Outside, the street vendor flipped a hotdog on its edge so that he could inspect the readiness of the meat. There were black marks on the side of it, left inevitably by his makeshift grill-top and his poor grilling method.
“Ma’am would you like a hotdog on this fine afternoon?” he asked a woman in a dark navy blue pant suit. She was in a hurry. She was pushing against and was being pushed by the large crowd of reporters and camera crews that had congregated outside the building. Nearly falling into the vendor’s cart, the woman caught herself from slipping on a puddle of grease that had formed on the cement and around the base of the grease trap.
She pierced her lips at the question.
“No, thank you” she said in a polite and muttered response.
The vendor, though not completely distraught, sighed and looked into the glass revolving-doors of the skyscraper next to his dinky cart. Down below, the large windows at the front masked the largeness of the building because the lobby was empty. It made the whole building look deserted. Because there were few people inside the immediate lobby, and many people on the outside, it seemed as if the building itself was smaller in a way, smaller than normal.
Inside and not down below, the marble floors reflected the dim yellow light that seeped through the windows, siphoning sunlight from the outside world into the financial offices. From the ground on up, sunlight sprinkled into the hallway of the thirty–third floor. The gentleman sat on the long, bare leather couch, with one hand hanging off the hard arm of the cushion and the other hand gripping a tumbler of Jameson and ice. As the ice pieces collided and clanked the side of the glass, he let out a long sigh of uncertainty.
“How long have you been sitting here?” said a clean-cut man as he made his way through the door, letting the light from behind him flood into the hallway. He stood in the doorway, light covering his face, as he waited for a response.
“I’ve been thinking,” replied the other gentleman in the blue tie. As he made his way from the couch to the doorway, he extended his arm towards the gentleman in the red tie. They shook hands.
“I said, How long have you been sitting here?” repeated the gentleman as he fixed his red tie. The man was an auditor, so he was used to inconsistencies.
The other gentleman adjusted his tie too.
The auditor stole a glance around the office space as they talked. On the top of the desk, next to the couch, he read a plaque with the name, James Schwartz, and the title, “Accounting Vice President.”
“I’ve been here all night and most of the morning,” said the V.P.
“Well, get yourself together,” said the auditor without blinking. He zeroed his eyes in on the man and scratched his head casually. His body was still but his eyes, still darting around the room, scanned the gentleman’s face impatiently.
“I’ve been thinking.”
“Yes, you said that.”
“I’ve been thinking about these people outside,” he said as he pointed out the window. The two gentlemen were high up in the tall building, suspended like two birds on a canopy in the Amazon. Beneath them was a metropolitan jungle of people and places, an urban wilderness that smelled of sewage and gasoline. Looking down at the crowded sidewalk, the people looked like ants, and, due to the growing shade between the close buildings, appeared smaller than normal: hundreds of small black dots shuffling and moving systematically from one side of the street to the other. At this height, the street vendor wasn’t visible from the office window.
“Don’t worry about those people outside. Let’s go. Mark sent me to get you. He says you’ve been cooped up in your office for a long time.” He attempted to pat the other gentleman on the shoulder, but he shied away, resting his face up against the glass.
He continued to stare at the cityscape bellow.
“I bought a hotdog earlier…”
“That’s nice,” said the auditor, “But now let’s go find Mark. The company is having a meeting in one hour and you need to prepare. There will be shareholders.”
“I bought a hotdog…,” he continued as if he hadn’t heard a word from the frustrated auditor, “from some street vendor. And you know what he said?”
“No,” said the gentleman reluctantly. He scratched his head again.
“He said, ‘Thank you. Enjoy your day! Enjoy your hotdog!’” The gentleman sighed heavily. He was becoming drunker by the moment, sipping on his whiskey thirstily.
“And then he did the strangest thing: He smiled at me,” said the maudlin man as he took another sip of his drink. It was his fourth drink in the past hour. “He smiled at me and wished me a good day. Me! Me? Why should I have a good day?”
The gentleman in the red tie hung his head and said, “Look, the people outside…”
“Why would he wish me a good day? I don’t deserve a good day,” he interrupted. “I deserve to fall off this building right now-have pieces of my body fly everywhere, in a million tiny pieces of flesh. That’s what I deserve. Not this suit, this tie, or even this drink!”
He chucked the glass across the office, smashing it against the wall and breaking it into hundreds of tiny pieces.
