Tangled Tales: Patience

Her name was Patience. She was young, pretty, determined, and seemingly friendless. I might have been wrong, but I asked her if she had any friends she could call she said, “No.” 

“Roommate?”

“No. I live alone.”

“Family?”

“Not really.”

“Boyfriend?”

“I hook up with a few guys but… no. It doesn’t matter. I’m fine. Nobody will be looking for me, but everyone will be looking for you.”

After trying for a half hour to get a connection I finally got through to my wife Ava. I told her we’d been trapped in my office, underneath the building. Ava told me that two buildings had been bombed, and over 40 people had been shot. 24 were confirmed dead. The shooters were still at large. So far no parties had come out claiming responsibility. We told each other I love you. I told her to call the kids and tell them what had happened and that I’d be ok. I got off of the phone to save my battery. When I tried to call out a few minutes later to 911 I couldn’t get through to anyone. 

A beautiful August day, the third day of school, started out like a typical day at the university. At 9:00 a.m. Patience Monroe had come in to see me about writing a letter of recommendation for graduate school. I liked Patience. She was smart, funny, and always the lead on team projects. She’d been in two of my classes, had a few internships with the department, and now was starting her Senior year. At 9:07 the building jolted with a deafening sound from the explosion. A narrow strip of emergency lights went on in the hallway. A sliver of light came through where a window was now covered in debris. 

Campus emergency alerts rang over our phones. A lot of good that was going to do. We spent a half hour screaming at the top of our lungs in case anyone heard us. There was no response except the sounds of helicopters and sirens.

Patience had listened to me on the phone with Ava. 

“How old are your kids?”

“Andrew is 17, a senior in high school this year. Chole in her second year at UC Merced.”

“Merced. Hmmm. Great school. I almost went there, but I wanted to be by the ocean. I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. You know, college town, not a bad place to be, lots of arts and stuff, you know, go Big Red, but there wasn’t anything left there for me.”

“I didn’t know you were from Nebraska.”

“Yeah, then everyone died, so here I am, living the good life by the Pacific Ocean.”

“I’m sorry Patience, I didn’t know…”

“Don’t be sorry. They had a good life. Now I’m going to try to do the same. Um, I gotta go to the bathroom. I hope it wasn’t destroyed. I’ll be right back.”

She wandered down the dark hallway with a tiny flashlight she’d pulled out of her backpack. About ten minutes later she returned, but not alone. “Look who I found in the bathroom.”

Dr. Joanna O’Malley, one of the foremost experts in American Literature, came into my office.  “Holy shit, Byron, I’m so glad to see you. I mean, not glad you’re trapped.

“It’s ok Joanna,” I said. “Is anyone else with you?”

“Yeah, Dave Harris and one of his grad students, Cody Wores. The room we were in collapsed. We’re all ok. Just some minor scrapes, and a lot of dust.” Joanna, a short round woman in her early 60’s looked as if she was ready to kill someone. In her hand was a metal pipe. She noticed I noticed it. “For protection, and I’m not afraid of using it.”

“Let’s go get Dave and Cody,” I said. “Patience, wait here in case anyone else comes along, or tries to get to us from the outside.”

“What if they have guns?” Patience asked.

“Hide under the desk,” I said. “You won’t need it but just in case, there is a sharp knife in my cooler. Apples too. Feel free if you get hungry. You’ll be safe. We’ll be right back.”

Dave and Cody were in a dark partially collapsed room. We brought them back to my office. After doing a little bit more exploring, I didn’t find anyone else in the basement offices, alive or dead.

Dave O’Neill always reminded me of the famous self-portrait by the artist Gustave Courbet looking all angsty, only Dave was never angsty. He had the big personality and was the most positive guy I’d ever met. 
Cody was well known around the department, with his surfer dude blonde hair and blue eyes. Like Dave, he was always smiling and making sure everyone else was as well. I hate to admit it but if you have to be trapped under a collapsed building these are the kind people you want to be with.
Patience was sitting behind my desk when we returned trying to get a connection on my computer. “Nothing,” she said. “I almost had it but then nothing.”
She looked up to the newcomers. “Dr. Dave, hi.” Then she saw Cody and stood up. “Dakota.” I noticed the uncomfortable look on her face and the sound of her voice going from determined to dejected.”
“Patience, hey, fancy meeting you here,” said Cody aka Dakota.
I figured from her uncomfortable stance that Cody had been one of her hook-ups. I almost wanted to try to get through to my daughter Chole right then and beg her not to get into the culture of casual sex on demand. 
Before the situation could get more awkward we heard a voice coming from the pinhole of light above us. We’d been found.
One of the shooters was dead. The other two were in custody. We were told the phone reception was back in order now for most users. It would be about an hour before the equipment could be brought in to remove the rubble and get us out of the building.
Cody sort of shyly approached Patience. He hooked a little finger with her little finger, then smiled and sort of laughed. She stood stone faced for a second then gave an uncomfortable unhappy smile. He’d been one of her hook-ups for sure. I couldn’t imagine what had or had not transpired between the two.
“My phone is working,” said Joanna. “Call your peeps everyone. Tell them we’re alive.”
Everyone except Patience got on their phones and called spouses, siblings, and children. Patience just wandered over to the light coming through the small hole and looked up at it, her back turned away from us.
When Cody got off the phone with his parents and roommates he went over to Patience. He took her in his arms and hugged her. Then she started to sob, burying her head in his shoulder. He spoke quietly to her and rubbed her back, then stroked her hair.
School started back up two weeks later. There were protests and calls to stay together, be strong, and work to stop violence. Patience got into the graduate program of her dreams. Cody received his Masters and went on to a great job. Joanna retired and published a best-selling self-published novel. Dave and I are still teaching. 
That was three years ago. This morning received a call from Patience. She and Dakota were engaged. She asked me to walk her down the aisle at their wedding. I’d like to think that they would have gotten together even without the shootings and explosions. I’m just happy that Patience is no longer alone, and like those who went before her will have a good life.

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