December 9, 2012 § Leave a comment
I saw Otto yesterday. I called him after our first meeting at the Norwegian festival, and he mentioned that he’d gotten ill and was resting. I’d offered to bring over some chicken noodle soup (the excellent kind from our building’s restaurant, but of course I’d pass it off as homemade), but he gently declined. He said he was fine, and besides, he was a vegetarian, which he’d been for sixty of his eighty-four years. Apparently his son was taking good care of him.
So it’s been a couple of weeks. I focused on finishing up several million dollars’ worth of contracts with olive oil manufacturers in Italy (the oil would bypass the U.S. and go straight to Latin America, mostly likely Argentina).
Then I saw Otto again in the parking garage. It turns out he parks on the same level I do. Funny how he has lived here for years, and I never realized who he was. I’d seen his Rolls before, but never went beyond admiring the gracious lines of the car. You see, I park much closer to my tower’s elevator, in one of the disabled spaces that provides more than enough room for my van’s electric ramp to unfold. Otto parks much further away, closer to his tower.
The only reason why we met again was that he’d seen me drive in. I’d just come back from my warehouse in Baltimore, inspecting some newly arrived containers and hosting a luncheon with some customs officials. I saw someone waving at me as I drove by, and I realized it was Otto. I parked the van and wheeled over to him.
“That’s a gorgeous car,” I told him, reaching out to touch the ornament on the hood.
“Thanks,” he told me. “I bought it new a long time ago. I had just decided to leave Norway for good. This was my way of celebrating.”
I asked him how he felt, and he said much better. He looked pretty much the way I remembered, his finely lined face as composed as ever, his shoulders still erect. I remembered that he said he was the child of a royal servant, or something like that, and right away the thought entered my head that such an attentive posture and watchful expression must have come from his elders, the ones who cleared a plate or made arrangements for some king or another. Then I realized he was watching me. That made me nervous. What did he see?
He promised now that he had recovered, that we should have a drink in the restaurant upstairs. He said he was fond of their brandies. So we agreed to meet later this week. I said goodbye and wheeled away, still feeling his eyes upon me.