He lived in an attic apartment in what had been the industrial part of town, before the manufactory pulled up stakes and left the stacks and workers to idle and gather dust. It hadn’t hurt the town — by that time the software park over on G Street had blown up big and there was still plenty of work — but it left a vast hollow place near the waterfront. It had been slowly turning into a residential area, starting at about the time he’d come to the city. His apartment building was a converted warehouse, divided cheaply into bachelorettes by particle board and sheetrock. Because there wasn’t really any insulation to speak of, the upper floor of the building was left empty and whole.

It was a cavernous space, with ceilings twenty feet high and enormous glass windows that ran the length of two of the walls. He had an excellent view of the mouldering neighbourhood. The other two walls were blank brick, sheer and stolid from floor to ceiling.

He found a greeting card on the sidewalk outside of his office building one day. It said, “Congratulations To A Beautiful Young Woman At Her Bat Mitzvah” in a swoopy, glittery font that made him thing of thick-ankled, unmarried aunts. He put it up on the bricks over his bed, a small white pasteboard adrift on a scarlet sea. As he lay that night an idea spread thin, grasping roots through his mind, and sent branches forth to surround the card over his head.