Urban: No. 2 is the second chapter in an eight-part serial, following the lives of the inhabitants of Gsburne Block, the last remnants of the Deluge, the water that whispers in ordered ripples, babbles unkept promises. Because everyone needs something to do, even when the world is gone.
THE GSBURNE GAZETTE
Vol. 14, No. 2
The Way Things Are Going
Cut into the glamorous edifice of the Hotel Perianth is a revolving door—halfway between city and solace, outside and in. It grinds in its turn on rusty wheels, so ancient that its cogs have known a dozen other ways to be, been shields and junipers and broken lungs. So timeless, its atoms have seen fire go out of style, witnessed tyrants prosper, and children die, and silver-haired architects weep their hundredth skyline. So very old, perhaps too old now. Track, frame, glass, all out of time—every piece of the revolving door was retrieved, reassembled on the spot, for the purpose, from the torn wreckage of that which came before.
I pass through the threshold of brass, bent in twisted coils that were always tarnished, that resemble the tentative masses of English ivy. The glass panes that divide each quarter are licked by the emerald hue that feeds at the body of a fallen sequoia.
And I cannot remember what a sequoia is.
As I move, follow the rasping gyre, I can see all their faces in the glass—ahead of me, behind me, ahead, behind. There are too many faces to count, and they all partake of a common expression. And I wish they would howl, make the noises that their mouths contort to in such horrid pain. I can see their pain unfolded, masks without bodies, where figures used to be not two, three turns ago, people who entered four, five turns before that—the bodies that became after-images, after-thoughts that became a frightful and lonely shame.
I must get out. I remember them, I know them, but I must get out. I must—to the cold of the city, to the warmth of the lobby’s great hearth, a yawning ode to opulence, either way. When my turn comes.
When my turn comes.
It’s been some time since I last wrote to you, though I can’t say how long it’s been. I can’t blame you for forgetting the details—although I never had the luxury to forget. Today, I will open my eyes, remembering as much as I can bear. The same, again—hopefully, terribly the same, again and again and again.
“It is today,” I will whisper to the bare ceiling. “I am still here.” And I am not yet sure if that is a good thing—perhaps it’s for the best if I remain undecided. The time will be 6:29 a.m., and I will slap my hand against the crown of the alarm clock, in the bare seconds before it was meant to sing a song it no longer holds. And I will rise from bed, prepare for today. Once I finish washing my face, pressing the worn cloth against my eyebrows, into the grooves of my nose, I will get dressed. My shirt will be waiting for me on the back of the chair, blue pants folded under.
I will not be able to find my tie. I will not know where it could have slunk off to. The floors will be bare. The drawers will be empty.
Who ever uses the drawers in a hotel room? I have yet to meet them, yet to do it for myself. My clothes remain folded comfortably, a little less-than-neatly, in a grey suitcase in the shuttered closet, open-faced on the luggage rack. I will not take them out, not disturb them, not provoke the television beneath, hollowed-out, silent only in the company of shadows. I will not touch them.
Who uses the drawers in a hotel room, when they only plan to stay for a short time? And who ever plans to stay for long? Never longer than today. And how long has it been since I last wrote for you? How many of todays have passed and not passed between us?
“It is today,” I remind myself.
I will put on my shoes. Loafers, red leather with brass buckles. They’re my favorite ones, still some distance from tatters—hardly a scuff, hardly a sign of wear-and-tear. And though I surely appreciate my other pair—simple black oxfords with white laces—they will stand forever trunkless and legless in the small closet. I can never wear them again; one of the laces is missing its aglet, and I am not sure that I could bear to lose the other.
I will open my door, grabbing my briefcase as I go. And the hallway will be long. So very, very, very long. And I will close the door behind me, pausing a moment, choosing to let the yellow cord be—Do Not Disturb, swaying on the handle.
“Good morning,” Carlton chirps, standing up a little straighter behind his concierge desk.
“Good morning,” I will answer. And I mean it. I always mean it. “Good morning,” I repeat, with greater emphasis on the good, trying to show just how much I mean it, hoping that sharper pronunciation might do the trick. Then he will see that he has much to do with the morning being good.
Carlton offers a slick smile, a twist between amusement and feigned confusion. “Good morning,” he echoes, matching my emphasis. “Good morning.”
