"Like what?" I ask, scanning the room. "That two plus two equals four? That you're secretly Nancy Reagan?"
"Don't have lunch with him next week at the Yale Club," she says, smiling for a photographer, the flash blinding us momentarily.
"You look... voluptuous tonight," I say, touching her neck, running a finger up over her chin until it reaches the bottom lip.
"I'm not joking, Patrick." Smiling, she waves to Luis, who is dancing clumsily with Jennifer Morgan. He's wearing a cream-colored wool dinner jacket, wool trousers, a cotton shirt, and a silk glen-plaid cummerbund, all from Hugo Boss, a bow tie from Sales and a pocket square from Paul Stuart. He waves back. I give him thumbs-up.
"What a dork," Courtney whispers sadly to herself.
"Listen, I'm leaving," I say, finishing the champagne. "Why don't you go dance with the... receptacle tip?"
"Where are you going?" she asks, gripping my arm.
"Courtney, I don't want to experience another one of your... emotional outbursts," I tell her. "Besides, the canapes are shitty."
"Where are you going?" she asks again. "Details, Mr. Bateman."
"Why areyou so concerned?"
"Because I'd like to know," she says. "You're not going to Evelyn's, are you?"
"Maybe," I lie.
"Patrick," she says. "Don't leave me here. I don't want you to go."
"I have to return some videos," I lie again, handing her my empty champagne glass, just as another camera flashes somewhere. I walk away.
The band segues into a rousing version of "Life in the Fast Lane" and I start looking around for hardbodies. Charles Simpson - or someone who looks remarkably like him, slicked-back hair, suspenders, Oliver Peoples glasses - shakes my hand, shouts "Hey, Williams" and tells me to meet a group of people with Alexandra Craig at Nell's around midnight. I give him a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder and tell him I'll be there.
Outside, smoking a cigar, contemplating the sky, I spot Reed Thompson, who emerges from the Puck Building with his entourage - Jamie Conway, Kevin Wynn, Marcus Halberstam, no babes - and invites me along to dinner; and though I suspect they have drugs, I have misgivings about spending the evening with them and decide not to trek up to that Salvadorian bistro, especially since they don't have reservations and aren't guaranteed a table. I wave them off, then cross Houston, dodging other limos leaving the party, and start moving uptown. Walking along Broadway I stop at an automated teller where just for the hell of it I take out another hundred dollars, feeling better having an even five hundred in my wallet.
I find myself walking through the antique district below Fourteenth Street. My watch has stopped so I'm not sure what time it is, but probably ten-thirty or so. Black guys pass by offering crack or hustling tickets to a party at the Palladium. I walk by a newsstand, a dry cleaners, a church, a diner. The streets are empty; the only noise breaking up the silence is an occasional taxi cruising toward Union Square. A couple of skinny faggots walk by while I'm at a phone booth checking my messages, staring at my reflection in an antique store's window. One of them whistles at me, the other laughs: a high, fey, horrible sound A torn playbill from Les Miserables tumbles down the cracked, urine-stained sidewalk. A streetlamp burns out. Someone in a Jean-Paul Gaultier topcoat takes a piss in an alleyway. Steam rises from below the streets, billowing up in tendrils, evaporating. Bags of frozen garbage line the curbs. The moon, pale and low, hangs just above the tip of the Chrysler Building. Somewhere from over in the West Village the siren from an ambulance screams, the wind picks it up, it echoes then fades.
The bum, a black man, lies in the doorway of an abandoned antique store on Twelfth Street on top of an open grate, surrounded by bags of garbage and a shopping cart from Gristede's loaded with what I suppose are personal belongings: newspapers, bottles, aluminum cans. A handpainted cardboard sign attached to the front of the cart reads I AM HUNGRY AND HOMELESS PLEASE HELP ME. A dog, a small mutt, short-haired and rail thin, lies next to him, its makeshift leash tied to the handle of the grocery cart. I don't notice the dog the first time I pass by. It's only after I circle the block and come back that I see it lying on a pile of newspapers, guarding the bum, a collar around its neck with an oversize nameplate that reads GIZMO. The dog looks up at me wagging its skinny, pathetic excuse for a tail and when I hold out a gloved hand it licks at it hungrily. The stench of some kind of cheap alcohol mixed with excrement hangs here like a heavy, invisible cloud, and I have to hold my breath, before adjusting to the stink. The bum wakes up, opens his eyes, yawning, exposing remarkably stained teeth between cracked purple lips.