A Moment Of Your Time

The foyer of Frances & Reeves Solicitors was busy, as always. A nexus of dispute. With everyone in a suit, on the phone and striding purposefully across the atrium, one man stood out. He wore what could once have been called a suit, if it was some time back in the Great Depression. Now it was tattered, threadbare and full of patches. His hair was no better; thick, wild, and grey. The pools of his eyes betrayed his anxiety.

“I’m looking for Robert Frances. My name is Maxwell Heit” he told reception. His voice was hoarse, and he was asked to repeat himself. He shifted his weight self-consciously. “I said, I’m looking for Robert-”

“Mr Frances is not available today, sir” said the receptionist. He looked barely twenty. Almost certainly fresh from university; ambitious, naive. “You really need to book-”

“Yes, thank you, I know, but this is not a usual request. Can you call him for me?”

“Listen, if you’re in some kind of trouble, this isn’t the right method-”

“Please. Surely he can spare a couple of minutes?”

As the receptionist began again to offer kind words of rejection, Maxwell looked to the heavens for strength. A chime sounded nearby, and the lift which served this towering structure of legal commerce emptied into the atrium. There was no mistaking Robert Frances. Close-cropped black hair, steely-grey eyes, a confident stance, and a bespoke suit probably worth a year of Maxwell’s rent.

“Mr Frances, Mr Frances!” Maxwell called, tired, weak legs propelling him towards the lawyer.

Robert stopped at the sound of his name. A name he had built an empire around.

“Yes?” he said, curtly.

“My name is Maxwell. Could I please have a moment of your time?”

“I think my current rate for a ‘moment’ is about five hundred dollars” Robert laughed. “Do you have that kind of money?”

Maxwell stared at the floor, ashamed, filled with unbearable sadness. “Please…”

“Homeless people can get free legal advice down the road at the Community Centre” Robert said. He grimaced. “I think they have showers there, too”.

This was Maxwell’s moment of defeat. He knew it with a terrifying certainty. Fighting tears, he nodded his head. Maxwell watched his son turn from him and walk away.

Red Eyes In The Morning

It was so hot, that night. I remember the tarmac felt like wax. The moon was full, and the sky was abuzz with some kind of dark, reddish glow. We had plenty of time, so we got coffee at the airport. It was a late flight, but the airport still drifted with its human flotsam and jetsam. It was strangely hushed, as if people had mistaken the architecture of the airport for some kind of church.

We sat there, talking – as usual, the conversation ranging as far and wide as a migrating butterfly. You smiled at me over your espresso, and it suddenly hit me how much I was going to miss you. It couldn’t be any other way, though. We knew that. This was your moonshot.

Eventually, your flight was called, though our words hadn’t nearly run out. There was still so much to say, but that’s what technology is for, we said. Words had always come easy between us, an ocean couldn’t wash them away. Somehow though, when we said goodbye, I felt less like a man and more like the scared little boy you met when we were ten.

Standing in the oppressive heat, from the car park I watched several flights take off, not knowing which was yours. When the last blinking light had merged with the stars in the red sky, I went home, heavy and thick with emotions I couldn’t name.

Of course, I couldn’t sleep. I had three cold showers, it still didn’t help much. I didn’t mean to, but I found your letters that night, as I stumbled around the apartment seeking to cool myself.

I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.

I sat there reading, sweat mingling with the flow of tears, your blurry handwriting a vehicle of uncanny revelation. I started reinterpreting the last few months through the mirror of your letters. You were in so much pain, more than I ever realised.

I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.

Around 3a.m. I couldn’t read any more. I desperately wanted to call you, but you were still in the air. I threw on some clothes and I started running, as if I could leave your words behind, or gain enough speed to cross the ocean and be waiting for you when you landed. I ended up down at the lake where we always used to camp out. The full moon glimmered on the water, still tainted red. I screamed at the stars, and you, somewhere up there – ‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t know’.

I didn’t know I would never see you again.