Saturday, April 2, 2011

Looking for P

It was a dark and stormy day in a season of dark and stormy days, and it was even stormier in Seattle yesterday than at my home, a scant 165 miles away. Or, I should say, on the eastside, not necessarily in Seattle. I go to the eastside because that’s where I keep most of my people/clients/friends, but there’s one particular one in Seattle, and he’s been missing lately.

It’s not as if I’m after him for money. Every month his bank automatically sends me a check like clockwork, if clockwork were to include issuing payments for services rendered, or due to be rendered. They haven’t been rendered lately because said client, P, has been missing, and his bank account login has been locked somehow and I need him to unlock it. This happens sometimes, what with all the security measures.
But hey, every month my check comes, no matter what, whether I’m doing any work or not. It’s the conditions of my contract, which is mostly verbal, or email-ish. Eventually he’ll come around and I’ll have a lot of catch-up work, so it all balances out.

I’m worried about P though. He had some health issues this past year, with a diagnosis which is aggravating and explains a lot of the problems he’s had functioning this past year. He emailed me when he was diagnosed and was happy it could be treated, and he would, he said, be working his way back to health and sanity. Not that he wasn’t sane to begin with, but he’d been dragged down and out by his illness. We have a business relationship, but like most of my clients, the good ones anyway, we also have a personal relationship – I’m the sister he always wanted, and he’s the brother I never had. Oh sure, I have brothers, but not any gay ones, so P’s the gay brother I always wanted.

He went on his annual gay cruise, and when he came back he said he was following a strict regimen every day in order to build his business back up and to keep getting healthy. He was excited to be getting back to it, and to start anew.

And then poof, he disappeared again. Emails went unanswered. Voicemails were left. And no response. In an email last week I said that if I didn’t hear from him I was going to go knock on his door next time I was in the Seattle area.

That’s where I found myself last night, on the eastside, and it was still early evening, or late afternoon, and despite my desire to curl up in my hotel room with a good book or a bad movie, or both, I went out in the pouring rain to find P, to track him down to his lair, not knowing what’s going on with him at all.

First I called another client, one who leases to P, to see if she’d heard from him. I never discuss my cliens with other clients, but since she sends her lessees to me and knows I do their accounting, and it was what I considered an emergency, I thought I could ask her if she’d heard from him.

She hadn’t, not since their last annual dinner a month ago, but she was a bit concerned about him too, being incommunicado for so long.

It was a good day for driving, what with the rain. At least as good as it gets in the rain. But the closer I got to Seattle proper the better the weather got, so much so that when I got into Seattle the streets were dry, and there were patches of blue in the sky.

Every time I go to Capitol Hill I become convinced that I’m really a city girl at heart, and Capitol Hill should be my home. I love Seattle the most of all cities, for reasons that are still unclear to me, and if my life had gone a different way I might have become a city dweller, instead of the hardened suburbanite I seem to be. There’s so much green in Seattle, foliage pours around the city like green cotton candy, and there’s always water to be seen from some vantage point. The houses are mostly old and scenic, but mixed in are some newer buildings and some buildings that should be torn down. Streets are generally narrow, and navigating is a trick not for the faint of heart, which I usually am, but I was on a mission.

I drove by P’s building, a newish condo building, and by newish I mean 60’s/70’s, which is plenty new enough, believe me. Maybe newer, I don’t know, maybe older, but certainly newer in the neighborhood. I drove by because there was no parking, and the time of day meant there’d most likely be a parking problem. Everyone had gotten off work, and arrived home, and were planted there, because they could walk to stores, they could walk to restaurants, it’s a good walking area, it’s not as if there’s a need for cars, and so the streets were filled with parked cars.

After going by P’s building I went up a couple of streets, back down and around. His street, in particular, winds and is narrow more than usual, with oncoming cars having to wait since only one can get through at a time. I pulled up next to his building in a no parking zone on the other side (other being a relative term), and I pondered my options. I texted P. “Where does one park around here?”

No response of course.

I may have been foolish to expect any at all, but I’ve been worried about him and when I worry about people I try to get to the bottom of things.

“So,” I continued texting, “are you here? Because I’m here.”

No response.

I dialed and got voicemail.

I texted, “If I get a ticket I’m billing you for it. Unless you call me now.”

An empty threat. For all I know, P could be in the Bahamas on another cruise, having a great time.
I decided I should get moving, so I drove away. I was determined to get to the door somehow to at least ring the buzzer.

