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Wednesday, July 22, 1998
By Paul Ford
Today, the heat lifts off the sidewalk like a man pulling up a bag of gravel. It's too hot to pant. Manhattan is a giant convex lens. Light refracts through the offices and arcs to the street the color of margarine. The buildings are glimmering foil, packages for people. Skin is a package for muscle and blood. Windows are packages for sunlight. It rains, and the water forms islands of fire beneath the margarine taxicabs.
Underground I follow the sun. When I climb the thirty-five steps out onto 16th St. and 6th Avenue, I am the curl of smoke rising from the concentrated light of that same convex lens. It's coming out my stomach white and bilous. People stare.
I walk East, away from the sun, to Fifth Avenue. Work spreads over the 14th floor, but the elevators skip from 12 to 14. Superstition in the great scientific society, the Internet technology company on the ghost floor, working at the spirit level.
I go to work. Alice is not speaking to me. I think complicated angry thoughts about the silence. It was no mistake, her friendship. I abide.
As I write this someone has dropped something heavy in the next cubicle. There are shouts, more flames. The crunch of bones breaking. A window explodes inward from pressure, people are sucked into the air above 16th St. They hang there. I wave, amazed. They wave back.
Instead of chewing a muffin I drink a low-fat tangerine spritzer. My body looks the same for the effort. I invest in a potentially thin body because I hope to perform cunnilingus again before the millennium. I worry I will need to wait another 1000 years if I don't hurry up and get in shape. I fear that my chance will roll over.
I have a direct line and voice mail. Everyone here wants to be a movie producer or screenwriter or manager or firefighter or ballerina. The sum of us is what we do to others. We need to be adored. Maybe we should all write online diaries.
I plan to be famous. I will be as ubiquitous as artificial maple syrup and airplane seatbelts.
3:53 PM. I abide.