Edit: Hey, this was my 555th post. Make a wish, everyone!
Googe lets out a low whistle. “Jesus.”
“Pretty sure we’re sitting in a temple to Mammon, buddy.”
For a mere 10,000 creds a night, we claimed the Libretto’s “villa” all to ourselves. Another stiff in a suit (this place seems to have an endless supply of them, all interchangeable. Maybe they’re highly advanced androids or synths, or maybe it’s just a really strict dress code) gives us the grand tour. Two stories, three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, a living room, a lounge, a fitness center with a sauna, a kitchen, a dining room big enough to seat ten, a staircase and an elevator. The list goes on and on. It’s bigger than every place I’ve ever called home, probably as big as two or three of them put together. It’s decadent. It’s outrageous. It’s ostentatious. It’s opulent. This is the kind of place kings and queens, celebrities, executives, et cetera, yada yada yada, jerk off motion goes here.
I love it and I hate it with the kind of intensity you can only muster if you’ve spent your whole life railing against the excesses of capitalism and the concentration of wealth, the evils of conspicuous consumption, the unsustainability of building a fake goddamn moon around the Earth and turning it into a playground, all the while wondering what it would be like to be rich enough to shit into a toilet with an AI that’s smarter than you are.
I make a mental note to use the bathroom as soon as the stiff is gone.
It takes another hour for the Libretto workers to bring our things over from the Tropicali. It’s “four” in the “morning” Meadows Standard Time, and everyone looks like they’re fading fast. Even I’m feeling my energy flag at this point, and the thought of propping myself up with a pharmaceutical cocktail of some kind doesn’t seem particularly appealing. I also have no idea what’s in my system at this point, and I’m sure the medi-nanites in my blood are at the end of the operational life cycle. It wouldn’t do to win a bunch of money and then have a heart attack. So instead of reaching out to the women Papa Chub and Googe were gregarious enough to introduce themselves to, we start putting our things away, claiming rooms and beds, stripping off dress shirts and pants and trading them for whatever passes for pajamas.
We convene in the living room, five glasses and a bottle of whiskey sitting on a real wooden table. It’s four-thirty. Monk looks a little distressed at the sight of the bottle, but he sits down anyway. I fill everyone’s glass and call the meeting to order.
“Okay. So. We’re rich as Hell and in the Meadows for another two nights. How do we make the most of our time here?”
“Girls,” Papa Chub says.
“Seconded,” Googe adds. He nods furiously, his face a mask of grim determination born of whiskey and absolute conviction.
“Maybe we should actually see the shows now,” Erb says. His voice is soft, his eyes distant. He is somewhere far away, thinking of Cat Berry perhaps.
Monk considers his glass, his face solemn. His lips part, his mouth opening to speak, but they close. They open, shut again. He takes a deep breath, never looks up from the depths of his drink. “Whatever we do, it’s going to be awesome. I love you guys, man. I’m just happy to be here.”
We’re all silent after hearing this. It’s a frank, touching sentiment, one I believe completely. It’s not the kind of thing Monk would repress, but words don’t always come easy to him. He doesn’t always speak his mind, and when he does, it’s usually because the spirits are moving him.
I reach across the table, smile at him, pat him on the knee. “That’s touching, man. Thank you.” He returns my smile. I lean back in my seat. Frank, touching statements are not the our currency. They are some rare and beautiful bird, the kind of thing you never expect to see or witness so you never even bother to look for it. It just appears one day, alights upon your windowsill. It chirps out its song, It studies you. All you can do is be still and wait, let it exist in peace, just bear witness to its ephemerality.
That is the tragedy of rare and beautiful things, perhaps. The first instinct is to enjoy it, and that’s good. Things are meant to be enjoyed, to be appreciated. But then this desire switches, becomes a desire to preserve it. Preservation becomes possession. Possession becomes obsession, becomes jealousy, becomes fear, becomes a thousand other emotions. All the while, the simple act of appreciation is gone. We don’t appreciate the rare and beautiful things we have, we experience, we know, we love until they are gone.
And when they are gone, they haunt us.
Tonight, at least, I will say nothing. Tonight, at least, I will be still and I will appreciate.
We are still. Time passes. It always does.
We talk about nothing. Suggestions are made. No decisions are reached, but that’s fine. They can wait for the morning.
We dance the old dances and sing the old songs. We tell the old stories and laugh in all the right places, and though we are still young, we are not as young as we were, and therefore we are not young enough. But tonight that doesn’t matter.
We grow tired but we try to ignore it. Finally, the sensible can ignore it no longer and they retire to the spaces they have claimed for the beds. The insensate, a group that is largely just myself endure, persist, kill the bottle of whiskey.
The morning “sun” begins to poke through the windows, insistently spilling itself across the walls and floors, but its no match for the advanced technological comforts of the Libretto’s villa. With an angry look and a wave of my hand, the nanomaterials in the massive glass windows that form the exterior walls rearrange themselves and polarize the light until it is no brighter than a candle.
I consult my Conncomm. It’s six in the morning, Meadows time. It is late enough, I suppose. I get up from my seat in the living room, where I have been sitting alone for quite some time, and make my way towards the master bedroom, surveying the chaos as I stagger and stumble towards a king-size bed with Egyptian cotton sheets, whatever Egyptian means and whatever synthetic fabric cotton is.
Googe has claimed a couch for his resting place for whatever reason. Papa Chub is sprawled face down on the floor of the kitchen, legs splayed wildly, one arm out, the other tucked under his head as a makeshift pillow. I stand over him swaying, dimly aware that there layeth I but for the grace of God and the difference in our size and our desensitization to drugs of all stripes.
Still, it’s funny to judge him. “Goddamn, man,” I say, my voice slurring. “Really?”
His free hand lifts off the ground slightly. He flips me off. His arm goes slack and falls back down.
“You want me to carry you to a bed?”
“You want a pillow and a blanket?”
He gives me the thumbs up.
I stumble over to the nearest bedroom, not caring that Erb and Monk are lying in it as far apart from each other as possible. I pull the pillow out from under Erb’s head and the duvet off the bed, and make my way back towards the bathroom. Behind me, Erb murmurs in his sleep. I hear the squeak of springs as he rolls over and cuddles up against Monk for warmth and for a piece of the pillow.
Papa Chub’s on the floor where I’d left him. I tap gently on the back of his skull and say, “Pick up your head a second.” He does so with a groan and I slide the pillow underneath. I lay the cover over him. He looks comfortable, all things considered. “You need anything else?”
“Alright. Good night, man.”
A murmur, likely meaningless. But I choose to believe he’s saying good night back.
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