After driving around and around I ended up at a Safeway, and I parked the car again. There was a feeling that I needed to pee. If you’ll pardon the expression. So I went inside the Safeway, bought some brownies just in case of emergency and a toothbrush and toothpaste, having forgotten mine, and then was unable to get into the restroom. It was locked, and everyone was busy, and I didn’t want to walk up to an employee and say, “I have to pee!” So instead I left.

It wasn’t as if it were an emergency.

I sat in the car for a few minutes. I wouldn’t have minded walking the six or seven or ten blocks to P’s building, but there were big signs saying that my car would be towed if I left it there, and I wasn’t in any sort of mood to have my car towed.

The sun was just starting to set, and it was beautiful outside. It’s not as if a walk would be a bad thing.
So instead I drove off, made my way back to P’s building, and still could find no parking within a four block radius.

It occurred to me that indeed the peeing would have to be dealt with, so I went back to the “main” street and found a QFC, another grocery store, and parked in their lot. Again, big signs warning me my car would be towed if I wasn’t a customer.

I went inside and walked all the way around the store and saw no restroom. On my second trip around I found a tiny frying pan to buy, and then I asked an employee where they were hiding the restroom. City supermarkets don’t have as much space, and this one was pretty crowded as it was.

“Down aisle one, through the double black doors to the left,” he said.

I followed his directions. Ah, through those black doors, the ones that are for employees only. I found myself in an empty warehouse. Empty but for the pallets of food everywhere. I looked around, saw no restroom. It was evening, and apparently there’s not  many people around in the evening. I looked around again and found the restroom behind a pallet of canned goods. There was a big sign on it, something about no customers after 10 pm, but since it wasn’t anywhere near 10 pm I thought it was safe. I tried the door, there being just enough room for a person to squeeze in there. It was locked, with one of those numbered locks on it.

Argh. I looked around some more. There had to be people somewhere, didn’t there? Around another corner was someone. It was hard to tell if he was an employee or another lost soul – he was dressed as if he’d walked in off the street, and he might have been high, or he might have been ingesting too many yeast fumes.
“I’m looking for the restroom,” I said, and he mumbled back something that sounded like, “mrhghkjfkljdl.”

“Oh,” I responded, but clearly I had no idea what he’d said.

“It’s over there,” he mumbled, sort of comprehensibly, pointing to the errant restroom, “but he’s in there.” At least that’s what I thought he said. I don’t know who “he” was and I didn’t care. I just wanted my turn.
I stood there.

He mumbled something else.

“What?” I said.

“Can you leave now? This is a restricted area.” At least that’s what I thought he said. It may have been, “I think your sheep wandered off.”

Oh.  Suddenly I felt embarrassed, as if I would be featured on the next episode of Cops if I didn’t hurry up and get out of there. What? Were they making subatomic fuel cells? Was this where the peace talks were going to happen? Were we expecting the President to wander in, no doubt to look for a restroom?

I left quickly, back out through the double black doors, back out through the store, out the door, and out to my car, and I found myself crying. Damnit! All I wanted was to find out what had happened to P, and I really had to pee, and I get kicked out of QFC! I never liked QFC anyway.

There was a homeless guy out on the street selling the current edition of the homeless newspaper. Isn’t that awesome? That the homeless have their own newspaper? I, unfortunately, never have cash, so I couldn’t buy one. Anyway, I didn’t want the homeless guy to see me crying. Right. Because he might take pity on the poor rich girl.

I got in my car, headed out of the parking lot, and found a Walgreens on the next block. I parked in their lot, where all the signs said, “Parking for Walgreens only or we’ll tow your ass and you’ll never see your car again.” I love the city, but they’re a little anal about their parking.

I walked into Walgreens, hoping word hadn’t spread that there was a crazy lady wandering the streets trying to get into a restroom. There was an employee sitting on the floor, pricing many little plastic wrapped objects.

“Do you have a restroom?” I asked, willing to face the consequences if they did not, which might mean peeing out in back of the Walgreens where all the homeless people do their business.

She didn’t say a word, but all the little plastic objects slid to the floor and she got up, led me to the back of the store, took me through the black doors, and unlocked the bathroom for me. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to tell her that she was my favorite person in all of Capitol Hill.

Instead I thanked her with my words and went into the restroom.