“Good morning.” I will nod. My head will bob like an empty travel shampoo bottle in shallow bathwater. “And a, good day, too.” I will make my exit. I will not say all I want to say, to the man I know so well.
I will note the sudden roughness beneath my quite comfortable soles—checkerboard steel to coarse asphalt. The air is colder now, but fresher too. Everything looks almost bright in the breach of morning—the grey walls, the white lines, the red taillights. Everything, except for the water. The water that mutters in ordered ripples, the water that’s overtaken the lower half of the garage, the water that seeps adrift in free-flowing whims.
I must not go near the water. I will not go near the water.
“This is today,” I remind myself.
The engine will kick, prance, and putter. The radio will breed only static, so I will turn it off. The gas tank will be nearly empty, as always—comme d’habitude. And perhaps today I will be able to leave my car up in the unbroken daylight. Perhaps today I will be able to leave it up there, and then it will not be so alone.
Turning my third corner, there is a car abandoned in the middle of Fifth Street, still running, grey fumes spewing out the tailpipe—a car with a busted front bumper, a crushed windshield. Its emergency lights blink a scarlet sharper than a needle’s prick. I weave my way around it, and still, still, still there will be nowhere for my car to go. And it will creep back to the garage of the Hotel Perianth, and I can almost believe, as I pull it back into its old spot, that its engine putters a little more quietly, a little more wearily, a little more lifelessly.
“Walking it is,” I will say, tracing my fingers against the hood, lending it a bit of my own life.
In the lobby’s radiance, flanked by the frescoes of beaming cherubim, Carlton will stand still behind the concierge desk, almost exactly where I left him. My shoes will squeak on the polished floors, and he will turn to look at me. He will stare at me, and I will shrug. “There wasn’t anywhere else.”
“There never is,” he will say, still smiling. And it feels like he is always smiling, like the world could be ending, and he would still be smiling at me. I will welcome his smile.
“There never is,” I will repeat, finding no other words to give back to him, spinning around to the revolving door. I stop at the sight of my face, caught in the brackish glass. Stepping sideways, I head for the other door.
There never is. And there never will be.
“The usual?” I will nod to Ilana as she pulls open the trunk, though she doesn’t see me nod. She is wearing a different scarf than yesterday—a kaleidoscopic purple ribbon, more subdued than the tie-dye inferno with which she normally burdens her neck—but everything otherwise is the same, down to her beige headband. “The usual?” she will repeat.
I will hear the grinding, the whistling of steam. I will lean against the car door, watching her work the silver machine through the tinted window. Finally, she will offer me a heavy travel mug, and I will switch my briefcase to my other hand and take it from her.
The liquid is dark and warm. It smells pleasantly bitter. I cannot remember what it is.
“Two credits,” she declares.
I look at it again. I dip two fingers beneath the surface, a thin, transparent layer giving way to the churning ink, up to the second knuckle—it burns, but it does not sting with remembrance, not even remorse. A lucid phantom of a lost thought, a creamy cloud drifts and swirls and trickles inside the black liquid, diluting the darkness, becoming opaque. “I’ll pay you later. I promise.”
I take a sip. Then, I take a deeper gulp, hoping I can find the liquid’s name someplace beneath its murky meniscus—catch it in my esophagus before I swallow it whole—and spit it back up onto the pavement. I cannot, not a syllable, not a letter, though I still feel like I might cough something up. I suppose I am not remembering as much as I thought I would today.
Ilana claps me on the shoulder, pulling me back to the center of always. “You’d better!” And the rumble of her taxi will recede, veering onto Fifth Street.
I stand there, clutching my stomach, clutching the drink, not ready to let it go. Yet I must start moving. I must keep moving. And I will run. I will jump over the storm sewer, the drains bristling with hundreds of fishhooks—many still baited with the tattered corners of old photographs—the drains where the water runs, babbles unkept promises, although it never actually rains. I will run past the fire hydrant, buried in a mound of soil, past a smashed-open ATM, past a rack crammed with bikes, with flat, ragged tires.
And I will make it to the elevator that waits for me. I will press three buttons: five, eight, and twelve. The elevator doors will close.
Five: hardly anything left. No stacked chairs, no thirty-knobbed pieces of musical equipment, no puzzle of desks crammed together at crooked angles. No Michael Thompson, no Alexa Thompson, no sign of the two boys. Only a long table, four empty chairs. Scattered papers, blank pages, pages half-written—unfinished lines. The whole floor is perfectly silent, and a haze lingers in the air, up by the ceiling, a vague distortion like the blurred edges of a polaroid picture.
