Teaser 329: “You May Not Have a Lecture Today, Esperanza”
With everything set for the lecture the following night, the event selling out the theater, I suggested Tanya, Jinpa, Jacob and the German security contingent all roll over to Esperanza's house, being much closer to the university, for the evening and the following day leading up to the lecture, or what I was calling our speaking engagement. I wanted to be with Esperanza. Before we all left together Serena reminded me, “Somebody always gets left out, Al-Barrak. Somebody gets hurt.”
“I have always said to you, 'I will be back.' I always come back to you, Woman. Please be patient.”
“Why does Magdalena let you leave her so easily? Is it because she's glad to be rid of you?” Serena laughed at the thought.
“It hurts her as much as it hurts you. She misses me as much. I have to say it to you because you have to hear it. Lena always knows it. Each of you is different and I treasure those differences.”
Esperanza had already taken the time to search for foldaway beds and mattresses, rented two and had them delivered and waiting. The German security lead, again, wanted someone outside the bedroom where Tanya would be sleeping. Esperanza whispered to me, “It makes me think I'm a teenager and my parents have to camp outside my bedroom door, worried about my raging hormones.”
I looked at her in shock. “Was there ever a time when you had raging hormones?”
Esperanza laughed. “Never, but I couldn't convince my parents!” I had also noticed her bed had grown wider. When I mentioned it a short time later, Esperanza responded, “I have slept with sisters from my family. I have slept with sisters from your family, except the sisters from your family seem to grow exponentially, Al-Barrak. This is absolutely the largest box spring and mattress I can get into my house without tearing out the walls. If you bring any more sisters to my house, you'll also be bringing construction people, because you'll be building our new bed before you have a pleasant night's rest.” She paused smiling triumphantly. “I do make myself understood?”
“Like every successful professor. Com-pletely!”
Though I had no real concern about adding Jinpa to the family or about the speaking engagement, I was relieved all principals were, at least, comfortable with the change in my life, in my family, since I returned from Tibet. I had shared very little of the trip with any but all were content they would hear about it soon enough. They knew I had items needing my most immediate attention and were constantly demonstrating to me their patience. I was grateful. I would need it, all of it, because things were changing, beginning the day of the speaking engagement.
It started innocently. All were up in time. Schedules for the bathrooms were arranged. Everyone was accommodated, everyone satisfied, until Esperanza's car refused to operate. Trying this, trying that, with five males with differing opinions, ideas and experiences, we all reached the same conclusion. “There's something wrong with the battery bank, my beloved,” I announced to Esperanza. “Cumon! Jacob and I will take you to the university and we'll be at your beck and call all day and get your car taken care of in the meantime.” All the folks from Germany and Jinpa stayed behind, comfortable with this arrangement.
Spending the time on her car put Esperanza about forty-five minutes behind her normal routine. This morning was her largest class for the semester, the university's introductory course for environmental science, with two lectures per week in a hall attended by hundreds and two smaller lab periods on other days of the week, conducted by grad students and Esperanza would drop in on a rotating basis. The lecture would begin at nine but she would barely make it to the hall on time so she called her top grad assistant to grab her lecture material and meet her while she went straight to the hall once we arrived on campus. She called again when we reached the parking lot near the building where her office was located, with the hall in the opposite direction from her office but about the same distance. On the phone she advised the assistant to meet her in the lot and he was on his way across the grounds carrying her material as we came to a stop and began exiting the car we were borrowing from Serena. We had neither the time nor the need to pick up the former colleague from Special Forces. Jacob and I never expected to be apart from each other or far from the car. It's what we expected as Esperanza greeted her assistant, until we heard the loud explosion and smoke rise from the back side of Esperanza's office building, where many of the university's educators had their offices located.
Jacob knew the explosion came from Esperanza's office building, unstrapped the gun in the holster on his left side, and turned to me, pulling the car keys from his jacket pocket. “All of you get in the car, start it up and prepare to leave on the slightest suspicion.” I stepped to him and took the keys, motioning to Esperanza and the assistant. Both walked swiftly with me and we entered the car, I started it and looked all around, while Jacob turned to run toward the building and yelled back, “I'm going to check the building and call nine one one.”
“I'm going to be late for my lecture, Al,” Esperanza bemoaned.
“You may not have a lecture today, Esperanza.”
Jacob's call to the emergency number was the first they received. He advised the person on the other end he was a veteran of Special Forces and he was entering the building as he spoke. This person advised him to wait until authorities arrived, but Jacob advised he was performing a security role for his client, he knew what he was doing, and if the responder would stay on the line for a few minutes they would have a thorough status of the entire situation. The blast occurred upstairs on the second floor in an office of one of the professors, which happened to be located next door to Esperanza's office, with the most damage occurring along the wall both shared and closest to the outer wall. No one was anywhere within fifty yards of the blast, which was good because it blew out both doors and much of those walls. After inspecting the damage carefully, sometimes stepping over the rubble covering the hallway, Jacob checked both the second and first floors. The damage seemed to be limited to floor level as the ceiling in both offices seemed relatively intact. No one was hurt but both offices were complete shambles. Jacob surmised if anyone had been in either office no one would have survived. As it was the assistant had been in Esperanza's office only minutes before. To say he turned pale when Jacob returned and told us what he found is an understatement. Esperanza sent him home.
Students, faculty, staff began congregating, especially around the parking lot as the police arrived and immediately wrapped their tape around the entrance doors to the building. Everyone knew Esperanza's office was completely destroyed. Some of her lecture students arrived and Esperanza told them to go to the lecture hall and announce she would be late.
“Don't anyone go to the lecture hall!” Jacob exclaimed. He turned to the officer in charge. “I have reasonable suspicion our professor here was the target of that bomb, which makes it imperative for me to suggest her lecture hall be checked for possible explosives and you better get those students out of there immediately!” Since he had already identified himself and the police were taking him seriously, the hall was evacuated minutes later and the bomb squad began their search for additional explosives. None were found but, needless to say, Esperanza's lecture did not take place this day.
When the news hit national, mere minutes later, it wasn't long before it was reported one of the two professors whose offices were completely destroyed was the guiding consultant of An African Experience in Mali, an Academy Award winner. Like locusts we were deluged by media people from everywhere. I refused comment. Jacob contacted the German security contingent, which soon resulted in several high-level discussions concerning the planned speaking engagement. Tanya, her three security men and Jinpa soon arrived on campus and minutes later we were all talking with agents from the FBI. They brought their bomb people, who went right to work on the theater where we would conduct the speaking engagement. Soon a large number of us walked to the Administration building where we could have some very private discussions. While we were on our way Jacob advised me he would pick up his former colleague from Special Forces and have him with us all evening.
- Just Desserts, Segment Forty-Two “Fata Tempor” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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