• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 11
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He was going to bring the books that would unlock my future, so I met him at a place he’d chosen, the lounge on the sixty-third floor of The Address Hotel in my neighbourhood, which Dubai’s government had named 'The Centre of Now.'

Marcus, who'd driven one and a half hours from Abu Dhabi, crammed a valet ticket in his pocket. The ladies here, he said. They're all, you know.

I knew. They were like fireflies: they luminesced for men, but I always missed their flash. Real fireflies, the kind I used to catch in a jar with holes poked in the top, made a special enzyme that emitted cold light. If the light were hot, they'd die.

Marcus had forgotten the books. The books were from a business school curriculum that he had promised would be as good as getting a full Master's. Technically, Marcus hadn’t earned a Master's either; he had done a week-long programme at the extension school yet attended all the local alumni events as if he did have one, which was how I'd met him.

Marcus ordered an espresso martini. I had a negroni. He wanted to talk about his wife, who was still in America. His business, teaching Emirati policemen how to shoot guns. His move here, when, how funny, the shipping container had been stopped by customs authorities because he'd forgotten about a handgun in a cabinet.

I wanted to go home, but he had driven a long way, so we took the elevator 63 floors down to the hotel's club. A bouncer in a blazer with an engraved name tag stood at the door; the policy was that every man had to be accompanied by at least one woman. Inside, a wall was fully covered by LCDs screening 'Hotline Bling.'



Phones and cigarette tips flashed on and off. Marcus chose drinks, martini glasses laced with sugar syrup that glowed pink and yellow with the music's beat.

Later, after I blocked Marcus's number, I was out of the country for New Year's Eve when The Address Hotel lit on fire. Zero deaths were reported. Videos showed the building shimmering orange, the concrete floors outlined in black against the flames. Experts said the problem had been the shiny facade, aluminium stuck on polyethylene foam, a kind of plastic made by dividing oil into its smallest parts. When I got back to my flat, the walls were coated in grey dust. I wiped it off, revealed the brilliant white below.