A small sign with an arrow painted on the wall in orange indicated the front door of the building. Shelly realized this tall building was at the very furthest corner of the sprawling campus when she saw the sixteen foot high concrete walls marking the campus outer perimeter. She noticed the wall was topped with coils of barbed wire. Exactly what was being walled out -- or walled in, she wondered. She didn’t remember walls like this anywhere else on the campus, but then again, she was new to the place and probably hadn’t seen even half of it yet.
She peered past the wall. Thickly wooded forests rising on a hill behind the wall added to the sense that this isolated building was in some kind of pit, no sign of housing or commercial property anywhere nearby. Even the parking lot, smaller than those on the main campus, was located a good distance from the building which looked like a monolithic rectangle made up of large concrete blocks stacked on top of each other, grassless gray plains rising unbroken like a giant tombstone. It looked unfriendly and cold compared to the older, more traditional, buildings on the other side of the campus.
“Who designed this thing, Frankenstein,” Shelly asked as she approached the building. Even a scrawled message, a valentine embedded when the concrete was fresh, would have been some relief from the stark uniformity of the slabs that made up the sidewalk, she thought.
Shelly approached the single glass door with a large red B on its pane. It looked nothing like the grand double doors that marked the entrances of the other buildings. She pulled at the plain-looking door handle. She half expected it to be locked. She almost hoped it was. Entering this concrete building felt like she was walking into a gigantic mausoleum at a cemetery. This place is creepy, she found herself thinking.
“May I help you?” a uniformed guard sitting behind a desk in the lobby asked as he pulled what looked like a smart-phone from the counter top of his desk. “ID please?”
“I’m looking for Dr. Lasker,” Shelly said, digging out her university ID and handing it to the guard who popped it into his handheld scanner.
“Okay, thank you,” the young guard said, returning Shelly’s ID. “You said, Dr. Lasker?” “Yes, sir,” Shelly said, replacing the ID in her purse.
“I don’t know him.” The guard poked the letter L into his machine and looked into Shelly’s eyes with some surprise. “I’m a temp here. Is that the Parapsychology Office?” he asked, peering into the scanner.
“I guess so,” Shelly replied. The guard had a serious expression on his face as he fumbled with the device in his hands.
“Basement,” the guard said, his eyes still on the screen. “You did say Parapsychology and not just regular Psych?”
“Yes,” Shelly said.
“Okay,” the guard replied. “You’re the first one that’s asked for that.” He gave her a slight smile. “I’m sorry, but it says I’ll have to call ahead to confirm your appointment. Please wait over there.” He pointed to two chairs along a wall about twenty feet away. “What time is your appointment for,” he asked, still punching away at the hand held device.
“I’m sorry,” Shelly said. “I don’t have an appointment. I was just hoping to sit in on a class. I’m thinking of changing my major.”
The guard looked up from his phone. “My instructions are to announce all visitors to that department only if they have an appointment?” He saw the disappointed look on her face. “I’m sorry. I’m new here. You know what, let me see if I can help? Please wait over there, and I’ll be back to you in a minute.”
Shelly walked over to the wall and leaned against it. She felt weak, wondering if it was from her close call just a few hours earlier. The few minutes it took for the guard to call down to the lab seemed like an hour. She dropped into the chair. It was cheap plastic, hard on the butt.
Obviously, they don’t want anyone sitting here for long, she thought.
“Miss,” the guard called. “They are sending someone up to see you. It will take a few more minutes.” He gave her a smile. “At first they didn’t want to see you without an appointment, but then I told them your name and the man said he’d make an exception.”
“Thank you,” Shelly said, returning his smile. He had a nice smile, she thought, for a security guard.
Shelly returned to the wall and waited again. Her legs felt like they were going to buckle, and her head was pounding with one of her violent headaches. She wondered why the guard
seemed to be staring at her. Maybe he was sizing her up to ask her for a date? He was kind of cute, although she didn’t like the uniform. Some girls like men in uniforms, but Shelly found them too conservative. Her mind wandered to Dodd’s wild look, that unkempt hair and his eyes…wild eyes. I should have called him, she thought, wondering why she hadn’t.
“It shouldn’t be much longer,” the guard said, still giving her a curious look. “I guess they’re pretty busy.”
Shelly gave him another smile.
He looked as if he wanted to say something, but was just studying her. Maybe he’s undressing me with his eyes, Shelly thought, wondering why he seemed so reticent. She aimed her eyes at him, challenging him to speak.
To her surprise he turned quickly to a notebook lying on his desk.
