A Bad Morning

There's no getting around it, this morning really sucked. The Red Cross has set up one of them Search Offices at Main and Division. Kyle's already been there a few times, looking for his brother-in-law Eric because his sister Kim is too busy with their kids to go. He told me to get there well before they open up at 8:30 in the a.m. So I got there like quarter after, and the line already stretched down the street most of the way to the bridge over the river that runs over to the park. Most of the people there were black and I don't mind saying I was a little nervous, but no one gave me a hard time. Lot of tired-looking women there with screaming kids, but that was better than all the folks who were hunched over silently and wouldn't give you the time of day.
I didn't reach the "intake desk" out front of the trailer the Red Cross is using till almost ten-thirty. In the old days I would've been screwing around on my phone playing Angry Birds or some shit and listening to loud music, but of course I don't have no phone these days (and ain't got hardly nobody to call if I did), so I was stuck trying to strike up conversations with folks who had their own troubles. The guy ahead of me was maybe in his fifties and had steel wool kind of gray hair. He allowed as how he was looking for his daughter who was a student at UMES (Kyle says I should say that's the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, about twenty minutes' drive away down in Princess Anne, for anyone reading this who ain't local), and she "got caught up in some kind of blamed foolishness back in '18" and he hadn't heard from her since. Had no idea if she'd been killed straight off--that was the year of the big race riots, which the President called "gangbangers running amok in our streets" and said the cops should "shoot to kill"--or if she'd been deported to an IOWA Camp. I wished him luck, just making conversation like I said, and the dude started bawlin' on me! I looked at my shoes for a while after that. They're scuffed old loafers two sizes too big that were all the Goodwill in Tucson had left.
So I finally get up to intake, and who's sitting there pushing paper but Kaylea's old best girlfriend Brandi Sykes! Her eyes were like covered by a film of dust but she blinked it away when she saw me, asked how the hell I'd been, shook her head sorrowfully when I said I just got home after being sprung and needed to find my Kaylea. "I'm gonna level with you, Rob," she said, "it's taking three to five months in most cases for us to track people down. That's if you're lucky and they were in a Individual Opportunity through Work Alliance facility"--why she don't just say IOWA Camp like everyone else, I do not know--"working on the Mexico Wall like you or one of the other big projects. If they was in a torture site or an informal camp--"
"They can't of tortured Kaylea," I said, feeling I might break down like the guy in front of me in line, "she didn't do nothin'!"
"I'm sure you're right," Brandi said, smiling like it hurt her, "anyways just start by filling out this-here form."
"Then what? Do I go wait in an office or something?"
"No, you wait to hear back from us."
So what could I do? I filled in the form best I could (name, last known address, physical description when arrested, any "reported information" on where she was and suchlike), then slouched back here to Kyle's place and slept the whole afternoon away till now on the stained mattress that's all he has to give me, not like I'm complaining.
I can't just sit around and wait for a letter from the Red Cross in the mail, for crissakes. But what am I gonna do?
Posted by Rob Stevens at 17:01:08 Tuesday, March 3, 2026

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