We were meeting at the University Club after we each had a meeting in Times Square; both of us harbouring the requisite, apathetic loathing for that shitshowy quadrangle of doom.
(“I recall,” Tink said, upon her last visit, “That I once asked you to go to an event at Planet Hollywood Times Square, and you’d have thought that I was asking for your first born. Several New York visits later, I sort-of understand.”)
I entered the club in a hurry — flustered from my meeting in Times Square; then my trek back to the office; then excusing myself to meet Schiff. I was to meet him in the taproom, but he was nowhere to be found. I checked in the billiards room, nextdoor.
I found him alone, cue in hand.
We kissed, then headed back into the taproom for a drink. He’d closed out already, but the bartender completed a new chit, and poured me a glass of sauvignon blanc filled to the brim. The surface tension on the rolled brim gave the wine a fish-eye staring back at me as he handed it across the well-worn bar.
“Shall we sit?”
We moved to the back of the taproom, past the couple debating whether their son should have joined the UClub or the Union League, and thinking in my head that my mother had pushed NYAC on me during her last visit, since she’d gone to lunch there with McPrep, and she and my father had stayed there, years ago, on a visit for something for my father’s old firm.
We settled next to a group of gentlemen playing backgammon, and I finally took Schiff in. He looked the same, mostly, in his light blue herringbone and white linen, and I was afraid I looked different in my grey suit; blonde chignon.
This divorce, it has aged me, I wanted to say, to preempt discussion on the subject. I have been obsessed, lately, of looking at photos of me from 2008 as compared to now; photos of me before the storm: no lines; no cracks; no tears.
My, my, my. The double meanings of those previous words.
The dull sounds of the backgammon game behind us punctuated our conversation; we began speaking about Schiff’s friend the Dear Boy.
“He’s marrying, you know.”
“I did not know he’s marrying. It seems everyone who’s left is marrying.”
I recalled that last night we had partied — really partied. It was still coats weather then; and I was still hung up on Frederic who had changed, somehow after diving in Honduras. Everyone changed after Roatan and its environs, it seemed.
But I was kissing The Laura’s friend in the foyer, retaliatorily, while the Dear Boy dropped his pants thinking that charades had become strip poker. And the Contessa, sipping the foam from the magnum of late-night-into-morning champagne laughed, “But there are no cards!” As if that would excuse the Dear Boy’s removal of his trousers. And The Laura shuffled the slips of paper for charades so we could get back to the game.
It was the last time I saw the Dear Boy. It was the last time I saw The Laura socially, too.
Schiff brought me back to the present.
“So his bachelor party was a hunting affair in the English countryside — with meat and cigars and heavy wine. And it just did me in. I left London in advance of the volcanic ash thing — on a premonition, mind you, just thinking I didn’t want to be stuck. When I came home, the Contessa said she’d never seen me look so bad. And it wasn’t that there was anything that bad about it, per se, it was just so…gluttonous.”
I looked at him sideways. It seemed so funny, so strange to think that we could slow down at all. But we were not so young as we used to be — a strange thing to think, but a true thing. It had been almost a decade since the boot-and-rally days at the Tombs; the Historic Georgetown Club. As a schoolgirl and Rusty Griswold on the stage at Smithpoint, spinning and turning with the lights and music, without a care in the world — least of all, property, or contracts, or Decedent’s Estates.
Without warning, I yawned.
“We should go,” we said in unison.
We found our way out of the taproom and on to the street; kissed on Fifth Avenue and hopped into separate taxis; both, I think, contemplating the past and the future.
I went home, my wine-filled stomach filling up my head with ghosts of days past: the fear that my life, in the absence of glitter and glamour had somehow become meaningless. The sauvignon blanc had convinced me, momentarily, that the tail-chasing days themselves had meant something — that the waiting to begin had been a beginning; that the numbness had been a feeling.
It was at that point that I opened the computer to write. When my computer would not connect to my wireless network; I opened WK’s computer, which had been left at my house. And that, of course, was when the real trouble began.