Which is the one you’ve been waiting for, isn’t it?
Because of course I got in touch with Angus. I mean, as much as I’ve built up his presence in this story? But first: I needed a job and had no idea what to do. I was lucky that my crummy Hoboken apartment was really just a room in the three-bedroom unit/ground floor of a house I shared with two other guys, which meant that my rent was ridiculous by most standards and positively ludicrous by those associated with Manhattan and its outer satellites. Still, I had a several hundred dollar rent bill due on the first of February, and while I had some money saved up, I’d still need a couple hundred besides.
I thought about calling my temp agency, Force One Entertainment, but decided to go to their office, instead; I liked everyone who worked there and was tired of spending time in my apartment. January might be cold, but walking in Manhattan tends to get one’s temperature up, and there are few more awesome places to be. So I took PATH up to Herald Square, where HMV gave way to the progress that is Victoria’s Secret, and headed uptown. Past glitzy-electronic shops with pocket calculator-sized laptops next to only slightly larger cell phones modified for web-surfing and e-mail receipt, because who needs a desk in the digital age? Up past Virgin Megastore, likely the last remaining on the entire island, then a few blocks East, to a building I only call non-descript because it was in the center of a Manhattan blockful of buildings nearly identical.
Elevator up to the fourth floor, with its two doors: directly opposite the elevator was the bookbinder, with a sweetsmell of glue and a sharper one of leather, then right to Force One.
I loved Force One, but didn’t often have occasion to visit their office, nor even to call it until very (then) recently; why would I, considering my long-term gig at the New Yorker? I got there in the middle of the afternoon, when it was full of both new graduates and the recently career-displaced, the former of whom wore, like their professional business attire, anxiety like puppies hoping for a treat. The latter tended to possess a more deliberate demeanor, their nerves less result of worry of not finding a job but rather the right job.
That first room looked as much like a doctor’s office as one associated with an employment agency: the same bad prints on the wall, the same particle-board furniture on which sat semi-recent Entertainment Weeklys and a few copies of the latest Village Voice, the same half-wall beyond which the receptionist, Joanne (Jo to her friends) sat at a desk to accept incoming candidates and juggle seven or eight different phone lines. I approached that half-wall, ready to greet Jo (who had become my friend shortly after I had broken up with my fiancée, when we went out for obligatory, post-break-up drinks), but I stopped up short and surprised.
I remembered Jo as a pretty girl fresh out of college, sometimes with the same air as the recently-graduated interviewees, with a professional demeanor she was still growing into and which consequently sometimes bordered on terse. She was always chipper and humorous, teasing and halfway to flirtatious, and last I’d spoken to her had been just after what I had taken to calling the Great New Yorker Debacle of 2007, moreso because I thought it was funny and less because I thought it was true, but I realized it had been a while since I’d actually seen her.
In a little over a year, Jo had blossomed from fresh, new, somewhat over-eager and brand-new employment agency receptionist into confident, professional gal who could as easily have been the face of Force One Entertainment as its voice. She’d chopped her brown hair down into an uptown bob she’d dyed six or seven shades darker than I’d ever seen it, which was a few shades darker than her new glasses. She might have done something with her mascara or her eye shadow or something, I don’t know, but boyhow were they blue, hued to match the shimmery, tight turtleneck she wore. Instead of clutching the phone between her chin and her neck, she wore a headpiece like a hairband, with a slender silver microphone like a swipe across her right cheek, and she stared at a computer screen while she spoke and typed simultaneously.
“Jo?” I said, unable to keep my voice from sounding surprised bordering on jubilant.
She squinted as if trying to place me. I wondered, then, how I might have changed since last she’d seen me; time-lapse personal evolution is a side effect of Manhattan living. When working in the great big City, walking its streets every day, it often starts to—I was going to say rub off on you, but that’s not quite the meaning I want. In some ways it’s like a perfect spice that complements already extant flavors rather than contributing its own, but in more ways it’s like . . . modern society has corrupted the word “glamour,” which has come to mean the title of a magazine every bit as much as it’s become synonymous with either cosmetics or old-time movie stars like Mae West or Marilyn Monroe, but glamour originally meant a sort of magic with which one could disguise oneself, and when living in Manhattan, one can’t help get a dusting of glamour as conspicuous as, and perfectly opposite of, dandruff on the collar. If comic book characters and science fiction heroes often have evil-villain twins distinguished solely by their goatees, there should in addition exist the Manhattan twin, street-smart and City-hip, MacGuyver without his mullet, Patrick Bateman without his psychosis, Sam Beckett without the time machine.
When Jo recognized-slash-remembered me, she told whomever she was speaking to to hold, please, pulled her headset off, retreated to the office door so that she could step around, and gave me a gigantic hug giddy on both sides.
“Jesus, you look great,” I told her. “How are you?”
“I’m great! How are you?”
“I’m doing decidedly all right. What’s there to complain about after spending the holidays with family, right?”
“Somebody else might argue with you, but I won’t. You had a good Christmas, then?”
“Totally. And an even better New Year’s.”
“Some lucky girl get a midnight kiss?”
“Went to see some friends play a gig down near Philadelphia. Great times. You?”
“Trip back home, lots of food, breaking resolutions quick as I could make them, breaking up with boyfriends—.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, it’s fine. Better off, anyway. Now I can concentrate on acting.”
Jo is a terrific actress; I’d once seen her in a production of the Vagina Monologues, and she’d been fantastic. “How’s that going?”
“More time for auditions,” she said, which didn’t totally answer the question I’d asked, but she delivered it with enough enthusiasm that it seemed she was happy, and sometimes that’s all you can appreciate. Sometimes, when dealing with pursuits like acting and writing and painting, you have to set aside success in the result—getting on stage, publishing a book, getting a gallery show—in favor of the process, the technique, the practice of whatever spooky magic you’re engaged in. Sometimes, when the going gets tough, it’s less a matter of the tough needing to get going but rather realizing why you’re going in the first place.
“Which can only be good in the long run.”
“Exactly,” she said, paused a moment, then, “So what brings you to our neck of the woods today? Didn’t come just to see me, did you?”
“Well, not that I need more reason than that, but I actually did come hoping you guys might hook me up with another assignment—.”
“Oh, that’s right,” she retreated around her corner, back into her office, while I leaned on the ledge in front of her computer. “You were at—was it an ad agency?”
“The New Yorker.”
“Ooh, look at you, Mister Magazine. Eat your heart out, Messers Condé and Nast. You were there for a while, too.”
“More than a year.”
