It’s 5:00 AM and I’m 41 stories above Gotham city. I’m standing on the ledge of the hotel window, pressed against the glass, my laptop raised over my head, like John Cusack in Say Anything. Except instead of Peter Gabriel, my soundtrack is provided by The The.
Harmonicas, I’ve decided, are the perfect antidote to waking alone in a strange city.
I’ve been here for three days and I’m still on London time, unable to shake the lag or close my eyes for more than a few hours. I adjust my laptop and press closer so my puny camera can capture an angle; any angle, of the buildings, the lights, and the sun rising over the water. No one else is awake. No one, except yours truly and a lonely clerk in the building across the street from my hotel.
I can see him in his crisp white shirt, sipping coffee and standing next to a photocopier. I wonder what sort of job requires such urgency and dedication so early in the morning. There is a moment of nervousness when I realise that if I can see him, then he can surely see me. But he’s oblivious, this clerk, who continues making copies, placing neat little piles of paper on the desk in front of him. I wonder if living in the Big Apple has made him jaded.
What was he like before he ended up in his clerk job? Was he one of the millions of wide-eyed artists and musicians who arrive trying (and failing) to capture the city?
He finally looks up and sees me, a crazy person wearing a robe, suctioned-cupped to the glass, like one of those Garfields you see in car windows. He stops what he’s doing. His mouth opens slightly. We stare at one another – complete strangers connected by a moment of madness. It only lasts a second and then he goes back to the photocopier. Back to his pages.
Something about his level of intensity and focus reminds me of myself. And then it hits me. Of course. He’s a writer. A novelist posing as clerk. Who else would be counting pages while the rest of the city sleeps? He looks up once more, waves his pages in the air and disappears, leaving me on my ledge, clutching the window, alone in Gotham City.