"Really?" Sean asks, maybe hopefully, maybe not.
"Yeah, sure." Oh, right.
Now, by the time I get the check... let's see... pay it, take a cab back to my place, it will be almost midnight, which doesn't give me enough time to return yesterday's videotapes, so if I don't stop by my place I can just go in and rent another videotape, though on my membership doesn't it say that you can only take out three at a time? So this means last night I took out two (Body Double and Blond, Hot, Dead) so I could rent one more, but I've forgotten I'm also part of the Gold Circle Membership Plan, which means that if I've spent one thousand dollars (at least) in the last six months then I'm allowed to rent as many videos on any given night as I want, but if I still have two out now that might mean I can't take any more out, Gold Circle Member or not, if the other ones haven't been returned, but -
"Damien. You're Damien," I think I hear Sean mutter.
"What did you say?" I ask, looking up. "I didn't hear you."
"Nice tan," he sighs. "I said nice tan."
"Oh," I say, still confused about the video thing. I look down - at what, my lap? "Uh, thanks."
"Rock'n' roll." He stamps his cigarette out. Fumes rise from the crystal ashtray, then die.
Sean knows I know he can probably get us into Petty's, which is the new Norman Prager club on Fifty-ninth, but I'm not going to ask him and he's not going to offer. I place my platinum American Express card over the check. Sean's eyes are glued to a hardbody by the bar in a Thierry Mugler wool jersey dress and a Claude Montana scarf, sipping from a champagne tumbler. When our waitress come by to pick up the check and the card, I shake my head no. Sean's eyes finally fall on it, for a second, maybe more, and I wave the waitress back over and allow her to take it.
Lunch with Bethany
Today I'm meeting Bethany for lunch at Vanities, the new Evan Kiley bistro in Tribeca, and though I worked out for nearly two hours this morning and even lifted weights in my office before noon, I'm still extremely nervous. The cause is hard to locate but I've narrowed it down to one of two reasons. It's either that I'm afraid of rejection (though I can't understand why: she called me, she wants to see me, she wants to have lunch with me, she wants to f**k me again) or, on the other hand, it could have something to do with this new Italian mousse I'm wearing, which, though it makes my hair look fuller and smells good, feels very sticky and uncomfortable, and it's something I could easily blame my nervousness on. So we wouldn't run out of things to talk about over lunch, I tried to read a trendy new short-story collection called Wok that I bought at Barnes & Noble last night and whose young author was recently profiled in the Fast Track section of New York magazine, but every story started off with the line "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie" and I had to put this slim volume back into my bookshelf and drink a J&B on the rocks, followed by two Xanax, to recover from the effort. To make up for this, before I fell asleep I wrote Bethany a poem and it took a long time, which surprised me, since I used to write her poems, long dark ones, quite often when we were both at Harvard, before we broke up. God, I'm thinking to myself as I walk into Vanities, only fifteen minutes late, I hope she hasn't ended up with Robert Hall, that dumb ass**le. I pass by a mirror hung over the bar as I'm led to our table and check out my reflection - the mousse looks good. The topic on The Patty Winters Show this morning was Has Patrick Swayze Become Cynical or Not?
I have to stop moving as I near the table, following the maitre d' (this is all happening in slow motion). She isn't facing me and I can only catch the back of her neck, her brown hair pinned up into a bun, and when she turns to gaze out the window I see only part of her profile, briefly; she looks just like a model. Bethany's wearing a silk gazar blouse and a sills satin start with crinoline. A Paloma Picasso hunter green suede and wrought-iron handbag sits in front of her on the table, next to a bottle of San Pellegrino water. She checks her watch. The couple next to our table is smoking and after I lean in behind Bethany, surprising her, kissing her cheek, I coolly ask the maitre d' to reseat us in the non smoking section. I'm suave but loud enough for the nicotine addicts to hear me and hopefully feel a slight twinge of embarrassment about their filthy habit.
"Well?" I ask, standing there, arms crossed, tapping my foot impatiently.
'I'm afraid there is no nonsmoking section, sir," the maitre d' informs me.
I stop tapping my foot and slowly scan the restaurant, the bistro, wondering how my hair really looks, and suddenly I wish I had switched mousses because since I last saw my hair, seconds ago, it feels different, as if its shape was somehow altered on the walls from bar to table. A pang of nausea that I'm unable to stifle washes warmly over me, but since I'm really dreaming all this I'm able to ask, "So you say there's no nonsmoking section? Is this correct?"