The Eyes of Infinity
Chapter 1 Part 1: James - 4 years
There are moments in life when you start to feel as if something is changing. Brief spans of time that seem to stretch out forever in to the murky distance of the unknown, the future. You don't always know when they'll come and you never know exactly why they're happening but a strange feeling overtakes you and when events unfold months, sometimes years, later you look back and realize: this is where it all began.
It was a cold winter night, Sunday, cramped in the back of my friend's '94 Firebird, speeding down a deserted country road. An old rock song blared as the engine hummed and the headlights illuminated the darkness ahead, constant, unwavering. On the distant horizon the glow of fluorescent orange lights poisoned the night sky. A cellphone tower penetrated the thinning black trees hugging the edges of farms and industrial buildings, constantly broadcasting the spectrum of human emotions for all willing to listen. Superconnected, all of us, by the blinking red dot fixed upon the iron tower above. The ones I loved were right here next to me in this very car. We barely spoke a word. It was as if all was understood.
As we traversed the crumbling asphalt and the faded yellow lines all surrounding us lay still, an eerie quiet that we seemed to glide through down the winding broken road. It was during that moment that a thought, a feeling, passed through my mind. Oh, to see the stars again.
Rarely do we ever pay any attention to these fleeting insights, desires. This one seemed to resonate with me for weeks as I repeatedly gazed at the blank orange stained skies. To feel the grass upon your back, to breathe deep the unsullied air as you lay upon the cool earthen ground staring in to the endlessness of time, the ancient flecks of light, the eyes of infinity itself. To escape the madness, the hate, the endless desire, the walls of concrete and cold linoleum floors. To be alive rather than to simply live, to be free of the grind of the everyday, the insignificant toiling to no tangible avail, wandering the melancholy streets of gray stone, clean glass and concrete. Oh, to see the stars again...
It took hold of me, it became me. The feelings, the thoughts built up, searching for outlet, validation, something new, something unknown. Though I desired and burned to find it, searching constantly for the new evil I knew I must destroy, once it came I wished it had never been found. I could have escaped it, for a little I thought I had, but it kept calling me back, I knew it must be fought. Oh, to see the stars....
Chapter 1 Part 2: Anton 0 years
I remember when we first announced it. I was in a small office in New York City staring out at the crowded dirty streets that were just beginning to be dusted with fresh falling snow. The sun was just starting to set, its dying light gleamed like burning embers off of the steely skyscraper windows. Warm light and cold air mingled giving birth to the crisp evening air. It was not a day I would soon forget.
"Anton..." a distant voice called to me, muffled by the wall of my entangled thoughts.
"Huh? Oh, what is it Mary?" I mumbled to my long time business partner and friend, still partially lost in the chaotic reverie of ideas, each more exciting and nebulous than the next.
"What is it? You're kidding, right? You just landed us the biggest deal, the biggest amount of money either of us have ever seen and all you can do is sit there and stare out the window? Come on, let's celebrate!" she waved her hand gesturing for me to come with her, as if we could drink the night away and be lost together in "the moment", a land of pure childish ecstasy.
"I want to be alone," I muttered turning away from her smiling gaze which quickly faded in the pale office light.
"Alone? Come on, I made reservations, a French place uptown. I thought... you know we could have dinner together and...well...talk," she looked down gazing intently at her heels and then back up at me.
"...Listen, I already..."
"Please. Please come. You've been like this for weeks now, I just thought tonight we could talk about all of this, so much has been going on lately and I...I worry...I really..."
"You really what? Listen. I toiled in the lab for years working on this, researching, testing, trying to make it perfect. My blood, my sweat, everything has gone in to this project. I sold them the pitch, I did the work, hell, I started this company. Without me none of this would be happening right now. You would be nothing. All I want is some peace and quiet. I want to be ALONE. You have no idea..."
"No idea about what? I'm sure it's nothing compared to what you don't understand. I worked hard for this too, I managed the accounts, the money, I made the contacts, I put up with all kinds of your bullshit and now when things are going great, things are finally looking up what do you do? You...Christ it doesn't even matter...just sit there and rot for all I care all I ever did was...all I ever wanted was..."
"Never mind," she choked trying to hold back tears "goodbye Anton...I quit," she walked elegantly over to the red office door, closing it gently behind her, not glancing back even once. The sun sank in to nothingness as the snow outside continued to fall.
