11 Lunch with a shark

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11   Lunch with a shark

The next four weeks are like a rapid-edit montage: Alaia and I planning and rehearsing; Marc's awesome publicity machine confecting a global buzz around what has now been named Sound & Vision, "an exclusive live broadcast of an international act at a secret location"; universal expectation swelling up at such a high-profile TV event; and obedient debate swirling over who or what the act will be. Rehearsals occur at a small G.N. sound-stage under the GE Building. These involve interminable hours with me under her close scrutiny, while she is invisible to me. The reason for this is that she is shut away in a sound-recording booth, in front of a microphone, watching a monitor that displays what is seen by the camera right in front of me—my face, projecting through my eyes. The rest of me is off-camera, perched on a tall seat. She vocalises, with her inimitable combination of wildness and minute control, to accompany the imaginative material I'm projecting; I then interact with her; and we thereby shape and hone what we shall present live. We are expertly helped, whenever we need it, by an otherwise silent studio engineer named Anne, of whom we see little because she tends to be either in a control booth or in the shadows behind the lights that are trained on me from around the camera lens.

After the two-week holiday I booked off from work is over, I return to work whenever I can, telling Raven and my other colleagues nothing of my life's recent changes, until I have expended the great majority of my annual holiday allowance. Nobody remarks much on my timetable; luckily, we are in the company's summer lull. I am hazily aware that after this broadcast I may not have to work again—but I have decided not to think about this possibility until Sound & Vision proves itself to have been a reality.

One morning when I'm at work, Jason phones and requests that we meet for lunch, specifying that he and I are to meet alone. He gives the name and location of a Midtown restaurant I am not familiar with. Expecting the venue to be chic or at least tasteful, I am surprised, when I get there, to find it is one of those tired and anonymous tourist-oriented restaurants that come and go in the Times Square area, such as no real New Yorker would ever choose. A suspicion flickers up in me: does he not want to be seen, today, by any of his colleagues?

As I skirt around a horrible bawling child in the doorway, whose tourist parents are making a weary scene and whose face I must remember not to kick as I pass, I see Jason through the window, sitting jammed into a small booth in a corner. Languid in his pale grey suit, he looks somewhat out of place, being surrounded in this aisle by noisy and vilely occupied perambulators. A tall fruity drink stands on the table in front of him, topped by a garish paper mini-parasol. He watches me approach him. "I hope you like my taste in restaurants," he says, extending his hand. "The perfect atmosphere!"

"This is quite the place of the moment, I've heard," I reply, raising my voice to be heard above the din.

He inclines his head away from the corner of a duvet-sized map of Manhattan that is being wrestled with by a pudgy redneck seated in the adjoining booth beside a vacant-eyed, gum-chewing wife.

It's a buffet-style restaurant, so we get up in turn and fill our plates. "Thanks for meeting at short notice." 

"Oh, sure. Alaia and I don't start rehearsing till two-thirty today."

"So, you're waltzing, you two?"

"Waltzing?"

"Moving forward with the project?"

"Oh, yes. We're working out some fabulous things for Sound & Vision. There's a ship—the biggest and most beautiful ship you've ever seen—and the turning of the world in a sidelight, and—oh, just gorgeous things. It's hard to describe them, like trying to describe music in words. You'll see it all."

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