Selected entries from the Diary of Eva Roblins
March 30 - Secret Codes & Odious Omens
March 30 - Secret Codes & Odious Omens
Dear Diary. Patience is a virtue, or so they say. The more I think about what the saying implies, the more I respect Cindy and everything she stands for as both a person and as a professional. And yes, everything she does for me. In the take no prisoners newspaper business, anyone other than Cindy would let a nineteen-year-old novice like me wallow in the mire. They would say mistakes are part of the learning process. They would even encourage the apprentice to stumble, calling it an unfortunate albeit essential consequence of maturation. But not Cindy. She has consummate patience. I can attest to that firsthand. So, I guess I should try to learn to be more patient if only for her. I should try to be more patient even if it irks me beyond words to curtail my trademark impetuosity. But, more on the topic of patience later.
My Dear Diary, I am overly excited! We are about to venture out on our first caper together. Caper. That is what Cindy calls an assignment. She says that is because what we are doing a form of journalistic robbery. We investigate and report on unscrupulous, corrupt politicians. Then we rob them of everything they believe important to give them power over others.
I will not have an opportunity to narrate tonight’s events, whatever they may be, until tomorrow morning. Nevertheless, I will tell you what happened after we arrived at the hotel this afternoon. It was the beginning of our first assignment together! And, as usual, it started with a good-natured lecture or, I should say, a discussion. “By whom?” you ask. Naturally by Cindy.
“The one crucial thing to remember is you never look in their eyes, no matter what. Understand?” Cindy implores.
“Yes, I understand. But I will have to look at the people to understand what they are saying if they speak to me, won’t I? However, for the life of me, I cannot imagine how children can be that devious. They’re only kids for crying out loud.”
“Trust me; the children can be mightily conniving. If they think they have even the slightest advantage or if they think they have found a vulnerability, they will take advantage of it. Next thing you know, you’re sobbing like a baby and hurrying to hand over your pocket change. Then, when you go to reach into your pocketbook for your wallet, bam! It is then you realize you’ve just been ripped off. All the while you helplessly watch your wallet race its way down the alley into the grubby hands of a pimp or some other unscrupulous adult who preys on innocence.”
With a concerned look on her face, she adds, “But, it’s not the kids’ fault. It’s the only way they can survive on the street. So be careful.” Cindy points to her eyes.
“And, Eva, if you must look at them for any reason, don’t focus on their eyes. Their sorrowful eyes have an uncanny way of hypnotizing you. Their pleading eyes will cause your heart to ache. So, promise me, okay?
“Okay, I will be careful,” I respond grudgingly. “I promise.” I cross my heart for good measure.
“But, gee whiz,” I think, “how can a bunch of kids be all that bad? Cindy also said you couldn't even trust five-year-olds on the street. What is this world coming to, I wonder? Just the same, I know she is right, as much as I do not want to admit it. She has been in this country a few times. While she has never been taken advantage of or ripped off, she has seen many who have. Especially woman. She is street-smart, of that I am certain.”
“So, what’s on our agenda tonight?” I ask. “Something exciting?”
“No. I am not aware of anything exciting as of this moment,” I watch Cindy respond with a laugh. With a serious expression on her face, she adds, “Eva, why is it you’re always in a hurry to do something exciting or something dangerous? You’ve been like that most of your life. I can’t wait till you’re my age. We’ll see then if you have all that pep and vigor and get-up-and-go daring to go in harm’s way energy you have now. You know, hon, you need to appreciate the importance of being patient, especially on a caper. Sometimes we may venture into dangerous company, my dear. It is particularly important to remain patient.
As she unpacks her suitcase, I watch her continue to vocalize. I inwardly cringe because I know this lecture is about to be longer than most.
“Besides, you’ll learn soon enough that patience is a crucial element of survival in the world of investigative reporting. Sometimes you just must wait things out, something I know you’re incapable of doing. As the saying goes, ‘patience is a virtue.’ So, learn how to be patient. Please?”’
As an afterthought, she says, “No, my impatient friend, unless something comes up in the next few minutes, I expect that we’ll go out in town for a couple of hours. We will look around a bit and get something to eat. Then we’ll return to the hotel at a respectable hour so that we can get some much-needed shut-eye. Does all that appear exciting enough for you?”
