"I'm lis tening," Van Patten says, irritated. "Go ahead. Finish it. One hand on my cock, one hand on my balls, go on."
Luis Carruthers is still standing at the bar waiting for a drink. Now it looks to me like his silk bow tie is by Agnes B. It's all unclear.
"I'm not," Price says.
"And he says because..." Again Preston falters. There's a long silence. Preston looks at me.
"Don't look at me," I say. "It's not my joke."
"And he says... My mind's a blank."
"Is that the punch line - My mind's a blank?" McDermott asks.
"He says, um, because..." Preston puts a hand over his eyes and thinks about it. "Oh gosh, I can't believe I forgot this..."
"Oh great, Preston." Price sighs. "You are one unfunny bastard."
"My mind's a blank?" Craig asks me. "I don't get it."
"Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah," Preston says. "Listen, I remember. Because the last time I f**ked a nigger she stole my wallet." He starts chuckling immediately. And after a short moment of silence, the table cracks up too, except for me.
"That's it, that's the punch line," Preston says proudly, relieved.
Van Patten gives him high-five. Even Price laughs.
"Oh Christ," I say. "That's awful."
..Why?.. won says. "It's funny. It's humor."
"Yeah, Bateman," McDermott says. "Cheer up."
"Oh I forgot. Bateman's dating someone from the ACLU," Price says. "What bothers you about that?"
"It's not funny," I say. "It's racist."
"Bateman, you are some kind of morose bastard," Preston says. "You should stop reading all those Ted Bundy biographies." Preston stands up and checks his Rolex. "Listen men, I'm off. Will see you tomorrow."
"Yeah. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel," Van Patten says, nudging me.
Preston leans forward before leaving. "Because the last time I f**ked a nigger she stole my wallet."
"I get it. I get it," I say, pushing him away.
"Remember this, guys: Few things perform in life as well as a Kenwood." He exits.
"Yabba-dabba-do," Van Patten says.
"Hey, did anyone know cavemen got more fiber than we get?" McDermott asks.
I'm on the verge of tears by the time we arrive at Pastels since I'm positive we won't get seated but the table is good, and relief that is almost tidal in scope washes over me in an awesome wave. At Pastels McDermott knows the maitre d' and though we made our reservations from a cab only minutes ago we're immediately led past the overcrowded bar into the pink, brightly lit main dining room and seated at an excellent booth for four, up front. It's really impossible to get a reservation at Pastels and I think Van Patter, myself, even Price, are impressed by, maybe even envious of, McDermott's prowess in securing a table. After we piled into a cab on Water Street we realized that no one had made reservations anywhere and while debating the merits of a new Californian-Sicilian bistro on the Upper East Side - my panic so great I almost ripped Zagat in two - the consensus seemed to emerge. Price had the only dissenting voice but he finally shrugged and said, "I don't give a shit," and we used his portaphone to make the reservation. He slipped his Walkman on and turned the volume up so loud that the sound of Vivaldi was audible even with the windows halfway open and the noise of the uptown traffic blasting into the taxi. Van Patter and McDermott made rude jokes about the size of Tim's dick and I did too. Outside Pastels Tim grabbed the napkin with Van Patter's final version of his carefully phrased question for GQ on it and tossed it at a bum huddling outside the restaurant feebly holding up a sloppy cardboard sign: I AM HUNGRY AND HOMELESS PLEASE HELP ME.
Things seem to be going smoothly. The maitre d' has sent over four complimentary Bellinis but we order drinks anyway. The Ronettes are singing "Then He Kissed Me," our waitress is a little hardbody and even Price seems relaxed though he hates the place. Plus there are four women at the table opposite ours, all great-looking - blond, big tits: one is wearing a chemise dress in double-faced wool by Calvin Klein, another is wearing a wool knit dress and jacket with silk faille bonding by Geoffrey Beene, another is wearing a symmetrical skirt of pleated tulle and an embroidered velvet bustier by, I think, Christian Lacroix plus high-heeled shoes by Sidonie Larizzi, and the last one is wearing a black strapless sequined gown under a wool crepe tailored jacket by Bill Blass. Now the Shirelles are coming out of the speakers, "Dancing in the Street," and the sound system plus the acoustics, because of the restaurant's high ceiling, are so loud that we have to practically scream out our order to the hardbody waitress - who is wearing a bicolored suit of wool grain with passementerie trim by Myrone de Premonville and velvet ankle boots and who, I'm fairly sure, is flirting with me: laughs sexily when I order, as an appetizer, the monkfish and squid ceviche with golden caviar; gives me a stare so steamy, so penetrating when I order the gravlax potpie with green tomatillo sauce I have to look back at the pink Bellini in the tall champagne flute with a concerned, deadly serious expression so as not to let her think I'm too interested. Price orders the tapas and then the venison with yogurt sauce and fiddlehead ferns with mango slices. McDermott orders the sashimi with goat cheese and then the smoked duck with endive and maple syrup. Van Patten has the scallop sausage and the grilled salmon with raspberry vinegar and guacamole. The air-conditioning in the restaurant is on full blast and I'm beginning to feel bad that I'm not wearing the new Versace pullover I bought last week at Bergdorfs. It would look good with the suit I'm wearing.