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First class is heaven. You know it as soon as you enter the gates. You are miles above civilization’s highest reach. There are miles of clouds and hectares of cities under your feet. It’s an inertial reference frame. The pretty girls know your name even before you surrender your boarding pass. You may be a sheik, a big-shot businessman, a banker, or a plain loser who got lucky once, but they’ll always call you by your name. You’re ushered to your seat like a king. It even looks like a throne, made of brown wood and chrome. When you want to sleep, you push a button or turn a small lever and it reclines to a pitch unheard of in business class. I should know because when I was moving up the ranks I spent an entire purgatory in business class, all the time thinking that was an achievement. How stupid I was.

In first class your shoes are taken from your feet without a struggle or a sound, and, before you can moan in protest, they are quickly replaced with soft, disposable slippers. The girls are always asking if you want a drink, and you can ask for any drink you want. You can ask for that drink you always had to charge to your expense account, or you have always seen in your boss’ office. I always ask for single malt—a Laphroaig or a Yamazaki. When they don’t have it, in the case of cheaper airlines, I ask for a Glenfiddich. They always have that.

They know your shoe size, your favorite color, your favorite movie, every inch and allergy of you. You will notice that they have taken great pains to know your every last statistic, checking and updating each one as though it were part of your luggage. Every little part of you that you have let slip over years of flying in planes and staying at hotels, filling out forms and speaking to them over the phone.

For entertainment, you can watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters on little TVs that swing out from the arm rests. Over the inflight “radio” they play top hits, or, if you like, spoken-word comedies, Chinese operas, classical music. But what I find very entertaining are the girls. They are efficient angels. You can mark the quarter hour by their appearance at the curtained doorway. You’d think they’d just had a milk bath. And when they pass they push carts filled with various graces—aperitifs, appetizers, salads, cold cuts, cheeses, cocktails, coffee, tea, freshly squeezed orange juice. That they might please us all, to the last Jewish merchant, or rock star, or pop star, the last Arab.

The Filipinos, I find, being few and far between in first class, are the easiest to please. Not this one, though. For the past few weeks I’ve been feeling up and down. Away from friends, without my family, I expected that old, liberated, effervescent feeling. Instead, I feel like a can of Coke that’s gone stale. There’s no kinetic fizz and pop, just the sound of the aluminum being torn open and pushed back. Nothing but that sluggish, stale smell.

I need to be shaken up. That’s what I need. People like me live boring lives. You probably would not know me from a dozen or a hundred other men, during or after hours. Weekdays or weekends. No one bothers to write about us in real stories. What for? There are only those unfortunate caricatures in romance novels and Hollywood movies. His is usually the hero’s rival lover. For him the leading lady is just one more object to be acquired in a long list of acquisitions. He is shown to live a life of luxury and self-indulgence, populated with sycophantic assistants, big, flashy cars and a string of beautiful, stupid women. He is immediately and irrevocably undeserving of the leading lady. Of a fulfilled life. Ultimately, of even his own story, his own redemption.

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I look up from my pillow and see Lene, on a nameplate is on a white-skinned, well-scrubbed girl that comes upon me, as I flounder in my usual inflight daze. She’s pushing a cart with a gleaming post-prandial heap: cigarettes, sweets, liquor. Her name is in small capitals, engraved on a small slab of steel sitting two inches above the hint of a glimmer of a rise of what would be an erect nipple. She smiles just like any stewardess. It’s fixed, well practiced, oblivious. But her eyes look straight at me, long and questioningly. They don’t flick to the middle distance after two seconds of no answer. She’s clipped and efficient. She smells of Chanel Allure. I know that smell so well. She has two earrings in each lobe, a pair of grape leaves, I think, in white gold. She hides a lock of purple hair under her pillbox cap. She’s like freshly crushed grapes. She’s fresh wine, sparkling, a little cheap but well put-together. Her purple lock is a pop of color, her name is an opening.

“How do you say your name?”

She plucks the letter L with a tongue, flicking it up the roof of her mouth. She trips over the first syllable, then finishes with a wide curl of lips. They’re grape-colored, too. She elongates the last vowel, pushing it almost past its limit with a stretched, gentle arc. For a second I think she’s being condescending. What? Filipinos like me can’t pronounce foreign words well? Lene, I repeat flawlessly. It’s the name of an angel, or given by an angel. The angels christened her that name and it was the one word they were allowed to teach her. French? Belgian?