“Okay by me,” I respond with a purposeful yawn. Then I think to myself, “Shucks! I could have gone out to look around and had eaten something at home without traveling halfway around the world just to do the same. I didn’t need to travel all this distance for a night of monotony. I’m afraid this night is going to be mighty boring.”
Nonetheless, I know in my heart Cindy is correct. We should get our bearings as soon as possible and check things out while we wait for instructions. Then we can start the fun, hopefully, tomorrow. And, admittedly, us getting a bite to eat is a clever idea. It was a long ride across the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to a refreshing, nightmare-free, six-hour nap on the last leg of the trip, I am rested and raring to go. And hungry as a bear. All the same, I honestly cannot wait for something exciting to happen. Frankly, my stomach is in knots. I am that worked up.
“So, anything good in the refrigerator to munch on?” I ask. I drop to my knees to open the cupboard door that conceals the refrigerator and tray of drinks and munchies. “I’m starving!”
I turn around to see Cindy’s reply. Once she sees me focusing on her lips, she vocalizes, “Yeah, I bet there’s plenty to eat if you like chips and soda and beer or need a shot or two of vodka or some other liquor that costs more than it’s worth. But we don’t drink liquor, so I guess it’s soda and snacks. I’d imagine we can afford some of that, despite the pittance the Newspaper pays us in per diem.”
Just then, Cindy rushes over and playfully pushes me aside as she drops to her knees beside me. Satisfied I am now sitting on my behind, and well out of her way, she peers with a satisfied grin into the tiny cupboard space. I watch her lips. “Yup, just as I thought. There are chips, pretzels, onion rings, Life Savors, and will you look at this? Two bars of Toblerone Candy! One for me, and another for me! Today is my lucky day!”
I playfully reach to grab the bar of candy Cindy is holding in her right hand. But she is too fast. Clumsy as usual, I lose my balance and slam my head into the refrigerator door. The entire stock of miniature liquor bottles, soda, and snacks silently falls in a massive heap, along with the serving tray, onto the floor. Thankfully, the miniature bottles of liquor are plastic, so there will be no odorous mess to explain to hotel management. Or questionable, highly embarrassing entries for broken liquor bottle reimbursements on our travel expense vouchers.
Once I recover my senses to look at Cindy, I frown. In response to my inelegant charade, Cindy is laughing as she munches on one of the bars of candy. She starts to vocalize as she chews. However, try as I do to understand what she is saying, I am clueless.
The biggest disadvantages of being deaf and reading lips come to mind. If someone is eating and talking at the same time, your comprehension is as useless as burnt toast. You can try with all your lip-reading ability to understand what the person is saying, but you cannot. All you get for your best efforts is a gnawing mouth of mumble jumble. Comprehension is a big zero.
“Cindy!’ I exclaim. “Stop moving your lips while you eat. Or stop eating while you move your lips. Your call. For crying out loud, you of all people should know I cannot understand a thing when you eat and talk at the same time.”
“Oops, sorry,” I watch her lips respond with a meek smile. She hands me the other bar of candy and adds, “What I said is, ‘If you wanted a bar of candy, all you had to is ask, miss clumsy.”’ Laughing along with her now, I watch as she says, “Besides, you’re too thin. You need the calories more than I do. And I genuinely want you to get some acne pimples, so you look uglier than me. I think some acne would go very nicely with your red hair and fair, freckled skin. Would make you look like a clown or worse. What do you think? Hmm?”
In response to Cindy’s quip, I stare blank-faced in near terror. I visualize a pudgy red-headed nineteen-year-old teenager with a freckled face specked with ugly red and white acne dots looking back at me in the mirror every time I comb my hair. I shudder at the mere thought of it!
Cindy notices I am pondering her latest wisecrack. As an afterthought to either goad me after slamming my head into the refrigerator door; or to erase the nightmare vision she just presented me, she taps my knee and vocalizes. “And, for your information, miss clumsy, if I want to eat and talk or talk and eat, your call, then I do believe I shall! I’m much older than you, so I get special speaking privileges. “Her comment causes us both to roar with laughter.
I watch dreamily as Cindy nibbles on her bar of candy, and she watches me as I nibble on mine. My mind begins to wander. As I stare at Cindy, and she stares at me in return, I wonder if this very moment caught in time may appear a bit weird especially to those who have their sense of hearing.
