"Of course. My apologizes." The maitre d' humbly bows.
Embarrassed, Evelyn asks, "Must you be so overly polite?"
I put down my fork and shut my eyes. "Why are you constantly undermining my stability?"
She breathes in. "Let's just have a conversation. Not an interrogation. Okay?"
"About what?" I snarl.
"Listen," she says. "The Young Republican bash at the Pla..." She stops herself as if remembering something, then continues, "at the Trump Plaza is next Thursday." I want to tell her I can't make it, hoping to god she has other plans, even though two weeks ago, drunk and coked up at Mortimer's or Au Bar, I invited her, for Christ sakes. "Are we going?"
After a pause, "I guess," I say glumly.
For dessert I've arranged something special. At a power breakfast at the '21' Club this morning with Craig McDermott, Alex Baxter and Charles Kennedy, I stole a urinal cake from the men's room when the attendant wasn't looking. At home I covered it with a cheap chocolate syrup, froze it, then placed it in an empty Godiva box, tying a silk bow around it, and now, in Luke, when I excuse myself to the rest room, I make my way instead to the kitchen, after I've stopped at the coatcheck to retrieve the package, and I ask our waiter to present this to the table "in the box" and to tell the lady seated there that Mr. Bateman called up earlier to order this especially for her. I even tell him, while opening the box, to put a flower on it, whatever, hand him a fifty. He brings it over once a suitable amount of time has elapsed, after our plates have been removed, and I'm impressed by what a big deal he makes over it; he's even placed a silver dome over the box and Evelyn coos with delight when he lifts it off, saying "Voi-ra," and she makes a move for the spoon he's laid next to her water glass (that I make sure is empty) and, turning to me, Evelyn says, "Patrick, that's so sweet," and I nod to the waiter, smiling, and wave him away when he tries to place a spoon on my side of the table.
"Aren't you having any?" Evelyn asks, concerned. She hovers over the chocolate-dipped urinal cake anxiously, poised. "I adore Godiva."
"I'm not hungry," I say. "Dinner was... filling."
She leans down, smelling the brown oval, and, catching a scent of something (probably disinfectant), asks me, now dismayed, "Are you... sure?"
"No, darling," I say. "I want you to eat it. There's not a lot there."
She takes the first bite, chewing dutifully, immediately and obviously disgusted, then swallows. She shudders, then makes a grimace but tries to smile as she takes another tentative bite.
"How is it?" I ask, then, urging, "Eat it. It's not poisoned or anything."
Her face, twisted with displeasure, manages to blanch again as if she were gagging.
"What?" I ask, grinning. "What is it?"
"It's so..." Her face is now one long agonized grimace mask and, shuddering, she coughs. "...minty." But she tries to smile appreciatively, which becomes an impossibility. She reaches for my glass of water and gulps it down, desperate to rid her mouth of the taste. Then, noticing how worried I look, she tries to smile, this time apologetically. "It's just" - she shudders again - "it's just... so minty."
To me she looks like a big black ant - a big black ant in an original Christian Lacroix - eating a urinal cake and I almost start laughing, but I also want to keep her at ease. I don't want her to get second thoughts about finishing the urinal cake. But she can't eat any more and with only two bites taken, pretending to be full, she pushes the tainted plate away, and at this moment I start feeling strange. Even though I marveled at her eating that thing, it also makes me sad and suddenly I'm reminded that no matter how satisfying it was to see Evelyn eating something I, and countless others, had pissed on, in the end the displeasure it caused her was at my expense - it's an anticlimax, a futile excuse to put up with her for three hours. My jaw begins to clench, relax, clench, relax, involuntarily. There is music playing somewhere but I can't hear it. Evelyn asks the waiter, hoarsely, if perhaps he could get her some Life Savers from the Korean deli around the block.
Then, very simply, dinner reaches its crisis point, when Evelyn says, "I want a firm commitment."
The evening has already deteriorated considerably so this comment doesn't ruin anything or leave me unprepared, but the unreasonableness of our situation is choking me and I push my water glass back toward Evelyn and ask the waiter to remove the half-eaten urinal cake. My endurance for tonight is shot the second the melting dessert is taken away. For the first time I notice that she has been eyeing me for the last two years not with adoration but with something closer to greed. Someone finally brings her a water glass along with a bottle of Evian I didn't hear her order.