After Sam’s mother got back from the opera tour, she started dating Donald, a lawyer who’d been one of very few eligible bachelors in her group. Sam’s mother’s travel agent had told her he was signing her up for a tour with lots of single men, but it turned out to be mostly married couples. During the intermission of Cosi fan tutte, Donald spotted Sam’s mother standing alone at the La Scala bar. He came over and they started talking and he confessed to Sam’s mother that he didn’t really like opera, that he’d taken the tour hoping to meet someone, as he was recently divorced.
“Then I said to him, ‘We must have the same travel agent,’” Sam’s mother tells Sam later. She is proud of this little joke; Sam can tell by the way she repeats it word for word, and by a sort of roundness in her voice. He’s glad, because he hasn’t heard this solid a quality in her voice for a long time.
Sam’s mother and Donald realized that they both lived in New York, across the Park from each other. Donald said he was shocked – shocked – to discover that she had a teenager, let alone two kids in their twenties. She didn’t look a day over thirty-six, he said.
“I’m sure he was just trying to flatter me,” says Sam’s mother, rolling her eyes. But again there is that happy roundness. They are sitting in Serendipity, a place Sam still likes to go even though he is one of the oldest kids there. They are having the frozen hot chocolates, rolling their spoons in the ice and the whipped cream.
“So what’s going on in your love life?” his mother asks. “Any new girlfriends?”
“Not really,” says Sam. He licks his spoon and thinks of Lila from Dalton, whom he dated one year ago; her armadillo eyes, her nasal speech, her shoplifting.
“What about Daphne?” asks his mother, and he says, “She’s just a friend.”
The door to the restaurant opens and a group of guys Sam’s age bump up against each other as they come down the steps. Their loud laughter and sudden bigness is almost pornographic in the innocent restaurant filled with young children and sweets. Sam sees a little blond girl look up and tuck her legs underneath her chair. The boys are blatantly stoned. They crowd into a table at the front, and Sam hopes they won’t notice him. He bends his head to the dessert and listens to his mother tell how Donald bought her champagne cocktail and caught her arm as she stumbled on the way back to her seat. He is soothed by the description of such civilized behavior.
Sam tells Daphne, “My mother met someone on her trip.”
They are reclining on a velvet banquette in the lobby of the Drake Hotel, where they like to go after school and eat chocolates meant for the hotel guests out of a large blue china bowl.
“That’s fantastic,” says Daphne. “Isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I mean, we’ll see.”
“Are you jealous at all?”
“Of course not. I just meant, we’ll see if he turns out to be nice.”
“It would be okay for you to be jealous, you know. It’s just you and her right now.”
“Well, like I said, we’ll see. She just met him.” He unwraps another chocolate. “And no, I’m not jealous. You can stop saying that. I want her to find someone. It’s weird, with just us. A little.” He pops the chocolate into his mouth, probes the indented middle with his tongue. After his parents divorced, years ago, his mother had lain on the library couch listening to mournful classical music and when the kids spoke to her or the phone rang she looked stunned, as if realizing she was missing her pocketbook in a foreign country.
“I know what you mean.” Daphne tucks a piece of her shiny black hair behind the delicate cave of her ear. “Before my mother met Ronnie, it was like she had to know everything I was doing. I mean, let’s say we’d be watching a movie, and I’d get up to go to the bathroom, and she’d be like, where are you going? Are you coming back? Do you want me to pause it? But on the other hand, it was kind of nice. She paid a lot of attention to me during that time. I’m just saying, it wouldn’t be strange for you to have sort of an Oedipal complex about it.” Daphne unwraps the pink foil around a heart-shape, puts it in her mouth, chews, and frowns. She lets the mangled confection drop back into her hand.
Sam’s tongue picks up the taste of hazelnut. His throat prickles unpleasantly and he coughs. “How could I—“ he reaches for Daphne’s Diet Coke—“have an Oedipal complex?”
“Anyone can have one,” says Daphne. “Even girls.”
“If they’re lesbians.”
“No. It doesn’t matter. Your mother is still your mother, no matter what sex you are, or what sex you like. Part of you still wants to eat her.” She puts another chocolate into her mouth and makes loud sucking noises.
