The counter-lady checks her watch and sits back in a rolling-chair. She purses her lips and taps on a keyboard. Mum squeezes my hand and smiles at me, but I don’t smile back. A man enters the door behind us, and there’s something weird about his footsteps. A sort of clicking. What shoelace ends make when your shoes are untied and you’re walking and they strike the ground. I don’t know how I know it is a man, but I know. And Mum tugs on my hand before I can turn to see him.
“Just walk right over here for a picture,” the counter-lady says, pushing a short, swinging door on her way out of the counter-thing. The door knocks back and forth and back again as she paces ahead of us, and she stands behind a camera aimed at a blue-and-white backdrop. She takes our photo one at a time, and pulls out a stool for me. Somebody clears their throat. “Smile,” she says, but I look at the man with untied shoes. He looks like me. Same red hair, same thin nose, and same green eyes. But old, Mum old. He adjusts his coat and slowly nods at me. He looks just like me, but I’m me.
Mum helps me down but I don’t need it. She says something to the picture-lady, who says something back – all the while, the man walks toward us slowly. Everything about him is slow, and feels so familiar. I’ve met him before, I just don’t know where. Mum pulls my hand and we head for an open elevator. She puts a badge with my name and my picture on it on my shirt pocket. She asks me where my coat is and holds a button down. I shake my head, and she lifts me up and I push “2”. As the elevator doors close, a hand stops them short. Mum gasps and I shout. The man boards the elevator with us. He kneels down to tie his shoes, and looks right at me.
“Didn’t startle you, did I?” His eyes move from me to Mum and back before he turns back to his shoes. He ties them as tight as Mum tied mine this morning. Mum doesn’t say anything.
“You almost didn’t make it,” I say, and he presses the button for the second floor.
“I would’ve made it.”
“How you figure?”
“Just good at opening doors, I reckon.”
Mum hmms. She hardly hmms at me unless I lie. Jacob looks at her as he stands up and the elevator stops and dings and opens. Mum pulls us past him and I don’t get to look back.
“Eyes forward, Benjamin.” She isn’t happy. We round a corner, and there’s a long corridor of rooms. My badge says 227.36.059715 -79.855221Advertisements