I want my empty v.
Sterling and I were high above the city in a glass atrium filled with invisible trees. Digitalized birds sung renditions of the iTunes I bought for the occasion. A waiter who looked like a young Al Pacino served us coffee in gold trimmed, white porcelain cups.
“You can tell it’s real gold because it isn’t perfect,” Sterling said, as she turned the cup in her hands.
She wasn’t wearing a glove. It was the first time I’d seen her naked hand in months. It looked picked over—a bit too clean and pink, especially at the stumps.
I’ve got to tell you it was a heartbreakingly beautiful scene, to watch her quirky, crippled grace play itself out through the handling of that very thin, expensive little vessel.
She downed the coffee in one gulp. The all-sugar bottom of the cup flashed like moon sand as she placed it on the table.
“So,” she said.
“Yeah, well, here we are,” I said, unable to make eye contact. Instead I looked up at the glass ceiling. Above us were only clouds. White passing over white, an endless shadow play that was constantly changing, constantly revealing.
Sterling sat with her legs spread. Her brown Timbs were untied. She wore baggie blue jeans and a plain blue hoodie, but as always her clothes looked as though they had been tailored to the exact specifications of her body.
I watched as she slid her hands into the sweatshirt pockets.
“It’s finally come full circle,” she said.
I rubbed my forehead and took out a cigarette.
“The pain and humiliation of not being who you pretended to be.”
“Oh, that,” I said, as I concentrated on bringing the lighter flame to the end of my cigarette. I was shaking like a stroke victim. Finally, I gave up and grabbed my wrist with my other hand to steady it.
“They’re totally on to you,” she said.
“Whatever,” I said.
“Seriously, now. What’s the plan?”
“Plan? What plan? Fuck a plan..”
“This whole thing has gone far enough, don’t you think? I mean, shouldn’t you start considering what happens next?”
“The future’s what happens next. And I’m looking forward to it.”
“Are you really?”
“Yes. I refuse to live in the past.”
“Like I do.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to.” She sat up and reached over for my pack of cigarettes. I pretended to be engrossed by the single malt menu.
“What do you say to a four hundred dollar shot? Just for old times sake?”
“No thanks,” she said, lighting a smoke and waving out the match.
“Listen, Sterling, everything is happening exactly as I knew it would. Keep in mind that I’m the one who linked to them.”
“So—I wanted a back door, man. I wanted a way out.”
I lifted my head and finally met her stare. Her eyes looked magnified, like cute cartoon girl eyes.
I exhaled slowly. The ringing in my ear grew louder. Feedback from the birds, perhaps. I looked at my watch and saw that our time was almost up.
“I say ‘bring it on’, man. I’ll eat those puppies for breakfast.”