one bourbon, one beer. I don’t think they had Scotch anyway. I was on my second round when I started talking. She basically just listened to me spill my guts to her all night long. I was still mad at her, so I did it the mean way. You know: “I can’t stop thinking about you but you’re the coldest person I’ve ever met”—that kind of thing. She just sat there and listened. When I became a bit too incoherent, she dragged me to her car and drove me home without saying a word.

I wanted to hide under a rock the next day. More than anything, I was waiting to see what kind of hell she’d put me through for this. She didn’t. We just went through our routine. She was quite cordial actually. Nothing the next day either, then the next. After a week had gone by, I assumed she had decided it was best to pretend it didn’t happen. I was still reasonably embarrassed and inclined to agree.

A week later, she stopped me on the way out and asked if I still wanted to take her out to a real dinner. I tried to look like I thought about it before saying yes. I was going to pick her up on Sunday. I was at home getting ready when she called to cancel: “It’s not a good idea, we work together, blah blah blah.”

I should have been mad but I thought it was mostly funny since she was the one who invited me. We went through this dance one more time until I finally had it. I just stopped by her house on our night off and told her to hurry up. She didn’t argue. I must have looked more confident than I was.

She offered me coffee but I told her I’d wait in the car. I should have said yes to that coffee, because she made me wait out there for a good half hour. I was flipping through radio stations when I saw her walk out. Wow! is all I can say. I’m not sure I would have recognized her if it wasn’t her house. She wore a short skintight red dress, heels, the works. It made her legs look…

—Longer?

—Yes. I was looking for something more…Anyway, she had done something to her hair. I couldn’t tell what it was…something though. She even had makeup on. The whole thing was totally unlike her, but she just looked amazing. She obviously felt a bit out of character. She wasn’t nearly as bold as usual. She looked amazing and…vulnerable.

—Did you like that?

—That she felt vulnerable? I don’t know. Maybe.

—There is no shame in admitting it.

—I don’t get satisfaction out of making people feel smaller if that’s what you’re saying. I liked that I was having some sort of effect on her, you know. I wouldn’t want her to be like that all the time. She’s brash. That’s who she is. Still, it was special.

I don’t know how to explain it to you. All I think about is spending time with her. Do you understand what I’m saying? I spend twelve hours a day alone in a small room with her, and I still want…I don’t know…More. It’s like wanting a cigarette so bad, then you smoke a whole pack and you’re still craving.

—Did you start smoking?

—No. It’s just a figure of speech. I couldn’t think of a better one. I wanna feel like I’m reaching her somehow, like she’s letting me in. That night I did, for a while. It felt good.

—I understand. How did your evening go?

—I took her to a Brazilian steakhouse. It was a little out of my price range, but it was worth the money just to walk in there with her holding my arm. We had a really nice meal. I don’t know if you like steak, but if you do, you should try that place sometime.

—I do, and I might. Please continue.

—This time I made sure I stayed sober. She didn’t. The lady likes red wine. About halfway through the second bottle, she started talking. How her mother never approved of the men she was with. How her mother was right every time. I’m not sure but she made a comment in passing that led me to believe she was married once.

—She was not. I can tell you that much.

—Maybe I misunderstood. Whatever happened, I could tell there was a lot of pain involved.

I drove her to her house after dinner. I was about to get out of the car to get the door for her when she grabbed my arm. She undid her seat belt and jumped on my lap. Next thing I knew my seat was down and my shirt was coming off.

—That sounds like more than a kiss to me.

—Maybe. But the kiss is the only part where I felt she was really with me. I don’t think I mattered after that. It was cold, angry sex, you know. It felt like she was getting back at someone. This is gonna sound stupid, but I was jealous of whoever she was thinking of. He obviously meant more to her than I did at the time. Anyway, she was done pretty fast. Then she got out of the car without saying a word. That was it. That was a week ago, and we haven’t talked about it since.

—Do you want to talk about it?

—I’d like to know where we stand. If that was just the wine, I suppose I’ll handle it. But I think she could use someone who’d take care of her. I don’t think I’m the best man on Earth or anything like that, but I’d be good to her.

—I do not wish to be presumptuous, but if I may offer a bit of advice: Ms. Resnik is in need of many things. In my humble opinion, “someone who’d take care of her” is not one of them.

—I know. I know. Believe me I know. It’s a cat-and-mouse thing, or is it the chicken or the egg? She backs off because I come on too strong. I come on stronger because I feel her slipping away.

—“Cat and mouse” implies a love of the chase. “The chicken or the egg” refers to a causality dilemma. You were attempting to refer to the situation as the latter.

—That’s what I meant.

—I know. Unfortunately, it is an inaccurate interpretation of the facts. The situation you describe does indeed reinforce itself through a feedback loop. However, the expression suggests that the initial cause cannot be determined. In this case, it can.

—You mean me, right?

—I do. Just let her come to you on her own terms.

FILE NO. 093

MISSION REPORT—OPERATION CLEAN SWEEP

First Sergeant Dylan Rodriguez, U.S. Army, Transportation Specialist

Mission was a success. No friendly casualties.

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