In fifteen minutes, Hawthorne and Damon will present in a conference room. In the meantime, upstairs, on the second floor, they prepare. Damon, at this point is ready, and sits in a chair and watches Hawthorne, and waits for his partner to finish. Hawthorne stands before him, behind a vanity, adjusting his bowtie in the room-view mirror. Damon can only wonder with the sight of this. Realizing his partner for the shell of the man once under his wing. Appreciating the fact that the case of Hawthorne has changed. That no longer is Hawthorne the bumbling greenhorn Damon knew from one quarter before. Hawthorne has greenlighted his own path, that he is commanding a stronger presence in the short time it’s been. That he is panning out, after all. That he actually may make it in this work. That he does not enjoy him quite as much anymore. Damon looks at his watch. Fourteen minutes. Hawthorne seems unconcerned with this, but surely must realize that time is short, Damon thinks. “A bowtie,” Damon says, “Not even a clip-on,” he ads. And Hawthorne turns.
“Yeah there’s an art to it,” he says, and meekly, upon his mentioning the word art, he says it once more: “It is an art. And turns to the mirror. Glancing in he says, “It’s so I’ll stand out.” Refocusing on the knot–a delicate process, seems to say his fingers–he ads: “So that they will remember me. Remember me as the guy in the bowtie. Nobody wears bowties.”
Damon gives this no expression. “I see.” He looks at his watch. A Bulova. Gold from its dial to its band. The watch he has worn every day since three years ago. Almost never does he take it off. Even when he sleeps, he wears his watch. Damon observes Hawthorne’s bear wrist. “Twelve minutes,” he says. Hawthorne, through way of the mirror, looks at the wall to Damon’s back. “Yeah, I see that,” he says. “They’re probably waiting,” Damon says, “It’s not the ideal tone for us to be setting, us coming to see them and not the other way.” Hawthorne pulls the knot abruptly, “We’re selling timeshares in Sioux-City,” he says, and undoing the knot, unwraps it from his collar. Damon nods, “That’s beside the point.” Hawthorne is reluctant to agree. They’re philosophies on this differ, which is no secret to either of them, and is in fact a continual source of tension in their partnership. Damon looks at his watch, “Do you know how to tie those things?” As he stands from his chair, and paces to the center of the room. Ready to leave and to head downstairs to the conference room.
Hawthorne turns to Damon, and steps past him, and resting his hand on Damon’s chair, and looking out the room’s main window, he watches arriving attendees enter through the doors below. Men dressed in polos and khakis. Some of them wearing sneakers. Hawthorne huffs. The tone that they bring is self-evident, he seems to think. Trailing behind them is a woman, who with her walker appears somewhere in her seventies. She is wearing a t-shirt. It advertises an explicit joke about old age. And behind her, even farther to the entrance doors, a white shuttle bus turns out of the parking lot. In bold lettering it reads: Crescent Pines, a Community for Us. Hawthorne watches it leave from sight and grins, “Yeah, Damon, I do,” he says, with moderate breath, and turns back to the room. Glances up at the clock behind him. And heads back to the vanity mirror. “It’s not the hardest knot, I’ve just never worn one before. There is a learning curve, apparently, a feeling-out process.” He says this, and throws the tie over his head, and centers the half-loop around his neck. Now closer to the mirror, he again pursues the bow and knot.
Damon sighs. In the center of the room, where he stands, with his briefcase clenched in the grip of his hand, watching Hawthorne as he obsesses over a bowtie, as minutes continue to tick. “I’ve never worn a bowtie, either,” Damon says. Hawthorne nods, his eyes keep on the ribbon, that’s spooled in a shape, squeezed gently between his index finger and thumb. Damon watches with disgust. A latent pinky extends from Hawthorne’s occupied hand. And Damon shakes his head, “I imagine it’s like you’d said, it’s not the most difficult knot.” And motions to the door. Hawthorne pulls the knot, closing the bow. The bowtie droops, sagging on his neck. Damon points to his watch. “Eight minutes ‘till we start. We can’t be late. These people will walk out the moment they don’t see us.”
Hawthorne abandones the bowtie. Begrudgingly. He shakes his head. He hangs it over the framed edge of the vanity mirror. “If it’s that important,” he says. “Next time.”