I remember that day well. It was a suprisingly cool day for August. There was a fresh smell in the air - never present in the city anytime but in the fall. Other common city odors seem to become separate and distinct the way sometimes an object floating in a clear pool might sometimes becomes brighter and more colorful once it is submerged. Even passing by an overflowing dumpster I found the aroma pungent but not entirely distasteful that crisp morning.
The morning sky was cloudless, hazeless, bright, and blue, marred only by a few contrails. For the first time in a long time I was entirely awake. I remember being unusually aware of my own clothing: my jacket, tie, shirt. There was nothing odd about this uniform except that it seemed particularly appropriate for that day. I am trying my best to describe this alien sensation, but all words fail me. I fit in, I felt placed. It was anti-angst. Looking back I find this emotion I was experiencing on, what effectively was my last day, very, very disturbing.
Its a ten block walk from my building to my office. Time enough to pass by a thousand faces. Hundreds of times a year I walked that same street, passed the same people. You would think I would be able to recall one man or woman or child. But they were nothing to me. A part of the steel and glass scenery. I can't describe one, but I can describe all: a loosely fleshed, chalky face. Two dangling gold earings that refuse to sparkle. Eyes hidden behind tortoise shell sunglasses. Her hair is colorless, not brown, not blonde, not red, and certainly not black. Thin and translucent, it seems to me in my mind, pinkish like the belly of a fish. The only real color is the bright red color of her lipstick. Her lips are so thin, the color seems clownish. Her lips in a fixed sneer. Her skin puffy, her clothes expensive and tacky, her expression hard. I don't see her hands but I imagine her manicured nails are long and lacquered with the same color.
I can not form an impression in my mind of a face behind that sneer and those tortoise shell sunglasses. Just an impression. I think she has a small nose, too much mascara, too small eyes, thick eyebrows, but I can't put all these disparate features together and arrange in my mind a real person.
I dream now of turning and following that woman. She would make her way into one of those many office buildings like mine. Enter the elevator and fill it with some perfume like the stench of stale bourbon. The ride up to the fifteenth floor is a torture for the other passengers. She and arrives at her office. She takes her keys from her purse, unlocks her desk drawer puts her purse back in the drawer, and locks the drawer. Her heels click on the tile floor as she steps from the carpet into the coffee room and makes herself a milky sugary decaf - just like Mr. Daniels.
Why do I dream of following her? Is it for nostalgia, or for familiarity that would give me that sense of safety I am so bereft of. Not even in my earthliness - which I cling to - do I have anything in common at all with this woman. Only this, we walked the same street for ten years, but in opposite directions. That sneering demanding mouth which leaves it stain on the styrofoam cup is what stands out most. It is the true soul of New York. She is Spiritus Mundi - the beast slouches towards Bethlehem.
I remember I did very well with my numbers. Things went as planned, nothing surprising happened and those items that could have gone either way turned in my favor. It was not a "career" day, but good solid day and by four thirty everything had settled out so nicely that I could return home in a mood which bordered on the peaceful. The air was still cool but the sun was still high enough to fill the gorges between buildings with its radiant heat and I remember how my jacket became to warm for me. I ate an early dinner at a greek place two blocks out of the way, reading the remnants of the morning newspaper in a narrow booth. No need, really, I had to stay abreast of every detail so that I could guess which numbers would go up and which numbers would go down. No red or green buttons to push until the next morning - none ever again as it turned out.
The busboy cleaned my table as I sat there and gave me a dirty look. It was beginning to get crowded. He'd say something if I didn't leave in five minutes. So I folded the paper and put it on the table, left a generous tip and walked out of the restaraunt and headed two blocks over to the Game Room. I wasn't really in the mood to buy, I had too many games as it was that I wasn't playing but I was curious to see if there was anything new that I had missed. I "specialized" in first person shooter games, but I liked all the arcade style games. Alternate Life, which I played over the internet was nice, but simply not as intense and I wasn't into sending real money to get the perks of membership.
A crowd of moppy headed teens with an eclectic collection of piercings were competing against each other wirelessly on their hand held systems. They sat in a silent circle, elbows out, heads down. It was like looking back upon some pagan ritual. Ocaasionally they broke their silence with a groan of frustration or an exclamation of triumph. I was leaving and I stumbled, I don;t know why, just stubbing my foot against the carpet, and brushed up hard against one of the teens. He shot me a glare like the waiter in the restaurant, but he was too engaged to say anything.
"Sorry," I muttered.
"Screw off," he said, not even looking up.
I continued out the door, on my way back to my apartment.