"Now what time should I be over?" Restaurant Whore asks.
"I said eight," I tell her, disgusted.
"'That's fine," she says and then in a seductive whisper, "See you at eight." She lingers on the phone as if she expects me to say something else, as if maybe I should congratulate her for making the correct decision, but I hardly have time to deal with this so I abruptly hang up.
The instant after I hang up on Patricia I dash across the room and grab the Zagat guide and flip through it until I find Dorsia. With trembling fingers I dial the number. Busy. Panicked, I put the phone on Constant Redial and for the next five minutes nothing but a busy signal, faithful and ominous, repeats itself across the line. Finally a ring and in the seconds before there's an answer I experience that rarest of occurrences - an adrenaline rush.
"Dorsia," someone answers, sex not easily identifiable, made androgynous by the wall-of-sound noise in the background. "Please hold."
It sounds slightly less noisy than a packed football stadium and it takes every ounce of courage I can muster to stay on the line and not hang up. I'm on hold for five minutes, my palm sweaty, sore from clenching the cordless phone so tightly, a fraction of me realizing the futility of this effort, another part hopeful, another fraction pissed off that I didn't make the reservations earlier or get Jean to. The voice comes back on the lire and says grufliy, "Dorsia."
I clear my throat. "Um, yes, I know it's a little late but is it possible to reserve a table for two at eight-thirty or nine perhaps?" I'm asking this with both eyes shut tight.
There is a pause - the crowd in the background a surging, deafening mass - and with real hope coursing through me I open my eyes, realizing that the maitre d', god love him, is probably looking through the reservation book for a cancellation - but then he starts giggling, low at first but it builds to a high-pitched crescendo of laughter which is abruptly cut off when he slams down the receiver.
Stunned, feverish, feeling empty, I contemplate the next move, the only sound the dial tone buzzing noisily from the receiver. Gather my bearings, count to six, reopen the Zagat guide and steadily regain my concentration against the almost overwhelming panic about securing an eight-thirty reservation somewhere if not as trendy as Dorsia then at least in the next-best league. I eventually get a reservation at Barcadia for two at nine, and that only because of a cancellation, and though Patricia will probably be disappointed she might actually like Barcadia - the tables are well spaced, the lighting is dim and flattering, the food Nouvelle Southwestern - and if she doesn't, what is the bitch going to do, sue me?
I worked out heavily at the gym after leaving the office today but the tension has returned, so I do ninety abdominal crunches, a hundred and fifty push-ups, and then I run in place for twenty minutes while listening to the new Huey Lewis CD. I take a hot shower and afterwards use a new facial scrub by Caswell-Massey and a body wash by Greune, then a body moisturizer by Lubriderm and a Neutrogena facial cream. I debate between two outfits. One is a wool-crepe suit by Bill Robinson I bought at Saks with this cotton jacquard shirt from Charivari and an Armani tie. Or a wool and cashmere sport coat with blue plaid a cotton shirt and pleated wool trousers by Alexander Julian, with a polka-dot silk tie by Bill Blass. The Julian might be a little too warm for May but if Patricia's wearing this outfit by Karl Lagerfeld that I think she's going to, then maybe I will go with the Julian, because it would go well with her suit. The shoes are crocodile loafers by A. Testoni.
A bottle of Scharffenberger is on ice in a Spiros spun-aluminum bowl which is in a Christine Van der Hurd etched-glass champagne cooler which sits on a Cristofle silver-plated bar tray. The Scharffenberger isn't bad - it's not Cristal, but why waste Cristal on this bimbo? She probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway. I have a glass of it while waiting for her, occasionally rearranging the Steuben animals on the glasstop coffee table by Turchin, or sometimes I flip through the last hardcover book I bought, something by Garrison Keillor. Patricia is late.
While waiting on the couch in the living room, the Wurlitzer jukebox playing "Cherish" by the Lovin Spoonful, I come to the conclusion that Patricia is safe tonight, that I am not going to unexpectedly pull a knife out and use it on her just for the sake of doing so, that I am not going to get any pleasure watching her bleed from slits I've made by cutting her throat or slicing her neck open or gouging her eyes out. She's lucky, even though there is no real reasoning behind the luck. It could be that she's safe because her wealth, her family's wealth, protects her tonight, or it could be that it's simply my choice. Maybe the glass of Scharffenberger has deadened my impulse or maybe it's simply that I don't want to ruin this particular Alexander Julian suit by having the bitch spray her blood all over it. Whatever happens, the useless fact remains: Patricia will stay alive, and this victory requires no skill, no leaps of the imagination, no ingenuity on anyone's part. This is simply how the world, my world, moves.