"Do you have a problem?" the receptionist demanded, her voice rising Joshua out of his current reverie and into unfamiliar territory.
Joshua blinked for a second, confronted by this accusatory approach, but he caught himself with enough wits to say, "Who's asking?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I had thought that you called me," the woman answered.
Joshua considered hanging up, but now the woman had him flustered. "Well yes, but I don't necessarily have any problems. I was just wondering what your...service is all about."
"You're problem free?" asked the woman, ignoring his question.
"I didn't say that," retorted Joshua. "But I'm not going to babble into the phone as if you were my psychiatrist. I called because I wondered what you were."
"Well, I am a female receptionist working for a company that solves problems. And you?"
Joshua laughed into the phone, but it was a bitter laugh at having been caught once again on the receiving end of her witty, sharp-edged tongue. "I'm just a guy. What is this? A dating service?"
"So that's your problem. You're desperate and single. Let me transfer you to a different line."
"No, don't!" exclaimed Joshua.
The woman laughed. "I was not serious. Lucky for you, I am all you get until you decide to open a case with us."
Joshua frowned. "Well then," he said. "Before I open whatever, I need some questions answered."
"Don't we all?" She laughed again. It was a musical laugh, free from all restrictions, and it met Joshua's ears like a beautiful memory from his childhood.
He allowed a lingering silence before he replied. "Don't we all what?"
"See what I mean? Insecurity--makes us want all our questions answered."
"How do you know it isn't simple curiosity?"
"Are you curious?" asked the girl.
"Yes. One minute ago I was alone on the streets of New York, and now I am talking to a mysterious woman from some mysterious business that sells some mysterious product. I'm kind of liking the mystery to say the truth."
"The truth?" she asked. "That would make my job easier. So why don't you start with that."
Joshua laughed. "Truth about what?"
"Stop asking desperate questions. Tell me your problems."
"I don't get it," Joshua laughed. "So is this a counseling line?"
"You're obviously allergic to counseling--so no--this is not a counseling line."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"What are you supposed to mean?" retorted the woman.
"What's your point?"
Joshua spun on his heel, and began to walk down the sidewalk, letting his silence urge her onwards.
"You called me. Now spit it out," she said.
"Alright," Joshua finally said, letting his wall of defense down for a moment. "I'll tell you what my problems are. I was fired, that's what. And then I was kicked out of my hotel for supposedly damaging the room. And then I was spat on by a drunk and abandoned for dead."
"Abandoned for dead? You're certainly not dead. And you're certainly not abandoned. So somewhere along the line, you must have made some good decisions."
"Right. I wandered the city for three hours. That's good is it?"
"Are you drunk?"
Joshua, feeling that he'd been slapped across the face, replied with anger. "No, I am not drunk, I--"
"--Then you've made some good decisions," she interrupted.
Joshua stumbled to a halt and then said quickly, "Sorry, I thought--"
"Go on," was all she said. Her voice was soft, and Joshua felt his heart jump and then settle at some new height he'd never thought existed.
"Right," he said, loosening up considerably. "Do you want the long version or the short?"
"Give me the real version."
Joshua grinned. "If you're ready for that," he said.
"There's no such thing. But I'm open and willing to listen. Take it away Joshua, take it away."
Joshua's eyes widened. "You know my name?"
"And I am about to know your life story...if you'd only get on with it."
Joshua, to say the least, got on with it, and continued with it until dawn, through laughter, through tears, and through long rants of emotion.
And the Solutionist listened to every word.