I am living in a hotel because I argued with my husband. The argument started after a commercial for a robot that cares for the elderly. The ad tried to make it seem like the elderly couldn’t tell the difference, but these machines looked noth- ing like people. I turned to my husband and said, “If you had a choice between marrying me or a robot that looked, felt, and thought exactly like me, would you care which one it was? If everything was exactly the same?” I thought it was a fun question.He looked at me dead on and said, “No.”“No you wouldn’t care or no you would care?”“I wouldn’t care,” he said.“But it wouldn’t be the real me, it would only be a copy.”“What would the difference be, really?” he said.I tried to explain how it was different, that this was why I was crying—if he were to replace me with a copy, the real me would be somewhere else. But I couldn’t find the words to explain what my self was, the other thing between the bones. Then I left.My shift at the restaurant starts in fifteen minutes. My stiff black dress is free of stains if a little wrinkled. I apply lipstick in the mirror and give myself a last look before wiping off the excess smears of red. Briefly, I consider the continental breakfast in the lobby: hardboiled eggs that look like polished rubber, something bready and gelatinous and Saran-wrapped, a plastic carafe of inky coffee. None of it is appetizing.Out in the street, people are dragging bottles of water and bags of bread into apartment buildings that have little X’s taped on all their windows. Gathering. I startle at the train clattering on a bridge above and its hot puffs of steam fill me with a heat I lose almost immediately. Otherwise, the walk to the restaurant is not something I will remember.I bump open the large double doors of the restaurant. Hands under my dress, I pull up the black tights that have begun to slide down my legs. I am hungry and have forgotten that there is a hurricane headed for the East Coast.My cell phone rings and it is my manager calling to tell me that the restaurant will not be closing early, that I am expected to be on time. “I’m already here,” I say, though he has hung up the phone.The lobby is full of flowers that smell sick and sweet like an infection. The speakers play opera music on an endless loop. The voices of the singers, strung out in impossible ribbons of sound, bounce off the dark, glossy walls of this chamber where I spend my day behind a podium, fielding calls from people desperate to eat at Harbor Cafe, the most romantic restaurant in the city.Every day, they come with engagement rings tucked in their pockets to be dropped into champagne flutes, their organs all wrapped up in lucky underwear, to croon at the delicate oysters or the sculpted lettuces with unlikely flavors or the swordfish from very specific seas as they’re placed on the white linen before them. They call six months in advance to pet the peacocks with clipped wings that roam the gardens, an exotic signature of this place, the impossible barge between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Women swoon and take selfies with the un-aware, uncaring peacocks, crouch next to them and angle their human faces just so. A metal bridge disguised with carpet and draped velvet on the walls leads to the floating dining room, and I must always fight the urge to remind the diners what lurks beneath them while they eat—the muck of the East River, the rusted metals, the corpses, the gray fish coated with slime hovering at their nightmarish tea parties.I situate myself in the lobby beneath the chandelier at a stool behind the podium so tall my feet don’t touch the ground. I am told that my sitting here is disarming because I have vacant eyes, but when I open my mouth I am clever. When I look out the window, I see a woman licking an ice cream cone on the dock adjacent to the barge. It’s very cold and I can’t be sure whether she is really there or not.It was my grandmother who helped me understand that not everything I see exists for other people. She saw things too. “It’s a gift,” she said. When I was ready, she would tell me more about it. I don’t tell anyone when I see something that might not be there, in case I am right, in case it’s not there and they call me crazy. My mother wasn’t as lucky. Instead, she woke up each night gripped by terror and let it take her into my room, where she’d tell me I was dying, that she had been forgetting to give me medicine for years. Night after night, she dragged me into the bathroom to clatter in the medicine cabinet, looking for pills she would never find. _Today, I am working with Suzanna, a humorless former burlesque dancer with a face as thin as a blade. She perches on her high stool beside me, flipping through the section of the handbook dedicated to our dress code and doodling pornographic cartoons in the margins: a woman choking on a huge serpent, a man with hundreds of fingers entering her through every hole.“Your boyfriend was here looking for you with a gift,” she says, motioning to a small napkin-draped plate on the podium without taking her heavily-lined eyes from the sketch. She means a busboy named Quinn who has developed a fascination with me even though we have never spoken. A hard rule: anyone in the dining room beneath the position of server isn’t allowed to speak, so he communicates by slipping me these secret plates of butter. Sometimes the butter is untouched, other times it is in the shape of little flowers or retains a trace of wiped bread.On a fifteen-minute break, I crouch in the coat closet and relax my face. The coat-check girl is absent, somewhere full of smoke. I hold the plate of butter and eat with my fingers, surrounded by furs. The mink coat grazing my shoulder is brown like thick chocolate and when I reach up to touch it, my butter-fat fingers leave a shiny mark. I lean into it, safe, muffling the opera blasting in the lobby. These coats are always here, women register them and leave them until winter. I have become attached.The phones at the podium are forever ringing. I pick up a line that is <em>not </em>ringing and hold the phone to my ear until Suzanna asks