“Jesus! You need to calm down,” replied the gentleman as he tried to placate the tempered V.P. The marble floor was now soaked in whiskey and layered in tiny pieces of shard and ice. The auditor began picking up the pieces of glass as if trying to resolve the situation all together. “Listen,” he continued, “These people outside are…well, they’re fine. It’s not…it’s not your fault that maybe…”
“You don’t care about anything, do you?” he interrupted again. “You’re a fucking auditor. You should know exactly what’s going to happen-how all of this will unfold. You’re evil! We are evil. Can’t you see what we’ve caused? This is the end. It’s all going to end today, and the people outside won’t know. They won’t know until it’s too late,” said the gentleman as he walked towards a black mini-fridge. He opened the small door and grabbed a chilled glass, scooped up a few pieces with his fingers, filled the glass with cubes of ice, slammed the door, nearly breaking the hinges, and reached toward the Jameson bottle, which was sitting on his desk next to his bulky computer monitor. On the screen were hundreds of green and red letters and numbers, scrolling up and down, constantly reordering from highest to lowest in a black column.
“No, no, no! No more drinks for you. Come on,” said the auditor as he attempted to tear the glass from the gentleman’s grasp.
Swiftly, and with unyielding urgency, the man in the blue tie pulled the glass away from him. “This is mine, not yours,” he said, recoiling on the couch.
The auditor stared incredulously at the gentleman in the blue tie as if he didn’t recognize the person standing in front of him. Their eyes met, and as soon as the V.P realized his glass was safe, he took a long cold swig of the bitter liquid, never breaking eye contact.
“Let me ask you something.”
“Do you believe in God?”
The auditor scratched his head once again but didn’t answer the question.
“Well, I do. Kinda. And he has a will and things he wants us to accomplish. A plan for all of us. He wants us to heed his word.”
“He talks to me, you know”
“No, stop it! God speaks to me. Well, he used to. It all use to be so clear and obvious, his message. But I don’t know anymore.”
“Life gets in the way.”
“Life gets in the way. And it’s all so amazing and beautifully ironic. Isn’t it?”
“They don’t hear him though. The people outside. The vendor who sold me that hotdog. Yeah, they would understand everything perfectly well if they took the time to listen. I’m not talking about that Jesus crap. Maybe Jesus existed but maybe he didn’t. Maybe he was the son of God. Doesn’t matter. All that matters is God and his plan and us paying attention when he speaks to us. Intervention! That’s what it is, divine intervention.”
“How’s your drink?”
“Yeah, sure. Of course, it’s not literally empty. I mean, the taste is there. The liquid is cold. But it’s empty.”
“You see…” He stopped talking for a second and caught his breath. The V.P had been breathing heavily during their conversation. “It’s empty, inside.”
“There’s liquid inside.”
“It’s empty, though! Don’t you understand?”
The auditor fell silent.
“Of course you do. That’s not the problem, though. The problem is that they don’t understand that this glass is empty.”
“Yeah, and inside there’s liquid. Right. But that doesn’t mean it’s not empty. You can have all the things in the world and still be empty. That’s what the people outside don’t get. They look at this glass and they see liquid inside so they assume, oh it’s full.”
“But in reality…”
“Right! But in reality, the glass is completely empty. Empty. It’s important to remember that there is a glass, though. There is a glass.”
Then, the man began to shake violently. His eyes watered and his face glowed red. “The people outside…They don’t know. They’re ignorant. They’re stupid,” he said angrily.
“Listen, the people outside don’t understand. You’re right. What we do is too complex,” he explained in a reassuring combination of words.
The V.P began chuckling. His eyes widened and his pupils enlarged. He loosened his blue tie and roared with laughter. It was a contagious laughter. Then, the sound of his laughter changed; It became stronger, louder, and vibrant. It was a mad laughter. “They’re just swaps,” he said laughing.
“Right. We deal in swaps. The people outside don’t understand swaps, and they don’t need to understand.”
“Yeah, swaps. We deal in swaps,” said the V.P as his laughter subdued.
“Right. Well, we need to prepare you. First, we need to explain what happened to the company yesterday. You need to explain that the company’s interest…”
The auditor stopped talking. He was interrupted once again, but this time by a gentle breathing. The man in the blue tie was curled up on the black couch with the tumbler balanced between his loose fingers. He was asleep. Meanwhile, the man took the glass from the V.P’s hand, slowly walked to the sink in the next room, and poured out the remaining liquid. Then, he returned to the office and stood in front of the other man, silently staring at his relaxed breathing. He thought for a minute, and then decided to turn off the lights, close the window shutters, and started towards the door, completely eliminating the sunlight. As if extinguishing a candle flame, the office went dark, and it was silent for a moment. Then, the crowd outside roared, but inside the office it sounded like the soft murmur of ocean waves crashing over and over again.
“They’re just swaps, right Brad?” said the man drunkenly as he repositioned himself on the cold couch. His eyes were still closed.
Caught off guard by his voice, the auditor stopped at the door, and turned back towards the couch. “Yeah. Of course, we deal in swaps.”
“We deal in swaps-something the people outside wouldn’t understand. They can’t understand.”