Julie was late enough that
Adrianna had almost finished her cosmopolitan. She didn’t
see her diminutive friend until her eyes casting about
for a wait staffer glimpsed the woman floundering through
the crowd at the maître d’s desk.
her date by raising two fingers. No need to look like a flagrant
exhibitionist just for cocktails at the Four Seasons.
“Over here,” she
called, admiring her own voice, the confidant contralto that
was her signature on TV. “C’est moi, ma petite.”
“Oh, shit, what
a day. And it’s only just begun.” Julie fell into her seat,
emulating a bag of potatoes being dropped off a rooftop.
She flung her handbag on the table, ignoring the vase of
spring flowers that fell over.
“It’s three in
the afternoon, darling. The rest of us have been up for hours.” Adrianna
surveyed Julie’s checked jacket, black pants and boots with
the five-inch heels, itemizing Burberry, Feragamo and Prada
in her mental Rolodex. This was the woman she went clubbing
with every few weeks—Julie with her husband Jack, the Goldman
Sachs wunderkind, and Adrianna with whomever had caught
“I’ve been on
the phone for hours with you-know-who.” Julie’s eyebrows
formed little circumflex accent marks. “With Alicia, that’s
who. About Susan Klein.”
“The one with
the extensions.” It wasn’t a rhetorical question. Adrianna
made it a statement of disbelief, demanding that Julie reconfirm
the rumor that fit in the category of aliens inhabiting the
White House or the Chinese acquisition of their hairdresser.
“I’ll die if I
can’t get a drink. Have they started hiring Muslim jihadists
here?” The dark-haired woman began waving her arm at a busboy.
“Julie, dear girl,” Adrianna
said unctuously, “Listen to me. Remember the spider
in Charlotte’s Web who said humans were gullible,
that they believed anything they heard or saw in print.”
“So I’m gullible?” Julie
reached into her pocketbook with an autonomic gesture, withdrawing
her hand without a cigarette as if suddenly realizing Mayor
Bloomberg had outlawed smoking.
“I’m trying to
tell you. Susan Klein did not have pubic hair extensions
done for her son’s bar mitzvah.”
“I thought it
sounded amazing,” Julie said with a satisfied expression. “Don’t
you think the beads were, like, creative thinking?”
“I told you
that Alicia Crowley made it up to psyche Susan, and then
she told everybody she could think of about it. She spread
it like swine flu! It was a joke!”
her back. “Wait a minute,” she snarled at the waiter
who appeared at her side. “No, honestly, it’s just too incredible.
Apparently, it takes hours to get it done because you have
about 10 million individual hairs down there. I mean, can
“But it was a
joke! Give the man your drink order, darling. He’s waiting.”
“Gray Goose, rocks,
lemon peel,” Julie barked. “No, I was talking to some girls
while we were doing Pilates and one of them said she knew
someone who was going to have it done because Susan looked
so fab. And you know, the beads can match your handbag, which
would be really awesome, or for the beach.”
say awesome anymore. And does the word irony mean anything?
As in, ha-ha, very funny. Totally over the top. Nobody could
take it seriously.”
“I don’t find
it funny at all.” Julie recoiled, reached for her pocketbook
again, and replaced her hands in her lap.
“Yes! It was an
absolutely facetious story that Susan had extensions to her
it could have been true.” Julie paused and went into
sleep mode, which might have passed in anyone else for deep
Had Adrianna been
too harsh in her condemnation? She squinted to see if a tear
was trying to escape from her friend’s left eye.
“Julie, let me
make it totally clear that Susan did not have a thousand
hair extension beads attached to her most intimate follicles.
Can you imagine how impossible it would be to sit through
hours of people chanting in Hebrew while you’re wearing a
thousand beads? Come on!”
the drink that had been placed in front of her, got up without
a word and headed for the ladies’ room. Adrianna wondered
if Jack faced this stuff at Goldman or whether investment
bankers—presumed grownups—were immune to the grapevine. Hearsay
was everywhere, she thought wearily. Redirecting her thoughts,
she pictured Jack’s butt with their concave shallows, the
light fuzz on his chest, the tight abs that had pressed against
her belly just an hour ago. Oh, Julie, she thought with casual
sadness, life is moving too fast for you.
Her cell rang
and she scrutinized the number before saying, “Yes.” The
low, plummy voice kicked in again.
Jack said, “I
“No you don’t.” A
note of Weltschmerz painted her words like a Bertolt
Brecht lyric sung by Dietrich. “It’s just infatuation. Elation
at ejaculating. Possibly heartburn.” She imagined him in
a small office or a hive of cubicles where men in white shirts
diligently maintained the machinery of deals and ordained
IPOs with gnomes in European cities made of stone.
“No, I really
do.” She tasted the earnestness of his voice as he worked
to reinforce the psychic high of making love at noontime.
Jack was nice and cuddly, like a small child or a puppy who
wanted to pee on you out of sheer affection.
She paused for
a metronomic count of one, two, three. “No, you don’t or
you would have asked if I wanted to be on top.”
of silent clicks went on.
“Shall we go out?” she
asked. “Tonight or tomorrow? You drag Julie and I’ll find
“That might be
“What’s fun have
to do with it?” She closed the connection.
herself down, flinging her handbag onto the table. Her gray
eyes stared at Adrianna without really focusing. “I’ve narrowed
my decisions down to two choices. No, three. Kill you, kill
Jack or kill myself.”
“It really has
been a hard day, hasn’t it, darling?”
“Susan just told
me about you and Jack. On the phone while I was in the can.
I can smell him on you right now. God, I can smell penis
stench all over you.”
Adrianna shrugged. “Life
is true and hard and incredibly shitty. Henri Bergson said
that, I think. One of those philosophers.”
“I’ll see you
in court!” The words came out as a shout and heads turned. “Or
in hell!” Julie stood up as tall as she could, grabbed her
bag and stalked away.
put a bill on the table, raised her eyebrows to catch the
waiter’s attention and strolled out behind Julie.
She stared up
at the orotund clouds scudding over Madison Avenue. It was
an El Greco sky portending God was going to be really pissed
at something. It would rain before evening, and tomorrow
the game would start all over again.
“Just you wait,” Julie
screamed, standing at the corner of the block. “Just wait
till the rumors about you start!”