He stood in the centre of the room, rocking slowly and rhythmically forward onto his toes. His hands deep in his overcoat pockets, hidden forefingers and thumbs making gentle circles as if he were carefully teasing the right amount of seasoning into a simmering cooking pot. Eyes blank, he did not blink.
He had missed the meeting, partly communication but mostly circumstance. Circumstance has a general admission ticket. It walks in, stands where the best view is and rearranges the furniture just how it likes, and you’d better get used to it because there’s nothing you can do about it.
Pointless. Blink. His gaze flicked up to the window and he moved towards it, worn brown leather shoes silent on the well worn office carpet. He pulled down a leaf of the blind with a surprisingly sharp crack and bending across the obstacle made by the still luke-warm cast iron radiator, and placing his left hand on the patina-ed varnish of the windowsill he brought his face close to the glass, which caught the brim of his hat and knocked it back on his head. He peered down to the street outside.
Dark so early this time of year, and the rain completed the dismal scene. Although the rain added a showroom gloss to even the oldest of cars parked on both sides of this backwater row, including his own relic. That brought a smile, but the lips stayed closed, things were still turning over upstairs.
The moment of levity fading, he let out a deep sigh and obscured his view of the deserted street. The mist clung too long to the pane, so he let the blind snap back into an approximation its previous shape and walked back into the room.
Stay or leave? No one really knew where he was or what he was doing, he could sit it out. He flicked through the papers stacked haphazardly on the rather worn wooden desktop, all of it was familiar, all of it was well read. Information is power, but it’s a kids water filled balloon, you have to make the first splash on the sidewalk count with a direct hit or it’s worthless.
The real leverage was what was between the lines, the unspoken, the carefully withheld.
Straightening up he caught site of his reflection in the glass of a framed picture. The light was a weak, unflattering pale yellow, diffused through the patterned window of the outer office door. Hat set back on his head and the unearthly colouring gave him the look of a frightened man with his last dollar on a three legged horse.
Given his current situation, that made him smile. His lips cracked apart and he immediately licked his bottom lip for fear it had split open. Not getting any younger, winter was getting to him more and more. Yup, split.
Enough. He pulled down his hat to the usual “I mean business” angle and paced the room. Even in the semi darkness the familiar lay at every turn. He lightly touched those familiar shapes, so much ammunition, so much trouble here.
He had tried to play their game. But, in the playground as in the street, the mob rules. No diploma for original thinking here.
He now stood at the door, staring at the glass. So intense was his state of mind that he noticed for the first time that the pattern on the glass was different on either side, or maybe it’s the same but not quite lined up? He started to search for repeated figures to match the two sides up.
This was the kind of thing that sidetracked him all the time. Was it a diversion, an inner voice of sanity trying to distract him long enough for him to see the folly he was launching into?
Too late. Shaking off the irrelevances, the use-polished brass knob was twisted and he was through the door, swinging it closed behind him before his left foot had left the room. Kachung. The door locked as he strode purposefully towards the elevator. The now much brighter sickly light had not reached his eyes, his head forward, and his hands now fists inside his pockets.
He would give them time, just enough time. Then he would open up the box. Names, places, cover-ups, lies, deals, all of it.
He knew it would be all over for him. But still, he stood and watched the elevator’s ornate clock style indicator wind towards his floor number with an unrepressed grin growing across his face.