“Close,” Lene says. Very clipped. I feel some angelic wind lift my wings. I reach for the pack of cigarettes nearest her body. Never mind that they are menthol and despicable, but I almost cannot contain it, an unheard grunt as my knuckles brush against her silky vest. She produces a Zippo lighter from the folds of her skirt and lights me with a long white hand. The kind of thoughts a woman’s hand produces in the mind of someone turning fifty!

She moves on, takes off. I put out the cigarette, fish out another, and catch her on her return trip. We’ve been acquainted, so she holds the flame closer to my face. I hold her hand steady with mine. The trick is cheap, but my hunger is solid and premium. It’s a first class hunger. I felt it when I realized I could buy a car with my credit card. I let my watch peek discreetly out of a french cuff. I need to be shaken up, like a watch that’s stopped on the wrist of someone sleeping.

“I need you to do something for me, Lene,” I whisper.

It startles her. A smile registers, of a different kind from a while ago. “South American? Arabian? Chinese?” she seems to think. I know she knows where I’m headed. “I need you to help me cancel my connecting flight and book another flight out of Chang-I.”

“I will have to arrange that,” she nods. She adds in a singsong voice: “Please wait!”

When she returns she is carrying a clipboard. I show her the empty seat beside me and she shakes her head, uh-uh, but we talk for a while. I drink Scotch and she pours out sparkling water into a champagne flute and sips gamely.

There are over a hundred boarding and arrival gates in Chang-I airport. There are hundreds of stores, and there are also mini theme parks, day spas, movie theaters, tennis courts. I know a few people who missed their flight because they got lost, or got stuck in a shop or a restaurant, or had their cabs take them to the wrong terminal.

I wait for Lene at one of the service entrances. She comes out dressed in a white linen shirt and jeans. Her purple lock is free, curled behind an ear. We make a side trip to an airport shop, where she picks a couple of three-hundred-dollar bikinis. She disappears into the ladies room and wears one of them under her t-shirt and jeans. Despite the season we are able to book a flight to Bali on a small airline. It’s coach class, but we’re amused by the proximity that our tiny seating space affords us.

She’s Danish. I never guessed it. But she admits she is of confusing origin. Her grandfather was a Chinese immigrant who married a Malay Indonesian. He was stationed as a harbor pilot in the old, busy Amsterdam. Their son married a true Dane. She takes out a little tin of photos to show me how dark her father is, and how pale her mother is. In the photo her mother is looks like she weighs two hundred pounds, but her cheekbones still show through.

She is surprised to find out we have common origins. Like many Filipinos I am partly Chinese. Maybe an eighth. Lene smiles broadly with a half-ripe appreciation.

At the resort we make many friends: old and wealthy tourists, bankers on holiday, businessmen with their mistresses. “Which one of them are you?” she asks me. She’s a teaser. In bed she’s a chirper. A choker. A shocker. My soft, jet-lagged body is introduced many unnatural acts and techniques. “Fucking you feels good, but it hurts a lot, too,” I tell her. I laugh at my own joke, the first time I’ve laughed in two or three weeks. I thank my lucky stars and look at her white body, spent, slumped across the bed.

Back in Manila, I am weak, I am ragged. As soon as the plane lands I drag myself out of the tube with a headache and a rash, just thinking about the hassle at customs and the probability of being robbed. The back of my neck hurts at the thought of traffic. The staff car takes me straight to the office. I check my face and I look ill. Eyebags, larger than usual. Sweaty brow, greasy hair, large, open pores. My arms are as tired as a bird’s wings. My breath is a little painful, and my smokers’ cough has returned.

There is nothing on my schedule because everybody’s thinking of the Christmas holidays. Most of my clients are already out. My secretary suggests I finally make room for that executive check-up I’ve long delayed. Doctor Fred something. She has to remind me of his name. I haven’t seen him in maybe two years. Maybe I would like to see him.

That same day Lene calls. She’s smart enough to do it during office hours, and then only through my direct line. She is breathy, crisp, brief. She says she’s at Chek Lap Kok. The way she pronounces her vowels makes me instantly horny.

I tell her I miss her. She tells me she has news. She has managed to switch some flights and is on the next Pan Am to Manila. I look at my calendar and tell her of my upcoming thing at the hospital. I’m an old man that needs constant maintenance. I’m like an old airplane. She purrs, she understands.

