I awake to the big day. Tonight we perform, and I can hear the zeroes singing for me.
There’s that sleek little van, and in the driver’s window the face of a Latina in her twenties smiles out at me, smooth, sunny, round, with a faint sass within its clear warmth. This must be the mysterious Evelyn Carmello. “Hi Jaymi,” she calls. I like her straight away. I lean against a lamp-post and fold my arms. She stares at me. “Well, come on!”
“I don’t know,” I say. “Should we cancel?”
She raises her eyes and points behind her to the van door.
I step across the pavement. “I feel like a little boy on his first morning of school.”
“Well aren’t you cute—we should put that in a press release.” She clicks the van door open for me.
Up three steps is a small living space in black and silver, with a tiny table and a few very basic facilities including a TV and a mini-fridge, then further back a dozen fixed black seats with windows on either side. I slide the door shut behind me, put my bag down and sit in one of the two front-most seats.
She eases the van from the kerb and sets off across the Avenue. “This is like a concert tour van,” I say. “And I guess this is a kind of concert tour, though a brief and unnatural one. So let’s do this right: for the next couple of hours of our life, on this tour van, our every passing feeling will potentially be product or merchandise.”
She picks this up without dropping a beat: “Oh, you know it. This tour will be a legend. One day they’ll make a road movie out of it. See that little fridge there? Look inside.”
I get up and open it. “Oh my god. A comprehensive array of intoxicating beverages!”
“I’m driving, so I’ll just have a whisky.”
I turn, and glimpse her twinkly eyes and freckled nose in the driving mirror. “What kind of whisky?”
“Bourbon. What are you having?”
“Chocolate-flavoured soy milk.”
“That’s the modern-day rock’n’roll lifestyle. The hard stuff is so two-decades-ago.” I pour out a tall brown glassful for myself and hand her a tumbler of bourbon on the rocks, as we turn onto the far side of the West Side Highway. The scurrying of cars reminds me of a jazz trumpet’s sound, the sunlight pours through the van’s open windows and I feel a burst of exhilaration at what’s coming tonight. “You know,” I announce, “I think this trip is going to be a giggle.”
This reminds me: “Oh. I suppose, before we pick up Alaia, I should ask you about, you know, Jason and—”
“Let’s get the broadcast over with first. We’ll get onto the other stuff afterwards.”
So “the other stuff” is still on. Well, at least we’re all calling it the same thing.
We exit the Highway onto Houston Street; then before long she pulls up at the corner of Houston and Norfolk, and there’s Alaia.
“Hi Alaia. Hop on in,” says Evelyn through the window and clicks open the door for her.
Alaia’s faint smile seems to burn through the air at us. “Evelyn? Hi.” She climbs into the van and slides the door shut behind her. “Good afternoon,” she says to me and sits, with that demureness which I know to be deceptive, on the seat across the aisle from me.
I notice Evelyn is sending a quick text. “OK then, let’s roll,” she says. “This is how we roll.” She turns and hands to each of us a print-out of our call-sheet for the evening, headed “General Network—Metropolitan Sound-stage”, featuring a simple but precise timetable for our arrival and studio call-times, culminating with the broadcast at eight o’clock and signed off by Rik Chambers.
When I look up from the sheet, we are coasting fast down the elevated FDR Drive, passing the end of Wall Street. I catch Alaia’s eye. “Ready?” I ask quietly.
She holds my gaze. “Yes, I’m ready. And you?”
Evelyn presses a button and the windows all glide shut.
We turn our heads to opposite sides, as daylight fades away, an underpass slants up in streaks on left and right, and the van swoops down to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.
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