“Which might as well be permanent in this—dammit. I—let me finish up this call really quick,” she said, pulled her headset back on and began talking into it to set up an appointment with whoever was on the other end after she apologized for having put them on hold for so long. After she hung up, she tucked her mic down. “Okay, so. New Yorker. Mostly administrative, yeah?”
I nodded. “Advertising sales.”
“How’d ya like that?”
“Which I’m going to take as a not-much-at-all. Between you and me, I don’t blame you. Sales is so hard. High-intensity. Let’s see . . .” she scanned her computer. She went quiet a moment, frowned, then gestured me forward, lowering her voice to say: “Listen, I’m going to level with you, we don’t have much right now. I think pretty much everything we have is going to be a paycut for you. Can you hold out a couple of days?”
“I think so, but not for much longer than that.”
“We’ll bump you to the top of the list. All the stuff available right now is for banks and consulting firms, but if you wait a few days—,” she lowered her voice further—“I heard John say we might be getting an order from the Weinstein Company later in the week, and he’s been talking to a couple of ad agencies, too—.”
“No, the actual agencies. That make the ads.”
“Oh! Well, that’d be neat.”
“I know, right? So, yeah, give us a few days. Still at the same number?”
“Always,” I told her. “Awesome. Thanks so much, Jo.”
“Hey, no probs. Now get on out of here and stop wasting valuable writing time.”
I laughed and told her I hoped the rest of her day was as bright as she had just made mine, and she might have blushed, just a little, as I walked out that door.
Outside, January was cold, but I wasn’t yet ready for home, so I headed west to the subway, which I took down to Union Square. I thought I’d kill a couple hours in Barnes & Noble, but instead headed south another couple blocks to the Strand—eight miles of used books!—and shopped the racks for a while. Couldn’t spend much, but I found a few books priced at a quarter each and went to the counter to pay. When the clerk rang me up, I pulled out my case, withdrew from it a couple of bucks, then took the books as I stowed the case and started to leave.
At which point I felt a light grip on my elbow: guy behind me, holding out a business card. “You dropped this.”
Angus’ card must have fallen out of my case when I took the money from it. I thanked the man and continued out of the store, where I paused to replace the card in my wallet, but stopped. The silver embossed text had caught the January afternoon sunlight so it shimmered like it had weight.
Angus had mentioned a business proposition. While I wasn’t sure how he might help me, nor even with what, we had discussed writing and publishing . . . I wondered if he was involved, somehow, in the entertainment industry. I couldn’t figure out “Futures Trading,” but figured if he was involved in the entertainment industry, he might have connections that could help me out from my current situations. I could always perhaps find freelance work, contract positions that didn’t involve sitting in cubicles so much as banging out articles for corporate marketing—
Under most circumstances, I would have been suspicious. After the introduction of cell phones, Craigslist, and inexpensive office space in the business equivalent of broom closets, just about anyone—reputable or otherwise—could set up business in Manhattan, and many did. Many were shady but often shared something in common because of those cell phones; newer Manhattan area codes related in addition to other boroughs, and most were either 917 or 718.
Angus’ 212 wasn’t the area code you’d find for a new business; 212 is Manhattan. It’s New York when being New York meant something: when it was the City that never slept, when making it there meant you could make it anywhere, when all its rats wore tuxes and swilled martinis and doffed fedoras while running in packs. It’s New York like a sepia photograph of the Empire State Building, an old-fashioned picture of tomorrow.
I pulled out my cell—area code 917 on that, even though I’d signed up for it back during my freshman year of college, 2001—and dialed the number on the business card. Two rings before someone answered, and then another moment before someone spoke: “Futures Trading, this is Brigid. How can I help you today?”—
a sudden image in my head: copper-colored hair and pale skin. Green, green eyes behind tortoise-shell glasses, and a business suit the charcoal of etchings with a blouse the white of paper, all behind a glass-topped desk. Long fingers poised above a keyboard. On her desk, a nameplate—otherwise I would have thought: Bridget, or Bridgid. But no: Brigid.
More than that, too: sunlight like fine gauze, clear and bright but cold as January, and the intimation of the world around her, just fuzzy enough to be unclear, all washed out enough to be more a vivid impression than an explicit picture—
“Hello?” Brigid said, making me realize that impression had caught me suddenly enough it had surprised me with its intensity.
“Um. Hi. I’m looking for Angus Silver? He gave me his card a few days ago—.”
“Ah, yes, we’ve been expecting your call and hoping for your visit. May we expect one?”
The way she said it, the cheerful hope in her voice . . . I didn’t want to let her down. “Sure,” I told her.
“Wonderful,” she told me, and then she relayed to me an address not far from where I was even then standing, and again that sudden mental flash—
a brownstone in sepia, sun-drenched black-and-white. Fire escapes and a turret—
“See you soon, then,” she told me, and with that I flip-closed my cell as I started a few blocks south and then cut east, into the heart of the Village, along St. Mark’s Place—8th street between 3rd Avenue and Avenue A for those keeping score by way of Google Maps—punk-rock antiquity and rock-and-roll royalty, where artists dreamed less of the gallery than of the gutter, where it was better to burn out than to fade, where artistic integrity had more value than fame though neither ever really had any meaning, anyway.
Who lived here? Lenny Bruce—
Let me tell you the truth. The truth is, what is. And what should be is a fantasy, a terrible terrible lie that someone gave to the people long ago.—
and W.H. Auden—
All wishes, whatever their apparent content, have the same and unvarying meaning: “I refuse to be what I am.”—
to name but two of its most notable alumnae.
It’s where the cover for Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti was photographed as an impossible album cover, and it’s where there used to exist a small café called Sin-E, where many bands, including but not limited to P.J. Harvey, Ben Folds, David Gray, and Jeff Buckley—
The only way to really make it—anywhere—is to put every bit of your being into the thing that only you can provide. The only angle is the art that you choose, that only you can provide. And to do that, you have to be quiet for a long time and find out what you bring forth. You have to know what’s in yourself—all your eccentricities, all your banalities, the full flavor of your woe and your joy. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What makes it different from everybody else’s? It’s totally subjective. You’re just given the task of bringing it up.—
played long before they were ever really discovered, much less famous.
