There is a gentle purring and his eyes open. His hand reaches up out of the sheets and taps the face of his phone. Three messages overnight. Somehow he was aware of one clicking-in at 4:30. Lying flat on his back he raises the phone up to his bleary eyes. Tanya. Tanya. Dirk.
Fragment of a dream: Walking along a road at night. The city in the distance. The sound of wind in the trees. I’ve dropped something and cannot find it. Someone is behind me.
The coffee is ready in the kitchen. The scent fills the loft like a musky animal. His mouth waters as he shuffles down the hall. All is quiet except for the last chugs of coffee expunging out of the machine. TV on. Top Kill has failed. BP has further plans in the works. Share prices down.
Why hasn’t she gotten back to me?
The new shower is awesome. Water all around. But then again he sees now standing there unable to escape, that he used to like being able to hide in the corner from the spray in order to soap up. How is he supposed to soap up?
The day. Flight plans to Montreal to finalize with Dirk. Lunch with Tanya to discuss the website makeover. How many back doors do they want? And again, Why hasn’t she gotten back to me. Design plans due in the afternoon. An hour at the gym with Mark. He was thinking dinner with her, but apparently not. She hasn’t returned his invitation. It’s game night at The Swan. Maybe he’ll drop by for a game of Monopoly instead.
In the elevator. Puke stain still on the fabric. Smell is gone. Stain remains. What does that man do all day? Stop at floor 20. Alex Eugenta gets on. Older. 50 maybe. His wife has died recently. He went to the funeral with the rest of the condo board. He smiles. Alex Eugenta smiles. Silence and then the rush of downward movement. “Tony, I’ve decided that I going to move,” Alex Eugenta says looking to Tony.
“Hmm,” Tony responds. “I’m sorry to hear that.” Looking sideways.
“I’m going to live with my sister and her family in Peterborough. You met them at the funeral.”
“Right. Of course. Seems like a nice lady. Great kids,” Tony says recalling an image of a young person in tears at the funeral. What am I supposed to say here?
Pause. The elevator glides to a stop. Door silently opens.
In the lobby. “Alex, please let me know if I can help with the move in any way,” Tony says placing a hand on Alex’s shoulder.
Tony moves quickly though the entrance door. There is a suck of pressure change as he walks out into the early morning air. Humid. The July air is thick. He’s sweating already. The morning haze hangs like a suggestion. Beyond it the blue of the sky. He recalls the time he spent as a kid with his Uncle Martin at the cottage. Canoeing, fishing, singing songs. He begins to feel good about the possibilities of the day. He will text Trudy and William about the loft opening up. They are a good fit. Maybe they can do a private sale.
Traffic sounds. The hum of the generator station across the street. The large L’Oreal billboard with a model that reminds him of her. She’s not calling simple as that. Oh well.
People on phones walking. A woman in a dress and sneakers is reading a book as she walks. Joggers. Dogs on leashes. Someone bumps him at the corner and just keeps walking. He looks around for some kind of support. None is coming. A man with earbuds laughs out loud waiting for the light to change. He dribbles coffee down his chin onto his white shirt. He groans.
Lunch with Tanya. “We met yesterday over the udpates. Frederico was on conference call from Rio. Such a prick. Handsome as hell though,” Tanya says speaking quickly with a roll of her eyes.
“And…” Tony replies with a raise of the eyebrows.
“And … “ she offers with a twizzle of her pasta. “The updates work for the client overall. There’s still some inconsistency between the client and supplier portal. That needs to be addressed.”
“Which do they like better?” He already knows the answer. “Do they realize that we’re moving into the red on this project and that we’ll have to re-budget by the end of the week?”
“Tony darling. It’s all good. We’ll draw on our resources for another week until we close it. They’re good for several million down the road. Raising the budget flag now wouldn’t be the right move.”
“What do I tell our team in Mumbai?”
“Tell then we love them,” she says through something she imagines to be a smile.