What is wrong with everyone lately, Shelly wondered. Why was he deliberately looking away from her? She fished out her cellphone and quickly checked her reflection. Everything looked fine. Her eyes caught her attention. Even in the dim reflective surface they seemed to stand out from the rest of her features. She smiled and her teeth, straight and white, after years of invisible braces,(the best invention ever), she thought, were now competing with her eyes as if eyes and teeth were floating on the dark surface of the screen. She pushed a button and the phone lit up. No messages. I guess Dodd isn’t all that interested, she thought, hoping he would have
called on any pretext he could come up with. Maybe he’s into boys? She let out a little giggle, remembering a line from a Seinfeld episode: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” But somehow she couldn’t picture Dodd being interested in boys…not the way he had looked at her with those smoldering eyes.
The guard looked up. “I’m sorry this is taking so long.”
Shelly smiled. “I guess I should have made an appointment.”
The guard nodded, but was clearly studying her with his eyes. She noticed he had sideburns that came more than halfway down his cheeks and his nose looked like it had been broken. Maybe a bar fight, she mused, probably over a girl. He looked muscular under his white shirt, gray jacket and light blue tie…not like Dodd who was lean and scholarly looking. She felt herself flushing at envisioning Dodd’s body. The chair was making her uncomfortable…or was it something else?
“Do you want to keep waiting,” the guard asked. “It doesn’t look like they’re coming for you after all?”
Shelly thought he looked sincerely apologetic. “I’ll wait a little longer if that’s alright with you,” she replied. He seemed nice. Why can’t I like the nice ones? What was it about Dodd that attracted her? The guard looked clean-cut, light hair and gentle brown eyes. Suddenly it hit her. He’s the All-American boy! Damn it, he’s Jeff! “That’s it,” she mumbled, causing him to
look at her with surprise. “What’s your name,” she asked, hoping it was anything but Jeff. “Jimmy,” the boy replied, smiling again.
She studied him again and smiled back, but couldn’t get worked up over another Jeff look-alike. There’s no mystery to him, no real depth…Dodd was mysterious and wild
looking…dangerous. Was that what she found so difficult about him…why she found him so sexy? She turned back to the guard and wished he would suddenly smile and ask her
out…anything to break the spell. With Jeff she always knew where she stood, until the very end,
and even then he had been honest, too damn honest. With someone like Dodd, someone who looked like he the genetics of a weasel, it was hard to tell just what they were thinking, what secrets were concealed by those sexy eyes and strangely cold smiles.
The guard looked up again from his book. “I’ll call them again if you want,” he said.
“No. That’s okay, Jimmy. I’ll wait a few more minutes and then go. I should have gotten an appointment.”
“Sorry,” he replied. “I wish I could be of more help.”
Why doesn’t he try, Shelly wondered. I’d say yes. She thought of approaching him in some way, but something was holding her back. She knew what it was. She closed her eyes and saw his face again. This is crazy, she scolded. She took a deep breath and began counting backwards from one thousand, a trick she had learned to help her relax her brain. Counting back like this required total concentration, blocking out all the twisting thoughts that had been plaguing her while she waited.
The guard saw her eyes close. She was a nice looking girl, he thought, neatly dressed in a buttoned shirt, gray skirt, matching thin jacket with light hair dropping down to her shoulders.
Good figure…athletic…possibly a runner…nice smile and dazzling eyes. How could anyone keep her waiting like this? He picked up his phone and dialed the department number again. He cupped his hand over the mouthpiece and said, “She isn’t leaving.” He listened to someone
calling some strange name. “Is someone coming for her or not,” he demanded, wondering why these guys couldn’t be more gracious. “She’s been waiting patiently for over two hours.” He knew he was risking his job, but it didn’t seem fair to leave her waiting endlessly like this. “Do you want me to tell her to leave and make an appointment,” he asked.
“I’ll be right up,” the voice on the phone said.
He hung up, almost disappointed. He had almost gotten up the guts to ask her out, but what would someone like her see in a guard, a temp at that? He glanced quickly at her legs and then let his eyes rise toward her face.
Shelly was falling asleep. Nobody else entered or left the building while she waited. She shook herself awake, sat up, gazed at her watch and sighed. “Five more minutes”, she said softly and then I’m out of here.
Not counting, not thinking, she became more aware of the silence of the large lobby. It was an eerie silence. It was like nobody ever came here. She noted the walls were completely smooth, no fingerprints anywhere, not on the smooth metallic railings, the glass panels on the doorway near the bench… no scuff marks on the highly polished floor. She walked over to the elevator to look at the directory encased in a sheet of highly reflective glass. There were only a few names listed. When she looked for the Parapsychology Department, the office was listed simply as Basement and Sub-Basement. The individual classrooms and professor’s individual offices weren’t listed at all. That’s it. I’m out of here, but first I’m going to thank the guard. No more waiting around for me!
“I didn’t expect to see you here today,” a voice from behind startled her. “You said you were coming tomorrow?”
When she turned, Shelly was surprised to see Dodd standing behind her in a white lab coat. She couldn’t help notice he wasn’t smiling.