"Patrick... talk to me... don't be so upset," she is saying. "I think it's... time for me to... take a good look... at the world I've created," I choke, tearfully, finding myself admitting to her, "I came upon... a half gram of cocaine... in my armoire last... night." I'm squeezing my hands together, forming one large fist, all knuckles white.
"What did you do with it?" she asks.
I place one hand on the table. She takes it.
"I threw it away. I threw it all away. I wanted to do it," I gasp, "but I threw it away."
She squeezes my hand tightly. "Patrick?" she asks, moving her hand up until it's gripping my elbow. When I find the strength to look back at her, it strikes me how useless, boring, physically beautiful she really is, and the question Why not end up with her? floats into my line of vision. An answer: she has a better body than most other girls I know. Another one: everyone is interchangeable anyway. One more: it doesn't really matter. She sits before me, sullen but hopeful, characterless, about to dissolve into tears. I squeeze her hand back, moved, no, touched by her ignorance of evil. She has one more test to pass.
"Do you own a briefcase?" I ask her, swallowing.
"No," she says. "I don't."
"Evelyn carries a briefcase," I mention.
"She does...?" Jean asks.
"And what about a Filofax?"
"A small one," she admits.
"Designer?" I ask suspiciously.
I sigh, then take her hand, small and hard, in mine.
...and in the southern deserts of Sudan the heat rises in airless waves, thousands upon thousands of men, women, children, roam throughout the vast bushland, desperately seeking food. Ravaged and starving, leaving a trail of dead, emaciated bodies, they eat weeds and leaves and... lily pads, stumbling from village to village, dying slowly, inexorably; a gray morning in the miserable desert, grit flies through the sir, a child with a face like a black moon lies in the sand, scratching at his throat, cones of dust rising, flying across land like whirling tops, no one can see the sun, the child is covered with sand, almost dead, eyes unblinking, grateful (stop and imagine for an instant a world where someone is grateful for something) none of the haggard pay attention as they file by, dazed and in pain (nothere is one who pays attention, who notices the boy's agony and smiles, as if holding a secret), the boy opens and closes his cracked, chapped mouth soundlessly, there is a school bus in the distance somewhere and somewhere else, above that, in space, a spirit rises, a door opens, it asks "Why? " - a home for the dead, an infinity, it hangs in a void, time limps by, love and sadness rush through the boy
I am dimly aware of a phone ringing somewhere. In the cafe on Columbus, countless numbers, hundreds of people, maybe thousands, have walked by our table during my silence. "Patrick," Jean says. Someone with a baby stroller stops at the corner and purchases a Dove Bar. The baby stares at Jean and me. We stare back. It's really weird and I'm experiencing a spontaneous kind of internal sensation, I feel I'm moving toward as well as away from something, and anything is possible.
It is four days before Christmas, at two in the afternoon. I'm sitting in the back of a pitch-black limousine parked in front of a nondescript, brownstone off Fifth Avenue trying to read an article about Donald Trump in the new issue of Fame magazine. Jeanette wants me to come in with her but I say "Forget it." She has a black eye from last night since I had to coerce her over dinner at Il Marlibro to even consider doing this; then, after a more forceful discussion at my apartment, she consented. Jeanette's dilemma lies outside my definition of guilt, and I had told her, truthfully, over dinner that it was very hard for me to express concern for her that I don't feel. During the entire drive from my place on the Upper West Side, she's been sobbing. The only clear, identifiable emotion coming from her is desperation and maybe longing, and though I successfully ignore her for most of the ride I finally have to tell her, "Listen, I've already taken two Xanax this morning so, uh, you're incapable of, like, upsetting me." Now, as she stumbles out of the limo onto the frozen pavement, I mumble, "It's for the best," and, offering consolation, "Don't take it so seriously." The driver, whose name I've forgotten, leads her into the brownstone and she gives a last, regretful look back. I sigh and wave her off. She's still wearing, from last night, a leopard-print cotton balmacaan coat with wool challis lining over a wool crepe shirtless dress by Bill Bless. Bigfoot was interviewed on The Patty Winters Show this morning and to my shock I found him surprisingly articulate and charming. The glass I'm drinking Absolut vodka from is Finnish. I'm very suntanned compared to Jeanette.