“No worries,” she says. The line goes muffled and dark—she is holding the receiver against her chest and is speaking to someone. I hear the hollow of her voice saying something indistinct in her accented English.

“All done. All set,” she tells me, her voice returning to my ear. Before I can offer to make arrangements, she says: “I’ll book a hotel and call you.”

Right before she hangs up I hear a brief burst of conversation—Lene picks up her conversation with the confidant who has gamely doctored the schedule for her. I’m sure she has done so many times before, but what did she tell her friend about me? He is very charming and very wealthy, but all right for his age. He works out, takes care of himself. She likes men who take care of themselves, and so does her friend.

When I was young I had many rich friends. Their parents were business owners or landowners. They would tell me of their vacations in Europe. There was Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam. They told me those girls lost it at fourteen or fifteen and called their boyfriends their ‘lovers.’ It was all part of ‘free love.’ They’re all fucking beautiful. You go out with them and you talk about music, food, books. Everyone there reads. Proust, Dante, Rilke. You like each other, you go home and you fuck.

Lene is fucking beautiful. I think I have to stress this point. Many Filipinos talk of American or European women as beautiful, even when they’re really not. It’s just blond hair, the long legs, the white face. Lene looks like one of those girls my kid always watches on MTV.

The next day I pack an overnight bag and head to the doctor’s office for my check up. Doc Fred’s office looks the same. It still looks like he used his connections in the pathology department and had it cryogenically frozen. Wood, brass accents, leather furniture, tchotchkes from his travels. There’s a painting on a wall as big as the wall itself. Actually it’s a big picture of Doc Fred at work that’s been made to look like a painting, with fake, too-even brushstrokes that invited you to rub the surface with your fingers to check. In the photo he’s in the middle of surgery. He’s wearing a green cap and a green mask, and his eyeglasses are fitted with those scopes that magnify what his hands are doing. It’s taken from the patient’s point of view, so it’s as if you’re the patient looking up at young Doc Fred. Maybe it gives you confidence in him, a little bit of trust. “We’re both in the business of trust,” he once said to me, and I suppose it stuck. Bankers are in the business of trust, too, I guess. I was slightly proud to have him treat me like we were in the same profession.

My parents always wanted me to be a doctor. “It’s the thing to be.” But today Doc Fred looks too old even for a doctor. He was my wife’s family doctor, and now, our family doctor. He doesn’t operate anymore. Someone said once that doctors have a set number of years in them, during which they can operate and make a lot of money in operations. After that, it’s all consulting work for pharmaceuticals and routine checkups for loyal patients. But they still make a lot of money. Believe me.

Doc Fred is looking at my file when I enter his room. I’ve had a file with him for maybe ten, fifteen years. And all that time, he’s worn the same glasses. They’ve gone in and out of style two or three times.

“Hey Doc.” I announce my presence and take in the room, as though I was just there yesterday. It’s the same room as before. The charts and the diagrams haven’t changed. But medicine is an exact science, so what kind of changes do people expect? In fact, they probably expect things not to change. They probably half-expect to see the version of him in the wall-to-wall photo when they enter his office.

Doc Fred has the demeanor of the successful old man—experienced, wise, bored. His smile is unnecessarily wide. His nails are too well manicured. They gleam like a girl’s nails. His desk is overrun with photos. I feel that don’t need to look at them to know what’s in them.

He starts examining me with a stethoscope. “I’m picking up some irregular heartbeats.” His pronouncement comes out from the corner of his mouth like a single long grunt. In the quiet of the room I can pick up a faint wheeze under my breath. Doc removes the scope from his ear and offers it to me. I gamely affix it to my ears. I’ve probably never worn a stethoscope before.

“What am I looking out for here? It sounds exactly as I predicted. Like I put my ear on someone’s chest.” I am startled by the grunts and the moans my voice makes, barren and groping and amateurish. I cringe at my lack of modulation and confidence. It’s like hearing your voice off a tape recorder for the first time. I hand him back the scope.

“What are you saying?” I tell him. “It can’t be anything serious. I’m just tired. And you know I’m a smoker and a drinker. I’m pushing fifty. And I just came from a business trip.” I smile at him at that last part. All of a sudden I want to tell him about Lene. Fuck that he’s my wife’s doctor.

Doc looks at me. “Let’s wait for the ECG results and the x-rays,” he says, releasing me from his grip and his instrument. “That’s tomorrow. Seems nothing serious, though. Though I would warn you, early on, to change your lifestyle. Watch what you eat. And it would be good to do some exercise. You’ll be okay.”

