The Lost Street: A Short Story

How pleasant it is to look back on your time in school and still be in contact with your friends from long ago. Therefore I was happy to receive a call from a girlfriend. Happy to hear from her, but somehow I got the distinct feeling that not all was right with her from the tone of her voice."Yes, I'm fine, everything is alright," she tried to convince me when I asked. "But I need a change of scenery." Her voice appeared to me kind of stressed even sad. "You are welcome here, you can stay over night in my guest room," I tried to render comfort and care for the night or several, if she wanted…or more so…if she needed. We agreed that she would visit me, but just for a day, she had to return fast. We both were excited to see each other again after many months. "I'll show you around Downey a little. There is a kind of super hangar at Lakewood Boulevard and Clark. It is famous, though many people do not realize it. Many years ago, it was used by Howard Hughes, building airplanes there and later it served as a movie studio. Then we'll have lunch," my itinerary called for. I suggested sushi at the Japanese restaurant Sambi's, but it was a wrong choice. She rather would like to see the place before committing to it, she replied over the phone. "The best, I would recommend, is the beautiful Hotel Embassy Suites. A stroll around the ground among exotic plants and a water fountain will put you in a good mood for sure," I tried to influence her to have an enjoyable day. That appeared to be the best option and she insisted that the lunch would be her treat. Hugs, kisses several times over, and two middle-aged women were ready to spend a few hours together. Helen came down from a small town north of Los Angeles and after a short while talking at my place, we left. She did not reveal her troubles, though I was convinced that she saw in some way difficulties, perhaps marriage, or with her son, or whatever it was. She did not speak, only looked down when I gently tried to inquire. I decided not to ask more. "When we come to Lakewood Boulevard turn right," I gave her directions, "and stay then in the left lane, because we soon have to make a left turn on Clark." We both were looking at street signs to turn left, but missed. Close to the Best Buy Shopping Center - as I call it - I got a little confused regarding where Clark was located. I thought it would be close to Lakewood Boulevard and Firestone, the next street after Bellflower. But… "Let's go a little further on, Clark must be there," I hoped but in vain. At the next major street with traffic lights I ordered her to turn around and try again. "Don't you know your own city," she asked not only surprised, but annoyed. "Of course, but I never drive there, only many years ago to a hospital," I defended myself. We crossed Firestone to turn around and drive back to turn left on Clark. I glued my eyes on everything not to miss again the street sign of Clark Avenue and another time we missed. Did the street disappear? "Drive on, it much come soon, I made a mistake before. I'm sorry," I stuttered. I felt guilty, instead of showing her a good time, I made her drive around and around searching for the right place. When we reached Imperial Highway I knew how to come back on Clark and so we did. Then I say the bright mural-painted big building I have told her about before and we quickly turned right to merge with the traffic on Lakewood Blvd. I pointed my hand towards it to indicate that we finally found it. "I don't want to see it anymore," she coldly spoke to me. I had tears in my eyes. Perhaps she saw it or felt it, she moved her hand from the stirring wheel and put it on my hand resting on my lap. With a gentle smile she looked at me and soft-spoken words filled the room of the humming car: "Now let's go for a cocktail and the best food we can find on the menu." I felt how my nerve's tension eased and my grateful look at her confirmed that everything was alright and well between us. "We are good," she convincingly said and suddenly I noticed how nice the weather was, a springtime day in January. Then I faintly remembered that there probably was no Clark street sign, because it was not possible to turn left. A re-construction of the road formed a divider with flowers and other plants and thus probably prevented a left turn. Tomorrow I would check it out. When the time came to say goodbye I saw that she felt bad. She stopped the car on our way to my house and turned off the key to halt the engine. Her face suddenly broke into a cracked-up expression then slammed her hands before her face to hide it. "It's Bill…he got arrested…for embezzlement…" and after gasping these words she fell into loud sob that her whole body was bouncing. I was shocked and did not know what to say, but instead she started to speak again with a jerky voice: "He swore to me that he is innocent, that the other accountant did it or perhaps even the owner of the company himself." She started to talk slowly now in a more normal manner and took her hands down from her face. Shyly she looked at me waiting for a kind answer to ease her pain. "Oh, my God, how terrible," I could only think to utter. "What are you doing to help him?" "I don't know what to do. We live in a small town where almost every one knows the other. I am so ashamed, I cannot show my face anywhere." "We'll do something about it, I have to think what to do next," I almost was breaking my brain thinking and then called out, "You need a lawyer, a very good lawyer who can prove his innocence, that is what you need right away, fast like yesterday." "Yes, I thought that too, but I don't know one. In the Yellow Pages are rows of lawyers listed, but how do I know who is good or who would mess up the case." The intensity of my brain strain was successful. I remembered a lawyer a neighbor once had and praised him a million times. After a while it even entered my mind that he had a name, a name with…a man in it. "His name is Zimmerman and he used to live in Downey. You can find his telephone number and address in the telephone book or call the information," I explained to her. The poor woman broke out in tears again. "Thank you, thank you so much, now I have hope, perhaps the nightmare will go away." Her hands were a bit shaking and when she turned the car key on and started the motor, I was worried about her condition to be able to drive. But after lamenting a while she insisted to be alright to drive the 40 miles. She needed to be home to take care of things. I understood and with many words to be careful she drove, dropped me off at my house and continued to drive home. With her car disappearing into the traffic I stood waving after her. My emotions still in shock and disbelief, I tried to sum up the day's events. It was supposed to be a good day. Perhaps all the unexpected run- around was breaking up her caged-in feeling we sometimes find ourselves trapped in. Perhaps it had helped that she finally overcame her embarrassment and opened up her burdened heart. I was glad that I could help her with naming the lawyer, the only thing I could do for her. Imagining all her problems, I called myself lucky even when I don't always see it this way…

********** Published: June 26, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 10