To the hearing world, the deaf may appear to be very discourteous at times. We tend to stare at people or, at least, give them frequent sideways glances. However, despite our idiosyncratic ways, we are not trying to be rude. For those of us who can read lips, staring at someone is the only way to ensure we will not miss anything of importance. To do otherwise would be discourteous.
After a few moments of staring, Cindy vocalizes, “Pretty good stuff, huh?”
“Yes, it is,” I reply. “This candy is great. What are these, walnuts? Maybe macadamia nuts?”
“You know, I don’t have a clue,” Cindy says. She inspects the candy wrapper. “Doesn’t say on the back of the package. And we probably don’t want to know either. So, let’s clean up these bottles and …”
I am surprised that Cindy has stopped vocalizing in mid-sentence. What is even more surprising is the nonchalant smile on her face. She removes a two-inch square of folded paper taped to the bottom of the serving tray. It is almost as if she expected the paper to be there.
“What’s this?” I watch her lips say. “Why, it’s a note or something. Hmm, I wonder what it says.”
As Cindy carefully unfolds the paper, I move closer. I intently study her lips for any sign of speaking. I hope she vocalizes what she sees. I can feel my heart quicken as I think to myself, “Maybe it’s a secret code or something. Or a clue as to what’s going on with the story we’re covering. On the other hand, it’s probably nothing. She doesn’t look at all surprised or the least bit interested in what it says. Darn it, so much for excitement!”
“Well,” Cindy says, in what I believe to be a whisper. She looks at me puzzlingly. “This is strange.”
“What is it?” I ask excitedly. I am trying to whisper in return, but I do not know how loud my voice is. “Is it a secret code or something. A clue? A note from someone at the Newspaper, maybe Mr. Jones himself?”
“Sorry, it is not,” Cindy’s lips reply. “It isn’t much at all. It’s just a note from someone named Filipe.” I watch with growing interest as Cindy looks at the ceiling. Her lips read, “Give me a sec to think, Eva. If I recall correctly, a Filipe works at the Embassy. He might be a security guard or someone who has something to do with security. Something along those lines I do believe.”
I am still sitting on the floor surrounded by miniature liquor bottles and snacks. I seem paralyzed with a mixture of excitement and anticipation, completely motionless. Not a single muscle moves, and I am afraid to breathe. It is almost like if I breathe normally, it will somehow change things.
Cindy crouches on all fours so she can ease herself up from the floor. She hands me the note. I watch her vocalize, “Here, read this while I get my notebook. The name Filipe sounds familiar for some reason, but I don’t remember why. Tell me what you make of the note.” I cannot help but notice she is beaming a devious-looking smile.
Trying to catch my breath as my hands are shaking, I read the note. The words are in cursive. It is almost as if a child penned them. Or maybe, just maybe, at least my mind reasons, someone is trying to disguise their handwriting! Gosh, I am so excited my eyes do not want to focus. I begin to read the note.
“Masson Hotel. Eight o’clock tonight. Tell the security guard (Pedro) you are a guest of Mr. Vasquez. Pedro will give you further instructions. Bring attire suitable for swimming or lounging poolside. And tell Miss Eva no cameras! Cordially, Filipe B.”
“Wow!” I think to myself, “I was right! The words are a code or something like a code. So, the adventure is beginning after all. And Cindy said we would have a casual night out for dinner!” Then without warning, I feel a strange chill as a tingling shiver crawls up and down my spine. I suddenly feel dizzy and ill-at-ease. It is because of what the last part of the note reads. “And tell Miss Eva. No cameras!” I am extremely glad I am sitting on the floor, awfully glad indeed. Otherwise, I would fall to the floor with excitement!
As I read the note yet again, I notice something is nudging my behind. It is Cindy. She is gently nudging me with her bare foot to get my attention.
“Yes ma ‘am,” I inquire in a lighthearted way as I look up at her, “May I help you. Or do you always nudge a young lady’s buttocks with your foot?”
“I’ve been talking to you, Eva,” I watch her respond with a frown, “and you haven’t been paying me an iota of courtesy. C’mon, let’s get these bottles and snacks put up and finish unpacking our things.” Looking at her watch, she adds, “Darn! There’s no time for us to shower. But we can freshen up in the sink. You go first, okay?”