The elevator doors will close.
Eight: a floor without desks, without cubicles, though certainly not vacant. Reams-worth of paper wall-to-wall on crisscrossed clotheslines, spanning the entire floor, swaying in the squall of A.A.’s frantic movements as they check each frame of their new cartoon for inconsistencies. I can see the flyaways of A.A.’s black hair between the reams, their flitting fingers. They are tearing down a swath of pages.
“Good morning!” I shout.
“Good morning, neighbor!” A.A. calls back, waving a friendly hand above their streams of artistry.
“Have you seen the Thompsons yet today?”
“Mike and the boys? No, sorry! But if I do, I’ll tell them to swing by!”
“What about Alexa?”
And the elevator doors will close upon us.
Twelve: I disembark here, stepping out into a narrow waiting room. It is unremarkable, white, leather couches, barren posters—nothing left to the printed advertisements but abstract circles and pastel-tinged triangles. There will be no one at the reception desk to stop me, to greet me, to ignore me. I will pass freely through the open threshold and into the bullpen.
The swivel chairs are unoccupied. The pushpins in the corkboard form the unbroken constellation of a blank face. Nevertheless, the daylight reflects off the desks with a little more luster—the dust has been disturbed. And the air is different too. I have breathed it all before, and today, it is not silent, it is not still. It flows in unscrupulous eddies. Someone has been here, maybe in the trace odor of their breath, maybe in the simplest errant breeze.
The ceiling cracks—the building settles in a new way. Someone is here.
“Hello,” I speak to the gray carpet, the processed ceiling tiles. There is no response. “Hello,” I say—this time to the water cooler, some of the empty mesh chairs, this peculiar little green lamp that decided to stay with me, despite its many opportunities to go. Nothing says anything.
And yet I know this air, better than I know the name of my own mother. I have found its coldest regions, marked its tides. It is not the air of past todays. It is moved by lungs other than my own.
I go to the manager’s office and knock gently on the door. It is locked, but I have the key. The metal teeth click to the right in the doorknob, and I hear a scuttling on the other side, the sound of something heavy being knocked off the desk—a stapler, possibly. And before I can push it open an inch, the knob is yanked from my hands. Two heads with one face study me in the open doorway.
“How long have you been waiting?”
Penn’s nose scrunches up, the repugnance of impatience. “Too long.”
“Not too long,” Finn, his twin, counters.
“Long enough,” I say, waving them out of the cubicle. “Alright, come on. Where are your parents?”
“Dad dropped us off here,” Penn shrugs. “Told us to stay with you until he could pick us up.”
“Why? What about your mom?”
Each glances to the other without turning their heads, a side-eye for some self-assurance, each with a common expression: furrowed eyebrows, shallow frowns. I know the look, but I hate to see it on faces so young. That faint inkling that something important has been misplaced—the passive struggle to remember.
“Dad’s trying to find someone like that,” Finn finally answers, the extrovert of the duo.
“Also, also, he told us to give you this.” Penn retrieves a thin slip of stationery from the front pocket of his overalls—letterhead from “The Concierge of Sepal Apartments.” The paper is crumpled, handwriting frantic, wheeling out like the lines of a seismograph in 1906. “Will come get the boys at 7. Alexa’s gone. Please remember.”
And I do remember, though I am not sure how long that will last.
After catching static in a payphone call to 505, the Thompson’s residence, I order lunch for the three of us at the Green Apple—the white-walled lounge on the second floor of the Hotel Perianth. Throughout the whole meal, I keep a lookout for Michael and Alexa, stationed as a chewing gargoyle at the nexus of the wall-to-wall windows facing the intersection, eating slowly, stretching my lunch break by half-an-hour. There is no sign of the couple—only A.A.’s son crosses the deserted street. There is only the sound of small sips, the twinkling chatter of ice water, a grunt as one of the two boys pokes the other. Our meals consist of three egg salad sandwiches and three dill pickles, one of which Penn pawns off to his counterpart. The whole lineup costs me less than a buck.
I pay with all the change that I dig out of my coat pocket—three quarters and three nickels. Dropping them at the bar, I head for the stairs, ushering the boys ahead of me.
