Today's Reading

The theater district is one of Lydia's favorite parts of the city. She's seen old photos and it's not much changed from how it was a hundred years ago, though that's true of most of Manhattan. Mrs. Kloves, their neighbor at the cultural attaché's residence on the Upper West Side, has many, many opinions on how the area has changed. She told Lydia that when they put up the sea barriers the mayor's office started slapping protection orders on everything and turned Manhattan into a theme-park version of itself: no life, no change, no danger, just heritage. When Lydia heard this she felt a little bad for liking it here, as if this meant she had really basic taste, but she can't get on board with the idea it's such a terrible thing if a place stops being dangerous. Were any of your childhood friends stabbed to death, Mrs. Kloves? Because that gives you a different perspective on the appeal of dangerous places.

Even so, Lydia often finds herself in quiet moments like this searching the city for evidence of this decline, that a once great and vital place is now hollowed out and trying too hard to be itself, like a rock star who's done too much coke for too many years.

The streets are lively tonight, filled with pop-ups and stalls and corporate sponsor zones. It's been like this throughout the festival, which was devised to bring physical tourism to the city and boost the flagging arts scene during the often unbearably hot summer months. Fitz is attracting more curious glances from passersby than usual—maybe they're coming from the tourists? New Yorkers are usually cooler and more relaxed about Logi walking around, unlike people in Halifax. Even though her hometown's industry is entirely based around the Logi these days, none of them ever go there, so most people have never seen one in the flesh.

"Ambassador!" says a voice from behind them, and Lydia turns to see a young man emerging from the theater and heading their way. Fitz doesn't react, because he doesn't register the noise as being aimed at him, so Lydia gets his attention and points to the approaching figure. The young man has a light beard and wild, dark, curly hair and wears a shapeless pair of overalls with a dress shirt underneath. His attention is fixed only on Fitz: he doesn't seem to see Lydia at all.

"He's not the ambassador," Lydia tells the young man.

"What?" the young man asks, seeming surprised she's speaking directly to him as herself, rather than translating for Fitz. Or maybe he's just surprised by her accent.

"He's the cultural attaché." Lydia over-enunciates this and is aware her words are coming out with a leery, aggressive edge. She really needs to use this interval to sober up and wishes this guy would go away, but she needs to be pro about this.

"OK," the young man says with a tone to his voice that says: same difference. "I want to ask him about—" He stops addressing Lydia and turns to Fitz instead. "My name's Anders Lewton—hi—and I'd really like to talk to you about—" He seems to realize he needs more pleasantries and chitchat before launching into his sales pitch and pulls back, saying, "How're you enjoying the play so far?"

Wearily, Lydia translates what Anders has just said for Fitz. He listens, then replies.

"The play is excellent," Lydia conveys to Anders. "I find the intricacies of the character dynamics fascinating." She knows a large part of the credit here belongs to Henrik Ibsen for writing the play, and to the theater company for staging it so well, but she also feels there's a compliment in this for her. She prepared for this extensively by reading Hedda Gabler twice and watching two (very old) TV adaptations and a film, so she wouldn't be thrown by anything on the night. She didn't want to be desperately looking up references on her glasses in the middle of the play: multitasking has its limits.

"Great," says Anders. "Listen, I need to talk to you about a live cross-portal event I'm raising funding for—my background's in devised theater, I don't know if you know what that is but it's an ideal medium for intercultural collaboration, and I really want—"

Before Lydia has even started to translate this for Fitz, she hears his voice in her head. She suppresses a smirk as she tells Anders what Fitz has just told her: "Could you make an appointment to come to my office later in the week? My translator has been working hard interpreting the play for me, and she needs rest so we can enjoy the second half."

Anders stares at Lydia for a moment. He doesn't fully trust what she's just told him, and suspects she has modified Fitz's words to suit herself. This is all written clearly on his face. He opens his mouth to speak to her; then he closes it; then he smiles at Fitz, says, "Thank you, I will," and walks back into the theater.

* * *

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