“Gross,” he says. He watches an elderly lady make her way across the lobby with the help of a walker. “Let’s get out of here. I have homework.”
The night before Donald comes over to the apartment to meet Sam, Sam’s mother runs around making things look neat. She sweeps the kitchen floor and vacuums the rug in the living room. She sops up the pool of water that constantly collects on the side of the guest bathroom sink. She gathers her piano books together and stacks them on top of the baby grand. In the kitchen, making grilled cheese, Sam is careful not to drop crumbs on the floor or let the ketchup he pours onto the side of his plate to dip the sandwich in drip onto the counter.
Donald leans back in a comfortable armchair, balancing a heavy glass of Scotch in the palm of his hand. Sam’s mother perches on the edge of an upholstered bench. Sam looks pointedly at Donald’s glass, waiting for it to fall. They are his mother’s good glasses, the ones from Tiffany’s that Sam is not allowed to use. He eats nuts out of a dish that has three parts, one filled with the nuts, one with mint candies, and the last with tiny pretzels. A silver fish leaps from the middle of the bowl, its mouth open, as if gasping for air.
Instead of assuming that it is his right as an adult to ask Sam a hundred questions, cross-examining him with the sort of nervously curious tone many of his mother’s friends use with him—picking at his gelled hair, asking him to stick out his tongue so that they can view the pierce at the back—Donald explains his own presence to Sam. He’s been a widow for going on four years. He’s originally from Detroit. He has a daughter who’s married and lives in Massachusetts—she’s twenty-eight—that must sound ancient to Sam, he says, and Sam says, politely, that it doesn’t, though in fact it does.
He decides that he likes Donald. He feels like a father might feel, meeting his own daughter’s new boyfriend. He thinks about making some sort of joke to this effect, and decides against it. His favorite television show is about to start so he gets up and excuses himself, telling Donald that it was good to meet him, relieved to be leaving the situation, relieved that his mother has finally met someone nice.
In his room, with his shoes off and the television on, he wonders if he was too abrupt in his departure. He was nervous, and so he cut Donald off in the middle of a funny story about one of the partners at his firm, right in the middle of the punch line. He apologized, but maybe not enough. Donald told him not to worry about it, and he really didn’t seem bothered. But Sam is worrying. Lately he’s been noticing this about himself that he is the type of person who worries perhaps too much about other people’s potentially hurt feelings.
“When did you first know?” Daphne asks.
“Didn’t I tell you already?”
“I want to hear it again.”
“Why? No, I know why. You’re insane.”
“I like the story.” She licks her fingers, which are thick with melted chocolate. It is a warm day and the air-conditioning in the upholstered lobby is weak.
Sam sighs. “All right, all right. It was last summer; I was in Italy, with my father and his girlfriend. We were in Venice, and there was this one night where we sat outside the hotel and they ordered drinks made with champagne and peach juice.”
“Right, Bellinis. I asked if I could have one but my father said no.” He remembers tonguing the hollows of the ice cubes in his soda and looking around the patio for kids his age, the dull, reassuring sound of his father and Sandrine engaged in conversation giving him the security of something to ignore. Mostly Sam was bored in Italy, traipsing through museums, dust and heat in his throat, but then when he got home and thought about it later, he missed being there. Sam hadn’t realized how fun it had been, how later he would refer to the trip and say, “that time I went to Italy with my father.” At night they went out into the layered, perfumed dark, and sat at tables in beautiful courtyards next to glorious gruesome stone statues in fountains, and Sam watched the impeccable Italian women striding by in designer jeans.
“And then you were walking…“
“And then we were walking around after dinner and we stopped in this big, like, area to hear a guitarist. He was playing some classic rock song—‘Wonderful Tonight’ or some other crap. So I went over to buy a gelato from a cart. And there was this guy standing there—“ he drops his voice—“this incredible-looking guy buying gelato too. And after I picked out what I wanted—“
“Pistachio, right?”
“Cup or cone?”
“That is so phallic. Were you aware of that, do you think, when you were ordering?”
“They only had cones. It was the only option. What am I, some sort of circus act to you?” He shakes his head and looks away from her, feeling suddenly sensitive. “At any rate. I got the pistachio gelato, and I paid, and he looked right at me and said, ‘Come on.’”