Once that mission was complete I went shopping. I always go shopping if I’ve used the restroom because I’m fairly certain that if I were to leave and not buy anything, after using the restroom, they’d have my car towed just for the fun of it. Besides, I like to show my appreciation by spending fourteen dollars or so, a small price to pay to avoid what could have been a very embarrassing situation.

I got back in my car with my new goodies. My bags were starting to stack up. And then I pondered my next move. I was going to get to P’s door if it was the last thing I did. If I had to make a special guest appearance on Cops as the crazy lady wandering Capitol Hill making small purchases and trying to break into restrooms. “I only wanted to find P”! I’d scream, as they led me away in handcuffs.

Again I circle P’s, and I noticed that a few blocks down and a block over, or vice versa, there was a space or two. Let me make this clear: I do not parallel park. I know what you’re thinking. A city girl has to be able to parallel park, right? No. I will live in the city and park only in my very own driveway, which I will have when I live in the city. But these spaces had enough room so even I could parallel park, so I circled again, having missed it the first time, and then went back around and down the narrow winding street and parked.

By this time it was dark, night having fallen as it tends to do when one is busy searching for restrooms, and it still wasn’t raining, lucky me, so I took my brownies, just in case of emergency or in case I could bribe P with them, and I went walking. I walked by houses which were both mysterious and inviting, patches of lawn, houses broken up into apartments, stately older houses with bright windows, and dark sullen houses. Down the street, up a narrow alleyway, or maybe a street, who can really tell? and over to P’s building. Still no parking in front. I would have felt abnormally stupid if there was a parking spot in front.

I stood in front of the door buzzers and momentarily panicked, not sure I remembered the number of his unit. Fortunately there was a directory, so I stopped panicking. I rang the buzzer for his unit. And nothing. I texted P again. “I brought brownies,” it said, on the off chance that he was hiding inside waiting for someone to bring him brownies.

You don’t know. It could happen. I would come out for brownies.

I was hoping that he was with someone who was looking after him. Or that he was off vacationing somewhere. So I rang the buzzer a few more times, and then I called him again. This was only the third call, but there was a message that the voicemail box was full, and no more messages could be left.

That is not a good sign.

I did one last text, and this one said, “Apparently your phone is off and you’re not home, because if you were home, you’d let me in.”

What else could I say, having proven myself to be an abnormally worried accountant? I considered pressing other buzzers, since there are residents who know P, some quite well since he’s had dinners for some of the older ladies who reside there, and was there helping one die last year, but I didn’t have a good reason to suspect anything. What kind of person goes around alarming the neighbors and asking questions?

Not me. I don’t know any of his friends, though I do have the name of a former partner and still good friend somewhere, if I can find it. I need to find it.

I walked away, no answer to the mystery of P. I don’t know where he’s been. I don’t know how he is. I don’t know if his illness has gotten bad again, or if he’s off on vacation in the Bahamas, unable to endure more Seattle rain. This is not entirely unlikely, given the recent weather and his state of mind. I know nothing. I do know he’s not languishing around his condo, since he would have responded somehow.

I walked back to my car in the dark, mostly not tripping over the uneven sidewalk. I drove north and east, and it started raining again on the eastside. I got a salad at a drive through and took it back to my room. I ate my salad while watching “Without A Trace,” and it occurred to me that I would not do well as an FBI agent. The best I can do when looking for someone is to stalk them, which apparently isn’t very productive. But perhaps the FBI has a better training program?

It was raining when I left Seattle the next day. It was raining on the eastside when I got up, when I went to breakfast with a great friend and her two charming daughters, and it was raining when I left the eastside and took the 520 Bridge to Seattle. I could have skipped Seattle altogether, but I like driving over the bridges. It rained all the way across the bridge, and everything was grey. The water was grey, the skies were grey, the buildings on the Seattle side were all grey, the rain giving everything a foggy tint of grey. Through Seattle and south, all the way to Olympia it rained.

Through a bout of diarrhea which delayed my progress for hours, it rained. But last night, on Capitol Hill, the weather was perfect, for just that one block of time, so I could walk Capitol Hill and ring buzzers.

1 comment:

  1. I know how worried you must be about your client. I use to do that with my brother when he lived in town, except I would make a nuisance at his apartment and bang, kick and scream at his apartment door to let me in.

    You could be a writer for The Twight Light Zone. You had me on the edge of my seat.