All that aside, what matters for the moment is that it was then the neighborhood I traversed to discover, not far from Tompkins Square Park, precisely the turreted brownstone whose image had popped unbidden into my head, a building at once both conspicuous and unremarkable, a dichotomy that can exist only in Manhattan. Anywhere else, that building would have stood out to passersby as a place where one could expect great things to occur, great business to transact, great art to be committed, but right there it looked—even if it didn’t look at all like any other building in the world—completely routine. That’s the paradox of Manhattan, with everything so vibrant and spectacular vying simultaneously for attention, so that even a place so extraordinary as the Cloisters never actually stands out. How can you stand out, among the Metropolitan Museum or Opera House, take your pick; among cathedrals dedicated to Saint Patrick and Saint Peter; in a place whose Christmas tree seems a hundred feet tall?
I realized as I approached that brownstone that I didn’t need to check the address, as well as that there was something more at work there. Not just that I’d been pulled toward that place since the moment I’d dialed the number on the card and heard Brigid’s voice, but even that something unconscious had tugged me downtown from Force One’s uptown offices—otherwise, there really was no reason for me to be in the Village, and Lord knows that even a quarter for new books was money I might have been better off not spending. I think realizing that broke the spell to some degree as I climbed the stoop stairs to the front door, but then I stumbled on the top step and tripped through the front door, which seemed heavier than it should have and crashed shut behind me—
I might have been first introduced to the idea of a tesseract, or the next dimension on top of an already three-dimensional cube, by Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time; her idea for interspatial travel related to interstitial travel—that the titular wrinkle in time was quite literally an extra dimensional fold that placed more closely together two spatial points that had previously been separated by some great distance. Which I always thought was rather ingenious, as it could bypass the problem of crossing lightyears simply by moving destination closer to origination even if only on a plane beyond the dimensions we’re used to.
Such ideas have always cropped up all over science fiction. Consider Doctor Who’s TARDIS, a phone-booth time machine bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside, where people see it as a police box.
I bring those up because—
Tripping across that threshold . . . in some ways, it was similar to passing through that beaded curtain into that red-haired woman’s inner sanctum of cosmology and interpretation, but extended far beyond that scale. My first thought after that brief memory of that grand Jersey hall, was that whoever owned Futures Trading had bought the brownstone whose steps I had ascended as well as several neighboring, and knocking out the walls had been merely the first step in renovating, which had subsequently included replacing carpets and hardwood floors with smooth, gorgeous grey-green marble. The room seemed cavernous and impossibly tall; if that brownstone had had three stories, they had knocked out two floors in favor of going straight from the ground to the roof thirty feet up, where sunlight streamed through a skylight and dazzled that marble dizzy. To say it looked enchanted would be to take the easy way out; the sunshine blazed through its golden veins to make it shimmer like fabled old money and the promise of new wealth.
Behind me, the door through which I had just entered was the only actually visible part of something I can’t call a wall for all the water cascading down it; the anterior interior wall was a waterfall I assume was synthetic because how else would one get one inside, besides by building it there? A lip kept the water from falling over the doorway, but besides that, I could see nothing else of that wall. Where windows might or might not have been there existed only large rectangles, shiny silver against the clear shimmer of the water.
To the left, a large stone fountain the color of bones, water proud and loud enough that, though I might like to use a word like susurrus for the poetry of it alone, it cannot apply; this wasn’t whisper so much as a loud plobbling—hey, onomatopoeia!—that matched in both tone and intensity the freely flowing cascades of the wall behind me. It came in jets from the mouths of mermaids, as if the tinkle of water on water were the call of the siren, beyond the appreciation of mortal men save in its irresistibility.
Directly in front of me: Brigid. Her desk before me matched to the detail the vivid image that had jumped into my head, though there was some difference in person, if only in vibrance and intensity. Her hair wasn’t just copper-colored but the tawny orange of a disappearing tabby cat, while her eyes were a green you’d think every field in Ireland would be if it didn’t rain there so often.
Beyond her left shoulder: two enormous, mahogany French doors, ornately carved and with visible hinges as big as two of my hands together.
“You must be the pleasant young man to whom I spoke only a few moments ago,” she told me. Her voice was bright and airy as the room around us, sparkled here and there with inflection and cheer like the veins in the marble I crossed to approach her desk. It would have made me want to have been that pleasant young man even had I not been.
“This place is fantastic,” I told her, my voice more an amazed whisper than an attempt at communication.
“I suppose that depends on your fantasies,” she said, but so matter-of-factly I couldn’t decide if she meant innuendo.
Either way . . . well. I’d like to say I found myself still too positively gobsmacked to respond either in kind or in flirt, but that would imply I spend any time in my life not gobsmacked, which I rarely do. Regardless, I was still taking in the room, because seriously, I couldn’t believe what they’d done with the place.
The doors behind her opened before I had to worry too much about responding, and if the flapping wings of a Central Park butterfly can so completely change the world by causing stampedes several continents away, I hesitate to consider the impact of those large, heavy doors. Even just the sound they made—first the massive, solid chunk of a hard metal latch, and then the quiet but substantive movement of that cavernous room’s air displaced by those enormous slabs of wood—if the world would only make a sound when it knows your life is about to change, it would be that one, and it would come as well with that open and empty feeling you get in your gut when you know you’re about to make a decision that might not change the whole world but is certainly going to change yours.
Beyond those doors: nothing, at first, but light, though of that there was enough I thought I might have tanned just standing there. I felt my eyebrows rise and my arm followed suit, even, as I started to shade my eyes, but then the intensity faded abruptly to allow into visibility the sharp-cut suited silhouette who could only be Angus himself.
“My boy,” he said, stepping forward, through the doors, sweeping into the lobby a great rush of charcoal and animation, a quick-sketch of business and the way it’s meant to be conducted. He looked nearly the same as he had the night I’d met him, the dark suit that might have been a Hermés and the sharp eyes, but he seemed more vibrant, more alive, as if the room around him leant to him a power he in turn could conduct at will. “So glad you took the time to swing by my humble offices,” he told me, and if he had a smile like doing business, he shook my hand like he’d already closed it.
“I’m not sure ‘humble’ is the first word I would have thought of.”
“Please,” he said, ushering me through those giant doors without my realizing I was moving at all. “You do me great kindness, my boy,” he said, and he tossed a quick, “Brigid, would you do me the great favor of holding all calls while I speak to my bright young acquaintance here?”
“Absolutely, Mr. Silver,” Brigid’s response followed us through the doors, which Angus closed behind me, and if their opening had sounded like the possibility inherent in a posed proposition, their closing must have, conversely, approximated choices made and decisions decided.