“Oh my god!” Daphne puts her hands to her forehead. “How did he know you were American?”
“Jesus, I have no idea.”
“And you’re sure that he meant what we think he meant.”
“Yeah . . . I mean, it was like he just looked at me and knew. And then I knew.”
“Would you have gone with him?”
“It’s hard to say. I think so.”
Now that Sam and his mother are alone, it seems there are hundreds of things about her that Sam never knew before. She tells Sam that she started smoking when she was thirteen and quit before he was born. She tells him about how once when she was in her twenties, she was walking alone under the 59th Street Bridge, and a homeless man peed on her. She was married to Sam’s father at the time but she never told him because she was afraid of how mad he might get.
And as it turns out, Donald is busy enough at work so that Sam and his mother still get to do things on their own. They still order pizza and watch a movie together; his mother is more fun, funnier, and Sam doesn’t have to feel bad anymore about going to a party with Daphne on a Saturday night, leaving his mother with her music and her wine, because Sam’s mother and Donald are together every weekend. Sometimes they go out and sometimes Donald and Sam’s mother cook together, something Sam has seen the young yuppies on his television shows do. (When Sam’s parents were married, his father sat in the den while his mother cooked dinner alone.) Donald and Sam’s mother make popular, sexy food: ahi tuna, things with curry, pasta in interesting shapes. They invite Sam to join them, and Donald pours him a little wine. Donald puts his fork and knife to the side of his plate when he’s finished, and strokes Sam’s mother’s hand, as pale and dense as marzipan. Later, Sam’s mother tells him that she and Donald are soul mates.
But with all the things his mother has told him, Sam has not told her the most important thing. He knows he needs to—pull the words from his gullet, the way he’s heard about people pulling parasites out of their bodies after eating bad sushi. He read a magazine article about this once. A man was going to the bathroom, and a parasite started to come out of his asshole. The man pulled at it and pulled at it until it was out.
He has a fantasy about telling her someday, years and years from now, when it won’t matter anymore. In the fantasy she is still with Donald and they are one of those well-off older couples that go out to dinner a lot and are active in the arts. She isn’t bothered by the news because her life is too padded with pleasant activity for her to feel any sort of shock. She will sigh, and there will be a moment of bittersweet regret, for the grandchildren she won’t have, for Sam, keeping this difficult secret from her all these years. And Sam, wise as a gypsy, will nod gravely.
Sam and his mother go shopping for something for her to wear to Donald’s spring office party. They take the bus down Fifth Avenue to Saks. The first floor is Sam’s favorite; the counters gleam, beads glimmer on bags, scarves droop gracefully around the smooth nude necks of mannequins. Rows of colorful hats top wardrobes. The air is dense with perfume, cologne, the scent from lotions and decorative soaps. A young woman applies blush with a cotton ball and frowns into a round mirror; a salesgirl scratches her leg through pantyhose.
His mother is out of her favorite coral lipstick, so they stop at the Lancôme counter where Sam watches the blond women in their thirties holding up bags and belts, their legs already tan from spring weekends in the Hamptons. They look like mothers who also take care of themselves; tired, and maybe a little heavier than they want to be, but well groomed. They remind him of sunflowers.
His mother fingers apologetic silk shirts and pants shaped like upside-down triangles. “What do you think of this?” She holds up a red dress with shoulder pads, straight out of the eighties.
“Hmmm…I don’t know. You have a lot of stuff like that already, don’t you? What about something like this?” He ushers her over to Calvin Klein. Obediently, she tries on a slim cream-colored silk jacket and pants set, and lays down her credit card. But in the cab, on the way home, she is quiet and looks out the window.
Then he feels awful. Again, he indulges in a fantasy about injured feelings. He imagines her at work, realizing that he doesn’t like how she dresses and being hurt by it, gazing at the yogurt and apple she eats for lunch with a collapsed look on her face.
Donald notices how Sam is never that hungry around dinnertime, and Sam tells Donald about the Drake Hotel and the blue china bowl. A few days later, Sam receives a letter signed Drake Hotel Management Co. The letter states that the management has been notified of the taking of the chocolates, which are very rare and expensive chocolates from Switzerland, and that if the theft of the chocolates continues, the hotel will be forced to take legal action. Sam’s neck and wrists feel hot and light. He sits down at the kitchen table, smoothes out the letter and reads it again. Then he sees that the expensive white paper bears the name of Donald’s law firm.
