At the New Stanley I was standing at the far end of the bar, mulling over my drink which I was using, with some success, to perform a lobotomy. While so engaged, I wondered if it wasn’t about time for the Vivaldi tape to come up again. As I stood thinking this, a stranger came into the bar, strode up to me and said: “Okay, it’s time.”
“Time for what,” I said, not bothering to look up.
“Time for you to go,” he said.
“I have to finish my drink,” I offered without interest.
“You have no drink,” the stranger curiously replied. Suddenly I noticed that we appeared to be alone in the bar. My glass was empty, clean and dry, as if it had never held a drink.
“The Mother Ship’s waiting outside,” he added.
Ordinarily I would have found this scenario terrifying, the stranger insolent; but somehow or other, the whole thing sounded inviting. I had of late, it is true, become something of a stranger to myself; I had been drinking heavily for weeks, I know not for what collection of reasons. The bizarrely fashionable articles I had been reading in the Atlantic Monthly weighed heavily upon my mind. “Mustn’t keep Mother waiting,” I said cheerily. But then, as is customary for me, I sought some last minute excuse. Might I have a glass of water first? The water was undrinkable, the stranger informed me. This was no surprise; I had heard similar facts before, it seemed. Nevertheless I panicked. Where was Sylvia? I had to talk to Sylvia.
“Sylvia’s in New York,” the stranger told me, with an unmistakable note of weary disgust.