“Whoa, Cindy!” I exclaim, in a what I hope is a respectful whisper. I grab her ankle, so she cannot move. “I am specifically mentioned by name in that blasted note! I am not moving an inch until I know what is going on. So, what’s with the note, Cindy? And who in the world is Filipe? And how did he come to know who I am by my first name no less?”
“Oh, no biggies,” she responds with a shrug. “But I was correct. Filipe is a security guard at the Embassy. He works the night shift. He has a security clearance and all, so he’s putting his neck out on the line for this caper of ours. The Newspaper probably had to shell out a truckload of money to get this guy to help us.”
“But, why did someone tape a note on the bottom of the serving tray of all places?” I inquire with a look of consternation on my face. “Suppose we didn’t find it? I mean, suppose if I didn’t knock the liquor and snacks onto the floor? How would we have known what to do this very evening?”
As Cindy stands above me, she smiles broadly. I notice her lovely brown eyes are shining their jokester twinkles once more. She has the upper hand at this point in our conversation, and she knows it. I know it as well. I pout inwardly. It is lesson time once again. Time for the student of investigative reporting to pay attention to her experienced guru.
“Eva, Eva, Eva,” Cindy vocalizes as she peers down at me sitting on the floor. “Did you think I got down on all fours on the floor beside you to inspect snacks and the booze tray or to peek into the refrigerator to see what was inside? Or to get a bar of Toblerone for that matter, hmm?”
I stand up and straighten my skirt. I have this strong urge to be eyeball-to-eyeball with Cindy while she lectures, or I should say teaches me a lesson. Besides, I know I do not take a lecture very well sitting down, or even a lesson for that matter. I never could as a child. And I probably never will even if the lecture is the form of good-natured ribbing from my best friend and surrogate mother.
She continues, “No, hon, a person my age avoids getting on all fours on the floor at all costs no matter what the occasion.” She smiles mischievously of what she just said, as do I. Continuing to vocalize; she adds, “And just so you know, Eva, it is customary for the Newspaper to have notes of instruction hidden in our hotel room, usually in the refrigerator and munchies cupboard. Sometimes they are taped to the underside of the toilet tank. I’ve even found notes inside the back cover of television sets and inside of radios. Depends on how dangerous a caper is, or how good the competition. Once, I found a note inside of a phone receiver. Pretty ironic, huh? That is why I always carry a small tool kit with me when I ‘m on a caper. Nothing worse than trying to unscrew something with your fingernails or an improvised opener. And, if I do not find a note within the first ten minutes or so after arriving at my destination in its usual hiding place, I know there will not be one forthcoming until the next day, or the day after that. Those capers are the best, because I know I have a day or two to explore and relax. I have not missed a note yet, and I expect I never will.”
“Well, that ribbing wasn’t bad, not bad at all,” I think to myself. All I can do in response to Cindy’s so-called lesson is stare in amazement. And with genuine respect. I have known Cindy for years. However, at every turn, I seem to find out more about her and her intriguing professional life. She is an amazing lady. I am incredibly lucky to have her as both friend and mentor during my first assignment for the Newspaper. But wait! I see an opening here to get the upper hand on Cindy for a change, and I am going to take full advantage of it.
Addressing her, in what I hope is a friendly, but a sarcastic tone of voice, I inquire, “So, Miss Cindy, when were you going to take time out of your busy schedule to tell me about those secret hiding places of yours, hmm?”
“I just did,” I watch Cindy respond. “Consider the whereabouts of secret hiding places of secret notes of secret instructions for secretive ladies in disguise as lesson number two, lesson number two, of which I am happy to say, is now concluded, my dear.”
I still have not realized the advantage over her I had hoped for, so I state rather insistently, “Okay, lesson number, whatever you want to call it, is over. I’ll grant you that much. However, you said it was lesson number two. I hesitate to tell you this, Cindy, but you forgot to give me lesson number one. Just what was the first lesson, if you do not mind me asking?” Then, with a mischievous grin, I add, “Did I miss it, or are you going senile?”
Cindy laughs at my pun and responds in her typically lighthearted, but confident, straightforward manner, “I knew you would catch that, Miss Eva. That is why I started with lesson number two, so I could imprint lesson number in your mind as the most important. Lesson number one is patience, my dear child, patience. A lesson in your case, I’m sorry to say, urgently needs repeating over and over."
