The piles of paper lay before me. One for the envelopes, one for the flyer, and the last a card stamped with time and dates. The flyer was wrapped around the card, inserted into the envelope and sealed with an off-white sticker. The finished bundle to be mailed and the recipients will come to the dinner, free with a Friends membership, and dine on cheap hor d'oeurvres and average conversation.
The motions of folding and sticking and folding and sticking had left my fingers ink-stained and tacky. I leaned back for a moment and stretched, looking around for a distraction, Several people at tables with books and laptops sat near. A group of teenagers studying. A hand attached to an ancient woman in a shawl waved in my direction.
The chair ground and protested against the tile floor as I pushed it back and stood. I crossed the distance between us with what I hoped was a look that apologized for the disruption. No one but the old lady paid me any mind.
"Young man, " She said, "Could you turn the heat up in here?"
My sweater felt heavy around my chest. She shivered, her shawl pulled tight around her head but a heavy jacket on the chair behind her. I smiled my best half smile of regret.
"I'm sorry, but it's set," I said.
"But I'm freezing," she said, "Just a little warmer."
"I'm sorry, but just a little warmer would take hours to take effect in this old, bug building. Would you like me to ask the man over there if you can trade places?"
I nodded my head to a man in a green sweater reading a green book. The mourning sun from the window beside him made the green glow like a fern after rain.
She shook her head, "I'm over here because of the draft and the sun is too bright on my eyes. Just a little warmer?"
I chose not to argue on the windows behalf and kept my apologetic smile, "Can I help you put your coat on? Maybe that could help?"
"I'm not outside, young man. You're useless. Where's that nice lady? The one with the helpful smile and the bun?"
"Mrs. Lou? Betty, you mean?"
Her face brightened, "Yes. Betty, the one that made the quilts. She would help me. Get her. I want to speak to her."
The building became a cold place to me then. I was tired. "She died two years ago, ma'am," I said, "I'm sorry I can't help you."
I saw the old woman's mouth open, but I turned and left. I walked past the table with the papers and envelopes and stickers and into my office where I put my head down.