Your door clicks, you swivel in your chair, to greet … whom? Your son? Brother? Wife, down from Westchester, in town on a whim? But no: you start in your chair, to see a figure enter, dressed in a black suit, softly close the door and turn its gaze on you. It’s thin, pretty, watchful, with big brown eyes that hold your gaze in silence as it pulses like a cat through the stretch of space between you. “Forgive me for intruding,” the figure speaks and glides to a halt the other side of your desk. “My name is Jaymi. You’re busy, I’m aware, but I shan’t be long.”
—And before Marc Albright can reflect, we are sitting face to face, either side of his desk. His corporate suit is topped by a head that is solid, wide; the face flattish, white, in its sixties, with clear grey eyes of bird-like brightness. I imagine that his perky half-smile would change little, whether it heralded a business handshake, a brutal put-down or an anecdote at a dinner table after his plate had been cleared by unnoticed hands. He shakes his head. “Who are you?” he barks.
I haven’t planned this, but as I hoped, I know exactly what to say: “Marc, look harder. You’ll remember.”
He looks harder indeed, and just like music, I make us both focus on a scene from his internal landscape. The scene is startling and vivid, and for him clearly “primal” in some deep way. I watch him while he thinks of it; and while he stares at me, the eyes of that figure stare him down—the eyes from the ballroom party, just as they stared him down across that crowded ball without a warning, cutting straight through the heads of a hundred other guests when he turned to fill his champagne glass—eyes he’d not expected but had known before, from somewhere. Singled out and pinned where he stood, glass in hand, he knew that he was powerless against this figure, though no one else seemed to be aware of it at all. Never since that evening in the ballroom has its blazing golden gaze left his memory. The figure seemed above the crowd, its eyes strangely one: Marc felt as if he stared at a great gold Cyclops three metres high, sprouting horns like a Baphomet’s, its claws hanging down resting easy on the grey heads carpeting the ballroom, its heavy eye transfixing him—
“Stop!” he cries.
“Yes…” he says. “I suppose this proposal of yours is within the realms of possibility.” He gives a thin smile, feeling his way forward, not meeting my eye. “In fact, I find that I wish it, because your demonstration spoke for itself and your proposal makes sense. I only wish I’d been in more control of my discovery. You’ve been unfair, but you’ve succeeded.” He breathes hard and looks around, wrapped up in his thoughts. “This is extraordinary, and new, and quite unexpected … but sometimes such a thing happens, and this is evidently one of those times.” He swivels his chair back towards the downtown towers. Those red aircraft warning lights wink on, unending.
The analytical lucidity of his last speech, under the circumstances, is impressive. “It’s a pleasure to deal with you,” I state.
He swivels his chair round towards me with apprehension, but I have shielded the active hypnotic gaze and am instead wearing an expression as if to say Yes, I’ve shielded it, and from now on I undertake that you’ll remain on the same side of it as me, rather than be its target, so that we can both direct it at other people instead. I see his acute perception pick this message up. His apprehension subsides and that perky half-smile begins to return: “So this is just business,” he thinks.
To jolt him once more (he must not get cocky), I reply to this aloud: “Yes, it’s business. Big business, I believe.” His smile fades. Now he needs “clubbable”, I think. I rise from my seat, spread my hands easily, wander round the desk and pat him on the shoulder. “From now on I’ll give you some privacy. How about we wander over to those rather comfortable-looking armchairs and sketch out a few general terms? Do I see a bottle of whisky over there? I must say I’d love a drink, if you’re offering.”
He jumps to his feet and strides across the office. “Me too,” he booms and rubs his hands together.
Two hours later, having agreed some basic practicalities, both signed a very general letter of intent and set up further meetings, Marc and I leave his office, step out onto the pavement on Rockefeller Plaza and part with a handshake.
So now I’ve pressed the button.
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