I sit in the hotel bar and I’m struck by how much I really love this city. The big grey river that matches the big grey sky, the sky that in itself promises an exit route when it all goes wrong. I love the way that the people embrace fashion, yet do it all in a way that can’t last, too extreme, too fashionable, so of the moment that it’s out before it’s in. The way the city has dressed itself in the same way – architecture that is so modern, so extreme, maybe trying too hard. Both the people and the buildings will be passé in a fortnight. But for the brief moment that they were in fashion, they were the cutting edge.
The bar is fine. It gives me a view of the city from the other side of the grey mass. I see the skyscrapers and the old merchants’ houses. The water taxis and the sailing ships. The omnipresent tower that surveys all that we do. The view makes my heart sing and tells me that this is where I should be. I don’t know why but I knew this the first time I visited the city.
Anyway, here’s Mark. We talk profit and loss, bottom lines and end of trimester results; sales projections and marketing campaigns; competitors and customers. He’s building a house an hour out of town and is distracted by the need to look at bathroom fittings while he’s in the city. To be honest, I’d rather be choosing taps and tiles with him, than sat here discussing year on year results. As it turns out, he’s meeting Josja after our meeting and they’re off to choose fittings together. She’s a hard working girl, born to succeed - educated, cultured, well put together, heading towards a partnership at the top law firm in town. She’s everything I am, but she’s everything I’m not.
Mark is a solid guy, typical of his countrymen – tall, blond, handsome. Under the business suit he’s got something pretty athletic going on. A born leader and a born winner. Josja is the female equivalent, but I always like to imagine the daily battle she has with her inner slut.
‘Eat with us tonight’ Mark said, draining his coffee and pulling on his overcoat. ‘We’re staying in town for dinner and Josja hasn’t seen you in ages – she keeps asking after you’.
‘Maybe’, I say. In that happily coupled way, Mark thinks I’m going to just stay in my room, order room service and watch a bad movie. In my single and proud way, I’m thinking that I’ll go into the city, get some dinner alone, have a drink and maybe see if I can get a bit of action. Obviously, Mark is much closer to what will happen in reality than I am, so I accept. ‘But I need to call the states, get a shower, you know’.
‘Eight thirty, we’ll wait for you at the water taxi’.