I get to the correct building but there are two separate entrances. I walk up the ramp to the door with a sign taped to the glass. Inside there are two more doors. I choose one that lets into a hallway with a staircase, voices coming from behind another closed door in the hall. I don't go near it. I don't examine the papers and fliers and journals stacked for taking, promoting.
Up the stairs the second floor has a closed door I don't think is my destination. Up on the third floor is a washing machine on the landing. This is a house, but not where I am looking to be. But I am in the right place.
I go back downstairs. The voices are still behind the closed door, the promotions still go unnoticed. The other door in the entryway is locked.
I go outside. The other entrance into the building I am supposed to be at, which I am at, is slightly higher than ground-level, with no stairs. It is black and blue. I can see the faintly painted-over words "PEEP HOLE" beneath the lookout eyepiece. I decide not to try that door because I do not want to encounter someone who may label me as wrong.
I write an email saying I am at the correct building but am lost.
The entryway I came out from opens and I follow the leader back to the top of the house, past the washing machine, past the kitchen, to the backroom. I am asked to close the door behind me even though I don't hear anyone else on this floor, or on the floor below.
I am asked what I am looking for.
I am asked what I would like.
I describe the kind of person with whom I would best be able to make this work.
Notes are taken.
I am sitting at the end of a beige couch in a sparsely-furnished room. It is dark outside already, through the window behind my inquisitor, even though it is early. Or maybe it is not so early anymore. There is only one lamp lit, yellow. I have on my jacket still but have undone the buttons. My dress could be longer. I could be warmer.
We shake hands when I leave.
"Thank you," I say.
I think of how I had once been told there is a humble power in submission.
At the restaurant we again order tea and coffee, soup but no bacon; we are meeting with the artist to discuss his work to print and I know he is a vegetarian.
I don't eat anything.
My dress could still be longer.
As we slide from conversation to critique I start to feel my face flush hotly. It must be the coffee. Or the tea. More hot water.
I am balancing manic suggestions with the details I bluntly point out as distracting. I am balancing direct feedback with being welcoming and open. I am balancing between friend and editor, comrade and critic. We are a trio of perspectives trying to align into an equilateral triangle.
My face is hot and red on my cheeks and chin. I feel my neck creep with flush.
My face is a reactionary triangle.
The discussion now includes dessert. The men each order kutya, a thickly sweet wheatberry paste, dark and dense. "I love raisins," says the one. "I love walnuts," says the other. It's a winning combination.
I ask for water.
My face is hot still, flushed still, getting warmer, redder.
My dress could still be longer.
What did I say I was looking for?
What did I say I like?
We are given the bill and asked to leave. We have taken up too much time at our table by the window. "People have been waiting," we are told. This restaurant never closes, but still we submit. There is a lurking nonchalance in the power of knowing we will just come again.