Angus’ office was decorated mainly in grey and chrome and glass, not as if retro were clashing with futuristic but rather as though the past and the future had collaborated to form a more beautiful present. The first impression was of space, not because of the sheer size of the room, though it did seem as gigantic as the lobby had, but rather because the wall opposite the massive entryway was all windows, floor to ceiling and one wall to its opposite, and beyond them—
is problematic, for reasons which will in a moment become apparent, but for now know that beyond them was a beachscape like Malibu or Big Sur, quick sand and brief cliffs before the enormous beauty of an ocean all the way to the horizon as far as I could see, as though Angus’ offices were on beachfront property.
Gaggling at the view gave way to appreciating the final details of the room, the afore-mentioned grey and glass and retro. Angus’ desk in the center, back close to the view—I wasn’t yet ready to commit to either window or screen, even if I knew it was impossible it was a window, because I was in the middle of the Village, and how could it have been? I think the closest body of water was the East River—while the side walls were mainly shelves full of books of varying shapes and colors, along with a few trinkets, masks and small sculptures and odd, stringed things and a Rubik’s cube. The shelves on the right side occupied the entire wall, while those on the left were cut around a stone hearth in front of which sat two leather sofas and a coffee table between them. That furniture was set on a black-and-white bear-skin rug.
Best way I can put it: remember those awesome receptors I mentioned to Veronica? My own had remained intact in that awesomely gorgeous lobby, which I know only because, standing in Angus’ office, they finally gave out.
“Is that—?” I started to ask, but along with losing my awesome receptors, my intelligibility seemed to follow. Thoughts like quick butterflies or, perhaps more accurately, the sub-atomic afterbursts of hyper-particle collisions, and me the confused lepidopterist, or theoretical physicist, depending on which metaphor we’re going with, jump-swiping my net at leptons or trying to fine-tune my instruments to measure moths, which only jumbles up my metaphors, doesn’t it?
“My view,” Angus said. “Certainly is one of a kind.”
“Is it—?” but I stopped there, because my brain couldn’t decide whether it meant to ask whether it was high-definition or real, and I honestly wasn’t certain it mattered. I abandoned that question for another: “This is all yours?”
Angus laughed. “As much as any man can call any thing his own. I’ve used this building as a place to conduct my business for many years, and it has always served well my purposes.”
In front of Angus’ desk: two chairs, both leather with silver chrome accents. They looked comfortable.
“Quite a collection of books you have.”
Angus laughed, looking around at the shelves as if he were seeing them and their contents for the first time. “Don’t I though? I’ve been lucky to find myself acquainted with many fine writers, many of whom have become my clients, and many of whom gave to me all the books you see as gifts.”
“Clients? So you do work in publishing, then?”
“Please, let’s not discuss business straight off. I always find business is more a pleasure when conducted in a more meandering manner. The services I might provide might be better discovered than offered, if you catch my meaning, and being the brilliant young man you are, I bet you do.”
“I don’t know about that,” was my pretty much automatic response.
“I do. I would not have invited you here were you not. But here you are, because I will perhaps immodestly claim to possess an eye for these sorts of things, and I’ve never been wrong, not so long as I’ve been in the game.”
“I’m not complimenting you, merely stating the observedly obvious.”
“So did you invite me here just to butter me up? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the kind words—.”
“The honest words.”
“Okay, the honest words, but—.”
“No, no. Don’t just say it unless you mean it.”
“Few things are more offensive than false modesty. You are immensely talented, and the right person—such as myself—can sense that talent a mile away. Don’t rephrase merely because you believe different words are what I want to hear. There is, you’ll agree, a difference between arrogance and confidence, but the difference between them is delusion in the former case and self-awareness in the latter, which brings me ultimately to the point that self-awareness is perhaps the most desired trait of all. So don’t just agree with my assessment of your talent; if you’re going to do anything at all, own it, my boy.”
I scanned the ocean to the horizon, and I said: “I don’t know much about brilliance or talent, but I like stories, and I like writing. I hope I write them better more often than not.” I don’t know why I felt the urge for candor, but I know it was the truth as I said and felt it. Which I record here for the very reason I’ve been so committed to telling you the truth: some days, I think it’s less about doing it well or badly than it is about doing it honestly, sometimes brutally so, sometimes vulnerably so.
“Well met. I can’t say it was the reaction I expected if only because that would imply I expected one in the first place; I keep always in mind that the best of all business is conducted without expectation, only knowledge.”
“I might agree, except I’ve never been much use when it comes down to business.”
“Why don’t you have a seat?” Angus gestured me to one of the chairs in front of his desk. As I approached it, he moved around the side of the desk, and as he did so, I realized the view must have been a high-definition screen when I found myself suddenly looking at what appeared to be moonlight on the Sphinx. Its busted-nose face was familiar enough, while behind it loomed the Great Pyramid, colored the hue of bone.
My expression must have betrayed my confusion, though, because Angus smiled.
“Ah, yes. Perhaps one of the most demonstrable cases of penis envy in the history of the world.”
“Both monuments, to some degree. Which is all each is: monuments men now long dead, who would otherwise also be long forgotten, built for themselves. I would remark upon the measures to which many, men and women alike, have gone to distinguish themselves in history, but alas, history would render me little more than a redundant old man telling you stories of which you are already aware.”
“If only they’d built them for the women they’d loved.”
“Indeed, everyone likes a good love story.”
“And a tragic one is even better,” I said.
Angus laughed. “My boy, you got a thing for stories. It’s like it’s instinctual, and believe you me, I’ve seen my fair share of talents and instincts.”
I considered the books in those giant bookcases. “It certainly looks that way,” I told him. Some of the books looked expensive and rare, with mottled leather spines embossed with gold leaf letters, but many more had dust jackets, indistinguishable from some you might find on the shelves at your local Barnes & Noble (or even better, the ones just off to your right, there, easy distance from your reaching hand).
“I have indeed. I’ve been doing this for a long time indeed, and hope for many continued years in a similar capacity. But for now, a more important issue: what can I offer you to drink? And by drink, let us be clear that I don’t mean cola, as I’m quite reasonably certain you didn’t drive to my offices. Before you say anything in decision, can I perhaps offer an ale? I have recently procured from a rather noted Belgian brewery a beer so fine calling it one is nearly an insult. It’s rather dark and complex—.”
“I try not to ever decline a drink,” I said. Life’s way too short to pass up a drink; you never know what one, or its company, may bring to you.
Angus pressed a button on the phone on his desk. “Brigid, would you please bring two large glasses of the Rochefort 10 shipment we recently received?”
“Certainly, Mister Silver,” her voice crackled over the phone, and Angus clicked the button again as he settled into the seat opposite me. “I must admit to you I’m extraordinarily pleased you made use of the card I gave you.”
