Sound Judgement

Sound Judgement

Every issue of The Official Ferrari Magazine carries a short story featuring a Ferrari. Written by international authors, their inspiration comes from the design of the car, its colour or technical features. Here Ben Greenman, an editor at The New Yorker magazine and author of several books, tells a love story set in the corporate world. Two executives circle around their passion for each other, and their careers. How will it end? A Ferrari F8 Tributo provides the answer

Ben Greenman

Sometimes standing still was the fastest movement available. The sentence was stuck in his head. He was stuck at the airport. The thought wasn’t his, not fully. He had read it somewhere. Another brain had conceived it. Another mouth had found the confidence to speak it. Another hand had written it down. He couldn’t own it, no matter how completely he possessed it. Or did it possess him? He mentally put the thought in quotes: “Sometimes standing still was the fastest movement available”. That made him feel better, for a moment, and then everything around him came back into focus: the bustle and traffic of the airport, the piped-in smells, the many languages he’d never speak.

He was returning home after a month of work in Japan. When Hawkins, his boss, had told him about the trip, she had apologised for the short notice. “Sometimes things happen without warning,” she said, then frowned. It wasn’t on purpose, the frown. She had risen through the ranks by learning how to control her expressions, when to appear as if she were deep in thought, when to convey a lightness of tone. They had been in her office. She had called him in to give him the news. He had taken the single chair on the other side of her desk. She told him about his trip, and had apologised for the short notice. Afterwards, she was supposed to smile. But when she paused the corners of her mouth drew down. He looked away so she would not see that he had seen. His eye fell on her nameplate: ‘K. Hawkins, Vice President’.

The cockpit of the F8 Tributo boasts a  new generation steering wheel with  mounted controls <em>Photo: Roberto Carrer</em>
The cockpit of the F8 Tributo boasts a new generation steering wheel with mounted controls Photo: Roberto Carrer

The nameplate was the only sign of her advancement. Well, that, and the Ferrari.
She had bought the car with her first big bonus. He had admired it for months, had ridden in it a few times, and had even driven it once when she’d had too much to drink at a work event and he’d offered to take her home. “I’m not even tipsy, really,” she said. “But I like the idea of you driving me.”
They had slept together that night, and another night, and a third time, too, and although he had been fully smitten, he’d had enough sense to tell her that he thought it had been a mistake.
“I agree,” she’d said, in a tone that made it clear instead that she did not agree at all. Now they were involved in strategic circling, which was almost as exciting as that first evening. “The travel department will send over your ticket,” she said. “To my home?” he asked. “Well not to mine,” she smiled. She placed the palms of both hands onto the desk to indicate the meeting was over.
On the morning of Davis’ flight a company car picked him up for the airport. As he waited at the departure gate, his ‘phone buzzed to signal an email in arrival. It was from Hawkins. “See you soon,” it read.
During the flight he did a lot of thinking, mostly about her.
Those three short words in her email pleased him, as did the memory of her frown. But he promised himself that he would not contact her whilst away. There was no reason to and it would only risk clouding his return. ‘Show sound judgement,’ he advised himself.
The month abroad was spent in Nagoya, staffing up a regional office that had opened the previous year. His predecessor, a young Spanish woman, had quit without warning, provoking his own abrupt departure.
His days were spent interviewing job candidates. His assistant was a perpetually happy young man called Hiroshi Harada who called himself ‘Double H’. Harada had lived in the United States for two years when his father had worked there, and he’d developed an overriding interest in cowboy movies.
“I have a ranch name,” he declared, “the ‘Double H’!”
About halfway through the month Double H came in to Davis’ office in the evening after everyone had left and plonked himself down in the only other chair and said “Let’s go for a drink.” Davis couldn’t think of a good reason to say no. They went to an American-style bar a few blocks from the office, where they watched replays of old football games and flirted with the barmaid.

Ferrari made a special effort to achieve the right engine sound for passengers<em> Photo: Roberto Carrer</em>
Ferrari made a special effort to achieve the right engine sound for passengers Photo: Roberto Carrer

