Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Day I Taught Angelina Jolie How To Knit - Part Three

With those first words out of her mouth, I could see right then and there that it might be a little too much for her. What with all the children, her acting, and her refugee work, not to mention Brad himself. My sigh caught her attention and she turned those eyes on me and looked me over. I soon realized however that she was looking at the sweater I was wearing that I had knit myself. She glanced at the children again as they mauled the dog before turning back to Brad. The stare she gave him became so long and drawn out that it made me want to crawl under the door and slip away. His enthusiasm for the idea still clung hopefully to his face as he looked from her to the knitting basket and back. You could see he wasn’t going to give the idea up without much persuasion and I briefly wondered about their relationship as I watched this little scene. Finally, after what seemed to me an eternity, she tilted her head back and stared at the frescoed ceiling before making her decision.

“Okay. I’ll give it a try. But you and the nanny have to look after the kids while I’m doing this.”

Nervousness and despair swept over me at those words. What if I couldn’t teach her a single thing? What if she was hopeless when it came to crafts? Who was I to be involved in this? I gave them both a wan smile as they turned their attention on me.

“Well now. This is going to be wonderful.” Brad said as he wrapped her and Shiloh in one massive hug. “Maddox, Pax and Zahara. I want you to say hello to Ani. She’s going to teach mommy how to knit.”

A collective ‘Hello’ came from the group as they took their attention away from the dog for a minute to glance dutifully in my direction. I smiled back and waggled a few fingers; their obvious happiness touching a spot in my heart.

“Can you start right now?” Brad asked once the introductions were over with.

It was my turn to raise my eyebrows as I looked in Angelina’s direction. She gave him one of those looks that made it obvious we were both an intrusion in her life right at this moment, and I quickly searched the entranceway for something to focus on.

“Ahh! Well then. How about I send a car for you tomorrow morning then Ani? Would that be all right with you Angie?”

A smile crossed her face for the first time and she reached over and put a long slender hand on his cheek and locked eyes with him. Whatever passed between them definitely didn’t have anything to do with me, and I bit my lower lip and turned a beaming smile on the children, who ignored me over the dog. Remembering me and my basket, Brad finally broke away and arranged for a ride as he handed me back my belongings. Later, as I settled in my little travel trailer with my knitting in my hands, I thought of that look for a long time.

The car picked me up promptly at 10 the following morning. I figured a midmorning arrival would probably give the family enough time for cereal and toast and a trip to the school to drop off Maddox. The day was a little cooler and threatened rain, and I was shown into the library where a couple of wing-back chairs had been pulled up in front of a large fireplace where a fire crackled and spit as it caught on some sap. A low footstool stood in front of one chair, probably in deference to my age, and I noted with appreciation the needlepoint on it had been done by hand instead of machine.

“My grandmother’s.”

I jumped at the words and fumbled a hello as I recognized Angelina waiting patiently for me. She was seated in the wing-back without the footstool and I hadn’t seen her when I first came into the room being preoccupied with the decor. I set down the equipment I had brought with me and lowered myself into the other wing-back and clasped my hands, forgetting that I was the teacher in this room. “The children are with the nanny so we have the entire morning ahead of us,” she said without much enthusiasm.

Sighing inwardly I bent to my baskets and pulled out a skein of magenta colored wool and a pair of 6mm knitting needles. I had picked magenta as it is such a happy color to work with under any conditions, and it’s easy on the eyes when you’re looking for stitches. Taking the skein of wool, I held it up to my nose and inhaled the heavy aroma that only pure wool has, then I passed it over to Angelina. With a questioning look of doubt on her face she did the same, and I watched with interest as an understanding came into her eyes. “There’s nothing like it I find,” trying to show her my respect for natural fibers. When she handed the skein back to me, I showed her how to unwind it, and how they always tied a simple twist in it. As I stood holding the yarn in my two hands, Brad bounded in, eager to see how the lesson was going.

