Milena liked being a temporary secretary. She was on her second day as a temp at Uxpro’s downtown offices where, right on schedule, the janitor asked her on a date the very first morning. No no no, Milena said. Go away. It was otherwise quiet and a little lonely. It took awhile for people to warm up to a temp, she learned, because her being there meant X was not. Plus, Milena was pretty. She was the pretty secretary. So although she sat in dappled shade on the green and the weather was June-pleasant and she would somehow daily fill her hour-long lunch break, she was a bit folded over, elbows on knees, feeling pestered. She sat up a bit and polished the granny smith apple on the skirt of her tan suit. It left a long oval of ashy wax. She took a bite of the apple, and then a bite of cheese back and forth, and when there was just a bite left of the apple, she removed James Joyce from her oversized bag. She’d begun reading the book a dozen times, mostly as a prop to keep park attendants from asking for her number. Here I am, Jesus, she said a little prayer. If you see me, come help me; I love you with all my heart. She closed her eyes behind her oversized sunglasses, and continued with all her traditional prayers while the air, warm and cool, puffed at her. Then she took up the book again, but this time dissolved into chapter four. It must have been a while she read intently, gazing into the reflective spring of the pages, apple core turning golden, before a very dry-sounding cough nearby broke the spell. A young man, one hand on hip and another gripping a rake, smiled at her. Joyce’s rote invocations passed and, the wind happened to puff as Milena dissolved again. She fluttered out of the pages, “as a sudden wave dissolves the sand-built turrets of children,” she was sure. She smiled back and said, Hola.
by Anne Weisgerber