I stand up, wander over to the floor-to-ceiling window, and gaze over the city. For a moment I am gripped with a sense of power. Here, on the 20th floor, I am higher than any of the other buildings around me. I can see their roofs. Some of them are totally utilitarian; nothing more than some dirty, wind-swept air conditioners. Some of them have little private grottos; obviously the pride and joy of their owners, little oases in the concrete desert.
And I’m above all of them, looking down upon them like a king surveying his realm.
But it’s not my realm. It’s a $200/night slice-of-life that can be purchased by anyone, anytime, anywhere from an anonymous website. The woosh of a lift shaft behind me and the muffled voices from the next room remind me of that. This room has probably had a more vibrant life than I can ever imagine. Who else has gazed out these windows? A group of boys on a Buck’s Night? An adulterous husband paying half a week’s wage to a call-girl? Honeymooners conceiving their child? And how many other lonely businessmen, filling in their quotas on the in-room internet…?
I turn away from my domain and flop onto the bed. On the glass-topped desk my laptop whirs a familiar hum. These fans, this hum, has followed me everywhere around the world. Only a few short minutes ago I was catching up on office work, neatly filing, notating, emailing, checking… In a life filled with a thousand different bedrooms, these fans are the only thing that connect me to my home.
Home. Home where my family is, waiting. Or are they?
Doubt starts to creep into my mind. How long has it been now? How long until I get back? Just what damned day is it today, anyway?
Do they even exist?
In this world of single-serve shampoos, single-serve milk, half-used notepads, broken pens… do I really have a family?
I call them, just to be sure. I sugar-coat the conversation, make it look like I’m just checking in after work, but my words are hollow. Thank fuck telephones still can’t convey emotion, or I’d be screwed. The disembodied voice sounds equally as hollow. We exchange funny stories, and for a time, my mind is calm. And then we hang up, and my mind is plunged back into chaos.
I’m at my desk, staring blankly at an empty inbox. Most people are probably still stuck in traffic, listening to the radio, desperately listening out for that vital bit of traffic information that will get them home quicker. On the other hand, I’m stuck looking at two dirty cups. One for coffee, one for tea. I’m no longer picky. There was a time where I would drink nothing but loose-leaf tea and perfectly prepared espresso. Now I’m content with a tea bag and a Blendy Stick.
Am I still me? At what point do you cross the boundary of your own ego and start becoming a non-entity?
Shit, that’s too deep. More coffee. Dig through the suitcase, find another Blendy Stick. That’ll fix you up.
Suddenly, that burning reappears. It’s been gone for so long; that desire to do. No, scratch that. It’s been here, but now the focus has changed. In the limbo of the 20th floor, in this room with no soul, no direction, the compass has been allowed to swing once more.
I put the instant coffee back into the suitcase, kick away the half-distributed pile of marketing material, and start to write…