who I am talking to for so long and I say I am talking to my husband, although the truth is he hasn’t called since I left and I have been silent on the phone the entire time. Perhaps in his mind, I am back at the hotel and sit blinking on the bed.By dinner, the restaurant remains largely empty. The hurricane has been upgraded to an emergency and everyone is holed up in their own worlds, waiting for weather and secretly hoping it’s a bad one. There is one couple sitting across from each other at a table by the window, through which the river looks eerily calm. They are calm too. They move slowly as the waitstaff fusses over them, serves them small plates of something white drizzled with a gold sauce I saw the pastry chef tasting yesterday with a wide, flat thumb. The plates come back several minutes later largely untouched.Around 8 pm, the phones ring only now and then. As the wind intensifies, waves in the river are picked up and dropped by its invisible fingers. A man in a gray suit walks through the door and I wait to make sure Suzanna sees him too before I say hello. We end up saying it at the same time. He asks us why the restaurant is so empty, and I tell him to just look outside, there is a hurricane;he should probably seek shelter somewhere that is not here. Then he laughs and I do not laugh back, I remain professional. A woman calls and asks if we deliver. Someone else makes a reservation for Christmas Eve. The phone rings again and it is our manager who asks us to collect the peacocks, to return them to their pens before the storm starts. This is normally a job for the cleaners, but they won’t be coming tonight, he explains. The buses have stopped running. Suzanna and I are the only ones left.We find the birds outside in their garden, looking pathetic and ruffled and magnificent all at once. They are difficult to catch, they waddle away from us proudly. The smarter ones, attuned to their instincts about danger, seek shelter beneath a bench. We work together in silence, the only non-wind sound an occasional stutter of frantic bird motion.“There’s only one missing,” I say. But Suzanna insists there are only nine peacocks and that we have found them all. Once, I saw her kick one when it stuck its head up her skirt and I don’t trust her to count them with care. I know there are ten because I once saw them all together, obsessing over a pile of clam shells fallen from a trash bin.“Screw this,” Suzanna says and throws up her hands. “We’re done. If he asks about a tenth bird, we’ll say it drowned. I’m heading home, you coming?” I tell her to go on without me and keep looking for the bird while she gets her coat. I don’t like thinking about the peacock out here, cold and alone. I like thinking about my empty hotel room even less.A stray feather tumbles up into the sky._ I walk out of the garden and onto the sidewalk. The streets are empty save for the wind and a lone police car driving slowly with its red-and-blue lights spinning on the roof. I think I see the peacock behind an ashtray, but it’s just a crumpled bag. I move off of the sidewalk and into the alleyways. The back door to a bakery that normally wafts warm, yeast-smelling air and yellow light is closed and cold to the touch. A distant siren starts only to be immediately drowned out by a torrent of rain. I sprint inside, head down, and stand in the lobby to watch the rain make the air dense.There is a pile of abandoned umbrellas in the coat closet and I take a large black one with a polished bone handle outside with me to check one last time for the bird. It is dark, but the air is charged with the storm to a point of almost-brightness. A lone figure in a white poncho flapping like huge wingssprints from one awning to another until vanishing up the street; otherwise I am alone. No bird. I am soaked despite the umbrella and duck back inside just as a neon sign, extinguished, from somewhere, illegible, hurtles down the sidewalk.The opera speaks to the wind. The chandeliers remain lit in the lobby. I don’t think there is an exact moment that I decide to stay the night, but I do. I decide to enjoy myself because, by this point, I don’t think I would make it back to the hotel even if I tried. I am aware of only my empty stomach, my watering mouth. Certainly, there would be food in the kitchen, delicacies the world-renowned chef never invited me to try. But, I think, this is an emergency.The dining room is dim, rendering the river much brighter than I have ever seen it. The focus of the entire place seems to have shifted toward the windows—the trembling flowers in their vases, the ringing cut crystal glasses, the mirrors along the back wall that strain to contain the water’s frantic motion within their smooth edges. And then, I freeze. A dark shape is crouched behind one of the tables, hidden by a white tablecloth. It is a moment in which I make thousands of tiny decisions, most of them being not to move.“Who are you?” I say.The shape rises. I see a head and then shoulders and then hands pointing up. “It’s just me, it’s Quinn,” the shape says, “I don’t have a home.” His uniform, a crisp white shirt tucked into black pants, is too large on his small frame; the collar gapes at the neck, and because I have never heard him speak, I cannot be sure what he should sound like. I don’t know if he has this accent—southern or from somewhere much farther away—so that cannot be the test. I don’t know if he is talking to me or reminding himself that he has nowhere to go or if he’s here at all. The more I think about it, he may be someone I have conjured, though I don’t think I have ever imagined someone I know before.I walk toward him slowly to see if he behaves how I think the real Quinn would. “Run,” I say, to see if he runs, but he only backs away as if afraid.“So you are here,” I say. The boat rocks harder now—the crystal dining sets, the silver-plated saltshakers, the vases of flowers begin tumbling to the ground, the white tablecloths slipping off of their edges.