The heat was the worst part, inescapable and oppressive. Tailor could have dealt with the rest of it — the uncertain food, the corruption, the low pay — if it weren’t for the heat. It plucked at him, dragged on the arms, his feet, the skin on his back between his shoulders. He couldn’t sleep, roiling in the soup of his bed, couldn’t breathe. He hated himself, and he hated everyone else.
But he was patient. He ran his little importing house well, but dispassionately. Each month saw a small but real profit, just enough left over to keep him as comfortable as could be expected. In pursuit of his deals he went everywhere; there wasn’t a street or alley he didn’t know, not a square where he didn’t know the names of everyone in the surrounding houses. People knew Tailor – if they didn’t like him, they all found him pleasant enough. Friendly, but a little dull.
He asked few questions, too oppressed by the heat to talk, but each month he sent back thick files stuffed with news; the shifting political allegiances of the city, the casual betrayals, the infidelity, and sharp-eyed men in cooler climes sifted through it and built up a picture of a world grown both strange and familiar.