Good-night, dear Diary. Sweet dreams.
All my love as always, Eva
©Eva Roblins, 2009
March 31 - A Deaf Woman's Audacity
Dear Diary. Sometimes - sometimes I wonder why I do the things I do, and the wacky way that I do them. It is amazing that Cindy does not knock me out cold, then leave me on the doorstep of an orphanage to find a new home. She is a loyal friend indeed. Anyway, here is what happened before we met Mr. Vasquez.
We are sitting in the back of the taxicab on our way to the Masson Hotel. Cindy usually prefers that I read her lips when she is wearing her hearing aid, but we are using sign language for now. Our driver is oblivious to our heated discussion. Probably a good thing.
I am telling Cindy that I have a small camera in my handbag. Her irritation shows in the amazingly ugly scowl on her face. Her scowl’s intensity could easily melt the polar ice cap. I am certain of it.
“You have a camera in your bag?” Cindy signs. “Tell me you’re not serious. We were specifically told not to bring a camera. You read the note. C’mon, Eva, you know better. Darn!”
“Yes, ma’am,” I sign with a hint of sadness in my eyes. I did read the warning. More than once. You know that. But don’t worry, it’s a small camera. No one will notice. Besides, I thought it would look more natural if I had a camera with me.” With a timid smile, I add, “After all, we are going to a pool party.”
“We don’t know if it’s a pool party, a poolside wedding ceremony, a full-blown political convention, or a wet tee shirt contest. Goodness Eva, it could be anything, anything at all. Didn’t you consider the consequences if someone asks to check your bag?” Then, accompanied by a stern look on her face, she signs, “Wait a sec. Did you just mention that it would appear more natural if you had a camera with you?”
As I look at her with as much innocence on my face as possible and smile, her lips silently vocalize with a scolding intensity I can barely watch. “Oh, you didn’t, Eva! You brought it along on purpose, didn’t you?”
“Well, not exactly,” I sign unhurriedly. Cindy’s signing ability is far less proficient now that she can hear again with the aid of her hearing aid, and I want her to understand that I did not purposely bring the camera. I continue, “I didn’t know it was in my bag when we packed our things. I noticed it when we were pulling out of the hotel parking lot. Besides, there is no harm done. I seriously doubt anyone will check my bag.”
Cindy is now in a tizzy of the worst kind. She squeezes my hand. Hard. “Oh, don’t count on it, Eva,” she vocalizes, which forces me to read her lips. Having me revert to lip-reading is a mild form of punishment, a situation I have experienced before, far too often I am afraid. When Cindy stops using sign language, it is usually due to my habitual stubbornness in any given situation.
She continues, “If you had noticed that you had it while we were still in the parking lot, you should have told me at that time. We could have turned around. And, for your information young lady, as far as inspecting bags go, it is a matter of routine in every hotel in this city. The rebellion is alive and well, and little goes without scrutiny. Plus, if they want to frisk you, they can. You have no other choice, except to leave the premises. Besides…”
I stop Cindy mid-sentence by gently tapping her knee. “Aw, no one’s going to check my bag,” I say aloud with a smile, “and no one is going to frisk me. No stranger is putting his hands on my body. I simply will not allow it. Nope.”
“Yeah, right. We’ll see,” Cindy’s lips say. “Well, not much we can do about it now.” Glancing at the taxicab driver who is now listening to our conversation, she adds, “But don’t take it out of your bag while we are there, okay?”
“Okay,” I respond with an innocent-looking grin.
As Cindy turns to look out the side window, I notice that the middle-aged man driving our taxicab continues to stare at me from his rear-view mirror. His stares are annoying. I want to scream at him to keep his wandering eyes on the road and not on me. Not only has he been staring at me since we left the hotel, but I also now realize he is starting to flash flirtatious grins. To make matters worse, as I sheepishly glance at him in the mirror a second time, he winks at me!
“Okay,” I think to myself, “this guys married. Time to teach him how thankful and proud he should be to have a wife, instead of wishing he could have a feisty redhead who loathes narrow-minded sexism.”
I tap Cindy on the knee and sign, “What’s this guy’s problem? He’s been staring and grinning at me since we got in the taxi. And just this very moment he winked. Twice. I think his machismo is getting the best of him.”
