Everyone had forged a habit of washing down the mirror in her or his office building restroom before work. The restroom was on the right as she or he came out of the elevators on the twelfth floor. She or he arrived twenty minutes early each day from the bus.
Everyone had started by using paper towels and water, which left droplets on the mirror and left everyone unsatisfied. Next came towels from home, but those left a layer of fuzz. After that, everyone brought window cleaner and a squeegee from home and some towels from the gas station, but that system left soap residue.
Everyone sometimes did janitorial work on weekends. That work, everyone realized, once she or he began cleaning the bathroom mirror before her or his regular job, was shoddy.
Everyone consulted with Harvey. Harvey worked in a cubicle on the same floor on the other side of the office building. On weekends, Harvey was everyone’s boss. Harvey had a view of a window that was so clean it appeared not to exist.
“How do you do it,” everyone asked, “make it look so transparent and real?”
“I knock it out,” Harvey said. “I open it, take the glass out of the way, and get rid of the reflection.”
Everyone began sitting cross-legged on the bathroom floor before work for ten to twenty minutes. Everyone stared at the mirror, meditated. Still, everyone could not find the clarity for which she or he was looking.
“You’re looking too hard,” Harvey told everyone when she or he asked about it. “You’re focused, but you’re focused on the wrong thing. You have to let clarity--meaning--come to you.”
Everyone sat on the floor and tried to look past the mirror. Everyone saw a person who had aged intolerably in the past year--wrinkles crinkling at the corners of the eyes and along the brow. Everyone was destined for obsolescence. Everyone needed a haircut, a new shirt or blouse--something that would stand out to coworkers, make others take notice of her or him.
Everyone had talked with meaning on the phone. Everyone had seen meaning conveyed to her or him in photographs. And yet, everyone still wasn’t sure what meaning was, was still unable to conjure meaning--get ahold of meaning--in the way that everyone imagined meaning to be.
“You’ve got to introduce me,” everyone told Harvey, finally, in desperation. Harvey knew the meaning of life. Harvey could call on the meaning of life virtually any time he wanted.
“I clean everything,” Harvey said. “Clear it, make the surface shine until I see only me--that is to say, the non-me.”
“I know,” everyone said. “That’s what I’ve been doing.”
“My method doesn’t work for all,” Harvey said. “You have to find your own way.”
Harvey walked to the window that was so clear it appeared to be open.
Everyone stood in his or her spot. Everyone was afraid of heights.
“Come here,” Harvey beckoned.
Everyone didn’t move.
Harvey returned, grabbed everyone just under the arms, his own arm around everyone’s body, and dragged everyone to the window. “Look,” Harvey said. “Look out there.”
The city teemed beneath them--cars stopping for the light on the corner; people sitting on benches eating lunch, drinking Popsi Cola; others stopping to look in the windows of boutiques; a jacket wafting upward in the wind, then down, then away, to the right, out of view.
“That’s me,” Harvey said. “That’s you. That’s all of us.”
He relaxed his grip.
Everyone backed away.
Harvey did too. And then he jumped.
Everyone wants you to read the book on which he or she is working, a novel everyone is writing in order to find the meaning of life, with which everyone’s spouse ran off. But everyone has to finish the novel before everyone can know where the novel begins. In the meantime, there are all these distractions, such as the twelfth-floor window at the office building where everyone works out of which people or maybe just one person keeps jumping or falling--everyone isn’t sure--or everyone’s sexy coworker Sam, whom everyone is struggling valiantly against to keep from becoming a paramour. It’s kind of pitiful, actually, the way everyone keeps begging you to read, sending you e-mails, dropping it into conversation (“I have a book, you know?”), posting links to it on social-networking sites. Everyone figures that if he or she begs enough, you will break down and try it. Everyone is like a dog that way, watching you eat your dinner. The way you handle the dog is to push it away from the table, lock it outside the room. Sometimes, of course, you hand the dog a bite, an inch-sized bit of beef, and that is all everyone is asking for--a bite, that you read just the first line of his or her book. The problem is that you know everyone too well. If you read one line, everyone will beg you to read another. Just one more.
To start from the beginning of the novel, go here.