“Not going in there,” Maya said.
“Why?” Thulani asked. “Come help me help him.”
“No. I need… I need a cigarette.”
Thulani said, “There are enough ‘no smoking’ signs to stop a brushfire.”
“I’m staying outside,” Maya said and then to Lee she added, “No offense, dude.”
“I’m… m’okay,” Lee mumbled. “Done did worse’n Joplin ‘fore. Skateboards and I…”
Thulani looked up and said, “Face them, Maya. Whatever it is, face head-on these fears you have.”
“Looking at it head-on,” she said, “that’s enough for now. Go on.”
“Why?” Thulani asked. “You did this in New York as well. Why no hospitals? He needs one!”
“Hospitals sent me into cryptology,” she said.
“You love your weird cryptology,” Thulani said.
“I hate cryptology,” she said. “It’s not a real field. It’s only for the made-up Robert Langdons and the cuckoos of the world. Cuckoos like me more broken than beautiful.”
He had long stopped listening.
“What has happened,” Thulani said. “You once loved to crack the codes. Why do you hate it now?”
“I love having answers and cryptology helps me find them. Knowing the secrets exist… that nearly kills me every time. When I was a kid, Dad had some awful disease. It was eating him alive from the inside out, whatever it was. He died – unknown causes.”
“You were young?” he asked.
“Eight,” Maya said.
“I am sorry,” he said.
“Asked them for his charts.”
“Medical charts,” she said.
“They gave them to me,” she said, “all those damn temperature lines and heart rate and meds delivered and notes scribbled in a hurry because there were too many patients and not enough aides. I was blurring all of that info with my tears, making a fine mess of the paperwork, trying to find the solution to the problem.”
“Of death?” he asked.
“Of Dad’s death, sure. They ended up bring in the cleaning crew, took dad’s body downstairs to the morgue, left me in the fifth floor lobby reading charts. No one noticed me until the shift change the following morning. Then they took the charts away and I thought if I’d just had a little more time and a couple more clues.”
“That’s why?” he asked.
“That’s why,” she said. “Still don’t know why he died.” She cleared her ragged throat. “So. Tell me about your jar.”
“It’s why I went into my field as well.”
“Oh, come on,” she said, “I told you mine, now you tell me yours.”
“This isn’t a men’s locker room, American, this is my life.”
She felt him turn. “Look!”
“Met a friend in there,” Lee said. “His name’s Jorge. He—“
“Jorge Leyva?” Maya asked. “The artist Carrie mentioned? I’m a huge fan. I got like four from that bird nest series and I’ve followed his–“
“Yes you are,” Lee said and laughed. “And still hugging.”
It was nice to see her loose control of a conversation. “Jorge’s mother is sick in the hospital. He just swapped bedside shifts with his brother so he can get back to work.”
“Sick with what?” Maya asked.
brought to you by the Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau
written & directed by Lance Schaubert
produced by Carrie Puffinbarger