“Oh, he probably likes you,” Cindy signs with a mischievous grin on her face. “But for the life of me, I can’t imagine why.” I watch her giggle as she adds, “Maybe you should ask him up for a Coca-Cola when we get back to the hotel. I could get lost for an hour or two if you two would like. He is not awfully bad looking come to think of it. Perhaps a little old for you, but you can handle him.”
“Not a chance in the world,” I sign in return. I scowl at Cindy for even mentioning such a preposterous idea! Maybe I should change seats with her. I bet it takes no time at all for her to say something about his shameless stares. Not to mention those god-awful winks!
When I finally catch his eye in the rear-view mirror again, I flash a sweet smile. Then, with what I hope is a sexy-sounding voice, I ask, “Excuse me, sir, is that a ring on your finger? Please tell me you are not married!”
He responds audibly, but I have no clue what he says. I glance at Cindy to help me out, to interpret his responses for me.
She signs our driver’s response. “Yes, I guess so. I guess you could say I’m married. But there are many definitions of marriage, miss. To me, marriage is so-so, a real hassle really, something you put up with when you are at home. And with it comes a huge amount of baggage; I am afraid to say.”
It takes a few moments for Cindy to interpret what he says. As she does, I notice from the corner of my eye that our driver continues to stare at me. I think, “For crying out loud, we’re going to crash into something. Hurry up, Eva, and finish what you started!”
“Have any kids?” I ask. I glance at Cindy’s lap as she signs his response.
“Yes, four kids, miss,” Cindy interprets, “two girls and two boys. Boys are oldest and youngest of the four. Ten and two.”
I look at him in the rear-view mirror and ask, “Have any girlfriends?”
With this question, Cindy gently elbows me in the ribs. She wants me to stop, but I shake my head no. I’m on a roll, and I intend to teach this father of four a well-deserved lesson. For crying out loud, here he is, sitting in a taxicab flirting with me while his wife is at home taking care of his four kids. And bad-mouthing his marriage as well. What a jerk!
Cindy finally interprets the man’s response, “I beg your pardon, miss? I don’t understand what you mean.” As he glances at me in the mirror, he puckers his lips pretending a long kiss. Cindy saw the pretending kiss. She giggles.
“Yuck!” I think to myself, “You’re disgusting. I wonder how your wife puts up with you?” Now I am angrier. But I do not let it show. I keep my sweet-smiling ruse in play.
“C’mon, tell me. Do you have any girlfriends?” I ask again. As he looks at me in the mirror, I flash him a sweet smile.
Cindy signs his response, “Why no, miss, I do not believe that I do. But I sure would like to, if only for a day or two. With a foreigner, maybe an American at that. That would be nice. I have a friend who has a lovely place. Quiet and out of the way. He is out of town tonight and tomorrow.” He smiles and winks at me in the mirror.
“No girlfriends, which is great!” I reply. “But I must ask you one question, if you do not mind.”
Cindy interprets his response, “Okay by me, darling. Fire away!”
The taxi drivers use of the world darling makes me angrier than ever. I want to smack him side his head. Remarkably, I keep my composure. I ask, “Ever make out with a deaf woman? You know, cuddling and kissing and all?”
Cindy signs his response, “Shucks, no, miss, can’t say that I have. Could be interesting though. Nice and quiet like if you ask me. If she is deaf and dumb, that is even better.”
“Deaf and dumb?” I think to myself. “Gosh, that insulting phrase went out of fashion in the seventies if not before. Wow, this guy sure is bigoted and old school!”
I continue addressing the man, “Well, it’s no picnic making out with a deaf woman, I can assure you of that,” I say aloud. “Want to know why?”
“Well, I guess so, miss,” Cindy signs his response, “if you think I should know.”
I respond casually, “Because a deaf woman cannot hear what’s going on. So, her voice tends to get loud until she screams and carries on like a crazed, deaf, and dumb dog. You must have seen comedies about such a thing. It’s super embarrassing for the guy. It truly is. And when a deaf woman screams, she sounds just like a wild beast in heat. It can be quite scary.”
I watch with satisfaction as he grimaces at the mirror. My naughty plan is working. Now I have his attention.
“I see,” Cindy signs his response, “That’s scary stuff, especially for the guy. Don’t think I’d like any part of that, no way. I do remember a movie about a deaf lady doing something like that. Revenge of the Nerds, I think. But why are you telling me all this, miss?” As he looks at me in the rear-view mirror, his lips once again form into a puckered kiss.
