It is late. Gerard lumbers out from the air conditioned reception of Clifford Chance, weighed down by his leather Tumi laptop bag and his bloated legal brief-case. He realises immediately he is over-dressed in his wool suit and raincoat as the hot air presses down on his shoulders.
Where the hell are the taxis? He thinks. The normally busy rank is deserted.
He turns to his right and starts to head to Cabot Square. As he passes the vast glass windows of office reception areas, each space appears as a unique world. He watches as the well turned out security staff move gracefully between the furniture and immense works of art, owning the space.
The traffic lights ahead seem to change more slowly than usual and there is only one car waiting at the junction. The light from the lamp-post reflects off the windscreen making it appear as if the car is driverless, like a child’s toy waiting to be pushed.
Gerard walks past the DLR station and notices how quiet it has become. He hears the detail of his shoes tapping and rasping on the pavement and the sound of his breath, quite laboured now. He tastes salt on his tongue as a trickle of sweat finds its way into his half-open mouth.
Just before he reaches Cabot Square he walks past the windows of Bang and Olufsen, screaming their wares in a verse of understatement. He can’t help but take a look at the hi-fi and televisions, each piece displayed with an almost religious reverence, the space around each object seeming to say more than the things themselves. Gerard, fleetingly catching his reflection in the glass, notices the burden of his bags dragging on him and pulls himself away.
As he enters the square he glances towards the trees, their leaves stark against the near dark sky, back-lit by the light from the offices. They remind him of children’s paper cut-out snowflakes, and the tree trunks, impossibly straight, of the long inside tubes of cardboard from tin-foil rolls he had to collect at Primary School.
Gerard surges forward to the taxi rank, exhausted. He feels intense relief as he spots a single car waiting in the rank, the cabbie leaning in short sleeves against the car.
“Where to mate?”