He concludes that she really gets off on this. He imagines her lying awake at night waiting for the email to roll in.
She’s never been to Mumbai. She doesn’t know their situation.
He spends the rest of lunch wondering. He maintains rapport, of course. He can’t escape his father clearly telling him at all costs to maintain rapport – even if later it comes to stabbing them in the back. They kiss and purl goodbyes to conclude the meeting. She called the meeting so she pays. Tell them we love them. She has no idea.
The afternoon making arrangements with Dirk is harder than he expected. They agree to travel there separately and to return together. He’ll get a few hours on his own in Montreal. Done.
At the gym Mark puts him through a particularly grueling workout. He’s actually thankful for it. His body responds well. He can sense his muscles spinning down in the sauna, twitching then slackening out. The heat is intense and his skin simmers slowly drawing out the deep dirt. A cold shower after and he is steeled for anything. Dressing in the change room he becomes aware of the music. Not really his generation but Uncle Martin educated him. Bowie’s Space Oddity.
Serene detachment. Mellotron clouds. Something urgent. A wet kiss. A purple sensation running down his back. For here, am I sitting in a tin can…
The Swan after the gym. Something like the usual crowd is there. He realizes that he enjoys walking in and hearing his name called. “Tony, please come help. She’s ferociously sharp with the numbers. I’m getting my ass kicked.” It’s Alfonso. He’s playing Monopoly.
“Someone’s gotta do it,” Tony replies as he approaches to say hello and quickly adds.
“Hi. My name is Marta,” she says stretching out her hand. “Actually, I’m only winning because Alfonso has too many friends here.” She motions with her hand to mimic Alfonso talking.
“Yes, Alfonso is something of a connection,” Tony offers. Alfonso gets up to give Tony a hug.
“Give me some of that,” he says as they embrace.
“Say listen, I want to chat, but I’m gonna mix a bit first Alfons. I’ll be back.”
“By all means, shake it don’t stir it.”
Tony returns later with Kelly. Alfonso has been wanting to meet her. The game is over and Alfonso and Marta are chatting. Introductions all around.
“Marta and I were just talking about some pretty big picture stuff. Wow, my head,” Alfonso says leaning back in his chair. “She’s going at your speed here Tony.”
Marta wrinkles her lips to smile. “Well we hadn’t quite made it to metaphysics,” she says. “We were talking about labels.”
“As in brands?” Tony asks.
“Yes that too, and also about semiotics.” Pause. “But really we started talking about cave paintings.”
“You see Tony boy. I told you.”
Alfonso starts buying drinks for Kelly. Tony and Marta settle in. A new DJ starts his set.
“I guess what got me interested in cave paintings is that all of a sudden they started appearing all over. France, Spain, South Africa, Turkey. In often quite deep caves. Great sound.” Pause. “The thing is, the paintings themselves convey being. They have presence.” She stops to look at Tony. Tony, his head hanging so that his ear can hear better, looks up nodding and smiling. She continues.
“That’s what sustains in art for me,” she stops again. “I can’t believe I’m about to tell you my philosophy of art. That’s totally ridiculous.”
“Well if you weren’t telling me about yours, I’d be telling you about mine. And really you’ve got my attention.”
Later. Tony wonders momentarily about whether he was in over his head. Nevertheless, they friended each other. She is beautiful, smart. Empathic. Art begins with cosmic awareness and the struggle to reflect this. Hmm.
He sits in the condo listening to the condo silence of distance volumes of air being moved. The lights are all out. He remembers seeing Alex in the morning. He is moving to Peterborough. He texts Trudy and William about the opening. He will need to visit with Alex with at least a couple of others from the board. He writes an email to the condo board. Alex needs some support.
Looking down at his feet, he suddenly has the strange awareness that he is sitting on a rectangular bed inside a rectangular room inside a rectangular building inside a rectangular city block inside a rectangular city. He’s living inside boxes.