“That woman fainted!” Rich grabbed one of Cavale’s hands and pointed at a grove of cherry trees where a couple of men and two women stood by a body with long, black hair that fanned out over a raccoon fur.
Cavale looked at the group cloistered in the grove. “Maybe from the heat.” She shrugged. “It’s too warm for fur.” She squinted. One of the men looked like Jason. At least, he dressed the same way. But she was too far away to see the man’s features, and she wasn’t sure she’d recognize Jason after five months. Besides, she consoled herself, my imagination must be toying with me. No way would Jason, who thought Manhattan contained too many people, pop up in a city this huge. Absolutely no way. On the other hand, from a distance anyway, the man certainly reminded her of Jason. Lanky and slightly hunch-backed, he shifted his weight from right to left, and shuffled lethargically the way she remembered Jason moving. In fact, watching him stirred up her flight instinct.
Suddenly, she wanted to grab Rich and run to the other side of the park. Then she watched the man squat beside one of the women who’d stooped to help the woman on the ground. Good, she decided. If it is Jason, he’s found someone else. Good for him. Then, surprisingly, she also felt sad, and when she looked back at Rich, he suddenly seemed funny-looking, gangly, no longer “cute.” At once, the whiffs of his Patchouli-oil sweat, his glazed eyes, and his throaty voice nauseated her. So for a few minutes, part of her wanted to dash away from him, too.
“Hey, you know that guy who is with them?” Rich said.
“Actually, how did you know?” Cavale squeezed his hand. “It looks like—”
“It’s the Holy Father’s oldest son, I’m pretty sure.” Rich tugged her hand and started down the hill. “Let’s move in closer.”
Half-curious, half-dreading what she’d see, she let Rich tug her along. A plethora of questions took over her brain. If the man were Jason, they’d have to lose themselves in the crowd. And if it were Jason, she wanted to know why he was here. Certainly, he wouldn’t have traveled this far to find her. Besides, did he know she was here? If so, how did he know?
On the other hand, perhaps Jason had forgotten about her. He might not recognize her now. Her hair had grown. It was no longer spiked and red. Now, it was a natural brownish blonde and fell to the edge of her chin. She dressed far differently, too. Tonight, she wore an East Indian sari that Pearl, one of the girls in the commune, a hefty California girl who usually smelled like curry, had given her. Cavale had stayed with the commune and worked in the Movement’s health food store. She’d begun to like the Uni youth very much. Generally soft-voiced and gentle, they were kind, and often, one of the women would massage her back or shoulders. The guys also spoke in soothing, muted tones and showed non-sexual affection. They’d rub her neck and ruffle her hair but never pressed her for sex. She was “their sister,” they would say. “Sex with her would be like incest.” She appreciated that attitude. So in the commune, she’d led a comfortable life, so relaxed, in fact, she hadn’t bothered to check out the university’s class schedules. She no longer cared about attending college. Her peaceful life among the kind strangers was enough, at least, for the present. She watched the man who looked like Jason more intently. She hoped it wasn’t him.
Not all of the Unis at the Manhattan house came to this D.C. convention. Even though Pearl had wanted to come, she’d seemed to lose interest in the trip one night after she and Rich had chatted in private on the front porch. Neither Pearl nor Rich had told Cavale what they’d discussed that night, either. But the next day, Pearl was adamant about staying in Manhattan during the March convention.
“You will love the Holy father,” Pearl had squealed. She’d pressed her palms against Cavale’s cheeks. “He is so full of light—and love. Love just pours out of him.” As usual, her full voice hummed like an oboe’s run when she spoke of the reverend.
“Why aren’t you going?” Cavale pressed her palms over Pearl’s hands.
“There isn’t enough cash for all of us to go to this one.” Pearl smiled.
“That isn’t fair. You should have seniority. I just started working and living here.”
Pearl pulled out her hands and wrapped Cavale in a hug. “Nonsense. I’ve seen the Holy Father many times. And many times, I will see him again. You have not. It’s so important for you to meet him.”
Cavale had been so touched by Pearl’s sacrifice, no way could she refuse to come to the D.C. convention. So she re-considered her situation tonight. In fact, she decided she’d reaped a bonus—she saw the reverend’s son. And now, possibly, she might meet him, who, with long hair flowing, looked much cooler than his father. So even if Jason stood at the destination toward which they now moved, she was still blessed. She let Rich lead her through the throngs lugging blankets and comforters, ghetto-blasters, even some coolers and pillows, while they milled toward the podium to the group under the cherry trees. Focusing on the man who might be Jason, she followed Rich, weaving in and out of the churning mass of people with eyes lit like sparklers. Then she saw the man look at her, and she pulled away from Rich.
“Cavale,” Rich called and whirled toward her. She ducked behind a huge man with a cooler.
“Shhh! Don’t say my name.” When Rich approached her, she squatted and craned her neck to peer around the man’s thick legs. Shaking his head, Rich squatted beside her.
She pressed a hand over his mouth and nodded at the man, who was definitely Jason.
Rich wrinkled his nose and whispered, “What’s he doing here? Did he follow us?”
Rich looked back at the group in the cherry grove. “Gosh. He might know Oshi To.” He looked back at Cavale. “He might get us in trouble with the Movement.” She watched his bulb-like eyes cloud with tears. This worried her because she’d never seen an Uni cry. “What if he claims we kidnapped you?”
“I’d deny it,” she whispered.
“But we don’t know what influence he might have.” Tears inched down Rich’s cheeks.
Then his face contorted into the shape of a wadded napkin, all squished as if he’d just sucked a quite bitter lemon. “You didn’t tell me he was in the Movement.”
“I didn’t know.” Cavale shrugged. “He never said anything. He had no pictures of the reverend.” The more she looked at Rich, the more worried she became. It was the first time she’d seen any Uni display anything other than a languid peace. “It doesn’t seem possible, either. He hated Asians. Called them Communists.”
“Where’s he been? No one worries about Communism anymore.” Immediately, Rich quit crying and huffed, “Besides, the Holy Father fights Communism—that was one of his main causes back when everybody was worrying about it. And Communism allows no religion but the state.” His eyes blazing now, he leaned forward to study Jason.
“Maybe that’s why Jason’s here—to help fight Communism.”
“Like I said, since the U.S.S.R. fell and the Chinese have become hooked on capitalism, no one worries much about it anymore.”
Cavale chuckled. “Except people like Jason.” She studied the group sitting crossed-legged under the tree, too. A heavy woman now pulled Oshi To away from the rest of the people.
“Oh no, he’s leaving,” Rich said. “I wanted so much to introduce you.”
“But maybe we better keep a low profile.” Cavale watched a chipmunk scurry across Oshi To’s path. “Until we know what’s happening.” She sighed then smiled when she stared up at the Washington Monument with its glowing, snake-like eyes.