14 - Metronome (Fauxpawe)
Wearing a suit felt so alien to Errol.
Even though the black-furred kitsune had gone for a slightly more feminine cut, he still felt boxy, sexless and boring. He'd decided that the best thing to do with his long pink hair was to tie it into a tight bun in the back of his head. It made him feel like a secretary, but it was the best he could do without cutting his hair, and that was absolutely out of the question.
The suit was just a rental anyway; he was looking forward to returning it at the end of this week of interviews. Hopefully it would pay off, and his coffee/tea truck would finally have a home. Maybe not a forever home. But a starter for sure. The Night and Daze made a name for itself at music festivals and late night events; Errol was pleasantly surprised by how many drunk patrons hankered for a tea or a coffee on their way back home. After a few years of that, he was finally at the point where he could save up properly to rent a place.
He was aiming high, too, throwing his hat in for as many possible spaces. That was what brought him to the Metronome; a towering spire of glass and steel, a stone's throw from the city's high streets. He was expecting - and hoping for - someplace a little further out, a bit quieter. But at the same time, being the main coffee shop for a building primarily rented out to tech start-ups and design companies would really set him up with some serious income...
His racing mind was interrupted by the older man's voice.
``Silas Kaplan.'' The real estate manager was leading with his hand, and Errol reached out to intercept it. The golden furred tapir had a broad body, a confident smile, and a very firm handshake. He was attractive too, like a finely aged whiskey.
``Thank you for having me!'' Errol said, resisting the urge to stammer.
``Come in! Make yourself comfortable.''
The Metronome's motif was very apparent inside Silas' office. The clock on the wall was shaped like a fan or a sea-shell, and its hands slowly swung from left to right rather than going all the way around. Its smooth even ticking filled the otherwise quiet room. This was joined in by the other metronomes - three of them framed on each wall, and one directly to Silas' left, pointed towards him.
Errol really wanted to ask questions about this eccentric setup, but he thought better of it.
``I hope you don't mind all the ticking,'' Silas said as he shuffled with his papers. ``I have ADD. The extra stimulus helps me keep focused.''
``Oh! I see!'' Errol was a little disarmed by how quickly and frankly Silas offered that detail.
``It's great for meditation too, I'd highly recommend it.''
``That's good to know. Cool! Erm... when will I be able to have a look at the space?''
``Once we had a bit of a chat. You look like you've had a long day,'' Silas offered, his voice mellifluous and smooth.
``Oh, uh...'' Errol had been on his feet for most of the day, hoofing it to many different viewings and interviews.
``I'll be honest with you, I haven't had a chance to look at your details properly, so would you mind if I looked through your portfolio and budget for a bit?''
``Oh, no, go right ahead!'' Errol said. He let his gaze wander from one piece of set-dressing to another. He tried not to stare at the squinting eyes, or the silently moving lips just hidden behind the drooping snout. He looked out one of the large glass windows, out towards the city scape. He wasn't sure where else to look; he wasn't about to take out his phone, even though he felt that ingrained tingling impulse in his fingertips. He did end up letting his hand slip into his pocket, just to stroke the glass screen. That sort of helped.
He looked up. Silas had his fingertip placed on the tip of the metronome needle on his desk. He let go, and the needle swung from side to side. Tick. Tick. Tick.
Errol knew why Silas must be doing that (something else to focus him), so there was no need to ask. The tip of the metronome had a little pink plastic tip on the end of it, like the head of a pin. It caught Errol's eye. It was almost the same colour as his eyes, in fact. He was told he had nice eyes. And he agreed with that. Sometimes he caught himself staring at himself in the mirror.
The ticking was slightly faster than the ticking of the clock, just barely out of sync. As if it was challenging Errol to follow it, to deduce the rhythm and catch the point where they ticked in perfect unison.
The metronome was turning towards him by Silas' finger; the tapir seemed to be doing it unconsciously. It slid slowly across the table as it re-angled itself. As it came closer, the arc of Errol's eyes widened to follow the pink tip. He felt the very slight strain and ache in his gaze as it kept going. He realized his mouth had fallen open, and he closed it quickly, his teeth clicking together far too loudly for his liking.
``Sorry,'' he mumbled.
``Hmm?'' Silas looked up, seemingly just a little startled.
``Oh, nothing, sorry, I uh...'' Errol fought for an answer, even as his eyes were glued to the pink tip of the ticking needly. ``I, uh, thought I kicked the desk a little.''
``No, you're fine.'' Silas smiled, and then looked down, turning over a rustling page and going back to his almost-silent mumbling. The unconscious whispers almost seemed to sync up with the tick tick tick of the metronome, a subtle, almost song like murmur.
The ticking continued, the swinging continued, and his pink gaze swung with it. His ears drooped a little. The hand in his pocket slipped out and rested on his thigh. He didn't need that to keep calm anymore. His upright posture was slowly curving forward. He felt some drool slip from his mouth and drop onto his crotch. His arm sluggishly wiped the saliva from his chin, before relaxing back down on his thigh with the other one, palms facing upwards.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
His eyelids were drooping now. All that staring and swinging his eyes back and forth was making him tired. The day's exhaustion was catching up with him; that must have been it. There was no other explanation for the ease with which he followed the seductive swing and ticking. Silas' soft, unintelligible mumbles and whispers helped. His jaw was hanging open again, but this time he couldn't close it. He couldn't lift his hands to close it. Or he just didn't want to. He wanted to stare. He needed this moment of calm. Silas was right. This was very meditative. His head was so heavy. Gravity started to pull him forward, down, until his head dropped towards the wood of the desk.
A finger on his forehead stopped his fall. Another one tapped on it, in time with the tick, drumming the rhythm even deeper into his head. With each Tick came a Tap. Tick. Tap. Tick. Tap.
``It's very effective for meditation, isn't it,'' Silas murmured. Errol's eyes had rolled up into his head, and in the lower periphery of that darkness he could barely make out that Silas had not looked up.
``Uh-huh,'' Errol grunted; it was about all his throat could manage right now.
``You're very relaxed now, empty headed, totally focused on the rhythm. Nothing else matters right now. Everything outside this room is falling away. There is nothing you can perceive aside from what is in your mind right now.''
``As I read, and as you listen, I want you to do something for me.'' Tick. Tap. Tick. Tap. ``I want you to visualise, as clearly and vividly as possible, what you want your space to look like. Visualise the colours and shapes. Think about the atmosphere you want to create. Think about the experience you want your customers to have.''
Errol could see it. The ticks and taps gently chiselled at the darkness in his mind, and purple and pink light shone through. The phantom scent of tea leaves slipped into his nostrils. Soft cushioned snugs nestled themselves into the corner of this phantom room. A spiralling staircase pushed down into a dark, quiet space with a little library. New surprises and discoveries, things he never even knew he wanted, were revealing themselves to him.
The corners of his mouth pulled into a smile. This was the place to put down his roots. It had to be the place. Nothing else would be good enough.
``It's beautiful, isn't it?'' Tick. Tap. Tick. Tap. Tick.. Tap.
``Beautiful...'' Errol agreed.
``Once it's perfectly pictured in your mind's eye, we can head down to view the space and see if it will suit.''
``Ok...'' Errol murmured. It would take him a while. He didn't want to leave the fantasy just yet, before reality sanded it away. Even so, this was the first time his dream felt real, truly real. And all he would have to do is sign the lease contract, and the rights contract, not minding those extra little clauses. It was necessary to make his dream a reality.