Around midnight two people got into a cab. It was raining heavily or maybe it wasn't. But the streets were shining black and wet. As the car picked up speed, a woman, trying to see out of the window, to get some idea of where they were. But at night, in a foreign city, in a blur of stone facades, broken by flashes of white light, fractured by rivulets of water, running up and down the windows, nothing was clear. Except that the big bad city isn't as bad as the fashion magazines would like it to be. Maybe it used to be. Or maybe it never was.
It was a velour-lined English taxi, one of those dove-grey wombs. No it wasn't. It couldn't have been. It had to be a four-door Mercedes sedan. Cold hard plastic covers on the seats. Moving fast through wet streets. Assaulted from all directions by glare. Searing cold flashes in the unknown darkness. She retreated into the seat, shrink-wrapped in artificial intelligence, to observe the sensation of leaden fatalism, as it spread itself like a drug, through her body.
On the other side of the car, a man stared morosely into the water on the window. He mumbled something about his girl friend never having treated him that way before. Sometimes the worm turns. Is that fortunate for the worm? Maybe. He wondered aloud why he felt nothing in his heart. Whether to play the tormented Master or the suffering Slave. Burning questions in the hackneyed drama of Love. Martyrs, fervently pursuing a place on the rack. Won't settle for less until they have had their fill of it. Until they've satisfied the appetite for Damage. It is ridiculous.
The laws of probability posit that there is likely to be a molecule from Caesar's last gasp in any breath we take. So I guess it's safe to assume there was the odd photon or two of moon light banging about in the back seat of that cab. But for the most part the light was incandescent, florescent, and neon, an eerie grey light, punctured by land mine flashes illuminating a thin profile, shivering. His eyelids were too heavy for him. The head, unsteady on its neck. The spine, deserted by the muscles, having a hard time holding up the skull. Able to do so only by balancing it at the top of the vertebrae column like a Chinese acrobat balances a large earthenware urn on his forehead. It occurred to her that if the neck lost its balance, his head would fall off. This, she thought, would be interesting. She waited for it.
The taxi stopped. Take a jar of syrup out of the fridge. Turn it upside down. Slowly the syrup moves down the bottle towards the lip, where it builds behind the ring of crystals incrusted there. The lump swells until it reaches the weight required to push it over the edge. In quantities far greater than desired, it dumps fast and heavy onto what it was intended to sweeten turning the whole to a sticky mess. Time was like that. Or maybe it wasn't. But it slowed to a crawl. And yet continued to move on. The taxi was stopped.
Robotics. She lifted the right hand and directed it to move out into the void between them. The hand hesitated, daring to accuse her of manipulative cunning. Then, faithful little servant that it was, (how could she have considered cutting it off), it sent back the following sense data: The hair is extremely fine, making over-all a soft surface - dry, cool, pleasant. The touch was not effective. Far from conveying warmth, it was as remote, as pale, as lifeless, as its object. He leaned across the chasm, his head moving toward her until his lips landed gently on the bone-line of her cheek. Attic marble in The British Museum. A kiss, inarticulate, and a lie in its chastity.
The man opened the door and got out of the car. In an instant he vanished in the rain, the reflections, the light and the night. The taxi drove on. What's the matter? Probably nothing.