“I just stopped by my temp agency. Kinda hoping they might find me some work. Got to pay rent in a few weeks.”
Angus smiled. “Something tells me you won’t have any trouble with that.”
“Not if I get a job within the next week, probably not.”
“But they didn’t have any right now?”
“They said they’d probably have something in the next couple days,” I said, just as I heard the massive latch on the doors give way and felt the doors themselves open. Brigid wheeled forward a room-service metal cart, on it two large goblets and two bottles whose exteriors had already accumulated a thin, frosty film.
“Ah, thank you, Brigid,” Angus said as he moved around the desk to take the cart, and Brigid nodded, ducked away, closing the doors behind her. Angus took a silver opener and popped both bottles, then poured them: merlot dark, with a creamy head just a hint of tanned where it met the liquid below it. I got a whiff even from where I sat, and it smelled like chocolate (which only made me realize how strong it was about to be).
Angus handed me one, then started around his desk.
I brought my glass to my lips, but Angus blurted: “Oh, my boy, one of the few but greatest sins of indulgence is partaking of a libation before it has been properly christened with a toast. Besides all manner of bad luck, not to mention bad etiquette, there’s simply no telling the consequences of an action so base and crude.”
“Sorry,” I said. Feeling my face get warm.
“Quite fine, quite fine, I’m sure even the aroma itself was tempting,” he said, and he was right: that hint of chocolate, with side scents of caramel and perhaps even a fruit, or maybe licorice? I’m not sure, to be honest, but I know the fragrance was strong enough I felt like I could already taste the beer. “While it may be a mere formality, business requires even such mere formalities for its conduct. And so in the spirit of business and new acquaintance, I propose a toast to your future, dear boy, to your future.”
He extended his glass, which I clinked with my own; the nape of my neck prickled, fine hairs shivery.
“To my future,” I said.
The beer was better than I had ever known beer to taste, full and enormous. Its flavors—of licorice and chocolate and perhaps that fruit I had smelled earlier—were not dense; it seemed there was too much room in it for that, and every flavor in it had plenty of elbow room, plenty of space to make the most of, and each one did. Some bitterness on the floor, but then all that sweetness waltzing to smooth finish that made me want to take another sip. Which I did. And again.
Which made Angus laugh. “I do believe our young lad likes it.”
“It’s very good. Stronger than I’m used to—.”
“Oh, indeed. So much so it’s very nearly a barley wine.”
“Belgian you said?”
“Brewed by Trappist monks.”
“Those monks sure do know their beers. You know, I had an Austrian one, only ever brewed on Christmas—.”
“Samichlaus. Another one nearly a wine.”
“Strongest beer in the world,” I said, taking another sip. As I did so, the view behind Angus changed again: a time-bleached London skyline like Dickens must have known, smudged grey with smokecloud and overall tinged the color of old pennies. “Wow. Looks like hard times.”
Angus chuckled when he glanced over his shoulder. “Best and worst of them, I would wager.”
“Except that was a tale of two cities, and we’re only looking at one.”
“You know your Dickens.”
I shrugged as I took another long pull of my beer. I could have easily gotten used to it. It was really good. “Only of him. I tried reading a couple of his books, but I never got all that far. Always struck me you could tell right away he was getting paid by the word.”
“Surely you don’t fault him for being loquacious.”
“I always fault writers for being loquacious.”
“Brevity is the soul of wit.”
“Exactly. See? And Shakespeare, too, arguably the greatest writer ever, though never for the reason anyone ever says. Everyone’s all Hamlet-subtext this and problem plays that and Marlowe-how’s-your-mother, and I always think it spectacularly misses the point,” I took another sip. I was getting lubed up. But beer and books? Try shutting me up: “Like, even the language, right? The so-called poetry of the plays? Of course he wrote to rhythm and unique turns of phrase. He was writing for actors, who had to memorize the damned things in a few days and perform them in a week. And then people read the plays and analyze them, as if anyone ever meant for them to be read by anyone besides the actors performing them. You want to appreciate Shakespeare, you need to go see it, and you need to see it acted well.”
“You’re a fan?”
“Love watching them. Well acted, anyway. And Shakespeare in Love is my favorite movie, which isn’t technically Shakespeare but has him in it.”
“Tragic love story,” Angus pointed out.
“See? Told you.”
“Indeed you did. You know your stories well, being such a fine writer of them.”
“Maybe on my better days.”
“On your better days, you’re one of the greats.”
“I hope so,” I said, taking another drink. You may at this point assume I continued to drink, just as I continued to lose my inhibitions. “But then again it’s not really up to me, is it? I just do the best I can, and whether that’s good or bad or even great is up to somebody else to decide.”
“You don’t really believe that. You would leave the works of art into which you so wholeheartedly pour yourself, into which you so heavily invest yourself, to the critics? The same people who debate not even just what Shakespeare actually meant with his words but whether he even wrote the plays we attribute to him? You’d leave your work to them?” he asked me. His eyes were mischievous, and I got the distinct impression he was goading me, like he wasn’t so interested in the answer to his question but rather in getting my answer to it.
But that was okay. I was enjoying my beer and didn’t mind some goading. “Of course not. I’d leave my work to readers.”
He laughed again. “My, but you are quick.”
“I would beg to differ.”
“Then you can’t choose.”
“I suppose not. But tell me: have you been published?”
I shook my head. “Not yet. I’m—working on it. I think I mentioned my novel the other night, and I just sent it out to an agent. I’m hoping she’ll represent it.”
“To editors. Who might buy it. And then we can all make it into a real book, and then people can read it.”
“People don’t already?”
“Some friends, maybe.”
“You say that like they’re not enough.”
“I’ve got a handful of friends I ask for advice when I finish something, but that’s it. But just a handful of people—that’s not why I do it. I get these ideas, and I want to share them with everyone. Like, everyone everyone. Like, speaking of Dickens before, I want people to line up, just waiting for the trucks delivering my books into stores.”
“Something tells me you won’t have to worry much about that.”
“Something tells me I shouldn’t. So I try not to.”
“Is that what you want?”
I hesitated, but I smiled as I did so. Such a simple question, but the kind that requires an entire book—maybe sort of like this one, to be not-so-subtle about it—to answer. “Some days I think I just want to write full time, but I have a feeling I might drive myself well and batshit if I ever had that much time to myself. Some days I think I just want a book deal, but then I’d probably just pay off my student loans and write some more. Some days I think I just want everyone I see to be carrying my book, but I’d probably wonder what they thought of it, and knowing me, I’d probably ask them all. I guess—I want to write stories I love, and I want them to find people to love them. And you know, if I get anything else, I think it sort has to follow that, or spring from it. And I worry that might sound a little trite, but then again, this is some really good beer.”
