Isn’t my shirt a bit big
Upon reentering the classroom, a cheer arose from the crowd. A drunken one for sure. I hoped I could leave soon, I was tired, sweaty and my feet hurt something terrible. Stupid new shoes. Oh crap. Remembering that Katy was taking me shopping tomorrow made me smile. New shoes, and a day with her.
This party was disconcerting. Thrown for something I only partially believed was directly related to what everyone here in this group was capable of doing. I had to think about it. Perhaps Mac was on to something and the glint only brought out my ability. I recognized that it was a man. A different man. I had seen all the sharpshooters. They were intent on their task. They were single minded. One purpose. Death. Trying to recall impressions from the past was difficult. I felt everyone around me in the now. And they were all happy, half intoxicated and I couldn’t think straight. So many. Their feelings so diverse. Happiness, jubilation, excitement, vindication.
Handshakes, still. Introductions. I had thought I met everyone. Then looking toward the garage doors, I saw even more black suited men arriving. Really. More of them. How big was this party going to get. I had no idea it was such a big deal. And surely they had to be as sweaty and uncomfortable as I was. Humidity here was overwhelming. I had no idea. I had used the antiperspirant I found in the supplies in my bathroom before dressing. It didn’t prepare me. The heat and humidity had been oppressive all day. Yeah, Phoenix was hot, this was different. It was a very different type of hell. A humid one.
More handshakes, more introductions. More knowledge of men that protected, but that which I was sure I would never meet again. All incredibly grateful of what they had no understanding, but now appreciated. Yeah, Mac was right. We could never reveal the true nature of the events from today. These people, all of them, needed to know why my friends, Mac, and the others, were here. Doing nothing, ensuring, nothing. And yet, everything. All these people could not understand how what was done, was done.
But then, we couldn’t understand it either. It just was.
Today, the entirety, or so it seemed, of the regulars, were here to celebrate something that they couldn’t do. Something they wanted, needed, to protect. And yet, the entire concept of us, was outside the credulity of each and every one of them. However, what you didn’t understand, was still worth celebrating. Human nature. It erased the hatred and the mistrust for now.
The past had never been one for me to be at parties. I don’t like crowds. Too many conflicting emotions broadcast out to the world. Parties. America’s youth drinking and trying to get into the pants of someone of interest. Lust. Hatred. That feeling of rejection from those that lost. And the overcompensating jubilation of those that won. Plus, I’m not equipped for small talk. For any social situation. Luckily for me, most everyone was quite at ease talking about themselves. Worked in the past, worked now. All seemed to ask me how I did what I did. And then were satisfied when I gave the same answer, “I don’t know.”
Tonight I gave that answer over and over again. I was ready to leave. Excusing myself from the discussion four regulars were having about the perplexities involved with guarding someone or other. They barely noticed me leaving. As I made my way to the door again, Mac caught up with me and we both left to go out in the hallway. “Leaving?”
“Yeah Mac. Sorry. Parties, not my thing. And my feet hurt as well.” Then thinking about it, I added. “Mac, Happy told me that Katy was going to take me shopping tomorrow. I have no money, and the big question, when? I can’t get hold of her to find out. Can I?”
“Don’t worry about it Dennis. She’ll show up sometime. And we had a discussion about money yesterday. Sorry, we did talk about the shoes as well. But Katy is going to take the company credit card with her. You can arrange to pay it when you get your first check.”
“First and fifteenth. You’re a government employee. Technically we all work for the Department of Labor. A lot of our funding is channeled through them. But your first check won’t be until the first of August. The Republican primary starts next week and all of us will be busy, assignments all over. It’s going to get hectic. Sorry, very little time off, and most of us won’t even be here in DC. Then we have a few weeks off, and in August, the Democrats. Again, busy. We’ll all be on duty, traveling with whoever we’re assigned to.”
“And after the primaries?” I asked.
“Well Dennis, then we still have to watch over the candidates. In addition to being with all the regular events that the President, his family, and that of the VP. Then it will be the President Elect and VP Elect and their families. So until January, still pretty busy.”
Now I thought of something to ask. “Mac, in reality I’ve been with you for over six weeks. Doesn’t that count?”
Contemplative for a moment, those furrows on his forehead reappeared. “Sorry Dennis, technically you were in rehab. You didn’t start until the day we came here.”
That made sense I guess. As long as I was paid for the horrific test of sensory deprivation. That sort of helped. But I had no idea what that meant for a pay check. “So, Mac, how much do I make?”
Shaking his head now, he muted his tone. “Don’t let this get around, but more than the regulars. Your pay grade is at GS12, level 3 to start. I think you’ll be quite surprised.” And then that smile.
I guess that was good. Wow. More than the regulars. I had to smile as well. “What about living expenses. I mean I know you have a place for us here, do we pay you for that. Or rather is it deducted from our checks?”
“No. I fought for that, it’s because most of you have a hard time out in the real world. I don’t want old habits to return. And living here, with people like yourselves is a great way to ensure that doesn’t happen. So, all this, comes with the job.”
“Yeah, thanks Mac. I feel comfortable here. At least for now. This bit of stability is what I need. Although I have to admit, the champagne wasn’t something that I even wanted to try in there. Just lost that want, that need to drink. Even if the midst of a crowd. Hmm. A first I think. For me.”
“That’s a good thing indeed Dennis. We have the cider here, sometimes a celebration is in order. But they all brought the champagne. It’s a pretty wild party. And I understand. Another reason as to why I came outside myself. That overwhelming influx of emotions is pretty insane. And the drinking. Yeah.”