“Cheapskate, huh?” The voice is accusatory, but not severe—an orchestral tune-up before the thrust into a more playful melody. “No one ever taught you to leave a tip?” It’s a voice that I cannot quite place, and I feel my heart bend, pull like understretched taffy, as ready to snap as it is to swell—because you must understand, it has been a terribly long time since somebody new happened into our world. I turn to meet her. The lenses of her glasses are bulbous, so dense they could start a fire at thirty meters. They seem to be designed for scrutiny.
“What is your name?” I yell, not knowing how to modulate my voice around a stranger. After encountering the ease of her spontaneous words, my own voice feels strange, severed.
“You can have it, if,” and she points to the emptiness of the dappled marble countertop. I reach into my empty coat pocket, find a quarter. Her eyes flicker, a glimmer of insight as I return to the bar. I press my palm to the counter, slide the coin over to her. “That’s all?” Her fingers hover above the offering. “I guess some things never changed around here.”
“What’s your name?”
“Lillian. What’s yours? Elmore? Edgar?”
“No.” I reach back into my pocket, pull out two more quarters. “First, do you know anyone named Alexa Thompson?”
She slides the coins back, leans in closer. “I know the most important name there is in this place.” Her shoulders lift and stiffen–bracing herself, it seems. “Deep Well.”
The scratching of wood against the tile floor—the sound of one of the twins pulling out a chair, tired of standing. “Boys,” I call, “how about you go down and check on Carlton? I’m sure he would appreciate the company.” They linger for a moment, but I know them—they would much rather explore the lobby than wait around here. Their footsteps fade down the stairwell.
I can see Lillian’s eyes are shining, not just a trick of the light, the iridescent frames of her spectacles—new eyes, fresh eyes, uncyphered eyes. Eyes that remember, that forget, that imagine. Watery eyes. “When we were little,” she begins, reciting with a slow and steady cadence, “hell, even when we weren’t, our parents used to tell us never to go into this, this clearing—the Dulles Glade. Our house was right up next to it—right on the other side of a barbwire fence, close enough to hear the cicadas brooding in the trees. Their chirping never stopped—even in the deep of winter, you could hear it whistling across the snow.
“Everyone in town knew to avoid the Glade—they say all the way up to the Mayor, that he had lost a cousin to it. One year, quite a few folks—parents mostly—petitioned to have the area paved over, sealed up. But no one was willing to take up the job. No one would cross the fence. No one would set foot on the property. And no one, under any circumstances, would go past the trees.
“Because even though nobody ever went into the Glade—and no one ever came back—there were stories about it, things only the other kids at school seemed to know for sure. There was something in the Glade, something that made it dangerous, something that made it wrong. Something that made people disappear. And it wasn’t anything in the dirt. It wasn’t ghosts, or a monster—at least not the ones we usually think of.
“It was a well. A deep well. And if you went up to the edge of it, went to look down inside, it’d be like you were seeing the sky through the wrong end of a telescope, swelling at the edges, distended. Falling, both ways. And when you fell, and you always fell, they say you wouldn’t drown in it. You wouldn’t tread water ‘til you were tired, ‘til your limbs gave out. No, you would just keep sinking.
“And you would never stop—because there was no bottom to it. There was only deeper. Deeper into the murk under the sky, deeper into the living water. Deeper into your lungs, inside yourself. Deeper into the deep, deep well of Dulles Glade.
“Now, have you ever heard of something like that?”
With every word, she is studying me. With every word, I remember a little more—all things lost, all the tears that never flowed free, rivers of regret. I remember that I was not always the photographer of the Gsburne Gazette. And I know just enough to leave the quarters on the table, to step away. I know enough to feel sorry for her. “If you can still remember the way, leave this place. Because it’s one of the first things to leave you. Because there are things here, Lillian, if you’re not careful, that would be very happy to keep you, and the rest of us. Happy to know you, in all the ways you… in all the most hateful, hateful ways.”
Her lower lip shivers, shaping into a response. “We can save you.”
“No, no, you can’t.” I reach out, across the corner. After a moment, she takes my hand–we share not a firm hold, but a touch of reality. “You only know an ending. Though, for what it’s worth, it’s been really nice to meet you. It reminded me what it was like to be a person.”