“And if I told you I thought you were well on your way to getting pretty much precisely what you described?”
“I’d say it’s tough be certain of anything, because life is what happens when we’re making other plans, and besides that, you’ve never read any of my stories.”
“Poor Mister Lennon. Still a young man, too.”
“Tragic,” I agreed.
“As you said, that’s the best kind of story there is.”
“That wasn’t a story. That was a life. Cut tragically short, considering what he left behind.”
“Yes, his poor wife and their children.”
His response made me hesitate, because: “I hate to say I was thinking of his songs.”
“You shouldn’t hate to say anything, because of course you did. I note you quite conspicuously left out any mention of legacy when you described what you wanted.”
I shrugged. “I’m not sure that’s something one should really want, or can. What am I supposed to say, that I want my work to go down in history as great? That I want my stories to be held in the same esteem as Shakespeare’s plays?”
He had me there. Hell, if I’ve been telling you that the whole point of recording this story is honesty, it’s time to go full-on: “Higher.”
Angus laughed. “You know you can have that.”
“That’s why I keep writing.”
He nodded. “But my question is whether that’s really all you want.”
“Everything we just mentioned? If it’s not a completely comprehensive list, I think it’s a reasonably fair start to one.”
“But it’s all stories this and reading that and writing down the other. Not to put too fine a point on it, but don’t you fear all work and no play might make you rather dull?”
I thought back to all those Foolish evenings, dancing with Veronica, and to the myriad evenings I’d spent there in that grand City, with my friends, carousing and generally upholding the reputation many before me had so righteously earned. I laughed. “I know how to have a good time.”
“I wasn’t implying you did not. I was merely wondering if such pleasure had any bearing on what you wanted. Because all you mentioned related to your writing.”
“That’s all we were talking about.”
“That’s not all I was talking about. I asked if something was what you wanted, and you responded by enumerating several other desires, none of which were anything not related to your writing and your work.”
“I wasn’t thinking about anything else.”
“What do you want me to say? Maybe I stuck to writing because besides that, I haven’t got the first clue. Long-term? I mean, if I say I just want a good life, what would that even mean? Victorian house with a white picket fence and two and a half kids?”
“I’d presume you’d share those things with a wife.”
“I’m not even dating anyone.”
“But you’d like to be, wouldn’t you? Say, for example, that beautiful young girl to whom you were speaking on the night we met?”
“Veronica? I don’t think—does that—look, not to be rude, but I was under the impression this was about business. And work. Which might be why I focused so much on writing and my books when I answered. So if you don’t mind, can we concentrate on that instead of my personal life? I don’t even know what your business is yet.”
“Of course you do. I’m in futures. I trade them.”
“So, like the stock market?”
“Of course not. I mean futures, my boy. Not random slips of paper, nor shares in companies that may or may not fail depending on the vagaries of supply and demand. Nor gold nor oil nor anything of the sort. If I tell you that the future is my business, I mean the future. Tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow, at that. You’d be amazed what you can accomplish with the right guy in your corner, and I’m the right guy. You’re not here to invest in the stock market, my boy. The only future you’re here to discuss is yours.”
“My own?” I said. I’d say I couldn’t keep the skepticism out of my voice, but it wasn’t as though I tried very hard. Because, honestly, what do you say to something like that? Even if I took him seriously, where would that get me? In the course of ultimately finding Force One, I’d been on more job interviews than I could count, because they all eventually blur together. Someone in a suit, behind a desk, reading over a single sheet of paper that’s supposed to summarize your best attributes as a worker, nevermind that the best measure of any worker, the only measure, in fact, that counts, is the work itself.
“You’re skeptical,” Angus said, but, then, it wasn’t as though I’d tried to hide it.
“Can you blame me? I’m not even sure what you’re talking about yet,” I told him, thinking of a few of those other interviews I’d been to: the debt consolidation firm where some guy whose position and function were never clear spoke like a working-class Hitler-by-way-of-Anthony Robbins about how he had been sick and tired of being sick and tired. The younger-than-me CEO who had asked me, after I’d given him several professional articles, if I had any “relevant” writing samples, and who was proud his company had created a Facebook application to pass a virtual beer to your friends.
“Of course not,” he rose and went to the bookcase to my right. “Truth be told, I’m happier showing you. I’ve always gotten spectacular results, and it’s just going to make my offer to you that much more intriguing.”
“I still don’t know—.”
“Patience, my boy, patience,” he said, as his fingers danced over bookspines. He chose two, one a small pamphlet and one a sort of journal, before he returned to his desk, where he sat, then passed the one that looked like a journal across to me.
It looked like an old newspaper. It might have been an old newspaper, in fact. At the top—
New York Mirror—
with a subtitle
(A Journal of Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts)
I liked if only for its order of priorities.
It was dated January 29, 1845.
I looked at Angus. “It’s old.”
“More than a hundred and fifty years.”
“And you just keep it in your bookcase?”
“Best place for books. Have a glance through it.”
I shrugged as I started to leaf through it. It was slim, so there wasn’t much leafing to be done, but I stopped even before I had seen the whole thing, because I noticed text blocked out in rhythmic lines, the first of which caught my eye—
Once upon a midnight dreary—
I didn’t mean to whisper, “While I pondered, weak and weary,” though the quaint and curious volume of lore I held was quite the opposite of forgotten.
I considered the cover again. “Are you—Seriously? This has to be the earliest publication I’ve ever seen.”
“It was the first.”
I looked up at him. “Are you kidding me? It must have cost a small fortune.”
“What’s it say? Three dollars a year?”
“Surely you paid more than that.”
“I paid nothing for it. It was a gift from one of my clients,” he told me. “As was this.”
With that, he passed across the other book he had chosen, which was, again, more a pamphlet, really: half-folded sheets of paper only barely bound by small pieces of string punched through the fold. The first page was blank, while the second read: The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, by Wilm Shekspere. The third was a list of dramatis personae, and then the fourth—
Bernardo: Who’s there?
Francisco: Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.—
all on pages the ecru of country eggs on a summer morning, and all written in a spidery scrawl clearly written by hand and almost certainly penned using a quill.
“What—what is this?”
“One of the finest plays in the history of literature.”
“I’ve never seen a copy like this.”
“Few have. Do you let people see your rough drafts?”
“Well, no, but I—wait. Are you—a rough draft? Of Hamlet?”