Chapter 1 Part 3: James 0 years
The city was wonderful. The city was terrifying. We had moved here after college, the four in habitants of the car, of that dusty suburban town. The Fellowship of the Firebird....or something like that...I was walking through the slushy crowded streets, ablaze with the lights of cars, surrounded by towering mirrors, thick-glassed buildings, the crystal city, the center of the world, New York. It was so easy to get caught up in it all. To be engulfed in the splendor, the excess, taken in by the bright city lights and romantic charms of a foreign and seemingly unattainable world. It was easy to look away from the crumbling massive concrete and brick, the beggar slumped in quiet repose on the dirty damp street that seemed like an entirely different world.
The wind gusted heavily carrying a sweet familiar scent and a light snow. Nuts I thought I like the smell of nuts. Before I could pick up on that lovely double entendre I ran in to her. Literally. "Oh, jeez, sorry...," I stammered to her, still partially lost in the hazy confusion of the crowded city streets "are you okay?" I helped her up from the gray slushy sidewalk and out away from the swiftly moving crowds. Her mascara was running like a muddy stream from her bright blue-green eyes. She brushed back her dark brown hair casually with one hand.
"I've been better," she smiled sheepishly, a stark contrast from her blurry tear stained face. "In fact, I've been a lot better." she shivered, her thin face turning serious, almost mournful as she stared onward looking past me in to nothingness.
"What happened," I asked, receiving the same mournful gaze as a reply. "...Uh...sorry it's not really my business."
"No, it's okay, I...I'd rather not talk about it. Thanks though..." she smiled slightly, briefly looking me over, searching for something in me, something that she didn't seem to fully understand.
"You sure you're okay?"
"Yeah, I'll live, thanks."
"Okay, uh...bye then..." I started to walk again. That was kind of...weird, I hope...
"Hey, wait up," I heard her voice call as she ran to catch back up to me. "Uh...hey, do you ...want to go to dinner?" she said with an inflection as if she wasn't sure of the idea herself. I gazed back at her in confused disbelief. She laughed quietly looking around and then down at her shoes. Who wears high heels in the snow anyway? "Look, uh, I know this seems...weird," yeah, just a little bit "It's not every day a random person plows in to you and then asks you to dinner...," she said quickly, still looking away. "I've had a terrible day and...I promise I'm not out for your organs or anything, I just... I have this reservation and..."
"It's fine, I'll go with you" I said, probably to both of our surprises.
"Thank you" She smiled up at me, confident, or at least it seemed that way. She shivered heavily from the cold, maybe from something else.
"Here," I draped my jacket over her shoulders as the wind began to howl once again. She looked me in the eyes, searching for something and then quickly slipped her arms in to the sleeves.
"You're new here."
"Yeah, my friends and I just moved here a few months back. How could you tell?"
"There are a lot of nice New Yorkers, but I never met anyone quite like you."
"Maybe you haven't met the right people yet. It's a big city."
"Maybe...that and you forgot to take your wallet out of your jacket pocket." I laughed sheepishly as she handed me my brown leather tri-fold. "Keep it in your front pocket next time, your front pants pocket," she said, matter-of-factly, hiding her grin as she wiped the tears from her face.
"Thanks," I smiled, turning red.
"Let's go, we're heading uptown, you do know where the nearest subway is, don't you?"
"Sounds good to me"
"Sounds good? You're new too, aren't you?" she smiled briefly then stared off in to nothingness surveying the buildings around us with a gentle frown.
"We're all new here, we're all lost. Once we think we have found our way we reach a dead end and even around those closest to us we feel alone. Even, no especially, in crowded city streets and dinner tables we're alone. We're on our own from the day we're born." she sighed heavily and then gained composure. "Let's go," she started to run "come on, if we go fast enough we can leave it all behind. That and the train leaves in two minutes." I laughed, partially out of amusement and surprise, mostly because I had no idea what else to do. I tried to keep up as she careened towards the subway entrance, a beautiful manic train-wreck of her own accord. I had a feeling, no matter how fast I ran I would never catch up.
* * *
We emerged from the cavernous depths in to the bright elegance of uptown. It was as beautiful as it was blinding. The expensive restaurants and shops that lined the streets, the lavish apartment buildings, the...
"You've never been here before, have you?"
"Once or twice, I haven't really had a reason to, all of these places are way out of my price range"
"Yeah, me too" I looked at her quizzically. " Like I said, I had reservations and I needed to find someone because...well...I'd rather not talk about it."
"Yeah...well, here it is."
