• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 04
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I often closed my eyes by the open window above the milling millions and imagined myself in the space between, tangled with the shades of things no longer seen. Picture it all as crowded as the marketplace at home, my friend once told me, and much of the fear of being in it passes. There'll be someone there you'll know.

We hadn't spoken much, my friend and I, on our last morning in New York. I skipped the expansive American breakfast and stayed in the room to sit by the window and smoke through my cigarettes. My friend, as usual, ate his fill downstairs and revelled in the ill-temper of the waiting staff stalking crow-like around his cluttered table. It was nearly midday when he returned with a mischievous grin.

"Come into the bathroom a moment. This'll make you smile!"

The toiletries were swept into the bin. Two lipsticks stood side by side against the bathroom mirror.

"But neither one is my colour!"

"Thought you'd miss it. Look again: Chrysler Building; Empire State. I've graciously decided you should choose."

I laughed.

"You know normal people steal towels or dressing gowns from these upmarket hotels."

"A purse left in the lobby. Someone hit the shops without their face today!"

"And look how clever you've been! Except the scale's all wrong - Chrysler's too close in size to Empire State."




"Chrysler's shorter by 25 floors. Over 400 feet. Your lipsticks are practically level."

"So give Empire State a twist to the right and Chrysler a twist to the left. I reckon it's at least 200 feet a twist."

"What's a level or two between friends?"

"I think I liked Chrysler better with more of the purple showing."

I stood back and contemplated the adjustments but in truth I'd already made my choice.

"Empire State."

"Empire State it is. A good choice. "Of course. Good reason. I'm happy with Chrysler though. I like its lines. The way it reflects the life of the city back on itself. You should see it at sunrise. It's a better choice, perhaps."

"Even with less purple showing?"

"Even so. Yours looks more lip than stick now anyway."

Towering above the Chrysler and the Empire State, we fell silent for a while and drifted our separate ways across the crowded void, cramming it with life and noise and love and feeling and substance.

"I'll go out first I think. It's a real hike to Chrysler from here and there's a stack of pancakes I need to work off."

"Gluttony's a sin you know."

"To some, I've heard."

I waited for the front door to close before I packed for the short walk to the Empire State. Placing the letter to my family at the foot of the bed, I saw the envelope my friend had left on the bedside table and the clothes folded and piled to no purpose.

I pictured the marketplace at home. My friend was already there.