I let go. I can already feel the tremors in the floor. “Leave, please.” I turn away, before all possibilities are set in blood, before he can pass his judgment. I keep moving towards the stairs. I must keep moving.
Her voice echoes through an empty room.
Everyone needs something to do. Carlton runs the hotel. Ilana makes coffee. Karume animates their cartoons. The children have their own imaginations, and, for children, imagining is just about the most important thing there is.
We try to let them, when it’s safe.
Today, it seems, I am taking care of two such children—which is not exactly my skill set. I have always been a journalist. I am the editor. I am the reporter. I am the printer. I am a source. I am the photographer, though I cannot find a camera anywhere, and there are vacant places in which I neither hope to find one nor wish to look.
But for today, I will try my hand at imagining too.
I tuck the twins into bed, sit down in the yellow armchair at their side. 7:00 p.m. has long passed, and I can see the luminous trail of Michael’s desperate search, bright little squares against the shrouded night. All the lights in Sepal are on, every door is open. It’s dangerous, but I can’t blame Michael for trying. By tomorrow, it will be too late.
“Once upon a time, there was a little cloud named Brush,” I begin to narrate, as Finn and Penn press their heads against the pillows. “And when it suited them, unsatisfied with the airy ways of their fellow clouds, Brush would descend in a fog, linger at the lip of open windowsills. They would listen to everything that passed between the ruffled curtains, to all the songs a poet practiced for her lover, to the soft tears of a widower, to the radio programs children flocked to in ecstatic fright. In all their wanderings, Brush had encountered all manners of things, would play with them in crystal reverie.
“But, until a certain night, Brush had never, never heard anything quite like the ambitious declarations of one Sir Darby Writbody, spoken in a stone lecture hall in Westvalent Briar. ‘I have formulated a system of rigorous taxonomy,’ Writbody announced. ‘And to test it, I will embark upon on a great journey! I mean to discover a supreme specimen of the most perfect cloud!’ And the lecture hall erupted with applause. The next day, every newspaper in Westvalent bore a variation of the same headline—WRITBODY’S VOYAGE TO PERFECT THE FLUID WORLD!
“And Brush themself had been enticed by Writbody’s strange word: perfect. It purred like an upper-crust feline. Brush was thrilled by the prospect of Writbody’s quest—finally, a human with as much interest in clouds as they had in humans! And the chance to meet the most perfect of their kind—whatever that might be.
“And so, as Sir Writbody took to the skies in a great red balloon, drawing up his anchors, firing a pillar of ravenous heat into the sky, Brush trailed the explorer from a modest distance. Off to the verdant shrubs and twisting corners of the Castlewellan Maze! Off to the corroded shores of Karachay! Off to the snow fields of Genhe! At every destination, Writbody would unload a procession of contorted contraptions from heavily padlocked trunks—copper scopes and glassy scales to measure the heights of the clouds, to fathom their densities, to record all their variations in bright and blue hue.
“Every time, with a few jots in his journals, Writbody would sigh, and mutter to himself, and carry on to his next waypoint. And with each new disappointment for Writbody, Brush began to harbor a timorous hope. Could Brush themself be that most perfect cloud, the object of Writbody’s desires? Was Brush the right size, the right shape, the right shade of vapor? With a few precipitate tumbles, might Brush become the superior archetype?
“Brush was hesitant to indulge in such a wispy fantasy, but with every spin of Writbody’s propellers, Brush was tugged a little closer to belief—surely, here was deep conviction, perhaps a phantom of truth! Brush became a student of the nobleman’s taxonomy, would read through his journals, disregarding the changing shapes of their fellow clouds in favor of the author’s flowing script. For such an attentive cloud, it was easy. In the name of Writbody’s neocumulist theory, they conceded a few small changes to their form—changes which made it all the easier to accept the later, more rigid contortions.
“After crossing tumultuous oceans, rounding high towers, slogging through the heat of parched deserts, Brush worked up the courage to approach that traveling scholar near the peak of Agiocochook, hoping to demonstrate their adherence to his order. The crimson morning glowed softly on Brush’s crafted tufts and curls and wisps.
“‘What’s this?’ Writbody exclaimed, peering through his spyglass. ‘Most fascinating!’ As he had done for every other cloud, the nobleman unwound his chain of contraptions. He measured Brush, estimated them, weighed their vapor from his frigid nest.
