A sweet warmth flooded his body as he finished reading the letter. He felt like he had as a young boy, when he’d carried his mother’s loving, protective presence inside him wherever he went.

He crossed the lobby to where a handful of men stared at a talk show on TV. He wanted to tell somebody how light, how grateful and serene he felt, but he had no friends here. He stepped outside into the crisp night air and began walking.

He headed for the waterfront, where he wandered along the periphery of the shipyards, looking at the old warehouses and tall loading cranes and, occasionally, alongside one of the piers, a brightly lit freighter from Asia or Europe. Eventually he drifted, as he knew he would, to the corner where the old phone booth still stood. The phone had been removed, but he stepped inside anyway and shut the door.

He sat down on the smelly concrete and looked out at the near-empty street. Strangely, with the phone gone, the booth now seemed more connected to the world outside, as if with a thousand invisible threads, each of them carrying faint, fragile whispers from far away. For some reason the thought made him laugh. It was a quiet laugh, yet it startled him, as though it had come from someone else, a not-so-friendly observer, looking over his shoulder.

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