“Perfect!” I said as I held out the skein of yarn to him. “Would you hold this – just like this, please Brad?” Obligingly he held out his hands and I draped the yarn over it and told him to hold it taut. Then I showed Angelina how to wind a ball of wool from a hank or skein. At first the winding went fairly well. Then Brad seemed to lose track of what was happening and the ball was all distorted and falling apart. I watched as they tried to get in sync again – but Brad couldn’t keep the skein from tangling and I could see it was hopeless. “Wait! I brought some things – just in case this happened.” Bending back to my baskets, I pulled out a skein holder and a wool winder and set them up on a nearby table, making sure that nothing scratched the obvious antique I had chosen. Draping what was left of the skein over the skein holder, I unwound the ball and slid the end onto the wool winder, then I showed Angelina how it worked and let her wind the wool.
Brad couldn’t get over the simplicity of the two machines and wanted to try them for himself, so I pulled out another ball of periwinkle blue wool and let him go at it.

From there I introduced my pupil to the knitting needles and we spent some time forming a slipknot and learning how to do a knit cast-on – always my favorite. At first the going was slow as I showed her the positioning of the needles and yarn. We cast on a number of stitches and then I had her rip them all out and start from the beginning again; watching carefully as she made a slipknot – then froze. Once again we went through the technique and she shook her head, chastising herself underneath her breath. We repeated the process a couple of times until I felt she was ready to begin knitting. The fire crackled merrily as we worked away, me coaching her continually while Brad wandered in and out of the room or bent over the back of her chair and watched her quietly. Her fingers were long, and to me painfully thin, with dark blue veins running under the skin. When I had first held her hands in mine to show her the basic steps, they were cold to the touch, and I hadn’t failed to notice that she had on heavy socks and a fleece sweater. I was comfortable in the large room in front of the fire, but it was obvious that she felt the cold. When lunch came, she picked at it, and I came right out and told her she needed to eat more – something that would stick to her bones and give her warmth. She just smiled at me, those lips framing perfect white teeth - and went back to picking. I used that opportunity to explain the qualities of natural fibers, especially wool, when choosing something to knit with. I agreed that acrylics for the children would probably be smartest – wash and wear at its best – but for warmth – the wool. She admitted she liked the feel of it in her hands and of course there was the smell. We spent the afternoon knitting – or to us knitters – doing garter stitch. Row after row we knit. Back and forth - back and forth. As the daylight slipped away, I started to wind up the lesson; explaining there was more to knitting that just the knit stitch and without a moment’s hesitation, Angelina invited me back for the next day.

The next morning we started from scratch again – just to ensure she hadn’t forgotten how to cast on. She whipped several stitches onto her needles and knit a few rows for me like an old (although rusty) pro. From there we delved into purl stitches for a while and then moved on to increasing and decreasing. I had brought my encyclopedia of knit stitches just to show her how many different varieties there were. I then brought out a simple pattern I had picked up before I showed up that morning and we started chatting about following patterns. Knitting is just a variety of knit and purl stitches, and if you can follow the pattern, I figure anyone can do it.

As the afternoon dwindled again, Brad came in and invited me to stay for dinner with the family. As he was going to cook up his home version of Jambalaya I couldn’t say no. We moved from the library into the giant kitchen and watched as Brad bustled around frying alligator sausage and chicken in a huge skillet. He had a towel draped over his shoulder on which he absently wiped everything he got on his hands, and occasionally flicked in Angelina’s direction. A huge rice cooker bubbled away on a counter while he poured us each a glass of wine and we perched on kitchen stools at the island and looked through my binder of patterns.

Angelina was determined to make a sweater to show Brad she could do it, and eventually picked out a man’s simple cardigan done in a combination of garter and moss stitch. With her enthusiasm I was more than happy to let her have the pattern and even offered to help her pick out yarn at a local wool shop I had stumbled on in the Garden District. Ever helpful, Brad dug around in the junk drawer that everyone has in their kitchen and came up with a measuring tape. He posed and pumped his muscles for a bit while we tried to take his measurements, reminding me of his movie Troy. From there it was a matter of getting through supper without getting his incredible Jambalaya all over me, or holding my sides with laughter at the children’s antics as we sat around the huge dinner table and feasted.