“Wine?” I say and gesture to a wall covered in wine bottles with their necks craning out. I look at a menu and find the most expensive bottle. I pluck the dark green bottle off the wall and go behind the bar and open the bottle and pour us each a glass. I walk to a table in the middle of the room and, letting myself sway with the movement of the storm, straighten the tablecloth. Quinn pinches some salt that has spilled out of its shaker and throws it over his left shoulder while I pull out a chair and motion for him to sit in it, which he does.He smells the wine but says nothing. He drinks so quietly that I hear none of the human sounds associated with drinking. Not the lips, not the throat, not the teeth. I make conversation in case the reason he is being so quiet is that I make him nervous. Or perhaps, after so many years of silence in this room, he is reluctant to break it again. I’m very good at small talk. I talk about superstitions—snapping wishbones and rabbits' feet—until, slowly, he begins to nod and I say some things out loud that I am not sure I agree with. Emboldened by the wine and the violent air, I decide to tell him about my gift. My secret. I have been waiting for this. I tell him that the first time I saw something that no one else saw, it was an extra baby in a stroller.“Look,” I had said to my grandmother, my hand in hers, “that lady has two babies.”My grandmother smiled at me with awe and big teeth and said, “No darling, she has one baby. Do you see two babies?” I saw two babies.“You do sound a bit crazy,” says Quinn. By this point, we have finished the bottle and he has instinctively begun to clear our long-stemmed glasses from the table in his instinctual silence as the barge continues to thrust itself into the shore. I am thrown from my chair.From the ground, I say to Quinn, “Would you date me if there was more than one of me?” But the words aren’t coming out right, in this room bumping up against the Earth itself.The barge sways again, waves lap up and over the sides.Quinn sits back down and listens and nods. “I don’t know you,” he says. “I wouldn’t know you if there were one thousand of you standing around. But if there was, I would date you all at once.”Wind and rain continue to lash the windows. Across the river, half the city has gone dark and I stand up to tell him I am going to sleep in the coat closet, which I do. I turn off the opera before curling into a nest of coats that I make on the ground. I shut my eyes. The world spins and the closet where I sleep spins on top of it.I wake with a start, fearful, like my mother in the middle of the night. I hear the front doors open and shut, the howl of wind that flutes through their yawning gap before the air stills again. Then, something screams a single note. Unwavering, beautiful. For a moment I think it’s me, that I’ve hit an operatic note, but the sound is coming from the direction of the water, the barge. I pull my favorite mink coat tight around my shoulders and check the pockets. All I find is a shopping list that says marmalade and Tylenol. Both have been crossed out. I must have taken my shoes off at some point because when I cross back over onto the barge, water seeps through the bottom of my tights. The coat feels warm like a body.The sound came from the darkened kitchen. I push through a thick velvet curtain, then through the swinging doors, to see that Quinn, soaking wet and wide-eyed, has cut the throat of the tenth peacock. He stands over the sprawled bird on the steel prep table, his mouth in a little grimace of pride. A large roasting pan waits beside it.“I found it for you,” he says. “For my one thousand girls, and now we won’t go hungry.”At the hospital, when my grandmother was dying, there was only Mountain Dew in the vending machine and the soda was the same neon green as this pea- cock’s downy under-feathers. She coaxed me to her bed and said loudly, not like people whisper in the movies, that she remembered what it was she had meant to say to me on the day that I saw the extra baby. “It just came to me,” she said. She remembered, but it wasn’t important anymore.Now Quinn has plucked and skinned the bird. Feathers float in the air around him, settling on every polished surface. He tells me he would never steal from the restaurant. “Just butter,” he says, placing a thin cut of meat onto the roasting sheet. “They don’t appreciate the butter.” It takes him a long time to butcher the bird.The flames from the stove do nothing to light the kitchen. He makes a sauce of butter and spices in a scorched pan as I huddle close to it for warmth, watch- ing the practiced and calm movements he makes while he cooks. We bump into one another a few times in the dark, on solid ground but being pitched around by our inability to see anything apart from the orange flames.While the peacock roasts, I lick more butter off of my fingers and let it slide down my hollow little throat. Quinn makes a sound like an oven timer then begins to plate the pieces of the bird on beautiful porcelain plates. We sit on the floor and while I eat, I think of the wedding I had attended as a child, where I ate pieces of fish with the bones still in them and my mother laughed at the blood in my mouth. The bones were just one of those adult things I thought I didn’t understand. I was adjusting to the world of luxury.I eat until my stomach swells beneath the coat. By sunrise, the whole restaurant is messy and disheveled. The air outside, just air again. Quinn has fallen asleep in the worst seat in the house: a plush booth with no view of the river and gardens.“Thank you for a lovely evening,” I say and step out into a light rain on the sidewalk with my umbrella to greet the locals. There are no taxis, no one on the street except for a pair of valiant tourists peering at a parked car that has washed up into an alley.I am foggy-headed and it takes me a moment to notice that the stairs down to the subway are a pool of water, that I must walk. I raise the handle of the umbrella, it's bone-smooth and solid in my hands, and ready to push open the canopy above my head. But when I look up there is nothing there; my hands are empty. I remember then that I left the window open in my hotel room, that it too will be soaked with rain as cold as glass all the way through to the mattress.