That Monumental Folly

Everyone has left or passed out, in the hallways and elevators, against the bar, curled up in the bathtubs, clutching each other spasmodically beneath the grand piano. A pair of bankers have lit a fire on the balcony overlooking the city and are half-heartedly trying to cook some frozen sausages; lord knows where they found them. The musicians packed up and left hours ago, the records have all spun down with no one to tend to them.

Leslie’s not the only one still awake, not by a long shot — he moves quietly among the weary staff slowly emptying ashtrays, collecting dishes, mopping up spilled drinks and vomit, pressing cash tactfully into palms — but nevertheless he feels alone. His brilliant emerald green tie has lost its luster, the delicate powder blue of his collar its starched crispness, his cuffs chafe at his wrists.

His feet hurt.

How long has it been, he wonders, since these became a habit more than a pleasure? He reaches back, but finds only stories worn out with repetition: how witty those early days, how strong the drinks, how beautiful the guests, how sparkling the lights. All a pretty performance, nothing more; the laughter, then as now, was always just a trifle forced.