The next day, true to her word, Angelina picked me up and we headed out to the wool shop to pick out yarn. With her hair tucked up into a Support New Orleans! pink baseball cap and wearing tight jeans, we wandered through the wool bins, holding colors to the light and checking yardage and weight. I have to admit, she was a quick learner and I was proud of my student when we dumped our selections of moss greens and browns with a dash of burgundy, onto the counter. The salesclerk kept looking at us as she rang up the sale, and thanked Angelina profusely when she handed over the large bag of wool, needles, skein holder and wool winder. We laughed together like lifelong friends as we watched through the window as an excited saleslady yelled into the telephone as we pulled away. We went back to the now familiar library, and I got her started on the back of the dropped sleeve sweater. I watched as she got well on her way with it during the day while I worked on my own creation. When the light was once more beginning to fade, I packed up my bifocals and my yarn and started to make my farewells. Brad gave me a hearty handshake and tried to push a load of money into my hand which I promptly dropped on the floor and ignored. Angelina hugged me hard and thanked me so sincerely that I almost cried. Two days later my time had run out and I was headed back to Alberta, Canada – my days of hobnobbing with the celebrities fading into an unbelievable memory.

About six weeks later, as I sat in front of my own fire with my feet on a footstool and a ball of wool unwinding itself onto my needles, the phone rang.

“Is that you Ani? It’s Angelina!”

You better believe I almost dropped the phone into the fire right then and there! A huge smile spread across my face as I listened to her sultry voice as it came across the miles asking me for help on that sweater. With her man’s birthday fast approaching, she wanted to finish the project, wrap it, and prove to him that she could do it. Would I fly to Zurich where she was on a film shoot – the ticket would be waiting at the airport in my name? Now – how could anyone say no to that – or to her? I did a quick search on weather in Switzerland, packed a small bag and headed to the airport. The flight was long, but first-class gave me plenty of time to get some knitting done of my own and I couldn’t have been happier.

A limo whisked me from the airport to the site where they were filming and some person with a clipboard escorted me to Angelina’s trailer where Brad and the kids greeted me like some long lost friend. Brad took me onto the set where I stood openmouthed like a groupie and watched his leading lady breeze through her script without missing a line.
When the scene was finished, we headed back to the trailer where Angelina shooed everyone away and we slid right back into our teacher-student personas. Solving the problem of casting off in pattern was an easy one and I could see that she was going to finish this project with plenty of time to spare before Brad’s birthday. She invited me to stay on the shoot with them so I could help her through the rest of the sweater during her breaks. And again – how could anyone say no to this woman? Three weeks later, Angie and I sewed in the last strands of wool and spread out the finished product to admire her work. Her stitches were smooth and the tension was even. No stressful days showed in her work whatsoever – and I was incredibly proud of her. One more shopping trip together found us loading up on wool again for her next project – something for Shiloh this time in a soft lavender color. I picked up a birthday card for Brad and addressed it “To my friend’s friend”, before slipping it into its envelope and handing it over to Angelina for safekeeping.

With the shoot over, we took the same limo to the airport where we were going our separate ways. I was heading back to Alberta and my quiet life in front of the fire, and the Jolie-Pitts were off to Italy to join George Clooney at his villa. As I settled in to first-class and picked up my knitting, I wondered if Mr. Clooney would be interested in learning how to knit.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Day I Taught Angelina Jolie How to Knit - Part Two

“Right now?” I gasped as I gripped my knitting before he pulled it off my needles and out of my hands. I must have looked like a mime as my mouth opened and closed and no words came out. Flustered, I poked the sharp ends of the needles into the maze of colors to ensure the knitting wouldn’t come off and tried to gather my wits about me.

“You don’t have anything planned right now, do you?” he asked with some humility as he realized he might be invading my life. “I mean – do you mind coming right now and teaching her how to knit? You know, she’s a new Mom – and I think all Moms should know how to knit, and you looked so at peace doing it and so happy – and I’m babbling…..”

I laughed a bit and shook my head as I stood up and gathered my belongings. “Right now is fine – really. It’s just not how I was expecting to spend my afternoon. I thought I was going to get that sleeve done……”

“Oh! I’m Brad of course,” he said as he shuffled the basket to one arm and held out his hand.

