Friday, March 06, 2009

The Streak - 20 - All Visitors Must Be Announced

Wallet-keys-phone, wallet-keys-phone, Evan thought, patting his pockets for reassurance. He cabbed it to the Upper West, to Kyle's art-deco building on hilly 79th, the Something House, or whatever it said in script on the awning. Evan had been there a few times; he almost recognized the doormen. Of course, they recognized him. The first time, he was greeted sunnily: "Mr. Benjaminson, sir!" Now the man behind the desk stared at him with mute dismay, as though beholding the scapegoat who's wandered back to town. A curt, obligatory nod.

"Hi," said Evan.

"Good evening, sir."

It was a little bit unclear what happens next. Theoretically, Evan was meant to tell the doorman he was calling on Kyle. The doorman would phone up to Kyle and announce Evan. At first, the doormen would carry out this formality with an elaborate series of coded gestures designed to evoke the venerable cross-class tradition of fraternal, urban bonhomie: the phone pressed to the ear for a single beat - as though a mere ring might signify something - then the discreet pointing of the finger in the direction of the elevator banks, accompanied by a solemn and approving closed-eye, closed-mouth nod: You're in. You may go. Sir, you. I keep the gate, though you may pass. Others stand around and wait - not you. Of course not you. Sir. And as soon as Evan punched "up," he'd hear the doorman, just loud enough in fact for him to hear: "Mr. Boyce? Mr. Benjaminson to see you. Good. Yes. You're welcome, sir." After a time this familiarity had been transcended, and Evan kind of wished it hadn't. He'd begin to say Kyle's name and the doorman would already be nodding, almost impatiently. Then Evan, heavy footed, would walk to the elevator with the idle gaze of the doorman on his back. It was hard to know how to proceed without a ritual in place.

Now Evan broke his eyes off the doorman's and stepped toward the elevator. He expected that this was expected.

"Sir?"

"Sorry?"

"Sir? I'm sorry."

"I, oh, I'm here to see Kyle."

"Mister..."

"Kyle. Mr Kyle. Boyce. Mr. Kyle Boyce."

"Certainly sir. One moment, please."

The doorman dialed Kyle and waited for the phone to ring as many times as it had to ring for Kyle to pick it up, keeping his unhappy eyes on Evan all the while.

"Mr. Boyce?"

The doorman suddenly covered the receiver with his hand and leaned toward Evan.

"I'm sorry, sir. Your name is?"

"Evan. Evan Benjaminson."

"Mr. Benjaminson is here to see you, sir. Shall I send him up?" Pause. "Very well, sir. You're welcome, sir." He hung up and looked back up at Evan.

"You may take the elevator up, sir. Apartment 9-F."

"I know. Thanks," said Evan, betraying a trace of irritation.

The doorman cocked his head and blinked slowly, an elegant, wordless fuck you.

"All visitors must be announced, sir."

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