One morning, I opened my office door in the basement to find
a young African-American man with a steady gaze and a mild frown
sitting behind an oscilloscope in the hall.

The musky smell of decomposing vegetation hung in the air.
I was on a root vegetable kick.

"Hi!" I said it loudly, since he had headphones on.

He looked right through me, put a hand to his headphones,
and went on listening to the chaos of signals bouncing around my office.
The phosphorescent green lines danced on his oscilloscope screen.
My VT100 terminal hummed and emitted; my phone line crackled;
the old white alarm clock on top of my safe joined the traffic jam of signals.

The word came later: "You weren't supposed to talk to him." I was in trouble again.

That's why when I picked up my phone and heard,
"Hello? This is Bill. Can you move to a secure line?"
my hands got cold and I lost all facility for speaking in their secret language.

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