Doc hands me a little paper wheel. You turn it and a little window decides if what you plan to eat is good or bad. I want to give him something for his trouble. I want to tell him about my side trip to Bali.

Executive check-ups come with free hospital suites. After the x-rays, a nurse escorts me into the mandatory wheelchair and draws a vial of dark blood from the crook of my arm. I find myself turning in early, thinking about the possibilities. Lene appears at my doorway. She is wearing a pale-colored cardigan and nothing underneath. She brings me the biggest oranges you ever saw. She asks me how I’ve been, and I tell her what Doc Fred told me. I tell her she is the first one I’ve told. We eat every last one of those oranges and fuck right in that bed. I feign an office emergency to the nurse, and we book a suite at a nearby hotel for the weekend.

Her thin white body is kneeling on the swirling sheets, now raised up to me. In the center, the slightly open lips of her cunt form a soft, quivering thing. I enter her and place a quivering thumb on the juncture of her ass cheeks. I start thinking that a woman is so much like a flower. I remember my high school biology and all the diagrams. I fuck her hard to the beat of the words pounding in my head.

My thoughts waver for a while as I feel my come welling up inside. Lene whips her ass back and forth and looses a wild grunt. I feel the muscles and bones of my back creak as I withdraw from her and unload my thick white sperm on her trembling ass.

“Fuck,” she says out loud. My eyes sting from the salt of sweat and my knees tremble so violently that I collapse on the bed, my full weight reverberating throughout the room, my heart beating violently. Lene, too, swings sideways to collapse at my side, the back of her neck grazing my lips. She reaches back for my cock, and draws her hand back and forth over it, coating her hand with my come. She brings her hand to her mouth and licks it clean.

We live like monks. We read to each other from books and magazines and lock ourselves in, subsisting on room service and the minibar. We are as feverish as virgins. Too lazy to dress, too horny to talk. All Lene wears is panties, sometimes, and her grape-leaf earrings. I walk around the hotel room naked, letting my cock and my balls hang loose and sway as I swagger through the long hours. I run my toes and my soles through the carpet as though it were green grass on a field. I smoke cigarette after cigarette, drink wine from the bottle. We are fucking, talking and watching HBO and TNT until morning. I am loud, strong, I make expansive gestures when I talk about my work, my love for the good life.

“You’re too good for me,” I tell her, like I’m breaking up with her but I’m really not.

In the evening we dare to dine downstairs, where the tables are filled with families fresh from shopping and Sunday mass. She knows I’m nervous about seeing someone I know. She holds my hands through the meal. She struggles through her words. She hunts for the right words in her head and coaxes them out with her mouth. The bottles of wine make us oblivious. She turns glib. Her purple hair pops out over her face. The tiny veins across her cheeks show like fine red roots.

“Tell me about yourself,” she says, like we’re in a fucking movie.

I was born here. I grew up in an apartment in QC. I took the bus everyday to work on Ayala Avenue. By some lucky break I found myself moving to Goldman-Sachs. I got dissatisfied. Why not? It was New York. I went through a string of small brokerages. I took the bus to work over there, too, but it was New York. I worked the trading floor and made my heap in tech. I met my Filipina girlfriend there. She worked the floor and when we made our first million dollars, we got married.

The New York Stock Exchange is the world’s biggest marketplace. Over 200 billion shares are listed. That’s 12 trillion dollars, give or take. On any given trading day, the amount of money that exchanges hands embarrassingly overshadows the Philippine national budget. In the face of it all you have nothing else to do but square your shoulders and trade. They asked you a quick question and snap their fingers under your nose if you couldn’t answer in two seconds. I’d learned to be quick and snappy—to think first and then work it out while you’re saying it.

I had thought all that suffering had worked to make me great. I was young then. I was poor. Not exactly poor, but in that gray area. If you don’t know what I mean you’ve never been there. Or you’re still on your way.

“There were days when I would dream about this,” I confess to her. “I would be walking on the street, waiting for a jeepney, and I would look up earnestly at hotel rooms. I thought I could see men and women—foreigners, or the very rich—fucking. Many times they’d be fucking standing up. It was a very sophisticated thing for me then, to fuck standing up. Now it’s just painful and unnecessary.”

We split our sides in laughter.

