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You look up at the trees overhead, big leafy London plane trees. “Widely considered to be the world’s most reliable city tree”, at least by some know-it-all you met at a party thrown by a friend’s acquaintance. Whether reliable or not, whatever that would mean for a tree, they’re beautiful. Stretching out their arms in an arch over the street from both sides, they create a thick foliage where left and right overlap. It rained recently, and that after-rain humidity still lingers in the air. The city still feels quiet from it, and the air smells fresh and heavy. A raindrop falls from above onto your upturned face, right on your forehead. It must have fallen with the others, but landed on a leaf or a branch rather than finding its way all the way to the asphalt below. Then, you imagine, it must have rested there, waiting, waiting for you to walk towards it, step below it, and look up at just the right second so that—plop—it could land on your forehead, a sudden coolness, bringing to light your continued existence in and connection to the world around you.
But your attention is drawn back to the voice emanating from your cell phone, which you hold just far enough away from your ear that you can choose whether to tune in or tune it out. But you can only pay so little attention without him noticing. The occasional yes, no, or fitting sound effect will do the job, but they still have to be timed correctly. It can be tricky; after a while his voice drones on akin to white noise, a buzzing near your ear like a fly you’ve left to its own devices. Occasionally more of a response is required, such as your earlier, “You did that for her?” You have already forgotten what he did or for whom he did it. But his non-silence tells you that it was an adequate response. Eventually he’ll have to go, or perhaps you’ll pretend you have to. You’ll say you have something to do, somewhere to be, someone to meet. A hushed rain-laden street needs to be walked down. A great old London plane tree requires your immediate attention. There’s a raindrop waiting for you.