She saw him again on Saturday. Just a half turn of his face as the hero dangled off a long metal girder high above some city street. Not a Los Angeles street. It was some city far east of here where they grew the buildings tall as giants. She imagined the Blue Bandit then. He fought giants in trailing burnt orange robes in a rich red canyon with cliffs that scraped clouds from the sky. The high cliffs were covered in blue roses that floated soft petals like butterflies on clever breezes.
The rose petals flew to the Blue Bandit's... she wasn't his daughter anymore. When she'd been little, the Blue Bandit had a daughter. Then an adoptive daughter. She didn't even imagine that these days. She was his faithful friend perhaps. She caught the blue petals in her hands and rode her black horse to the Blue Bandit's rescue. He always needed rescuing. She liked that part.
On the screen, the hero won his battle and saved the girl. He wasn't Roy.
Roy hid in the moments of adventure. She only ever saw him hanging off the backs of cars or jumping trains or hanging off buildings.
When the movie ended and the News Reel ran, she wanted it to tell her about Roy. But it never did. William Randolph Hearst told her to buy American products and a Greek wrestler threw another muscled man around. Neither man was Roy, but she filed the images of rippling muscle away. She'd use them for some other adventure that she'd only half admit to imagining.
When the movie was over, she smiled at her laughing friends and drank coffee and pretended to be real. She was always pretending to be real. In school, they'd told her to pay attention. To stop staring out the window. To focus.
She'd paid attention. She'd focused.
If she were in a movie, she'd have gone to Sam Spade and hired him to find Roy in the flickering moments. Perhaps when she arrived there, she'd have found Roy behind the desk, but she doubted it. He wouldn't be found at a desk.
This wasn't a movie.
She grew up. She studied practical things. She'd gotten an office job with a typewriter. She'd gotten an office job in a hospital. She'd gotten a job in "the" hospital. She asked questions, but no one remembered him. She looked in filing cabinets, but she didn't find him there either. She couldn't even find a record of herself to show her that she was real. That he was real.
She told herself that it didn't matter, but on cold winter nights when the smudge pots were lit and clouds of black oil smoke covered the orange groves to keep the oranges from freezing, she knew it had all been real.
She put blue dye in the white rose bush on her window sill and she kept looking. She put on nylons and hard pumps that clicked on the floor. She went to movies and smiled. One of the doctors, a young intern, flirted with her in the canteen. He asked her to a movie. She shook her head, picked up her purse and got on the Big Red Car for the ride home.
It swayed as it rattled down the rails and cars scrambled out of the trolley's slow path. As she stood there, her cheek pressed up against the metal pole, she wasn't a woman in a blue hat with her hair up in a bun. She was a bandit in a blue jacket covered in gold braid. She crouched on a wide hill covered in high yellow grass and lightly held her long sword. She looked at the spiraling city below with its wide white avenues and knew that she'd find the Blue Bandit soon.
She opened her eyes and went up four flights of stairs to the tiny apartment that she shared with her family. The orange groves had long been sold. It had happened when she was a girl. By the time she was old enough to understand it all, she'd rather imagine a new story for it.
In the close space of her home, the only part of it that felt like hers was the rose in the window sill.
In the pre-dawn hour of the morning, she got up and put on her nylons that made her legs feel like sausages. She put on her hard pumps that clicked on the ground. She put on her cheap suit, the grey one, and at the last minute, she put a blue rosebud in her lapel.
She got on the Big Red Car and swayed her way to work. No one noticed the blue rose. Not even the intern, who looked at her once and glanced away. She was used to not being seen. She was a thief. She was a bandit in a blue coat covered in gold braid.
She clicked her way down the hall and stopped in the lobby. There, on a table, on a magazine, in lurid colors and vivid hues, the Blue Bandit crouched on the top of a hill. She picked it up. The magazine was five months old. She'd walked through this lobby a hundred thousand million times. She opened the slick top page and found the story of the Blue Bandit and the City of Diamonds. She stood there in the lobby, although she was not on break, and read. The Blue Bandit was searching for someone that he'd lost. The story began halfway through some adventure and ended on a cliff hanger. The Blue Bandit hung from a blue rose bush on the edge of a red cliff over a white circular city. She traced the name of the writer with her finger.
She was quite certain that she didn't breath from the moment that she picked up the magazine to the moment she walked down the hall to the bank of phone booths. She stepped into the wooden box and closed the door. The wood creaked and didn't want to close, but she was a thief. She was a bandit in a blue coat covered in gold braid.
She flipped through the pages and she knew that he wouldn't be there.
But he was. There were three of him. She bit her lip and dialed the first one, who wasn't home. The phone rang and rang. She dialed the second one and a stranger answered. She hung up the phone quickly.
If this were a movie, she'd dial the third one and it would be him. She held the phone in her hand and gripped it tight. She didn't dial. She wrote down the address in the magazine and she went back to her desk.
She typed. She was real. She was a woman in sausage tight nylons and hard shoes, but she could smell the blue rose on her suit.
She took the magazine home with her. She rolled it tight in her hands until the ink rubbed into her palms. She read the story again. She bought a map at a gas station on the corner and she found the address. She stared at the lines on the paper. She didn't say anything to her mother or her sisters. She got up in the morning as if she were going to work.
She got on the Big Red Car and it swayed down the tracks. Different tracks down a different line as she went somewhere else. She got off at the closest stop and her shoes clicked on the sidewalk as she walked down the shaded block. She stood in front of a brown house with a wide cement porch. A heavy wooden ramp led up to the porch. She climbed up its slope. She stared at the dark wood door. She knocked.
She heard a click-click-click inside and the door opened. Roy sat in a metal wheeled chair. Older. Smaller. Roy. He said, "Hello. Can I help you?"
She took the blue rose from her lapel and held it out to him. She opened her mouth to say her name, imagined herself riding up that last dusty gold hill to where the Blue Bandit waited, when he said, "Alexandria?" and so instead she smiled and gave him the blue rose.
He took it and held it in his hand. It looked tiny as a bird. As she wheeled him down the ramp and into the garden behind the house with its wide orange tree full of fruit, he told her the story of the bird, who was a rose. She sat next to him on a stone bench and when he was done, she told him the story of the rose, who was a bird.
The sun set somewhere over the distant sea, but they remained in the garden until the blood thirsty mosquitoes drove them inside, but that's another story.