(inblue) Chapter 20: Dr. Chettiar & Elliott
Arya watched her husband, the kids and the dogs runabout in the backyard from the kitchen window. Her family was laughing, the dogs were barking. They ran in circles, then crisscrossed, and stammered into each other, and broke free, ran some more, and collapsed in the grass. The scene was pure chaos. They were happy.
The kids, two boys, and the two dogs seemed to prefer the backyard to the confinement of the city rowhome they had left when Arya accepted the position at the college. Her husband had adapted as well. He was a stay-at-home dad and amazing at it, which was great for Arya because she didn’t have his patience, or the ability to find joy in the simplest of things, like rolling in grass at dusk. Her husband was strong, bright, intelligent; and he was a big kid.
When they left for their new life, Arya ended a year-long, although infrequent affair with a cardiologist at the hospital she worked at a few times a week. Her inner dialogue used the word affair, because technically that was what it was, although to her an affair was a more complex relationship requiring some kind of emotional connection. There was no emotion. There was sex. A digression.
Arya and the cardiologist were colleagues in the most professional sense when working at the hospital, and they were friends, perhaps, in some ways. The two respected each other enough to build a mutual understanding that each was fulfilling a need for the other – nothing more.
They were both medical doctors, and even though their fields were entirely different, Arya had confided in him on more than one occasion about the troubling similarity with the patients who saw blue. The first of such divulgences occurred after she was called to the emergency room to consult on a patient who was emitted for cardiac arrest from a drug overdose. During treatment, the nurses had to restrain the patient to prevent him from gouging out his eyes with his own thumbs, screaming that he didn’t want to see the world in blue any longer. Following the incident, the two sat together in the cafeteria drinking coffee, and she told her colleague about the significance of the color blue. The cardiologist’s input was surprisingly insightful, more than Arya could say for her psychiatrist colleagues. Just as surprising was his open mind, his willingness to explore explanations beyond the realm of known science.
Elliott sat on the bench outside of the mysterious little building. A clear twilight set upon the campus. A few of the brightest celestial bodies shone themselves while the others waited for night to settle in. Students hurried along the path to an evening class, or the library, or a party. The campus traffic got quieter as the sun set. There were fewer people, and those left talked at a level closer to a whisper than the full range of vocals, as if there was a campus volume controller that was turned down when dusk crept in.
The woman who worked in the building was as much of a mystery as the inner workings of the structure itself. Elliott couldn’t find out anything about her – aside from the car she drove, an older model Volvo wagon, and where she parked, a reserved spot in a tiny lot behind the mysterious building. Her comings and goings did not take place on any regular schedule that he could determine. The car was in the parking spot early in the morning. Most of the time it was there until late at night, sporadically disappearing from the spot at different points in the day.
Elliott had finished work at four o’clock that day, and while walking to his car that was at the other end of campus, passing the building just off the path and partially hidden, he decided to sit on the bench and wait. There was nothing else to the plan. He was just going to sit there for as long as it took until she appeared from behind the security door.
Arya sat in her home office with the light off while the fun could be heard faintly outside. Laughing and yelling, dogs barking, children playing. She dialed his number four times and stopped short of hitting the call button each time. Her friend. Her cardiologist colleague. There were other thoughts that entered her mind, ones that were unavoidable because any thought of him brought about all thoughts, even the ones of them in the cheap motel room two blocks from the hospital. He told Arya he was only a phone call away during their last conversation before she left the city. He was the only person in the world Arya felt she could talk to about this. There was something she had stumbled upon, those patients with carbon copy symptomology, and her brain was finally clear about it. There was no diagnosis in existence that was going to explain what Elliott and the others were experiencing.
On the fifth dial, she hit the button and listened to the ringing. The sounds outside faded. Just as loud as before, the sounds were pushed to the background as Arya concentrated on the ringing and…
“Is everything O.K.?” The voice on the other side of the line said.
“Yes, definitely. Everything is great.”
“How is the new gig?”
Arya grabbed her notes from the last session with Elliott. His insistence that his dream world had come crashing into the real, the distinctions completely blurring.
“Great. A big adjustment. I am settling in.”
“Wonderful. It must be a big change being out of the city.”
She had drawn a circle around the name Sophia Page Mitchell several times until the ink nearly bled through the page.
“I’m sorry. You are either working, or with your family. I just call out of the…”
Arya stopped herself from saying the color, finding it humorous how an idea can take
on a personal meaning and suddenly that idea is everywhere – a sacred cow.
“Not at all. I just finished my shift. What’s wrong, Arya?”
She told him that nothing was wrong, and then tried to make small talk for five minutes or so, which sounded prescribed and mechanical. Finally, after the mechanical drifted into an uncomfortable silence…
“The cases that we had talked about? There are more. And they found each other. Something is very wrong that is way beyond my comprehension.”
A few hours went by. Elliott had watched the sky change from color diffused to an infinite black littered with gems. The temperature dropped a few degrees, adding a chill to the air. Students migrated along the path behind him. The security door in front had not budged. There was no sign of any activity at all and if Elliott hadn’t known that Sophia’s car hadn’t moved, he would have sworn the building was empty.
A hand touched Elliott’s shoulder and he nearly jumped off the bench.
“Holy, you scared the shit out of me.”
Next to the bench was a campus police officer that Elliott recognized from new hire orientation. The man, who was the same age as the students on campus, gave a presentation about safety during the orientation.
“Elliot, right? IT?”
“Yeah. Sorry, I don’t remember your name.”
“You can’t be here, Elliott.”
Elliott stood to face the officer, who was nearly a foot taller and equally wider.
“Wait, what? You are kicking me off campus?”
“No, sir. You are an employee of this campus and you are welcome anywhere else. You just can’t be on this bench.”
Elliott pondered the notion of being removed from a bench for simply sitting on it. He kept the conversation polite, but was clearly frustrated.
“I don’t understand. Is the bench reserved for someone? Why this bench?”
The officer put his bulky arm around Elliott, firmly yet in a brotherly way, and guided him in a walking motion toward the campus path.
“You see the red brick of the path? Now you see how it changes to gray brick here? This part is property of the federal government. That means you need security clearance to walk into here, and to sit on this bench.”
Elliott was flabbergasted at the idea that he needed security clearance to sit on a bench. The officer had successfully wrapped him in a half-bro hug and with minimal resistance, Elliott was steered to the red brick campus path.
Behind him, Elliott heard the security door of the building open and slam shut.