Later, around sunrise, he took her home. They caught a cab because at that time of the morning, Reed didn’t have access to a car. The taxi hurtled down the almost empty streets, in the hour just before the new day. They were embracing without speaking. Reed didn’t like the idea of having to be apart from her, but in just a few hours Elaine had a flight to Houston and she needed to pack her bags and prepare for the trip.
He stroked her hair. He could feel the warmth of her breath on his chest, through his shirt. When the taxi stopped at an intersection, Reed felt someone watching him. He turned his head and met the gazes of two street-sweepers, a woman at the wheel of a street-cleaning truck and her co-worker, a man standing next to the truck, both looking into the taxi with enchanted expressions on their faces. Then both of them waved at him, with a gesture that resembled a benediction. Reed waved back. The taxi shot across the intersection. Reed decided that he and Elaine must be emanating the unmistakable magnetic glow of a couple who had just made love for the first time. “The world knows about us,” he whispered into a sleeping Elaine’s ear. “We’re as dazzling as the dawn of a new day.”
Elaine startled awake as they drove deeper into Brooklyn. She looked around as if she’d slept for hours and gave Reed a fleeting kiss. The taxi came to a halt. They were there. Before letting her get out, Reed nuzzled the back of her neck again. “See you in a few days,” he said. When Elaine swung the car door open, a bracing gust of cool air poured into the cab.
He watched her go inside.
The light was rising, as hard as a silver shield. It continued its rise as the taxi drove back towards Manhattan, and the East River ran silently towards the ocean, and the skyscrapers drank in the glow of the day. Reed saw Manhattan coming towards him. He saw the buildings getting brighter and brighter. He saw the city gleam all at once as the sun rose, and he felt dazzled and grateful.
For many years, that city had struck him as alien. For many years, he had considered it a memory of itself, a faded copy, as though day by day the buildings and facades had been replaced by stage backdrops, behind which was nothing but empty space. For many years, in his own city, he had felt intolerably alone.
Now, as the taxi left the big bridge behind and surged uptown towards Little Italy, and the city came to life as if just awakened from an enchantment… As weariness enveloped his body, and the seat seemed to swallow him up… As the city buses began cruising up and down the streets again, majestic like small-scale arks, with their cargoes of men and women of every race… He could sense that he loved it still. That city. That living system of buses, taxis, street-sweepers at work, attentive secretaries, cosy restaurants, that crystal-like city that caught the light, a factory-city that produced impressions, an immense mechanism in the service of desire. New York, the definitive distillate of western romanticism. Reed was certain of this, for an instant, before he dropped into slumber. Before dreaming that he was elastic again, like he was long ago, that he could stretch out over the entire city, the city of arks, the city of rainbows, of bridges that cut the light, the hard-working city, the place where everything had no other purpose—and he was sure of it now—than to fall in love in a pure and eternal way.