“In so far as young Will ever wrote rough drafts, of course. Considering the schedule he so often worked under, rough drafts were rare. As you noted, he composed mainly on the fly—.”
“Because he and his actors only had a few weeks to rehearse.”
“So this is—what, exactly? It looks hand written.”
“By the bard himself.”
I nearly fucking dropped it. “Excuse me?”
“Shakespeare. Will. The bard of Stratford-on-Avon. He wrote that himself. That’s the copy the actors used to copy their lines from.”
I set it on the desk. Carefully, even though I wasn’t entirely certain I believed him. “Another gift from a client, I take it. You must have rich clients.”
“Not when I start working with them, usually.”
“So, what, you make people rich, and they buy you expensive books bec—?”
“Buy me? Of course not. Neither of those books was bought for me.”
“But you just said—.”
“I said they were gifts. Which they were. One from a young poet in Philadelphia, the other from a young playwright in England.”
“You said they were clients.”
Angus said nothing, just held my eyes, and nodded his head once.
I stared at the books on the desk. I thought I understood pretty clearly what he was telling me, and I was only starting to get around to whether I believed it.
“Your clients,” I said. I didn’t realize how soft my voice would be, nor that there might be awe in it, until I heard it. I set my beer down.
Angus smiled but again said nothing.
And yes, there was a side of me that considered simply getting up and walking away without another word spoken, but the moment I acknowledged that part of me, I also acknowledged it as a rather unexciting part of me. Maybe it’s silly or idealistic, but a bigger part of me had grown up reading stories of boy wizards and tales of high intrigue, that had graduated on to reading about American gods and Anansi’s boys. That bigger part might have been the same part of Jack that had traded the cow for those beans, the same part of Alice that had taken off after the White Rabbit.
I had long ago given up on flying, but that part of me that would have traded his cow for beans or followed after Alice and her rabbit wondered if the simple act of belief was even more powerful a magic than flight. I wasn’t sure, but finding out . . . I didn’t necessarily have to believe him to just sit there and listen a while longer, and why not?
Besides, I hadn’t yet finished my beer.
Angus smiled when I picked it up. “I realize it will be difficult at first to believe, but really it is no different from the idea of Gods and gardens and men walking up mountains to return with constitutions. What I’m telling you, in fact, is a lot less myth and a lot more truth.”
His words reminded of Pilate confronting Jesus behind the closed doors of the Roman consulate, the voice of the crowd so loud it surpassed the stones: “What is truth?”
Angus laughed. “The truth is simple. The truth is that I helped each of those men get what they wanted, and that I can do the same for you. The truth is that Shakespeare wanted his plays about love and madness and death to transcend time and age, and he gave up a happy marriage to his dear Anne to have it. The truth is that Poe wanted to write poetry to shed further light upon the darkest of truths, and so he gave up his own mental health and the health of his beloved Virginia to do so,” Angus told me.
Me? I sipped my beer as he spoke, and it gave me a warm feeling to counteract one of darkness and of depth: the feeling that comes when deciding whether to trust the moment. You know the one I mean—that sense that just deciding to be open to possibility could change your entire life. That was what I felt right then.
Angus snapped his fingers, and suddenly: what starts the fourth movement, the famous Ode to Joy, of Beethoven’s final symphony? I’m reasonably sure it’s the strings section, but those opening notes seem too deep and full to come from violin; I’m thinking a cello, something big and proud enough you have to spread your legs to play it, and my God can those notes catch you there, in the groin, less in lust than in purely physical love. I mean, if falling in love at first sight came with a soundtrack, it would have to be that, wouldn’t it, with that great highness like euphoria, the strings trilling and wriggling up and down scales like water over rocks?
I don’t know what Angus did for those acoustics, but it sounded like I was sitting beside the cellist. I could hear each individual string.
Is there anything in the world like Beethoven to open you? I mentioned that feeling of possibility, of decision, but Jesus, the Ninth Symphony is like a key to what makes us human, not just unlocking those parts of us we have secreted away but convincing us to open ourselves to the possibility of life. It’s like you listen and you feel like someone else gets it, all the pain and all the joy, all the sorrow and all the kindness, all the sadness and all the happiness inherent in every moment you’ve ever been alive. Listening to it is as much like falling in love with music as it is like trusting the world, because for those fifteen or twenty minutes of that final movement, what possible harm could befall you?
Angus made as if to speak, but I stopped him. Maybe it was the buzz I had going from the beer. Or maybe just those fantastic acoustics. Whatever it was, the moment I heard those opening notes I wanted to listen to the rest of them. I knew my eyes might film with tears as the music played, but I discovered I couldn’t care. And so he sat back, and for the next ten or so minutes, we listened to Beethoven’s final symphony and greatest masterpiece.
Silence for a moment when it had finished. When Angus spoke, his voice was quiet in reverence. “He came to me when they still called him Luigi. He wanted to write songs that would touch the heart of anyone who heard them. I asked if he’d mind never hearing them himself.”
I swallowed but didn’t say anything. I don’t think I trusted myself to.
“Without me, Shakespeare would have had a happy marriage and we’d never know what people dream on a midsummer’s night. Without me, Poe would have been healthy until the end, but he never would have hallucinated the raven that would become the subject of the world’s most famous poem. Without me, Beethoven would have passed away listening to his daughter play the piano, and we would never have learned what a sonata full of moonlight sounds like.”
“So, what, without you, I’m going to pass away into obscurity? No one will ever read my books, or at least not on the scale I hope for?” I asked, and even as I did so, I felt the defiance rise in my gut. I know it’s how I am: if Angus wanted to tell me I wouldn’t be able to do it without him, I was going to turn my hat backwards and sit my ass down and try anyway. “I don’t believe that.”
“Believe as you will, but you mark my words, my talented young friend, you have it in you to be great.”
“So then I don’t see what I’m doing here. Not that I didn’t enjoy the beer and the Beethoven.”
“Ah, but as we have established, what you want has only partly to do with writing and your work, does it not?”
Maybe I didn’t want to believe I knew what he was saying, or that he was saying it, but I found I suddenly couldn’t pretend. I felt it, dense in the pit of my stomach, as sudden knowledge that something is about to go wrong. Part fear, part denial, part something else entirely and entirely unidentifiable, that same terrible feeling you get when you witness tragedy like you never imagined occur.
Even just the thought hurt, but I gave it voice: “Veronica.”
Angus smiled, but he did me the mercy of allowing some sadness into it. “Precisely her. Because the reason I talked to you, the reason I gave you my card, is not just that it’s plainly and obviously clear how very much in love with her you truly are but also that you will never know her love in return.”