Moving forward in my seat, until my face is but a few inches away from his right ear, I whisper. “Because I am deaf you married, sexist moron. I am completely stone deaf. My friend here has been interpreting your bigoted words in sign language. So, if you do not stop staring, winking, and blowing me kisses in that blasted rear view mirror of yours, I am going to go crazy. Then, I’ll probably start screaming so loudly your wife and four kids will be able to hear me all the way across town from inside this taxicab. And my screaming won’t stop when you open the door to let us out. I will keep screaming until the police arrive to take us away. You to jail, and me to the loony bin. And then your wife, kids, and all your friends and coworkers will know what you are. So, mind the road, buster and leave me be. Or else, I swear to God…”
After my outburst, I relax in my seat and stare at the sights as they whiz by the window. I certainly feel much better now. As for Cindy, she has no idea what I said to the guy, and she knows better than to ask. But, like me, she has little tolerance for flirting married men, especially those who demean women during the process. She taught me years ago that women were not on this earth for the sole pleasure of narrow-minded, bigoted men. Sure, men can have fun with women, and vice versa. It is only natural. But never cross the line. Blatant sexism is always forbidden.
And, I am happy to note, during the rest of our twenty-minute or so ride, our darling married driver of four does not dare to glance into the rear-view mirror even to look at traffic following the taxicab. He uses his side mirror instead.
By the time we arrive at the Masson Hotel, I am much calmer. As we step out of the taxicab, I notice that the hotel looks to be fifteen stories high. The entrance is surrounded by a lovely terrace. Flowering iris beds and lush-looking tiny bushes grown in well-manicured gardens scream neighborhood luxury and affluent hotel patrons. The Masson is a nicer hotel than the one in which Cindy and I are staying. And probably more expensive.
After giving the taxicab driver his fare, excluding a tip, of course, Cindy and I climb the ten granite steps to the main doors. Greeting us in front of the revolving entrance way door is a huge, muscular man. His name tag reads Pedro. He is our point of contact mentioned in Filipe’s note.
I watch Cindy vocalize, “Good evening, Pedro. I am Cindy Wickham, and this here is Eva Roblins. We are here at the gracious invitation of Mr. Vasquez.”
“Good evening, Miss Wickham and Miss Roblins,” I watch Pedro’s lips say. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Mr. Vasquez is expecting you. However, before I allow you to enter, I must inspect your handbags. I am terribly sorry, but orders are orders. I hope you do not mind this minor intrusion.”
Cindy flashes me a look of anguish as she replies, “Oh, my dear sir, I do not think you want to inspect handbags of two young ladies out here in the open in plain view of every passerby on the avenue. Certainly, you could allow us to pass unmolested. I assure you we are not concealing anything that even hints as inappropriate.”
“Sorry,” I watch Pedro’s lips reply with a half-smile, “orders are orders, Miss Wickham. If I do not do so, I could get in big trouble. I hope you understand. It is not my call.”
“Okay, then,” Cindy responds as she opens her bag with a huff, “Here you are, sir. Inspect away if you must.”
As Pedro carefully rummages through her bag, Cindy flashes me an anxious look that seems to say, “I told you so! Darn you, Eva!”
All I can do is smile in return as I try to figure a way out of my impending nightmare. As I do, I visualize my handbag being carried by Pedro into the hotel security office as I dutifully follow with my wrists clasped tightly together by handcuffs.
“Thank you, Miss Wickham,” Pedro vocalizes. “I appreciate your cooperation.” Then looking at me, he vocalizes, “Miss Roblins, if I may?”
“No,” I state as emphatically as I can. “You may not.”
“But, ma’am,” I watch Pedro’s lips respond, “I must. Otherwise, you will not be able to enter.”
“Oh?” I reply offhandedly. “Under whose orders are you to inspect bags of guests of distinguished personages, if you do not mind me asking?”
“Ma’am I have my orders, please trust that I do,” Pedro vocalizes. “The person for whom I work would be most angry if I did not inspect your handbag. Security is a top priority for him. I am sorry, Miss Roblins, but I cannot allow you to enter if you do not permit me to inspect your handbag.” He flashes a sheepish smile, then adds, “To do otherwise could result in dire consequences.”