“With the last fall of the scales, only one word left the man’s mouth: ‘No.’ And, in an instant, for all that his ‘perfect’ had inspired, just a single syllable had offered the antithesis, the devastation. Writbody turned away, jotted a few more lines in his journals, turned his attention to the other quarters of the sky. Brush drifted, felt their rigidness slip away, loosening into a deep grief—what had Brush done wrong?
“They crossed the sun, unfurled into a great shroud of grey. They felt themself opening, broiling, howling, torn, stirred into a great tumult. And they wept, and their tears became the rain, and their sobs became the thunder.
“Writbody heard the storm, felt the rushing wind, caught sight of this now changed, unfamiliar shape, sprawling across the sky. He rushed to gauge its shadows with his contrivances, quantified its dimensions, deliberated upon its merits, cried triumphantly, ‘there, there it is, in all its power, in all its violence! Absolutely perfect!’
“So, this was what he thought of clouds, after all his annotations. Brush realized their great mistake: Writbody had never known, for a single instant, what it was that he was looking for, did not recognize that a single cloud could take on many shapes, did not appreciate what a cloud was at all. Not for all his precisely wrought instruments, not for all his numbers and titles and branches. Writbody was a fool, who chose a storm. And he had chosen poorly.
“Brush’s lightning bolts darted all around the nobleman’s craft, striking the nearby crags and cliffs, dancing among the treetops, and Writbody flinched beneath his sails. Brush rolled down upon him, wound up a spark, aimed it at the scholar’s forehead—but then had another thought. They cast the jagged flash, and it met its mark, blasted Writbody’s journals to cinders, ash, kindling. Flames consumed Writbody’s vessel, and while he managed to grab a few scraps, a few gears, the fool tumbled down the side of the mountain with very few of his figments intact.
“He returned to Westvalent, with nothing to show for his endeavors. The people would always say that a single cloud had been enough to scare him out of the sky—and very well it should.
“And what did Brush do, after such an ordeal? Well, I like to think that they still explore the world, still linger at our windowsills, still keep us company, even now. They still enjoy our bedtime stories and our secret songs—they share them with their fellow clouds—yet they are also a little wearier. Listening ever for that strange and empty word: perfect. Listening for the violence of it, the damage it can wreak on the lonely and the lost.
“Ready to become the lightning, and the thunder, when they need to.”
The boys are asleep, their breathing steady and slow. I hear a light tapping on the door. Looking through the peephole, I see Carlton, donned in his lavender pajamas.
“Everything alright?” he inquires, as the hinges creak open. “You didn’t stop by tonight. I was worried.”
“Alexa’s gone.” I embrace him, all but collapsing into his body.
“Who?” I can feel him sigh, his stomach pull away. “Oh no, not again. No.”
“I know.” I let go of him, making room for him to enter, shut the door behind us. “You don’t remember her anymore,” I say, a question, a statement, a hope for his face to light up with a recognition that never dawns. “Alexa—she’s, she was Michael’s wife, the boys’ mother. The first one of us who heard the knocking, the one who made us sound decent whenever we sang happy birthday, and she loaned you a copy of Dante, I think. I’m trying to hold onto those parts of her, but even I can only hold out so long without knowing the reason she’s gone.”
“Can we get her back?”
“We’ve never done it before, I don’t believe. If there were others.”
Carlton’s eyes turn to the bed, to the twins. “What’ll happen to them if we don’t?”
While I may remember many things, even I don’t know the answer to that. So the decision is made for me–I think it would be for the best if I never had to find out. “Can you keep an eye on them? Michael might be here soon, but I don’t know.”
“Where are you going?”
“Out.” I check the peephole–nobody there–and unlock the deadbolt.
“Yes, but I mean, where?”
For a moment, I consider not telling him at all; perhaps he would not even notice. Still, it is better for him to know, if things go wrong. “All the way out.” I can hear Carlton’s feet shift along the carpet, a slow drag turning his whole body towards mine. I don’t need to see him to know his fear. “I promise, I’ll be back.”
“You’d better be.” I step through the doorway, yet a series of long strides bring him closer. He takes my left hand. “Because it’d be awfully lonely if you didn’t.”
There are no real comforts, no assurances I can give him. Nothing real, and he knows it. No other words to offer, except these: “I’ll see you in the morning.”