Hearing Angel and Lucan leave the kitchen, I open the bathroom door, slip across the room into the corridor and follow them back into the music and babble of the den. As I slide through the surface of the revolving-door image of people all around me, Alaia swims up from somewhere. “Hi!” I say, then speak low into her ear: “I just overheard Lucan and Angel talking about what they saw on the DVD.”
Her eyes flick to mine, then away again. “Oh, really?”
“I only overheard them for a moment. They didn’t know I could hear. But they seem to be getting on fine with each other.”
“Thank goodness. I just never found any opportunity here to ask Lucan if he’d watched it, he was always with other people.”
I refrain from speaking. Is she going to ask me, I wonder, whether I overheard Lucan and Angel revealing what they saw on the DVD—whom they saw on the DVD?…
No, she’s not. Maybe she’d ask this if we were outside? “Shall we leave, since we planned not to stay late?” I ask.
“Um, I think I’m going to stay a bit longer. But if you want to head out, that’s fine, I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Evelyn left a few minutes ago.”
“OK, sure. Have fun.”
“You’ll get back OK?”
I nod, float upstairs and out onto the Avenue. No sign of any confession from Alaia, then.
Back in the Metropolitan, I sprawl on my bed with the light off and my sense of space revolving. From throughout the last four roller-coaster days, the disparate voices of Marc, Alaia, Jason, Evelyn, Rik, Flames, Lucan, Kev, Damian, Angel, Shigem, Kim and Pippa all chatter at once in grand cacophony, each voice emanating from inside its own densely specific human life and all bubbling up around me in the spume of a million overwhelming details, until a most welcome sleep hits the “mute” button.
I surface when a late and unsteady footfall comes down the corridor—Alaia. She hesitates outside and I lie still, listening to the silence of her listening for me. At last she gets her key out, turns it fumbling in her door-lock, enters and shuts her door. Does she think I’m tuning in to her? Does she know I know about her subterfuge? I’ve told her that I don’t tune in to her. Does she disbelieve me? I’m tempted to find that out right now by tuning in, but I don’t. I listen to her moving around next door while I drift back towards sleep, conscious of a chill of subterfuge and uncertainty hanging in the air of my room, seeping in through the wall right beside me here, from wherever she may happen to be positioned in relation to this bed…
For more about "The Imagination Thief" by Rohan Quine, see
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