gem of a little cafe, the Holder. Cheap, too, for the area; on the other hand, that makes it real expensive for anywhere else in Down, Indonesia. The bagel goes on expenses as I survey the local colour.
For example: just now two grinning Japanese men walk past a woman with highly surgical features. They are carrying between them a case of Asahi that probably cost seventy-five dollars at the airport lounge.
The woman isn't looking at them; she isn't looking at anyone. Her hair to millimetre tolerance, her jagged eyebrows, the studied angle of her gaze, all broadcast her status as an object of attention.
There are people, attention is a one-way street.
There are people for whom this room, this building, is part of that one way street. No shabby place to be watching them all move by.
I keep my camera hidden under my jacket so nobody gets spooked. The guy in the dress shirt is standing behind the cashier and paying no attention to me, but he's Tower security. He knows it's there. Pull it out surreptitiously, and he catches my eye. Shakes his head, slowly. I put it back. He does information regulation: it all comes in here and none of it leaves, another one-way. Very strict. There are no airports in Down.
"This way up," I think, and a grin hangs on my face for about a second at the feeble pun. Then I sober quick in case anyone is doubting my sanity or my credit rating.
So five minutes pass in Tower, the same as in any other place, but more majestic.
Some old reprobate bellies up to the chair opposite me and asks to borrow it. I tell him sure, actually, why not steal it, I'll cover for you. He laughs, which tells me I should watch out.
No one has ever laughed at that joke. It doesn't surprise me very much when he makes to sit down right there, at my table, and tries to start some kind of conversation.
This is totally incongruous. This is a business district. If he feels like talking, maybe he can take out his cellphone and raise whoever he wants. Maybe there are six or seven people in this store doing that, having dialogues with the air, performing basically the same social function as bag ladies. Does he think I will date him? He is eighty years old.
We talk about stock prices.
I politely excuse myself. I get up. He puts a hand on my arm.
Paranoid thought of the day:
he wants to get something on my skin!
I use the reliable "Excuse me, that's mine," shaking him off. "Are you on any drugs I should know about?"
"I could ask the same thing of you," he says seriously.
"Me, being the complete stranger you are now bothering?" I glance over at the security guy, and he examines the ceiling.
He thinks this should make sense somehow? He thinks I should recognize him, or — oh, shit.
"Bill Gates?" It is. It's Bill Gates. He is eighty years old. Why is he here? Stupid question. "Okay, but do you have to tell me about it?" I ask. He nods: "I have very little time. Every second I take a chance." I grimace. "That's not the topic. Why are you talking to me, personally, rather than someone you paid?"
He smiles vaguely, as if he's forgotten his name, and says,
"You're seventeen," (a mediocre guess,) "and you have a blog. Why not."
Yes, dear readers, people can just tell. Or at least Bill Gates can tell. I take out the camera and stick it to my head, while we begin to talk.
( Videopost - Rich Man Goes To Heaven )
I skipped out on him. My last sight was the pale body lying on the porcelain slab. He was sedated enough not to notice my indifference to his fate, or at least not to guilt me. As I came down from the shock-high, I fantasied Imperial Stormtroopers would block my path and recapture me, push my head down, kneel at the urn and kiss the ashes of the shell. But, no doubt things went perfectly, and there he is, superconducting in Heaven... until the money stops coming in, anyway.
So, how long do you think he bought himself? Another eighty years? Ten? A thousand, two? Forever?
You ask me that question? Why, dear readers, don't you know? He has already breathed his last breath, he has made his last human choice: to stop and talk to me. What good is a Laney to a satellite? What good is the memory of Laney?
What good are names of animals?