“I’m Ani,” I said with some embarrassment and who knows why.

“You don’t mind walking do you? We don’t live too far from here – or – we could take a carriage back if it’s a problem.”

“A walk would be lovely. I love to look at all this old architecture and get some inspiration from it,” I said as I bent backwards a little and stretched my back. An audible crack raised his eyebrows and I made a brushing motion in the air with my hand, “it is just age – something you’ll recognize once you hit 50.”

Skirting the cathedral, we soon found ourselves on Royal Street and we both admired the old gas lamps and famous buildings as we hurried along. Brad chatted about their move to New Orleans and how much they loved living there, and I admitted I was a bit envious. How could I not be? New Orleans oozed inspiration, history, music and love. We weren’t stopped once by the paparazzi or admiring fans, so I guess the word should go out to all celebrities – if you don’t want to be recognized on the street – hang out with a nondescript commoner – nobody will notice. A few streets later, Brad unlocked a beautiful wrought iron gate and led me up a walkway to an old antebellum mansion nestled under towering Cedar Elms and surrounded by flowering Magnolias. A couple of gardeners were busy in the yard as they pruned and weeded, and Brad waved a hello to them as we made our way up the back walk. I was acutely aware that my palms had started to sweat as we neared the house and I was amazed that I was nervous about meeting his leading lady. Before I could give it any more thought, Brad ushered me in through the door and yelled out a great “Hello the house – I’m home!”

A great clattering of feet could be heard coming down the stairway, and I clutched my sweater about me in nervous anticipation as squeals and laughter echoed about the house. Glancing at Brad, I took in the huge smile that spread across his face (while I made a quick check for those vampire fangs). He let out a whoop as arms encircled his legs and he bent down for the kisses that were waiting for him. When I finally managed to figure out there were three children instead of four attached to him, I think I let out a small gasp before slowly looking around the entranceway. Angelina stood at the bottom of the stairway directing a stony gaze straight in my direction, with Shiloh perched on her jutting hip like some afterthought. I tried a smile and shrug combination, but that only elicited a raised, perfectly plucked, eyebrow. The silence between us loomed and I hurriedly turned back to the commotion happening to my right.

“Ummmmm, Brad?”

To be honest, I’m not sure now if I said that or if Angelina did. However, it did make him look up from his group hug and he quickly identified the problem.

“Hello my lady,” he said as he gave her a courtly bow. “I want to introduce you to Ani. I met her in the square and she is going to teach you how to knit.”

As the other, perfectly plucked, eyebrow slowly rose, I could see he realized that perhaps my presence needed a bit more explanation than he had given. Looking around in desperation, he finally spotted my knitting basket that he had dropped beside the door when we entered. A large golden retriever had its nose deep in the balls of wool and was spilling them over the side of the basket, obviously in search of something to eat. The brightly colored wools stood out against the ceramic tiles with a glow of their own in the muted tones of the entranceway, and I paused as I took in its understated elegance.

“River! Get out of that!” Brad yelled as he grabbed the dog’s collar and hauled him back. The dog’s tail wagged slowly back and forth, and the happy look on its face as his master chided him was endearing. “That’s a River Runs Through It – not a River noses through it dear pal.” Brad rubbed his ears hard for a moment before calling Maddox over and putting the dog in his care. Grabbing the basket again he scooped the wayward balls off the floor and piled them in the basket before hurrying over to Angelina’s side.

“Hon! You’ve got to look at this! It’s beautiful and Ani is making it with her own hands! I sat down on a bench in the square and she was sitting there knitting and I got thinking that you should knit too. You know, being a Mom and all that….”

His enthusiasm was hard to deny and rather infectious too. I could see her turning it over in her mind as she turned over my knitting for a closer inspection. I can’t tell you how happy I was at that moment that I had learned how to wrap and carry colors on the back of the work. I knew there wasn’t a single loose strand hanging anywhere, and I think I might have preened a bit with the knowledge.

“Let me get this straight. You want me to learn how to knit?”