Curious. “Mac, were you like all of us? A drunk?”
“Let’s go sit down, this is a long story.” And we walked down to the common room again. We both took to the recliners, next to each other. “Dennis, my father was a teacher at Pearsall High School in Tesas, and that’s where he met Lyndon Johnson. He became a personal friend to my family and he and my father were lifelong friends.”
Pausing now, he appeared to be deep in thought. Remembering a time, long ago, when life was different, easier, younger. “Like you, like all of you. I began to drink to keep the emotions that weren’t mine from infecting my sensibilities. I was sixteen. It was 1935. I’m sure you understand. Puberty hits people like us with a sack of bricks.”
“Yeah, I remember. Anger, hatred, teenage lust. And none of those feelings were mine. It was a confusing time for me. I didn’t find alcohol until after high school. But it was a small respite from the onslaught of emotions.”
“Drinking never made them leave entirely. I understand. We all do. When did you discover the other talents you have?”
“Shit Mac, I had no idea I could run in the dark until I did it here.”
Laughing out loud now, he smiled that gracious smile that let me know all was good. “We learn all the time Dennis. When things calm down around here, we’ll explore that further. But I mean about the projection ability. I think you know it’s very unusual for an empath to also be able to project. In fact, you’re the first we’ve met. When did that appear?”
That required some thought. “Well, I guess about that same time I started to drink heavily. I found I could get someone to buy me drinks just by touching them and giving the thought that we were old friends and they needed to buy me drinks. It was a natural extension to then just go to a liquor store and touch the guy behind the counter while talking to him. Then give him the image that I had already paid for the stuff. Same at restaurants. Just touch the cashier and they believed I had paid. And to get spending money, to instill in them that they needed to give me change. The credit card readers are new, just in the last year or so and they have been a miracle for me. I just imagine that I have a card and that it’s good, and the charge goes through. I have no idea how it works.”
“Dennis, I find that fascinating.”
“Yeah, me too. I never thought about it before, but now. Wow.”
Mac looked at me, astonished. So different from his life. He continued his story now. “Well back to me. When I was seventeen, I got arrested for driving while drunk out of my mind. My dad’s car. Lyndon helped smooth things over with the police. My parents were eternally grateful. Lyndon took an interest in me then. We had long talks about my life, the world. Everything really. That’s when I told him about my gift. We did a lot of things to test how intense it was, how specific to each individual within a crowd felt. He was shocked. And amazed. Something he never forgot even though our lives went in different directions. Believe it or not, it was his intervention that got me to look at the gift as just that, a gift. We met, we talked. He helped me see this as a gift. And I stopped drinking. Haven’t had a drink in forty-four years now.”
“Wow, seems like an eternity. Well, my past life thinks that. Now, I can see that for me as well.” I told him. And honestly understood. “So what did you do then?”
“Well, college was not an option. I wasn’t like you. I don’t have that recall ability. Never did well in school. So I sold cars. Something that I was completely suited for. I knew, I knew, when they were going to buy. And I was the best salesman in Houston for years and years.”
“Yeah, that makes sense Mac. I could see me selling cars. Or boats, or anything.”
“Indeed. It’s not a hard thing to do. Not when you know what your client is feeling.”
“So how did you start, well, this?”
Now the man looked directly at me. His brow unfurrowed, His smile returned, And he began again the story of his life. Our life. “Dennis, Lyndon as I said, was a lifelong friend. When he became VP, he came and asked me to be with him. As VP, he was unbelievably paranoid. After Kennedy was shot, it got worse. He wanted me with him everywhere he went. It was here in Virginia that I found Happy. He was the first gifted I had ever met. He had no interest in politics, he was just a professor at the University where Lyndon was giving a speech. Meeting another gifted shocked him as well. Neither of us had ever felt someone, we couldn’t feel. Recruiting him was easy, and impossible. Understanding what I did was natural, but he wanted to continue his research. Happy has always wanted to know the why of what we were. Something that drives him to this day.”
“I think we all want to know.” I said, perhaps with an over emphasis on solemnity.
“No, we all want to know why. It won’t change what we are, but it will give us knowledge, That helps in understanding.
“Yeah. I must freak him out.”
“Indeed. And now that Katy has an interest in you, that’s another stick in the wheels of life. He wants the best for his granddaughter, and yet, he wants to see. Well, what happens.”
“Mac, you can tell him that I will never do any of my gifts on her. If she likes me, then great. But I won’t do anything untoward with projecting with her. I promise.”
“I’ll let him know. I’m, well, very fond of her as well. She’s been around since she was a teen. She means a lot to all of us.”
“I’ll remember that. I don’t want to cause problems.” And then I reached down and removed my shoes. “Sorry, these things have been killing me all day.”
“Sorry, we should have told you. But it didn’t fit into the schedule. Tomorrow, buy black tennies. You’ll be fine then.”
“Yeah, but the humidity, wow. I need a shower. And sleep. Been a weird day.”
We both stood, I ready to go back to my room, He, to go to the party, schmooze, and let those that might inquire, that I was gone for the night.
Mac shook my hand once again. “Dennis, don’t ever discount what your gift might have had in today’s events. It might seem an insignificant act, but it has altered the course of events dramatically. Thank you again for not announcing what only we know.”
Nodding, I told him, “No worries, I understand the importance. And even now understand how my gift might have been responsible.”
I walked out and over to my room. Entering, it was dark. I snapped on the light and there, sitting in a chair, her head tilted to the side, half asleep, was Katy. She jumped up, awake now, smiling at me as I saw she wore one of my shirts.
“Isn’t my shirt a bit big on you?”