Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 16 of 64


Art and Linda in Linda’s miniscule joke of a flat. She’s two months into a six-month house-swap with some friends of friends who have a fourth-storey walkup in Kensington with a partial (i.e. fictional) view of the park. The lights are on timers and you need to race them to her flat’s door, otherwise there’s no way you’ll fit the archaic key into the battered keyhole—the windows in the stairwell are so grimed as to provide more of a suggestion of light than light itself.

Art’s ass aches and he paces the flat’s three wee rooms and drinks hormone-enhanced high-energy liquid breakfast from the half-fridge in the efficiency kitchen. Linda’s taken dibs on the first shower, which is fine by Art, who can’t get the hang of the goddamned-English-plumbing, which delivers an energy-efficient, eat-your-vegetables-and-save-the-planet trickle of scalding water.

Art has switched off his comm, his frazzled nerves no longer capable of coping with its perennial and demanding beeping and buzzing. This is very nearly unthinkable but necessary, he rationalizes, given the extraordinary events of the past twenty-four hours. And Fede can go fuck himself, for that matter, that paranoid asshole, and then he can fuck the clients in Jersey and the whole of V/DT while he’s at it.

The energy bev is kicking in and making his heart race and his pulse throb in his throat and he’s so unbearably hyperkinetic that he turns the coffee table on its end in the galley kitchen and clears a space in the living room that’s barely big enough to spin around in, and starts to work through a slow, slow set of Tai Chi, so slow that he barely moves at all, except that inside he can feel the moving, can feel the muscles’ every flex and groan as they wind up release, move and swing and slide.

Single whip slides into crane opens wings and he needs to crouch down low, lower than his woolen slacks will let him, and they’re grimy and gross anyway, so he undoes his belt and kicks them off. Down low as white crane opens wings and brush knee, punch, apparent closure, then low again, creakingly achingly low into wave hands like clouds, until his spine and his coccyx crackle and give, springing open, fascia open ribs open smooth breath rising and falling with his diaphragm smooth mind smooth and sweat cool in the mat of his hair.

He moves through the set and does not notice Linda until he unwinds into a slow, ponderous lotus kick, closes again, breathes a moment and looks around slowly, grinning like a holy fool.

She’s in a tartan housecoat with a threadbare towel wrapped around her hair, water beading on her bony ankles and long, skinny feet. “Art! Goddamn, Art! What the hell was that?”

“Tai chi,” he says, drawing a deep breath in through his nostrils, feeling each rib expand in turn, exhaling through his mouth. “I do it to unwind.”

“It was beautiful! Art! Art. Art. That was, I mean, wow. Inspiring. Something. You’re going to show me how to do that, Art. Right? You’re gonna.”

“I could try,” Art says. “I’m not really qualified to teach it—I stopped going to class ten years ago.”

“Shut, shut up, Art. You can teach that, damn, you can teach that, I know you can. That was, wow.” She rushes forward and takes his hands. She squeezes and looks into his eyes. She squeezes again and tugs his hands towards her hips, reeling his chest towards her breasts tilting her chin up and angling that long jawline that’s so long as to be almost horsey, but it isn’t, it’s strong and clean. Art smells shampoo and sandalwood talc and his skin puckers in a crinkle that’s so sudden and massive that it’s almost audible.

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