Double H powered through three beers before Davis had finished his first and soon he was telling the older man all about his love life. There was a woman from back home, a small town called Arimatsu. He loved her, intended to marry her one day, but he’d found himself involved in a number of entanglements, including one with Davis’ predecessor. “It ended badly,” he said. “Is that why she left so suddenly?” Davis asked. Double H blushed, and replied “What about you?” Davis told Double H about Hawkins, and how he had taken a step back so as not to disrupt things back at head office. “I’m trying hard not to email her,” he said. “I think that if I wait, I’ll have a better chance.” Then he urged Double H, “Let’s talk about something else. What are your interests outside work?”
Double H tilted his head. “Do you really want to know?” Davis nodded.
“There are two things,” said Double H.
“The first is geometry. I’ve loved it since high school. Think of the circum circle. You draw perpendicular bi-sectors of each side and where they intersect is the centre of the invisible circle that is always there around any triangle. That was so beautiful to me. How three separate things can be connected and then surrounded by eternity.”
“And what’s the second thing?” asked Davis. “The second thing is... ” began Double H. Davis waited, but nothing else came out. Double H was almost asleep. Davis shook his shoulder. “It is...” Double H began again, this time more softly. He was in bad shape, so Davis drove the young man home and helped him up the steps to his apartment. He waited until he was certain that Double H would be alright. The small table next to a single chair in the living area was piled high with books, including an English-language volume entitled ‘How I Saw It’. Despite the title, rather than a memoir it was a summary of academic studies of perception. Davis began to read the first chapter. It began: “Sometimes standing still was the fastest movement available.”
Double H appeared at the bathroom door. “Okay,” he said. “I’m okay. You can go. Thank you.” As Davis left, he noticed that the walls of the small apartment were covered with drawings of triangles and circles.
Davis and Double H went out the next night, too, and the night after that. Double H’s alcohol tolerance increased sharply, to the point where he didn’t seem drunk no matter how much he drank. “Three nights makes a triangle,” Double H said. His spirits were high, to the point where he jokingly tried to set Davis up with the barmaid. “Big American millionaire,” Double H told her.
She waved her hand dismissively, but at the end of her shift she waited around. “Anyone up for another drink?” she asked. Double H waggled his eyebrows at Davis.
“No,” said Davis. “I think I’m going back to my hotel.” “I’ll come,” Double H said.
The next morning the younger man came into the office whistling cheerfully. “Ask me why I’m so happy,” he said. “I think I know,” Davis replied.
“Wrong,” Double H said. “I went home with her, but I just watched TV for a little while and then I left. I called the woman from Arimatsu instead. She’s coming next weekend.
I think I’m going to ask her to move in with me.” “Congratulations,” Davis said.
“I think it shows sound judgement,” Double H said proudly.

The F8's muscular flanks highlight the car's sporty character, while its tail lights recall early V8 berlinette like the 308 GTB<em> Photo: Roberto Carrer</em>
The F8's muscular flanks highlight the car's sporty character, while its tail lights recall early V8 berlinette like the 308 GTB Photo: Roberto Carrer

Davis remembered saying the same thing to himself on the plane. He thought of Hawkins suddenly, powerfully, to the point where he almost forgot that Double H was still standing in front of him. Then he said, “I’d love to meet her”. “You can’t,” Double H said. Davis started to protest, but Double H interrupted. “What I mean is, that you’re leaving on Thursday. She won’t be here until Friday.”
The morning of Davis’ flight home he received an email saying that his driver was waiting for him in the lobby of the hotel. He assumed that it would be Double H. But instead it was an older man who spoke almost no English. “Have flight,” the man said when he dropped Davis at the airport.
On the plane Davis noticed he’d received an email from Hawkins, which irritated him slightly. He had wanted to maintain his self- promise not to have any contact with her until he returned. “I’ve left a car for you,” the email read. “It’s in the company’s parking space.”
Courtesy cars had been an innovation that started during the tenure of Hawkins’ predecessor. After sitting still for eight hours many people were eager to exercise control and drive themselves rather than having
a driver.
After going through Customs, Davis walked toward the company’s corner of the car park. He wondered what kind of car Hawkins had left for him. Over the years, a kind of code had developed. A big sedan meant that the company was thinking well of you. On the other hand, a vice president who had alienated his entire department once returned from flying to his daughter’s wedding in England to find a beaten up old banger in the space. A month later the man took his retirement. Davis approached the space. And found a Ferrari parked there. He laughed out loud.
Then he realised that it was Hawkins’ own Ferrari, and he laughed again. He popped the boot using the company’s app and took the key from its secret spot. He got in. He turned on the music system and turned the volume right up. Then he turned it straight back down.
The sound of the engine was music enough.
He emailed Hawkins back. “See you soon,” he wrote. He wasn’t even moving yet but he was moving. Sometimes standing still was the fastest movement available.


The author

Ben Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker magazine. He is the author of several books, both fiction and non-fiction, including ‘What He’s Poised to Do’, and ‘Superbad’. His ‘A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both’ has been described as a collection of stories about the wonders of love, the most elusive and problematic of all phenomena. His curiously-titled other works include ‘Superworse’ and ‘Please Step Back’. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York City, with his wife and their two children.