There was only a sipful of beer left in my glass, and I swallowed it gratefully, mouth gone dry. “Without you,” I said, placing the glass on the desk between us.
Angus said nothing, just a small gesture that somehow managed to include his entire body for participation: yes.
It felt like getting punched in the stomach. It felt like one of those vertigo-inducing shots for which Martin Scorsese is so well known: as if I had to zoom in and hold close to a world from which I had suddenly discovered myself totally detached. When I asked, “Are you—are you the devil?” my voice sounded a long way off.
Angus laughed, perhaps with a bit too much glee. “My boy, I cannot tell you the last time I was mistaken for Old Scratch. But alas, I’m just an old man who knows a thing or two about futures and chance, and who has in his time discovered a way to help certain talented individuals choose what they want in life when they otherwise might not receive such an opportunity. Surely there can be no harm in that.”
“So what happens now?”
“Oh, but I can’t tell you that, my boy. Now you must make a choice. Decide between one or the other.”
“But is it—can I be blind instead, or—,” but I stopped, because Angus was already shaking his head. I breathed out, and my voice, when it came again, was more reedy and panicked than I liked. “I can’t have both.”
“You ever hear that old expression about having your cake and eating it too?”
“I’m sorry to say it’s true.”
“But what if—?”
“You stopped dealing in ‘what if’s the moment you walked through my door, my boy. We’re dealing with the future here, and now you must choose your own. Would you write and have your words received as you’ve always wanted? Or would you have the love of a certain young lady with whom you’ve been in love very nearly all your life, and certainly as far back as matters? Do you want your books translated into more languages than you could ever learn? Or do you want to be with Veronica, and know her love?”
“And that’s it?”
“Does anything else matter? It’s simple really,” Angus told me, glancing, as he did so, at his watch. “Now, mind you, I don’t expect you to decide here and now and upon the spot in which you currently sit, but I must note that I am a busy man; there are many people with futures—and even more without them—and I’m the man they talk to. So the deal is simple: all you have to decide is whether Veronica’s love means more to you than telling stories, and you must do so within the next forty-eight hours. After that, this offer expires, and neither of us will be any good to the other.”
I’d like to say I considered what he was telling me, but I’m honestly not certain I could; there were too many thoughts misfiring across my alcohol-lubricated brain, so many flashing out of existence before I could fully discern them. One came fully, though: “Would I be trading just the fame?” Because maybe I’d just continue doing exactly what I’m doing right now, just writing all this down in a little room, and maybe I’d still be writing this for someone like you but you just wouldn’t exist, or I would never know you did. I’ll be honest and note that, even were that the case, I still wasn’t sure I could live with it, but still I had to ask.
Angus, however, merely shook his head.
“Either way, I’ll always wonder, won’t I?”
Angus smiled, but it seemed sad. “That’s just human nature, wouldn’t you say? You’ll try not to. You choose the writing, the work, the gift and the fame, I’d wager you’d convince yourself it was the right thing to do. You’ll think of her, but every time you do you’ll remind yourself there will be another girl along, because you know there are plenty out there.”
I didn’t say anything.
“You won’t, on the other hand, tell yourself none of them are her, because that minor bit of knowledge won’t make it any easier. That could destroy you, in fact, and so you’ll ignore it,” Angus told me, paused, then: “I had a young Jewish kid come in here once. Nervous little guy, stammered a lot. I made him much the same offer I’m making you now, a chance to be with the girl he was in love with. And he listened to my offer, but when he came back, he respectfully declined it. Said he’d thought a lot about it, but he kept thinking of his grandfather, who had once told him that women are like trolley cars, and there’s always another one coming along. Told me he’d just wait for the next one to stop at his platform.”
“So he turned you down.”
Angus nodded. “I’m not a salesman trying to convince you to buy something you don’t want. I’m just a guy offering some options.”
“So what happened to him?”
“The Jewish kid? My business associates are confidential, but let’s just say he went on to build a very successful film career on being nervous,” Angus said, paused again, then: “Look, a lot of choices have been made by people sitting in the very chair you’re sitting in now, and I’m not going to tell you they were all good. I’m not going to tell you every client I’ve ever worked with has been happy with the decision he or she made. Statistically, perhaps, I can say that I have a high rate of successful business happily done, but what that would neglect is that none were statistics. Every person has been real, with real dreams and real talents and real lives, and every one has chosen a real future, for whatever that’s worth. Some got exactly what they needed, and some took what they wanted, and some ultimately ended up with neither, but what I’m trying to get at is this: not every choice made in that chair has been made happily, or with excitement, but every choice had to made. Now it’s your turn. You’ve got two roads in front of you, here, both less traveled, and now you have to decide which one is yours. Either way, though, whichever road you choose, you have to make a choice, and you have to move forward, and you have to do it now.”
“Why can’t I just wait to see what happens?”
“Because it doesn’t move you forward, and because when it comes to what happens next, you’re about to find out,” he said, rising. I did, too, almost more out of instinct than anything else. He offered his hand, and I shook it again as he ushered me toward those giant doors. “You have a lot to think about over the next couple of days. Don’t make this decision lightly.”
“I won’t,” I told him as he opened those doors. “I won’t. I won’t,” I said twice more, as though was trying to convince him, but more likely I was trying to convince myself.
“Given how much you liked that beer, I’ll have Brigid send you off with a bottle for the road,” Angus said as our handshake broke, and then I was moving through the lobby, back toward the door in the waterfall. Brigid thrust into my dumb hand another bottle of that fine ale, and then, nearly before I knew it, I was back on the Village street, the sounds and scents and taste of the City dancing all around me, assuming me quickly into it, spinning me right round like a record baby, my head full of dancing and my heart scared of decisions as I found my way back to the subway, back to the PATH, back home . . .
Weren’t expecting that, were you?
I mean, with Angus and all? Sure he was built up in the story, but did you see that one coming? Because I sure didn’t.
Of course, now we have to wonder: what on Earth is our young writer-hero-narrator going to do? How is he going to decide? It’s Veronica Sawyer, and aren’t we all in love with her at this point? Will our young hero-narrator choose to continue writing, or will he choose the love of the girl who didn’t love him in return?
Because she didn’t. But does that mean she doesn’t?
Find out next week in another exciting installment of Meets Girl!
Of course, if you can’t wait that long–and to be honest, I don’t see how you might. You must be really patient–you can pick up a copy on Kindle right now. And you can read Kindle on anything–your Kindle, or your iDevice, or your Android, or your Blackberry.