For the rest of the day, on her break and between phonecalls and even during phonecalls, Raven’s gaze devours the Chocolate Raven, discerning more and more of her life, absorbing details through a mysterious kind of omniscience regarding her. To summarise: it seems that the Chocolate Raven works in one of the large hotel complexes at the Marina, somewhere on the corporate hospitality side of things. Many of the business travellers she helps look after are demanding (and a few are appalling), but the great majority are civilised and impersonal. Being at a middle-management level in this field, she does indeed have a generous salary—much more than Raven’s own. She is briskly competent at her job. She is humorous, well-liked, and even enjoys a tolerable level of job satisfaction.
Through her numerous tourism and hospitality industry contacts, she is socially active across the whole Marina-based scene of moneyed hedonism and factitious frolic in grand hotels—as well as across the mostly residential Palm Jumeirah. And at the home end of her commute, she is also familiar with the Downtown Burj Dubai complex, where the Burj Khalifa itself stands, and with the neighbouring stretch of Sheikh Zayed Road, whose own concentration of grand hotels makes it, frankly, the relevant stretch.
In these two extensive neighbourhoods the Chocolate Raven thus enjoys an endless round of well-watered and well-fed fun, which tends to occur in bars, nightclubs and restaurants, in hotel suites and palatial lobbies, at house parties in shiny marble-walled lounges, beside back-garden swimming-pools, and on private beaches on the Palm at dusk, behind a few of those thousands of not-quite-identical luxury mansions built along each side of an array of not-quite-identical Fronds running the whole exotic gamut from Frond A to Frond P.
Behind the glitter of this social whirl, however, she sometimes becomes half-aware of an elusive sense of emptiness, absence or vapidity; and this sense leaves her discombobulated for a moment, before she lets herself be distracted back into the normality of her days. She’s well-practised, after all, at using her all-purpose intelligence and fun-loving aliveness to interact with people in ways that achieve a reliable level of social success and worldly comfort, while embracing those around her in a simple, generous glow of glamour. And this reliable ease of achievement has quietly conspired (as why would it not?) with a small and unobtrusive streak of laziness in her, to drag her back just a little from filling out her own imaginative potential quite as far as its edges.
The Chocolate Raven’s own half-awareness of this confirms the truth of it, for Raven.
And as Raven reflects upon this truth, she realises that she herself is slightly disappointed to have discovered it in the Chocolate Raven. For the latter’s function was surely to be entirely enviable, like a film-star or a pop-star—or rather, like the image constructed and maintained around a film-star or a pop-star. Yet here she was, displaying to Raven an element of flatness in her inner life.
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