China, late 1990s
Back in the clock-lined hallway she collides with a man in a blue uniform. She tries to push by him and keep running, but she isn't quick enough. He catches her by the wrist. She twists and squirms. He holds his grip. For a second she meets his shocked eyes. Her wrist aches. She gives up and goes limp in his grasp.
“What are you—?”
May looks at him. He's younger than her, she notices. Tall, skinny, with a pale face and dark blond hair swept into a fierce cowlick. It’s difficult to take him seriously as an authority figure.
“Let go of me, please.” She tries to sound offended. He keeps his hold, but loosens his grip a little. His uniform's faded and doesn't fit him well. It looks older than he is.
“Ahm.” He grimaces weakly. “What are you doing here?”
May decides to take control of the situation. She explains, in the kind and patronizing tone she uses for people who do things for her, that she was at the FranzBank party earlier, and that she got a little lost looking for the bathroom. She throws her head back as she talks and smoothes her dress with her free hand.
“The party ended.” He says.
May frets her eyebrows. “Really?”
She feels him examining her. Bare feet. Cocktail dress. Tear-stained cheeks.
“Well then I'd like you to show me out,” May says.
“Ahm...I can't do that. We're all locked up. It's—I have to, um, call my chief.”
May reads his nametag: Hernandez, Duane.
“Listen, Duane, you don't have to do that. You can just let me out. I got a little lost looking for the bathroom, and I lost track of time. It’s not a big deal, right? No need for your chief.”
He pulls at his bottom lip. “Ahhm.”
His walkie-talkie crackles and comes alive, and a tiny, tinny voice says, Impressionism…nineteenth-century...
“It's just that, Duane, it would be really embarrassing for me if anyone finds out about this.” May points to the ring of keys looped over the antenna of his walkie-talkie. “Isn't there a back door?”
“Yeah but we’re all locked up…”
In his eyes May sees confusion and sympathy. She pulls back her hair and wipes her cheeks.
“Listen, Duane: why don't we just forget this. You can forget you saw me, and I'll just hide somewhere until tomorrow, and then, when the museum is open, I'll go.”
“But they'll find you,” he says, a bit helplessly.
“Duane, just—please. I won’t touch anything. Just tell me where I should wait. This isn't a big deal.”
He opens his mouth to say something. He hesitates and pulls at his bottom lip. He lets go of her wrist and says, “Ahm, follow me.”