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Day I Taught Angelina Jolie How to Knit - Part One

There’s something about New Orleans that, once experienced, makes you crave it down deep in your soul. It could be the historic old buildings in the French Quarter with their wrought iron balconies and gas lamps. Or, perhaps it’s the music and the food that belongs to this region. Maybe it’s the swamps and the close warm breath of a hot Louisiana night. Or perhaps it’s just the people - with their gaiety and laughter and overall love and gratitude for life itself. Whatever it is, New Orleans is enchanting and addictive. Once tasted – you are hooked.

I had thought that a quick visit to this city would be enough to satisfy my appetite, but I had been wrong. Sometime during my whirlwind tour, New Orleans had entrapped me like a new lover, and was holding me - a breathless captive – to its breast. Unable to leave with this newfound love blossoming in my heart I gave in to the siren’s call and became one with it.

That is how I found myself sitting on a bench in Jackson Square on a sunny October afternoon watching the tourists and listening to the bells ringing on the barges as they chugged down the muddy Mississippi River. At my feet sat my basket of wool, its colors exploding in the sunshine that tickled the fibers as they wound their way on to my needles and off again. To me, knitting and the fall season go hand and hand – and the beauty of New Orleans had inspired in me a need to produce an article of clothing that would keep it all close to me.

With my pattern tucked under my left knee, I worked in the mallard greens and the periwinkle blues, throwing in a dash of raspberry and pale yellow while the rainbow still waited its turn in my basket. I purled and slipped stitches, cabled and seeded – engrossed and happy and contented. I barely noticed the man who quietly slipped onto the other end of the bench, only nodding a hello as I changed my needles from the right hand to my left in preparation for starting another row. As I worked the intricate pattern, I was aware of the gentleman’s interest and again cast a glance in his direction, a slight smile crossing my lips as if in apology for my lack of conversation. He looked vaguely familiar, but the sunglasses and the newspaper boy’s hat did a lot to mask the eyes and the hair and I let that idea go – doesn’t everybody look familiar after a while?

Time passed as it will when you are knitting, and the sun had slipped a little lower in the clear blue sky, making the river look like dark slate. I fished around in my basket in the hopes of finding something close to that color to add to the palette on my needles. As I did so, I dislodged a ball of wool over its edge and I watched in disbelief as it rolled up against the feet of the quiet stranger on the bench beside me. With a smile he rescued it and handed it back, then complimented me on my knitting ability. As I blushed, I realized I recognized his voice – or at least I thought I did – and I stopped short, the splash of color forgotten in the palm of my hand, and took a good look at him. Dear God! I was sitting beside Brad Pitt!

I don’t know about you, but I get rather flustered in the presence of immortals. Having just come from a tour of Oak Alley where they had filmed Interview with a Vampire, I was still overwhelmed and under its spell. That is my excuse for immediately dropping the errant ball of wool. As we both hurriedly bent to save it from an untimely death underneath the feet of those passing in front of us – we knocked heads. Dropping my knitting, I covered my flaming face with both hands and let out a small moan. Of course the darling man thought he had physically hurt me and slid closer to examine my scalp for damages. The thought of his hands in my hair only made matters worse, and I wished fervently for the pavement to open and let me plunge directly into embarrassment hell. As the seconds passed with no reprieve in sight, I gave in and grasped my needles again, pasting a pale lipped smile on my puce colored face. I let him search my head for damages and smiled (again) gratefully at him then turned firmly back to my knitting as if it was the most important thing in my life. I remained calm as I slipped dropped stitches back onto my needle and took up the pattern once more, only to be stopped short again by the now nonstranger next to me.

“That is just amazing,” he said with so much excitement and awe in his voice that I almost dropped my cable needle. “You make it look so simple – and your combination of colors is confetti to my eyes.”

I looked at him closely to check if he was perhaps rehearsing some lines or just being patronizing. What I saw was something I recognized in others – a passion for creating – no matter how it is accomplished. “Well it is really quite simple once you learn the basic knit, purl techniques,” I said as casually as I could. Picking up my knitting again I showed him the basic knit and purl stitches, explaining how the needle goes into the front and into the back. Then, with a touch of reluctance – I offered him my knitting and asked him if he wanted to give it a try.

