I slip into the building. The receptionist is on the phone and she holds up her finger in a one-minute gesture. I look around me and spy a list of numbers on the receptionist’s desk. It’s the phone numbers for all the employees of the clinic. I don’t know how to snag it without her knowledge. She turns her back briefly and without thinking, I grab the sheet of paper. I walk quickly to the bathroom and lock myself in a stall. I scan the list to see if anything sparks my memory. I dismiss the men’s names outright which leaves me with twenty or so names. I concentrate on the last names and don’t see anything until I hit the ‘T’s’. There is a Leticia Torres. The name rings a bell. It’s the woman I saw interviewed on television, the sister of Rosie. The piece of paper says she’s an outreach worker. I snort at the catchall phrase, but I pull out a piece of paper and a pen from my purse and scribble her name and number down.
I return to the lobby where the receptionist is still on the phone. I slip the sheet back on to her desk without her noticing. I wait for her to get off the phone, thinking of a cover story in the meantime, hoping I don’t run into Carol. I am too wired to sit and wait, so I look at some of the reading material. There is literature for different social services, none of which seems very interesting. There are a couple of children’s magazines as well, and these are well-thumbed with pages missing. I look at the corkboard on the wall closest to the door. There are advertisements for roommates, for therapy with sliding scales, for safe places. I wonder how many of these services get used. Despite the unrelenting cheeriness of the place, I sense an underlying sadness which isn’t easily chased away. There is a woman in the lobby who hasn’t looked up once since I entered. A white woman with straggly blond hair, thin to the point of anorexic, with an eye so blackened, it’s swollen shut. She looks to be in her early twenties, but has already given up on life.
“Lou Ellen Barker,” The receptionist calls out in a clear tone. The white woman starts, jumps up from her chair and hurries over to the desk. Her voice is too meek for me to hear, but she’s ushered into the back office area in a manner of minutes. The receptionist turns her attention to me. “Ma’am. How can I help you?” Ma’am? I swallow my outrage at the form of address and smile at her.
“I’d like to see Leticia Torres, please,” I say with my best diction.
“Why?” The receptionist does not smile at me. She is a thin, black woman with exquisite cheekbones. Herr eyes are hard, however, and her lips are set.
“Um, it’s about her sister,” I stutter. I wasn’t expecting a hostile response to my request, and I’m thrown by it.
“Uh huh.” The receptionist is not giving an inch.