All this history had been going through her mind as the taxi negotiated crowded New York streets to her apartment. After paying the taxi and retrieving her packages she was startled by an unfamiliar voice by her side and turned in puzzlement. The voice repeated the question as she turned to face him.
“Need help with the packages Miss?”
Catalina glanced quickly at the door to the apartment complex where Wes the doorman usually stood guard to keep unwanted persons from entering and to assist residents. Wes was not there, and she felt unsafe as she viewed the poorly dressed young man asking the question. It was a relatively safe area, but one could never be too careful with strangers.
“I’m Figit. Wes asked me to watch the door while he attended to some family business.”
The young man had quickly noted her unease and sought to clarify why he was there. He was used to being treated with suspicion by the upper crust of society and had learned it was wise to neutralize their fears quickly to avoid an unnecessary run in with police.
Catalina relaxed when his presence was clarified and let him take the parcels from her to accompany her to the apartment. On impulse she did her lawyer training thing and interrogated the young man as they rode the elevator up to her apartment. She learned he was not employed by the security firm who employed Wes and was irritated Wes had taken it upon himself to substitute without notifying his employers who should have provided that substitute. That means Wes would be collecting salary for this day and probably paying this young recruit a few dollars. In a short time, she had a profile on Figit and his circumstances in life and felt sorry for his situation. This was the kind of person who conditions of birth never permitted to break-through the ceiling of poverty and enjoy a better quality of life. She determined to know more about him but to her at that time this was a professional exercise building a case for the underprivileged to have a better place in life. Something inside her had been urging her to specialize in that area of law for a long time since law school days.
But as she settled into cooking and washing clothes that evening then reviewing legal cases, as she was an understudy to one of the partners on the litigation in progress, thoughts of Figit took a back seat. So, on the way to work early next morning she was surprised to see Figit wave her off at the door. He’d made himself a bit more presentable that day. Wes was still not there. Catalina’s first impulse was to phone the security firm from her office and have Wes replaced but once again her curiosity was aroused, and she wanted to interrogate this young man to research people living underprivileged and at poverty level. She hoped he’d be there that evening to continue her research. She was particularly intrigued with his name Figit. It was a most unusual name.
That evening Figit was there with a broad smile to welcome her and inquire if there were any parcels to carry up to her apartment. To his surprise Catalina settled down in the doorman’s chair and took out her cell phone to record an interview. Figit had no idea she was recording their conversation. Catalina commenced by setting him at ease as he stood at the door talking and occasionally assisting residents when needed. Each resident seemed puzzled seeing her sitting by the door but only one inquired why and she deflected the question by inquiring about their day. She was interested in finding what game Wes was playing and asked why no one from the Security Office was replacing him. It appeared Wes had decided to have some time off with friends and as Figit did occasional errand jobs for him he’d promised Figit a few dollars a day to fill in for him and threatened him that if he said anything about the arrangement the police would be onto him quickly.
Within a couple of hours, she had some interesting background facts about his upbringing and present circumstances which she’d ponder that evening. She had no idea at that time why she was doing this apart from a general interest in the lifestyle of this underbelly of society.
Next morning on her way to work a nervous Wes was back at the door and finding it difficult to meet her eye. He’d been questioning Figit at the end of the shift each evening and was alarmed to find Catalina had spent a couple of hours quizzing him. He knew Catalina was a lawyer and while Figit didn’t understand why the phone had been used Wes knew it was not a good omen. He apologized profusely using vague excuses about sick relatives which Catalina knew was untrue. She asked him why he hadn’t been replaced by one of the Security workers and Wes knew he was in trouble so begged her not to report this to his employers. That evening Catalina talked to Wes on the way up to her apartment. She demanded that he bring Figit next morning as she wanted to talk with both. Wes nodded unhappily wondering what calamity was about to unfold.
In the morning Catalina nodded as she saw both men at the entrance. Catalina addressed Figit first.
“Figit how much money did you get for watching the apartments the two days you were here?
“I got twenty dollars a day Miss,” he replied happily.
She looked at Wes. “I suppose that was an advance while you found the rest of the money for his days, work Wes. Am I right?”
Wes was angry, but he nodded his head.
“It was nice of you to give him a chance to work Wes even though the Security Office didn’t know about this unusual arrangement. I’d like to see how much money he gets for those two days of work so would it be convenient for Figit to be here when I get home this evening so I can see how much he got for his work and share his joy? Thank you Wes I’ll be looking forward to that appointment this evening.”
Catalina smiled grimly as she sped off in the taxi watching as Wes shouted at a bewildered Figit. She had the telephone number of the woman who’d rescued this young man and brought him up even though Figit was not her child. She thought for a few minutes then picked up her cell phone and punched in the number. The woman at the other end eventually picked up her phone and Catalina introduced herself mentioning she was a resident of the building Figit had guarded for two days and wanted to meet her. The woman was suspicious.
“What’s he done? He’s a good boy so if there’s a problem he was not responsible for whatever that problem is.”
Catalina laughed and assured the woman there was no problem other than the fact he’d been underpaid for the work done. Could they meet that weekend? She’d be happy to come to her home if that was convenient.
There was a moment of silence. “Who are you, what do you do and why do you want to see me?”
My name is Catalina Sanchez, I’m a lawyer and I want to see if there’s a way to improve this young man’s life.”
There was another extended silence. “You can’t visit my home because it would be dangerous for someone like you to come here.”
“Then could we meet at a restaurant of your choice. I’d like to have you as my guest so I can find out more about this young man. I think he has potential if given a chance.”
“Give me your telephone number and I’ll talk with Figit first then phone you if we have any interest meeting you.”
Catalina slowly spoke the numbers then asked the woman to repeat them back to make sure she had it right. The woman mumbled thanks and hung up. Catalina switched her mind to the day ahead. She didn’t expect the woman would call her back but at least she’d tried.
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