“Well then,” I reply as I move my arms across my chest in a display of obstinacy, “I guess I shall remain outside, while Miss Wickham proceeds to join Mr. Vasquez’ party. Because I shall not allow you to inspect my bag.” It is at this point that I notice from the corner of my eye that Cindy is looking at me with her nastiest, “What in the world are you doing now, Eva expression.” But she does not dare speak. Or interfere.
Then, with an air of arrogance, I move until I am standing face-to-face with Pedro, so close that my breasts are barely touching his massive chest. As I do, I squeeze his right forearm with my left hand and apply as much pressure as I can. I steadily dig my fingernails into his sleeve. Next, tottering on my tiptoes to raise myself to his height, I tilt my head to whisper in his ear.
“So, Pedro, when Mr. Vasquez learns from Miss Wickham that I am standing outside of the hotel because a soon-to-be former security employee of the hotel - that would be you, my dear - will not allow his favorite sister-in-law - that would be me - to pass without first submitting to the indignity of a lowly, demeaning handbag inspection, well sir, I do hope you get the picture.”
I then release my grip on Pedro’s arm, step back a few feet, and tilt my head to the side with a questioning expression as if waiting for his response. As I do, I can hardly catch my breath. It is then I notice my knees are shaking.
After studying me for a few moments and undoubtedly considering his options, Pedro quickly glances at Cindy and vocalizes, “I fully understand, Miss Roblins. I cannot blame you for not wanting me to inspect your bag during this awkward time of the month.” Then with a gracious bow and a sweeping gesture of his hand, he adds, “Mr. Vasquez would be honored if the ladies would join him in the Great Room for cocktails before the poolside dinner gathering. The Great Room is on your left as you continue down the corridor. I trust you will have an enjoyable evening.”
Then, I watch fascinated as Pedro’s lips add with a seemingly guarded measure of respect, “And Miss Roblins, if you do not mind, I would be most honored if you would give my most sincere, personal regards to Mr. Vasquez. I thank you.”
“Oh, I shall, Pedro, I most certainly shall,” I respond with a sincere smile. Next, as I stand in front of him, I retrieve my wallet from my handbag, slip out a twenty-dollar bill, then hand it to him as a tip. I add, “And I shall mention your professionalism to management as well. You are a wise and invaluable member of the hotel security team.”
As we pass through the revolving door, I glance over my shoulder at Pedro. He is staring at Cindy and me and laughing as he clutches the twenty, I just gave him. I flash him a sweet smile and mouth a silent, “Thank you!” Laughing and shaking his head side to side, he vocalizes a silent, “You’re welcome Eva Roblins. Have fun.”
After we enter the hotel lobby, Cindy at once grabs me roughly by my elbow. She guides me to the ladies’ room. As we enter the room, she looks around. Apparently satisfied we are alone, she vocalizes, “What in the hell was that all about, Eva? You’re not on your monthly. And why in the devil did you grab his arm? He could have arrested you right then and there for simple assault. What were you thinking? And what in the world did you say to him so that he wouldn’t inspect your bag, huh?”
I notice with a bit of humor that she is also tapping her high-heeled foot and her arms are crossed tightly against her chest. She is in a definite bad mood. There is no doubt about it.
I turn away from Cindy to look at her and my reflections in the mirror. I cannot help but smile at the frustrated, questioning look of the older, but much wiser woman that is standing next to me. She is stunningly beautiful when she is angry. And, I love her dearly. And only the Lord knows how she puts up with my to-dos.
With what I hope is a lighthearted voice, I respond, “Oh, Cindy, it was nothing, my dear. I figured if Pedro had already stuck his neck out as Filipe’s point of contact, a little feminine persuasion in the form of good-old-fashioned flirting would work wonders. Pedro may be huge, but he’s cute, don’t you think? Besides, I do think he likes my perfume. Did you notice how he sniffed at the air when I was whispering to him.”
As I watch my surrogate mother stare at me in the mirror with a combined look of doubt and weariness, I simply stare back at her and smile. As I do, an earlier scene in our hotel room enters my mind. It causes a silent, devious thought, “Lesson number three - the skillful art of feminine persuasion - now complete, my dear Cindy. A lesson I hope never needs repeating.”
Good-night, dear Diary. Sweet dreams.
All my love as always, Eva
©Eva Roblins, 2009