I tried to say no but I couldn’t do it. I wanted her on any terms. “I’ll try.” I said.
We didn’t leave her room that night. We ate room service and made love. We sat naked on the balcony and watched the sunrise.
And, so began my love affair with Christmas Walker. We met once a year and had a week together. She never spoke of her husband. She told me some things about Dunbarton though and, with her permission, I used that inside information to further my career. After twenty-five years at Ace Services I was made vice president. Christmas and I celebrated that year. Twelve years later I retired but I still went to Texas for the parts show. Christmas was there the year I retired and she came again the next year.
She didn’t come to Texas in 2014. I didn’t hear from her, but I never heard from her. I only saw her for one week a year. I was worried so I called Dunbarton but they told me that no one named Christmas Walker worked there. I phoned all the Walkers in the Omaha phone book. I went to the library and started scanning microfiche of Omaha newspapers – nothing. I googled her and learned from a company newsletter that she had retired from Dunbarton the same year that I had retired from Ace. She had never told me that.
I knew I had to go to Nebraska, I wanted to book a flight that afternoon but the nature of our relationship was not one of haste. I took the train. It was a three day train ride to Omaha. I rented a car and took a room in one of those extended stay hotels. I had no plan. I had no idea what I was going to do next. I knew nothing about her life outside of the time we spent together. So I drove in circles around the city.
Spotting a hospital on my second day of driving I realized a course of action I had not taken. From my hotel room I called all the hospitals with no luck. I was ecstatic that I had not found her in a hospital but I was discouraged as I had not learned anything new. I plotted a course of action.
First, rehabilitation centers, trauma recovery organizations, then assisted living centers.
I met a man in one of those places who told me he remembered a lady who told folks her name was Christmas. She had had a stroke and didn’t talk real well so no one believed her. No one believed that was really her name, and she couldn’t remember if she had a last name or not. The stroke had left her ‘confused’.
“Can I see her?” I asked excitedly. “Where is she? Is she still here?”
“Nah, man, they moved her. Where the hell have you been anyway? I ain’t seen that lady for at least a year. Where you been?”
“I’ve been looking for her.”
“You care about her?”
I nodded my head. Not really wanting to hear what he would say next. But knowing what he would say next.
“Then, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but they moved her when she passed away. She didn’t have no next of kin what they could find, so the city sent one of their ambulances. I reckon they took her downtown. They called her Jane Doe. You should probably go there and check with them.”
I took his advice. I went downtown and spoke with the coroner about Jane Doe’s who may have come through his office a little over a year ago. He showed me some photos and I identified Chris and filled in some paperwork. He said he remembered the case. He said that , at the time she looked well cared for and not that old and he said it was a shame. He hadn’t believed that she was indigent but they could turn up nothing on her. No family, no fingerprint records, nothing?
I told him that she had a husband named Scott here in town but a records search failed to turn up anyone named Scott Walker who had ever owned property or registered to vote in Omaha. We widened the search to cover the whole state but the results were the same. He started talking then and I wasn’t really listening but he used the word indigent again and when he did he slid an invoice across the desk, an invoice to cover the cost of care and interment of my love. I wrote him a cheque.
I told him I had known her since ’72. He changed the records to indicate that Ms. Christmas Walker was the decedent instead of just Jane Doe. It seemed there was a lot I hadn’t known about Chris. A lot she hadn’t told me. But the least I could do was give her back her name in death, if it really was her name. I decided it didn’t matter if it was her true name or not. It was what I had called her and I loved her.
There was a lot I didn’t know about Chris Walker. She had secrets. I don’t care if I never go back to Dallas.