"Inside the building silly, top floor," she laughed.
"Of course...I knew that."
"Riiiiight." We stepped in through the large plate glass doors, a doorman holding one open by its thick brass handle. Inside the lobby was a giant crystal chandelier accented by a smooth red carpet floor and white marble walls, a temple of the Gods.
"Wow..." she must have really liked whoever she was going to take here before...and we weren't even at the restaurant yet. "You sure I'm dressed well enough for this," I asked, stepping in to the elevator right as the golden doors closed shut. I motioned to my jeans, my black sneakers, the wind breaker I had on before I had given her my jacket, definitely not high-class. Simultaneously I tried to mat down my disheveled black hair. I looked the same way I did when I woke up this morning, unshaven, slightly dirty, definitely not ready for a trip to a four star restaurant.
"Floor?" the elevator-man asked (whatever an elevator-man was supposed to be called, I have no idea)
"42," she said passively, glancing back over in my direction "you should be fine here, they might laugh at you a little but they won't refuse to take your money, they might give you a jacket to wear...speaking of which," she handed me back my coat "won't be needing this anymore...for now...we'll just tip them extra, besides, you don't look that bad."
"Well thanks, that's comforting"
"Yup," she smiled sarcastically "after you," she motioned to the now open elevator doors leading in to the vast entry of the restaurant. The ceiling was high, as high as you could get in what seemed like an office building, strung with the discreet lighting of led lamps overhead, to the right were dark rich mahogany paneled walls. All throughout the restaurant were shrubs and trees, as if we were eating outside in a distant foreign land. The carpet was paved with the same red as the lobby and to the left the city was ablaze with soft colored lights dancing through a panoramic window that ran alongside the whole wall. We were high up enough to see all the other glowing buildings surrounding us and some far away, so small you could hold them between your fingers, all of them on fire with the glowing lights of the city below. Yeah, she must have really liked whoever she was going to bring here.
"Bonjour monsieur, welcome to Le Feu de Terrasse, how many?" the welcomer/waiter caller guy crowed, in a possibly fake French accent, flashing a patronizing smile.
"Two," I glanced backward, hoping that she would still be there, she smiled back at me obviously enjoying my suffering. I pleadingly twisted around to find the...welcomer guy...also bearing a broad grin.
"Ah, she is with you, I do not see any space on zee list, it will be another 45 minutes before we are able to accommodate you, my sincerest apologeez," he smiled, his eyes quickly turning to the five empty tables within clear view of us.
"Actually, we have a reservation" she said, stepping up to the... welcomer guy...whispering something and not-so-discreetly slipping him a twenty.
"Ah, very good Madame, a waiter will show you to your table shortly" He quickly pocketed the money, ringing a nearby bell rested on the podium in front of him. A man with slicked-back black hair, probably a few years older than me, sauntered slowly up to the podium, resting his elbows on it facing the...welcomer...at a very uncomfortable closeness.
"Sup, Jack" he grinned, seeing the expression on the...God!...welcomer guy... quickly turn to a heavy glare.
"It is Jacques! Monsieur Amotinad, you really...if your parents didn't..."
"Right, right Jacques I know the speech, what's up?" he said dismissively with a hint of triumph.
"Kindly show this gentleman to his table," Jacques said, obviously believing he was using the term gentleman in the loosest sense of the word.
"Right away, compadre" he said stiffening up and giving a sarcastic salute. "So I guess you guys want a table," he glanced at me jokingly. "Let's go," he began walking and then stopped turning around to face us "uh...yeah, what table do you guys want," he asked nonchalantly.
"Anything is good," I answered "uh...can I talk to you for a second."
"Sure man," he took me aside "what's on your mind?"
"Uh yeah that...welcomer guy..."
"Don't worry about him, oh and it's called a maitre'd and the guy that's going to be by with the wine, he's a sommelier, just so you know. That's not what you were going to ask about though."
"Yeah...is there anywhere I could..."
"Get a coat? Nah, just take mine."
"Are you sure...?"
"Yeah, my family owns the place, we're Spanish but they like to pretend this is a French place, it's damn weird. Anyway, anything I can do to piss Jacques off I'm down with, take it, don't bother giving it back."
"Wow...thanks," I said stunned.
"Don't mention it, I grew up with people that think they're better than everyone else, just promise me this, if you ever get rich, don't forget where you came from, damn people always do."
"Yeah...I wont, doubt that'll ever happen though."