I arrive at Doc Fred’s office the next day, freshly showered and casually dressed. Lene is waiting in the parking lot, reading Harper’s Bazaar.

When I enter his room my x-rays are already clipped to the wall-mounted lightbox. My test results are spread out across the desk in front of him.

He takes his pen and traces the gold tip across a white, membranous outline on the x-ray. Then he starts talking, and most of what he is saying I cannot really understand. He makes more tracings, then puts the pen on the table. I look at the x-ray and imagine the figures he has made on them.

He writes out a prescription. “Here. Take these things everyday and we’ll see what happens in a month. I’ll also give you something for your cholesterol. This is something for the blood flow.” He says this all without hesitation. These medicines belong together.

He draws a line across the page and writes another prescription below it. “Here’s something just in case. You’re a smart man. You’ll know exactly when you need this. Feel suddenly exhausted? Do your arms hurt all of a sudden? Chest pains?” Doc threw that last one in so I’d take him seriously.

“Put this under your tongue,” he says, looking at what he is writing. “Bite it and keep it under your tongue.” He pauses and demonstrates for me, splitting open the imaginary foil and showing snapping teeth.

“Anything I really have to worry about?”

“No, but yes, sure. I have it too, you know, to tell you the truth. Lots of people younger than you have it.” He tears off the sheet. He hands me the prescription.

I tell Lene everything. She shakes her head, tch, tch, tch. She goes with me to buy my medicine and carefully places the stash in her overnight bag.

Denmark is an island country. I’m surprised to learn it has more than 500 islands and miles of coastland. The countryside is flat and undulating, a land borne out of glacier movements and ice ages, pushing the surface into low, rolling green hills. The air is crisp and the everyday weather, for a temperate country, is mild. There is a marine scent and taste in the wind that tells you the sea is nearby. I’ve never been there.

Copenhagen: it’s the birthplace of Lego. In Legoland there are jumbojets in airports run by little Lego men. There are office buildings, fire departments, pirate ships, space stations, fantasylands completely built up, self-contained and efficient. But if you can imagine it, the real thing is even better. Copenhagen is a first-class city. There’s no traffic and no pollution. There are museums, theatres, bars, clubs. It’s full of boutiques, theme restaurants, hotels, inns, twenty-four hour places. It’s a tiny city, but you could get lost in it for days. Beyond the edges of the city, the coast juts out into the wild North Atlantic and the frigid Baltic. They call it Jutland. The name appears in my imagination like Lene’s white face and body.

In the early morning of her departure date, Lene lies naked on my hotel bed, across my naked body. I remain still. The TV’s on. When I was a child I had one of those stupid cardboard posters on my wall: God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, etc., etc. At times like these I think of my wife and the kids, alone in their big house. I look down at the skin of my chest, devoid of hair. I am her first lover without chest hair. I look at her face, so beautiful while she’s asleep, and I begin to regret all that I’ve told her. I want her to fly out without thinking of me.

Someone told me: most marriages are marriages of convenience. They say more than 50% of marriages end. I believe it. I would feel like the most despicable liar if I were to say that I didn’t imagine, even in sheer curiosity, the day of our marriage ending on the day of its beginning. Likewise, the idea of Lene and I never seeing each other again, after the instant she tucks her lock of hair into her cap and disappears into the airplane tube. I have imagined such things with absolute certainty of them happening. I would feel all bad about it, of course. But I have felt worse things.

There was a time I lived for risk. I did my share of three-day trading and shortselling. At the old firm we would risk other people’s money on sure-fire IPOs. If it ever fell through the bottom it would mean we would lose everything: our clients’ money, our careers, our lives. When I married my wife I risked it all: living for myself, making telephone calls in the dead of night, barefoot, on the downstairs phone, while my wife and my child slept.

I lift myself up to turn to the window, its curtains diffused and cast with pale dawn. Symptoms begin to appear. I feel a dull sort of pain in the middle of my chest. Didn’t the heart sit a little to the left? The pain grows, freezes, grows, freezes. I become aware of my arms hanging by my side. They are nothing but attachments to this central pain. The pain is somehow vague and exact at the same time, like a toothache. In the thick of it I can’t imagine not feeling it. When I was a child I used to try to delay having to take a shit. I would force my sphincter shut with my mind, dwelling in the pain and helplessness and try to imagine a state where I did not feel like taking a shit. I couldn’t, of course, but it was a mystery to me why I couldn’t. Back then, when I was a kid, I was always trying to imagine things I couldn’t do. I felt like all I had to do really was to use my brain and think hard, and things would let go and unfold themselves like a book in front of my eyes. Now I am pushing fifty. It is like a state of grace. I glimpse myself on the hotel mirror, and see if there are outward signs.

