The car came to a halt and the vibrating humming of the engine suddenly fell quiet.
“This is it. You can remove the blindfold now, Sir.”
With trembling fingers he fumbled around the knot at the back of his head. He couldn’t open it. His hands were damp and slippery. She watched his clumsy and helpless attempt to regain his eyesight until his nervousness started to make her impatient.
“Let me,” she said and leaned over to remove the blindfold.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I’m sorry. Thanks.”
“Not to worry. We’re here. You can get out of the car. Do you see that red door over there? It’s unlocked. Just go in and follow the corridor all the way through to the back. Turn left, and on your left-hand side you’ll see a door with the number 1995. Knock before you go in. You’ll be expected.”
“Ok. Ok.” He took a deep breath. “Alright then. Thank you. This is it, then.”
“This is it,” she replied. “Good bye.”
“Good bye. And thanks again.”
“Not at all. Bye now.”
She restarted the motor to hurry him out. He undid his seatbelt and got out of the vehicle. The moment he shut the door the wheels of the car started moving. He turned towards the entrance door. What had just happened there? Why had his fingers started to tremble? Were these his physical instincts suddenly starting to come back to life after all? Had his body suddenly decided to be perceptive of his mind’s signals? He did not like it. He took a moment to screen his whereabouts. Not that it mattered, but he found it hard to break with old habits. Dark back alley, overflowing containers, graffiti on the walls. Almost too stereotypical for his taste. He looked up at the night sky – it was dark, and if there hadn’t been the orange-red cloudy fog reflecting the city lights it would have been pitch black. Everything is black behind the light. He had to smirk about his simple, almost banal, logic: it would have been dark if there had not been light. He was glad he was regaining his confidence and could laugh about his own idiocy. He walked towards the door, pushed it open and walked through. He did not look back.
Even though it was only dimly lit he could see it was exceptionally clean. The light was warm, almost inviting. The dark red carpet added to the homely atmosphere. If there had been any pictures on the wall it would have resembled a private praxis, only that it was a lot colder. He walked to the end of the corridor and then turned left. There it was. 1995. He took another deep breath and then –
“Please come in.” He heard a woman’s voice. She must have heard his steps; he had not even touched the door. He pushed down the handle and walked in.
“Good morning, Sir. I see you made it here alright. Please have a seat.” She gestured him towards a chair at the opposite side of the desk where she was sitting.
“Thank you.” He sat down. The woman was dressed completely in black. Even though there was no window that would have allowed any sunlight in during the day, there was only one poorly installed ceiling light that barely illuminated the room, and it took him a while to adjust his eyes to the darkness. The woman across the table was wearing sunglasses, which made it difficult for him to make out where she was looking. Her black hair was falling down her shoulders in waves. It was shiny and dispensed a heavy sweet scent.
“Now I am sure that you have a million questions. Believe me, they will all be answered soon. You will get the opportunity to ask as many questions as you like. But before I lead you to her, you will need to sign some papers for me.”
“Papers? What papers?”
She stroked the surface of the desk with her palms until she reached the readily laid out copies.
“Just the usual forms of consent.”
“So you are not -?”
“Oh no, I am not the person you are here to see.”
She handed him a document, which again resembled one of those that had to be filled in at a surgery. “Please state your name, age, occupation, current address and all the rest, tick the boxes and sign at the bottom when you’re ready.”
He quickly read through the papers and ticked all the boxes. Again, he was impressed by how professionally things were handled. He handed the forms back to her. She smelled the paper and handed one of the copies back to him.
“Could you please sign down here for me as well, Sir.”
For a moment he felt ridiculed. But then he looked at the form and noticed he had in fact forgotten to sign at the bottom. He signed and moved the paper back across the table towards her. She picked it up again and sniffed. “Thank you, Sir.”
“Now, there are a couple of things you need to know before you meet her. First and foremost: do not introduce yourself, and under no circumstances tell her your name.
“But did I not just give you my full name and address anyway?”
“Oh you sure did,” she replied. “But you are still the only one in this room who knows your name.” She smiled, and he finally comprehended why she was wearing sunglasses. “And we would like to keep it that way.”
“Do you understand?”
“Yes. Yes of course. I will not tell her my name.”
“Very good. Secondly: Do not ask her for her reasons. It is none of your concern.”
“I assume I am not to ask her her name either?”
“You assumed correctly,” she smiled. “I cannot wait to hear the story. You appear to be an interesting client. I do not smell fear on you. That is good. Or not. You never know these days.”
She got up from her desk and walked towards the other end of the room. She pulled aside a curtain that revealed a back door. “Now off you go. You won’t need directions. You will find her easily.” He stopped for a moment to close his eyes and take in that soothing smell of her hair when he walked past her through the door. Take in that sweet sensation. “It’s coconut,” she said. “Nothing else. Simple and pure coconut.”