“No – No! Not me! I don’t want to ruin all your beautiful work!” he said as he raised his hands in the air and blinded me with the sun glinting off his teeth. Inwardly I heaved a sigh of relief and resumed knitting. I paused in midstitch when I heard him say “But!” It was said with such thought and was so long and drawn out, that I felt a little shudder run through me as I turned towards him, one eyebrow raised and a questioning look on my face.

“Do you think you could teach Angelina how to knit?”

I don’t think I gasped – at least I hope I didn’t let one slip out – but how many times does one get asked that question?

“Well,” and that was long and drawn out on my part too as I scrambled to think of what to say. “I have taught many people how to knit. In fact, I use to teach knitting. But some people just never catch on. So if you want a guarantee on that – I can’t give it to you. However, (and here I pretended to concentrate on transferring some cable stitches to allow my brain some time to think about what I was letting myself in for) I guess I could give it a try.”

“Great!” he yelled as he jumped up and grabbed my basket and piled my belongings on top. “Let’s get going!”

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Morgue

The man of my dreams sat on my right holding my hand. The woman I had played ‘Maid of Honor’ to, sat on my left, holding my other hand. I sat in the middle, pegged down like a tent in a strong wind. A small man with indeterminate ancestry sat in front of us, his dark eyes searching my soul. The surrounding room was small and muffled with a fish-eye in the door, while the pale green walls that were meant to soothe the psyche mixed discordantly with the faint smell of antiseptic. I could hear the whisperings of cushioned feet passing on the other side of the door and the incessant sound of someone crying. The small man rubbed the dark circles around his eyes with both hands and resumed his staring. I stared back–a deer caught in the headlights. Words burbled out of his mouth and I turned towards my dream man with a questioning look on my face, my own mouth wet and slightly askew. I raised my eyebrows and shook my head slightly. I couldn’t understand the man’s heavy accent and the crying was beginning to get on my nerves. The man burbled again and I looked down into my wet lap with embarrassment at my inability to understand him. He stood and left the room, leaving us sitting awkwardly. The crying sound that wrapped around us seemed to emanate from the walls and descend like fog from the ceiling. A wingless angel appeared and put something sharp into my hip, then vanished through the fish-eye. In a little while the crying eased off and I closed my eyes, overcome by the tranquility of silence and the drug.

It was the crying that put me in there in the first place. It had been going on for days and I just couldn’t stop. With red swollen eyes and chapped nose I wandered up and down the long sterile hall dropping sodden Kleenex. Nameless creatures hunted me continually and then stood ominously by as I swallowed baby-colored pills. Time stood still and my mind wandered away, sometimes ricocheting off the other wraiths who drifted down the long hall, sometimes not. Then one day I noticed the girl. She sat with her legs crossed under her, her blank eyes staring into space, while a long line of drool reached from her lower lip to disappear somewhere below the table. She had silver skeletons and jeweled crosses woven into a skinny braid that hung down beside her pretty face. Somehow these were relevant, but at the time I didn’t know how. I sat down in front of her and offered her a watery hello. She continued to stare into space while a bubble formed on her lip and began the long slide to her knee. I knew right then and there that we were going to be friends for life, and we became inseparable, the crying woman and the drooling girl.

As time passed I began to realize there was more to a day then the long hall, the pills, and the sessions with the man with the heavy accent. For the first couple of months I thought I was waiting to board a cruise ship decked out in hospital pajamas and housecoat. Once that delusion subsided I became more aware of my surroundings. I watched with mounting horror the stream of residents happily whisked through the heavy doors at the end of the hall, returning with their heads lolling on their shoulders, their tongues protruding slightly. A few hours later they would wander by with jerking smiles, slowly speeding up as if they had been electrically juiced. On movie night we sat stuffing salty popcorn into our laughing mouths as Jack Nicholson played us on the idiot box in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The dawning knowledge didn’t help. The psychos wandered aimlessly while the vultures circled nearby, their little white cups filled with pills for every conceivable ailment of the mind and body. Every morning I sat with the man with the heavy accent and talked, and every afternoon I sat in the circle of the mindless and was talked to. Like hawks caught on a thermal, the words hovered in the air, unable to find a stable surface to settle on.

