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Chapter 24
Thanks to carefully timed use of sleeping pills, I woke withoutany feeling of disorientation, at 7.06 a.m.
Rosie had fallen asleep in the train on the way to the hotel. Ihad decided not to tell her immediately about the basementencounter, nor mention what I had observed on the sideboard.
It was a large photo of Judy and Isaac’s wedding. Standingbeside Isaac, dressed in the formal clothes required of a bestman, was Geoffrey Case, who had only three hundred andseventy days to live. He was smiling.
I was still processing the implications myself, and Rosie wouldprobably have an emotional response that could spoil the NewYork experience. She was impressed that I had collected theDNA, and even more impressed that I had acted sounobtrusively when I picked up the dishes to assist.
‘You’re in danger of learning some social skills.’
The hotel was perfectly comfortable. After we checked in, Rosiesaid she had been worried that I would expect her to share aroom in196/290exchange for paying for her trip to New York. Like aprostitute! I was highly insulted. She seemed pleased with myreaction.
I had an excellent workout at the hotel gym, and returned tofind the message light blinking. Rosie.
‘Where were you?’ she said.
‘In the gym. Exercise is critical in reducing the effects of jetlag. Also sunlight. I’ve planned to walk twenty-nine blocks insunlight.’
‘Aren’t you forgetting something? Today is my day. Andtomorrow. I own you until midnight Monday. Now get yourbutt down here. I’m hanging out for breakfast.’
‘In my gym clothes?’
‘No, Don, not in your gym clothes. Shower, dress. You haveten minutes.’
‘I always have my breakfast before I shower.’
‘How old are you?’ said Rosie, aggressively. She didn’t wait forthe answer. ‘You’re like an old man – I always have mybreakfast before I shower, don’t sit in my chair, that’s where Isit … Do not fuck with me, Don Tillman.’ She said the lastwords quite slowly. I decided it was best not to fuck with her.
By midnight tomorrow it would be over. In the interim, I wouldadopt the dentist mindset.
It seemed I was in for a root-canal filling. I arrived downstairsand Rosie was immediately critical.
‘How long have you had that shirt?’
‘Fourteen years,’ I said. ‘It dries very quickly. Perfect fortravelling.’
In fact it was a specialised walking shirt, though fabrictechnology had progressed significantly since it was made.
‘Good,’ said Rosie. ‘It doesn’t owe you anything. Upstairs. Othershirt.’
‘It’s wet.’
‘I mean Claudia’s shirt. And the jeans while you’re at it. I’mnot walking around New York with a bum.’
197/290When I came down for the second attempt at breakfast, Rosiesmiled. ‘You know, you’re not such a bad-looking guyunderneath.’ She stopped and looked at me. ‘Don, you’re notenjoying this, are you?
You’d rather be by yourself in the museum, right?’ She wasextremely perceptive. ‘I get that. But you’ve done all thesethings for me, you’ve brought me to New York, and, by theway, I haven’t finished spending your money yet. So I want todo something for you.’
I could have argued that her wanting to do something for memeant she was ultimately acting in her own interests, but itmight provoke more of the ‘don’t fuck with me’ behaviour.
‘You’re in a different place, you’re in different clothes. Whenthe me-dieval pilgrims used to arrive at Santiago after walkinghundreds of kilometres they burned their clothes to symbolisethat they’d changed.
I’m not asking you to burn your clothes – yet. Put them onagain on Tuesday. Just be open to something different. Let meshow you my world for a couple of days. Starting withbreakfast. We’re in the city with the best breakfasts in theworld.’
She must have seen that I was resisting.
‘Hey, you schedule your time so you don’t waste it, right?’
‘Correct.’
‘So, you’ve committed to two days with me. If you shutyourself down, you’re wasting two days of your life thatsomeone is trying to make exciting and productive and fun foryou. I’m going to –’ She stopped. ‘I left the guidebook in myroom. When I come down, we’re going to breakfast.’ Sheturned and walked to the elevators.
I was disturbed by Rosie’s logic. I had always justified myschedule in terms of efficiency. But was my allegiance toefficiency or was it to the schedule itself? Was I really like myfather, who had insisted on sitting in the same chair everynight? I had never mentioned this to Rosie. I had my ownspecial chair too.
198/290There was another argument that she had not presented,because she could not have known it. In the last eight weeks Ihad experienced two of the three best times of my adult life,assuming all visits to the Museum of Natural History weretreated as one event. They had both been with Rosie. Wasthere a correlation? It was critical to find out.
By the time Rosie came back I had performed a brain reboot,an exercise requiring a considerable effort of will. But I wasnow configured for adaptability.
‘So?’ she said.
‘So, how do we find the world’s best breakfast?’
We found the World’s Best Breakfast round the corner. It mayhave been the unhealthiest breakfast I had ever eaten, but Iwould not put on significant weight, nor lose fitness, brainacuity or martial-arts skills if I neglected them for two days.
This was the mode in which my brain was now operating.
‘I can’t believe you ate all that,’ said Rosie.
‘It tasted so good.’
‘No lunch. Late dinner,’ she said.
‘We can eat any time.’
Our server approached the table. Rosie indicated the emptycoffee cups. ‘They were great. I think we could both manageanother.’
‘Huh?’ said the server. It was obvious that she hadn’tunderstood Rosie. It was also obvious that Rosie had very poortaste in coffee – or she had done as I had and ignored thelabel ‘coffee’ and was enjoying it as an entirely new beverage.
The technique was working brilliantly.
‘One regular coffee with cream and one regular coffee withoutcream… please,’ I said.
‘Sure.’
This was a town where people talked straight. My kind oftown. I was enjoying speaking American: cream instead of milk,elevator199/290instead of lift, check instead of bill. I had memorised a list ofdifferences between American and Australian usage prior to myfirst trip to the US, and had been surprised at how quickly mybrain was able to switch into using them automatically.
We walked uptown. Rosie was looking at a guidebook calledNot for Tourists, which seemed a very poor choice.
‘Where are we going?’ I asked.
‘We’re not going anywhere. We’re there.’
We were outside a clothing store. Rosie asked if it was okay togo inside.
‘You don’t have to ask,’ I said. ‘You’re in control.’
‘I do about shops. It’s a girl thin............
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