Then she smiled softly at Luke and held his gaze for a second, 'so never mind what I think.'
    It was an end of all conversation, but it seemed to Luke that it had been cut short, that he had been fobbed off in some way and was expected not to notice. He felt indignant, but he was also sufficiently concerned that he might not have understood a single thing this girl had said to stay quiet. Instead, he hoped he looked as good in his red T-shirt as Lucy always said, and with the light from the TV noticeably modelling his biceps, he suspected he probably did.
    They all concentrated on smoking joints and watching the trite happy ending of the film. Luke handed out the boxes of Chinese takeaway, some plates and cutlery and the room was filled with the smell of hot and sour soup and fried noodles. They listened to Ludo crunching the cashew nuts in his sauce. The couple in the film had their child. The father stood holding the newborn baby by the window of the hospital, gazing down on the frenzy of New York. It was autumn. The music was strong, passionate, resolved.
    By three a.m. they had all fallen asleep—except Luke. He was feeling uneasy. He got up and walked around his flat, leaving the others sprawled on sofa cushions and beanbags, the blue planet of the TV flickering over them.
    First he went into his kitchen and opened the fridge. He took a long look at all the jars and beautiful packages, the things he threw out and repurchased regularly. He never ate in but he liked to have a full fridge. He liked it full of tropical fruit, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, and exotic continental deli items, gravadlax, caper-berries, and Serrano ham. He adored that collective expensive smell.
    What he looked for unconsciously when he opened the door of his fridge was travel, or rather transportation of a more intimate kind. His fridge contained the essence of his aspirations—props from the photographic images that arrived in his mind when he wondered about his lifestyle and whether he fulfilled its criteria. His fridge helped him arrive at himself.
    He ran his fingers over the buttons on the microwave as he walked towards the centrepiece of the kitchen, the eight-burner gas hob, which he had never turned on. Not even to light a cigarette. He had bought it because of the fabulous dinner-party photograph in the brochure. He had seen himself in there, flame-grilling lamb, laughing girls in the background holding oversized glasses of Cab Sauv. But there was never the time: time to shop, to call people, to reschedule because of unforeseen circumstances.
    What did he spend all his time doing? Working, travelling across the city, absorbing the delays and the jams and the cancellations into the tension he stored between his shoulder-blades. He checked email; he missed calls and listened to messages on his mobile phone. There were friends he had not seen for a year.
    Only two years before, days had seemed long, resilient to failures of planning, flirtatiously responsive to unplanned gestures. Time had been mysterious and plentiful, a natural resource. He had splashed around in it. But now it seemed to be an idea in his own mind. He himself decided its properties, its texture; whether he experienced it in the surreal little jerks of phone calls and meetings, as office quanta, or in undulating lunar stretches in front of his computer at the weekend, his mouth chewing fuel when his alarm reminded it to. This was a new sense of responsibility, of artistic control. But he did not want time to feel like art, he wanted it to feel like science.
    He studied the dates on a couple of jars of cornichons, some sun-dried tomatoes, olives stuffed with almonds. They were beautiful glass jars: fantastic packaging. He threw them into the big, cylindrical silver bin, feeling blasphemous.
    He went into his bedroom and opened his wardrobe. He looked at the racks of shoes he never wore, the casualwear he was never casual enough for. If he was honest, all he really made

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