Lene’s sleep is light. She is still jet-lagged. She shifts and kicks, her beautiful breasts shaking under their weight.

Her eyes open into slits, close again. Everything happens as though in slow motion, squeezed and pixilated, frozen strobe-like by the flicker of stock quotes on TV, and sustained by the dim light of the bedside lamp. We had never thought to turn it off throughout our stay. Lene’s mind registers that it is me, I am here, she is here with me, in a room, in a hotel, in Manila, and she opens her eyes briefly, pupils still dilated, shuts them, opens them again.

Lene gets up, whoops and weeps, the fingers of her hands flying to my bag. Her hands perform a luminous, fluttering dance: magic movements that only stewardesses can make. They weave through aisles, crisp, breezy, pushing trolleys as though they were floating machines that were light as a feather, with inches of clearance on both sides, mysteriously missing elbows, feet, gliding smooth and straight even through the turbulence of airpockets, unruly passengers and the restrictions of long pencil skirts. Every tenderness is quick and discrete. Every favor and duty so evenly distributed among the passengers.

Lene retrieves the silver foil between index and forefinger, and orders me to open my mouth, as though preparing for a kiss. She jams something under my tongue.

“Please bite it,” she says.

“Bite it!” She’s using the force of her flight attendant’s voice, half command, half request. Maybe this is the voice they reserve for emergencies. The sun is rising fast outside my window, like an engine suddenly bursting into flame. Her naked body is bright and pale in her panic. Her muscles are tight. Her abdomen trembles and a fine sheen of sweat glows all over her skin. There is a faint smell of oil and perfume. “You have to bite it!”

She has turned the TV off in the middle of everything—another thing that we never bothered with—the room is held in a strange, slowed-down silence. My hearing has grown so clear that I can hear every movement she makes, the spent foil wrapper crinkling in her fist, the springs of the bed, the sound of her breathing. Her voice on the phone, being snappy and commanding. I can hear my own corpuscles squeezing through my vessels.
I begin to have visions: I see Lene appearing before me older and sadder, with a thick layer of skin on her body and without the purple streak in her hair. In fact, her entire head of hair has turned dull and overgrown. She looks exactly like her mother in the photograph now. I want so desperately to reach forward, even if it were my last living movement, and collapse into the folds of her flesh.

I have visions of Lene pregnant. Pregnant! It’s a ghastly sight. I am reminded of my wife, pregnant with our only child. Pregnancy was always to me terrible, deforming, repugnant. But Lene smells good. Her swollen stomach beats with a quiet heartbeat. It is warm to the touch. Whose is it? Mine! Technology now allows conception to occur outside the womb first, with a precious ovum extracted from her fallopian tubes and a fresh sample of millions of my sperm culled from my inert balls. The fertilized egg has been carefully placed in her uterus. What happens next is a miracle, even when seen through the eyes of modern science. For more than just a separate, additional life form, what emerges is another life, another way of thinking, a consciousness that wasn’t ever there before. Doc Fred would examine her, thoroughly, and, instead of murmuring tch, tch, tch, he would sigh with a lost, vicarious pleasure.

Lene, carrying my child, is moving on without me. There are long haul flights and short commuter flights, there are emergency landings and bomb threats. A drunken passenger, possibly, from his lost look, his tired jowls, or most certainly, another banker. Everyone around me, my wife, my children, the doctors, my colleagues, now moves in a separate world. It’s a world not without its problems: the business section of the paper tells of massive company lay-offs, banks and investment houses folding, and stock markets sinking. My children are now grown and married. My children have children. It is all out there, in the world of chance, the world of happenings. I learned to move without thinking in New York. Now I think without moving. Now moving is thinking, the same effortless thing.

I’ve had my share of farewell weekends, those last days when it’s all pure lust, or pure love, or whatever that emotion is when you’re too confused to think of anything much else. Or maybe thinking too clearly. That thing that happened, it happens to everyone. I just got lucky, I got shook up real good.

Free love. What is that all about? You like someone and you talk, you eat, you fuck. You don’t think about what happens next. You really shouldn’t have it any other way. Goodbye, Lene. My senses shut down one by one.