"You never know, kid." we both walked back over to...uh...her "Right, so, let's find you two a table." He paused, looking around at all the open tables, then back at Jacques "You know, all these tables are shit," he said a bit too loudly "come on, I'll show you something special," he motioned to a door, covered by a silk blanket, most likely leading out to the roof. "Not many people get to see up here," he said to both of us, then casting a glance at me he whispered, grinning mischievously "this will really piss old Jack off." He chuckled to himself at his double entendre as we followed him to the door past the on looking eyes of confused customers. The metal door opened with a creak as we were lead up the concrete stairs out in to the cool night air.
The pale winter moon penetrated the frozen air sending a streak of white light through the murky orange sky. The snow had subsided leaving behind traces of clouds that reflected the light from the glowing streets below. Never were the stars awake for the city that never slept. Looking out at the sea of plate glass and dark concrete rooftop I knew that I was farther away from my dream than I had ever been. Yet somehow, at least at the very moment, I felt closer, excited, nervous, changed. Maybe this is where it really all began, the start of something great, exciting, unknown. Perhaps life was just a series of beginnings, paths that fork and intertwine chaotically, randomly, harmoniously twisting like vines until one day...
"Hey kid, you awake?"
"You're really freaky when you space out like that, come on, table's over here."
"Right," I laughed "just taking it all in."
"'Kay, well, the table's in the greenhouse over here," he pointed to what looked like the entire Amazon Rainforest encased inside a glass cube.
"We're eating inside the..."
"No, there's an enclosed terrace inside with tables and everything, we usually use it for special guests, 'important' people who pay more, stuff like that." he lead us in to the steamy vast greenhouse, thick with the vines of fresh tomatoes, lush greens cast in vibrant hues displayed in tables of earth and hanging baskets above. Somebody loved this place, put in hours of time every day, poured their soul in to making it as perfect as possible.
Well, at least the food will be good I thought as another glass door pushed back to reveal three empty candle lit cast iron tables each with two chairs, padded with red velvety cushions. As we sat the candle light fluttered and the shadows danced around the deserted empty iron tables. I gazed across at her, her face half cast in shadow, half in warm glowing light, masked with a calm expression and a hint of something else. Fear? No, maybe sadness. You would have never known her makeup had run only an hour ago. She looked back at me, perhaps through me, lost in something, a reverie, a figment, a passing thought. Then she looked away, out to the green glowing lights and orange haze of the cold night sky.
"You're staring," she said distantly, turning her head back to me, to reality, a thin frown etched across her thin lips.
"Huh...oh, sorry. You're beautiful." Wait, what did I just say.
"Smooth and subtle," she smiled sarcastically.
"Haha, no, no, it's okay....people just...usually aren't that straightforward is all."
"Well, it's true..."
"Thanks," she smiled, this time sincerely, then once again stared back off in to the distance.
"Uh, guys, I'm still here, you know, Francis, your waiter, still here, yeah."
"Oh, right...uh...sorry," I deadpanned.
"Don't sound so enthusiastic," he joked "so, what can I get you guys to drink?"
"Probably anything you serve us," I smiled.
"Ha. Ha. Ha.," he feigned "seriously, what do you want?"
"No, no more jokes, order" he smiled, also sensing his opening.
"Uh, water...free water," I said, simultaneously trying to check my wallet. Shit. Empty.
"And for you miss?"
"What? Oh, same here..."
"Right, judging from your current situation...I'm guessing you're not going to like the menu...," he motioned, unfolding the leather case displaying a list of prices that was certainly only for gold plated food.
"You have any cheeseburgers or something?" I half-heartedly joked, looking down once again at my empty wallet. Well if worse comes to worst I have my credit card...
"Haha, I'll see what I can do, how 'bout you miss?"
"Cheeseburgers sounds really good right about now"
"Really? Haha, alright, cool, anything else I can do for you guys?"
"Nope, thanks for everything."
"No problem, how about you?"
"Nothing you could do..." she said, trying to choke back a sigh.
"Uh...right...I'll be back!" he vanished out of the glass doors in to the tropical abyss. It was just us now. Alone.
"Yeah...so...," I ever so effectively mumbled.
"Glad to see I'm so interesting," I teased.
"No...it's not you. I...well...I just...I guess I wanted to get away from something and it keeps coming back, it's not your fault. This is a lot better than what I would be doing right now at least..."
"What...um...what happened," I said, fidgeting with my silverware, which, in all likelihood, was actually white gold for all I knew.