Mitch was typing a report from the last week business trip to Amsterdam. It was late afternoon, he was in his spacious office of a town house overlooking a park in Uccle, Brussels. The sun rays came in stripes through the wooden stores, the keyboard was producing a comforting dry clicking sound and Mitch was, well, if not happy, at least content. Do not anybody tell me long working days suck. On the contrary, work gives structure to a day, a meaning to a moment. The business trip went fine, the deal almost closed, a parallel voice hummed in his head.
Suddenly, in the middle of a sentence counting of one verb, two nouns and five figures, he heard a different sound – a key rattled in the lock, then the sound of high heels on the old oakwood floor receding. Joana, the company secretary, just left. He was on his own. Just a moment later another realization came, he touched the back of the chair. No, his jacket was not there. His jacket was in the other parlour downstairs; they used it as a conference room. He had left the jacket there earlier that day after a meeting with the accountants. His keys were in the pocket. And the only way out of his office was through the secretary´s, which was now safely locked.
Cold sweat found its way to the surface of his body and moistened his shirt. Heritage from the ancestors who did not type their days away but spent their days in woods with spikes and arrows. They would laugh with him – anxiety because he is locked in a room? He managed to calm down, finished the sentence he was writing, saved the file and closed it and glanced at the telephones wondering which one to use – mobile or fixed line? Mobile, of course, it was quicker. First, he tried his business associate, James, but reached his message box. Then Joana, no signal at all, as if she disappeared into a cave. A moment of silence, silence as rich as the pause between two beats of an Eros Ramazzoti song – charged with expectancy. The two people who had the key and could come and save him immediately, were not responding. Shall he call Bea, his wife? At least to let her now, she would sympathize and tell him not to worry and they might still manage a dinner together. The second year of their marriage, Mitch was still very fond of spending nights with Bea. He called, a voicemail, too.
He stood up, opened the balcony door and stepped out; a distant rumble of the traffic and quite near high-pitched squeak of birds. Parrots, these bastards that god knows how got to the northern Europe and have build strong colonies at the expense of local species. Ornithologists did not like them, but, apparently nobody had the courage to take a drastic measure. They nested in parks, flew in flocks and were especially active in autumn, when all kinds of edible berries got ripe. Mitch was standing there, if he were a smoker, he might have a cigarette, but then, if he had cigarettes forgotten in the jacket as well, he would have been in even a deeper trouble. Water! Another survival instinct. He did not have a bottle of water in this room, but next door in the secretary´s, there was always a jar. And that far he could get from here. No toilet, in worst case, he could pee out of the balcony into the park. Nobody walked in this part, there were no trails, just thick bushes and trees and the fence. He looked around, if he started to shout loud, somebody might hear him in the other villas. But the villas were quite far apart in this part of Uccle, a very bourgeois, very private and expensive neighbourhood. To hell with James! He told him it would be more convenient to rent spaces closer to the town and facilities. But James needed the luxury, the uniqueness, he needed to make all business partners to know. Mitch shuddered with cold, September were nearing the end, there was a chill in the air. He went inside and called again both James and Bea. This time, he left them a message. Hi, weird as it sounds, I am locked in my office. Joana left and locked me in. I can´t reach her. So, no panic, just call me when you get the message.
Almost identical words addressed to both. Then he called Joana again, this time she picked up the phone.
“Joana, how are you? Fine? Good to hear that. Because you locked me in the office.” He listened. “No, I left my keys in the jacket which is hanging downstairs in the conference room.” He listened then said: “You know, colleagues usually come and say good-bye before leaving, that way, I would not have been in the situation.”
A few moments later Mitch was staring out of the window, the phone landed on the table with a bit more harshness than phones are usually dealt with, being external brain-bank-entertainment-devices. Joana was already sitting on the high-speed train to Paris. She did not come to say good-bey because her head was full of Paris trip. And quite rudely she added, that it would not have helped, because Mitch would have only nodded from the computer and perhaps did not realize he did not have the key.
Thursday evening, almost weekend. Was he supposed to spend the night here? No, both Bea and James would soon find his message. He would give them some time, if not, he would simply call one of the lock companies and let the door be forced open. It would cost some money, so what? He went out on the balcony again, too high to jump or climb down, Mitch was never a sporty guy anyway. The parrots changed one tree crown for another in a smooth loop of flight. He went in again. He took a sheet of paper from the pile sitting in a holder in a corner of the desk. He folded it into the two. How was it, they used to make paper birds at school and then send them flying from the roof top. He stared at the folded paper, then folded it again dividing the paper into two even halves, then folded it into two symmetrical triangles. Something like that. The hands started to remember old gestures. They say that body has a memory. A white paper bird was born. He took a pen and wrote a name into its wing: Bea. Then he started to work on the second one, his hands were surer, the gestures more confident, the second bird had sharper edges, more even wings and a smaller beak. After a bit of thinking he added the name: Susanne. The name of his mother. He continued and made another one, even better, this one he named Claire. It was the love of his life. There was not a day when he would not think of Claire, something he could not confess to Bea, of course. He was glad that Claire was the most proficient of all birds. Never mind for the clumsy bird of Bea, in paper, she came first. In an hour he had a flock of approximately the size of the parrots’ flock. Nobody called yet, but Mitch calmed down completely. At one moment he stood up from the chair, carefully placed all the birds on a tray on which Joana used to bring him tea and biscuits. He went out to the balcony with the tray full of white bodies. The wind moved them before he did anything, he stretched a protective arm over them, placed them on a little table and stood motionless in contemplation: Which one is to fly first? After some hesitation he took Susanne, looked at it with attentive eye and then in an elegant stroke set it fly. The wind played with it a bit before Susanne started to float downwards. He took couple of other birds and sent them to fly one after another: his two sisters, Mia and Mary, then Petra, a colleague he had a crush on a few years ago. Then Joana, he sent Joana to fly with a slightly angry stroke. There were Bea and Claire still left. The two most important ones. Mitch looked down the balcony, the bushes were littered with white bodies here and there. A fox might sniff them suspiciously during the night. Autumn rains will destroy them quite soon. He stopped feeling the cold, though he was only in his shirt and the evening was getting cooler. After more thinking, he took Bea, brought her light paper body to his lips and brushed it against the stubble of his cheek. Time to fly, my baby. He directly the beak upwards, so that the bird had longer time in the air, accompanied Bea with his eyes; it circled quite elegantly before starting to land. Mitch turned around, Claire was left on the trail. Her name in blue across the wing. A gust of wind moved it, it looked as if her body trembled with a desire to fly. Come here, my love. He took her gently and leaned over the balcony rail. I believe I can fly, a line from a song came to his mind. The phone started to ring in the room, but Mitch did not hear it.