Sterling stood upon the edge of the very last flat wall surrounding the top of the Empire State Building, thinking the wind might blow him off before he had a chance to decide whether to jump. It was all a dream. A pertinent dream. Sterling worked in that building in a small ad agency. Lucky to have the job at all. But feeling as caught as if he had been one of the yo-yos in Mad Men, had there been a Mad Men then.
He turned in the bed and felt Christy there. She was three chapters away from completing her graduate thesis in philosophy. Sterling fancied Christy's education, having himself taken the standard advice to do science and math. He got into the ad agency by sheer luck. A classmate worked there and was sympathetic to Sterling's lack of interest in the professions for which he was qualified. It helped that some of the firm's business came from the precincts of math and science. Sadly, Sterling was no happier with this choice than with most others he had made. Save Christy.
He lay in bed thinking of her. He pictured Christy. slim, willowy, intelligent, in some bucolic college town teaching pragmatism and logic. While he held down a dismal job in the college's development office. The words fucked up rolled across the screen of Sterling's addled mind.
Christy did end up in in a college town, husband-less. The unfortunate Sterling was simultaneously subsisting in an eighty dollar a week motel in Boulder City, Nevada, two thousand miles from the best decision he ever walked away from.
Sterling's reaction to his descent was hardly encouraging. He had lately taken walks in the desert and found himself in situations from which extrication was almost impossible. In the desert south of Boulder City, he was almost thrown down a steep v-shaped valley of sand and rock and lost amid the detritus of the 20th century, countless decaying fragments of cars that had ruled the world. Wreckage peered peremptorily from the hard sand all around him. How did it get there? He finally got out. Scared.
The one bright spot in Sterling's existence was the little computer he bought with income earned from some free-lance science writing. It was an Epson HX 20. The first laptop. The year was 1982. Sterling printed out his literary efforts on cash register paper and viewed his prose in progress on a screen smaller than a playing card.
Evenings Sterling drove down to the Gold Strike Casino. There were times when the sheer beauty of things around these parts overwhelmed him. He looked out over the lake, tasted the wind and exulted somewhere deep inside.