"What's wrong?" I say, looking up from my plate, a fork poised over it, but my hand will not move; it's as if it appreciated the plate's setup too much, as if my hand had a mind of its own and refused to break up its design. I sigh and put the fork down, hopeless.
"Shit. I have to tape this movie on cable for Mandy." He wipes his mouth with a napkin, stands up. "I'll be back."
"Have her do it, idiot," Price says. "What are you, demented?"
"She's in Boston, seeing her den tist." Van Patten shrugs, pu**ywhipped.
"What in the hell are you going to do?" My voice wavers. I'm still thinking about Van Patten's card. "Call up HBO?"
"No;" he says. "I have a touch-tone phone hooked up to program a Videonics VCR programmer I bought at Hammacher Schlemmer." He walks away pulling his suspenders up.
"How hip," I say tonelessly.
"Hey, what do you want for dessert?" McDermott calls out.
"Something chocolate and flourless," he shouts back.
"Has Van Patten stopped working out?" I ask. "He looks puffy."
"It looks that way, doesn't it," Price says.
"Doesn't he have a membership at the Vertical Club?" I ask.
"I don't know," Price murmurs, studying his plate, then sitting up he pushes it away and motions to the waitress for another Finlandia on the rocks.
Another hardbody waitress approaches us tentatively, bringing over a bottle of champagne, Perrier-Jouet, nonvintage, and tells us it's complimentary from Scott Montgomery.
"Nonvintage, that weasel," Price hisses, craning his neck to find Montgomery's table. "Loser." He gives him a thumbs-up sign from across the room. "The f**ker's so short I could barely see him. I think I gave thumbs-up to Conrad. I can't be sure."
"Where's Conrad?" I ask. "I should say hello to him."
"The dude who called you Hamilton," Price says.
"That wasn't Conrad," I say.
"Are you sure? It looked a helluva lot like him," he says but he's not really listening; he blatantly stares at the hardbody waitress, at exposed cle**age as she leans down to get a firmer grip on the bottle's cork.
"No. That wasn't Con rad," I say, surprised at Price's inability to recognize co-workers. "That guy had a better haircut."
We sit in silence while the hardbody pours the champagne. Once she leaves, McDermott asks if we liked the food. I tell him the potpie was fine but there was way too much tomatillo sauce. McDermott nods, says, "That's what I've heard."
Van Patten returns, mumbling, "They don't have a good bathroom to do coke in."
"Dessert?" McDermott suggests.
"Only if I can order the Bellini sorbet," Price says, yawning.
"How about just the check," Van Patten says.
"Time to go bird-dogging, gentlemen," I say.
The hardbody brings the check over. The total is $475, much less than we expected. We split it but I need the cash so I put it on my platinum AmEx and collect their bills, mostly fresh fifties. McDermott demands ten dollars back since his scallop sausage appetizer was only sixteen bucks. Montgomery's bottle of champagne is left at the table, undrunk. Outside Pastels a different bum sits in the street, with a sign that says something completely illegible. He gently asks us for some change and then, more hopefully, for some food.
"That dude needs a facial real bad," I say.
"Hey McDermott," Price cackles. "Throw him your tie."
"Oh shit. What's that gonna get him?" I ask, staring at the bum.
"Appetizers at Jams." Van Patten laughs. He gives me high-five.
"Dude," McDermott says, inspecting his tie, clearly offended.
"Oh, sorry... cab," Price says, waving down a cab. "... and a beverage."
"Off to Tunnel," McDermott tells the driver.
"Great, McDermott," Price says, getting in the front seat. "You sound really excited."
"So what if I'm not some burned-out decadent faggot like yourself," McDermott says, getting in ahead of me.
"Did anyone know cavemen got more fiber than we do?" Price asks the cabdriver.
"Hey, I heard that too," McDermott says.
"Van Patten," I say. "Did you see the comp bottle of champagne Montgomery sent over?"
"Really?" Van Patten asks, leaning over McDermott. "Let me guess. Perrier-Jouet?"