It started innocently enough when my lifelong morbid fascination with death suddenly surfaced after the mysterious disappearance of a ward mate. This fascination sprouted and took a strong hold on the barren landscape of my brain and I decided to enlist the help of the girl. I found her in the lunchroom chewing on her seventeenth croissant. A slight adjustment to her medications had stopped the drooling and put everything edible in peril. With snacks nearby we huddled for days in corners and on our beds trying to devise a plan to escape the hall and begin the long arduous search for the dead body repository. In the end it simply came down to asking the man if we could leave the confines of the hall. After three long and vacuous months of life in a corridor I was finally released from ‘close’ observation. The freedom to discover what lay beyond those heavy doors that had been part of my prison was now mine. My first venture was accidental and solo. I had wandered off the hall, completely forgetting about the girl and our secretly laid plans. After all, according to what passed as my brain, it was just another day. My mindless wandering soon turned into mayhem. The fast pace beyond the doors terrified me. Luckily my little plastic bracelet helped my rescuers return a sobbing and frightened lost person in pajamas and slippers to ‘the hall’ where the hovering angels administered the calming medications. As a result, it took about three days to stop that damn crying again, then it was right back to the drawing board. This time I didn’t forget the girl.

Together we discovered by trial and error that evenings in a health institution are much quieter than the rat race that prevails during the day. We bided our time effectively and patiently. I guarded my food while the girl ate. As evening fell we would leave our destination clearly marked on the out-board with felt pen–“Out On A Quest”. We thought we were brilliantly evasive and full of subterfuge. At first we avoided the stairwells and searched the halls around the only home our tortured brains could remember. These forays proved incredibly daunting as the surrounding halls held back offices filled with files and paperwork. Standing at the entrance to this labyrinth one’s gaze melted to a vanishing point at the other end. As I stood at this maw my quest suddenly felt futile, but my obsession would not let me give up. By day the girl fortified herself with food while I strenuously exercised my brain making little dolls out of empty cans and lace. When visiting hours ended and the fluorescent silence descended, our search would begin again. We would creep through the doors at the end of the hall and edge our way carefully along the hallways followed quietly by that eerie hum that huge machinery makes.

We drifted through the sterile surroundings peering closely at the nameplates on each door. Names such as Day Surgery and Outpatients we recognized in our altered states. However, with a simpleton’s fear and pounding hearts we hurried past Endoscopy, not daring to peer through the door’s little window. We climbed a staircase that wound upwards from floor to floor and came across a door that was marked Interspace. Goggling at each other in the dim light we pressed our ears up against it and reeled as the silence roared back at us. Had we stumbled upon the place where they put the psychos who disappeared from the hall from one day to the next? Did windmills turn in the dark? My trusty squire wobbled unsteadily as we gulped air to strengthen ourselves. Afraid that we would be the next to vanish behind this mysterious door, we fled back to the hall, the quest suspended. What can I say–we were loony. We were getting nowhere fast.

As days piled upon days my mind chewed endlessly on my need to find the morgue. I could imagine the subdued lighting reflecting dully from the stainless steel walls, their huge gliding drawers filled with the cold cadavers who tossed up stiff on the outside world. White-coated attendants with green slippers would move soundlessly around gurneys, scalpels poised, their intent almost murderous. I tried to imagine where they would take me once I lay under that sheet.

A time came when I was almost ready to give up. It seemed we had searched every possible inlet and outlet. However, defeat wasn’t part of the plan so I had to keep trying. With a renewed resolution I found my friend, hauled her away from the refrigerator, and we crept out once more. With deliberation we returned to the bowels of the massive machine that continued to hold us within its gut. Walking down the now familiar path I suddenly noticed something we had overlooked before. Like iron to true north we headed straight for a nondescript door. Morgue was written on it in plain letters. With an enormous sigh I turned to my companion to celebrate. As I threw my arms about her, something past her shoulder caught my eye and directed my vision to the nameplate on the door in the opposite wall. It read Cafeteria. Of course. It all made sense to me now. I cried with relief.