When Sam and Daphne take their usual seat in the lobby, he shows her the letter.
“See, this is why I like him!”
“He is fabulous,” Daphne agrees. “Do you think they’ll get married?”
Sam’s been considering this; wondering if Donald would move in with them or if they’d move into Donald’s two bedroom bachelor pad, smelling of cigars and leather. It would be a second chance for his mother, like in a Tom Hanks movie. He is already imagining a wedding, thinking about what his mother might wear. Daphne has pointed out a milliner’s shop on Madison Avenue where lots of women going into their second marriages go to get hats.
“I don’t know. How long did it take your mom and Ronnie to get engaged?”
“Two months. I think at that age, you just know. It’s like, take it or leave it.” She cracks conclusively into a hard toffee shell. “Now that your mother’s found someone, you’re going to have to find someone too.”
For Sam’s sixteenth birthday, Donald takes Sam and Daphne and Sam’s mother out to a jazz club Donald describes in the cab as “a little slice of heaven.” Donald tips the maitre d’ and they get a table right up at the front. Sam’s mother and Donald drink dirty martinis, and Daphne and Sam drink rum and Cokes; when the waiter asks them for identification, Donald looks straight at him and says, “They’re both eighteen.” The drinking age is twenty-one, so Sam is surprised when the waiter nods and brings the drinks.
Sam feels amazing that night. It is early June. Daphne and Sam walk next to Sam’s mother and Donald on their way down to Sixth Avenue, Daphne and Sam on the inside of the sidewalk, dodging the drops from the air conditioners. Donald and Sam’s mother get a cab home, and Daphne and Sam head farther downtown, to a graduation party for the senior class at their school.
“Don’t let me go home with anyone,” Daphne says cheerfully, in the back of the cab. “Okay?”
The last time Daphne went home with someone after a party she ended up having to get an abortion. The guy was a football player, a senior at Hillsdale, a large high school in the Bronx. Daphne asked Sam to accompany her to her doctor’s appointment, but at the last minute she ended up telling her mother, who went with her instead. Sam was more than a little relieved.
The jock had also written on Daphne with black indelible marker while she was sleeping. Sam waited in Daphne’s bedroom, looking through a fashion magazine and calling out encouragement as she showered and scrubbed herself. He could hear her loud crying through the drum of water on the marble tiles.
“I warned you about that Todd,” he says. “I told you he was a bad scene. You didn’t listen to me.”
“I will this time!”
Sam shrugs. “Okay. Whatever.” They turn onto Bleecker Street. He looks out the window at the antique shops and restaurants. The sidewalk tables are filled mostly with men, crowded together appealingly, bald heads glowing under soft light.
The party is at the Tribeca loft of a girl who is going to Harvard. Sam and Daphne hold hands and wiggle through the sweaty moving mass of people, crammed together in uncomfortable yet creative ways. They wait in line at the keg and then they sip their beers and look around, trying to see where they will fit into the party. The furniture and rugs have been cleared away for dancing. Sam eats a few damp potato chips and notices that he feels less amazing than he did a short while ago. It depresses him to think that his presence at the party is pointless. He is not interested in the girls, and he is not really ready to do anything about the others. “It’s all people from school. Maybe I’ll just go home after this beer.”
“Okay.” Daphne is scoping out the guys, not really listening to Sam. “Whatever you say.” She pulls Sam to the area where kids are gyrating, pumping their arms and legs to music. Daphne’s dancing becomes involved with that of a guy in the class ahead of them, and Sam goes in search of a glass of water. There’s no one in the kitchen but a skinny kid with hair dyed a fashionable toffee and gold, talking seriously into his cell phone. Sam fills a plastic cup at the sink and watches himself in the dark glass of the window, drinking, his Adam’s apple jerking up and down. Then he sees the reflection of the kid next to him, and the boy bumps Sam’s hip with his own as he leans in to rinse his hands. He says, “We’re going to the Tunnel in a little while. Find me if you want to come with us.”
Much later, Sam does try to find the boy, but only after the party has thinned out and Sam is pretty sure he’s already gone. He comes across Daphne, luxuriously sad in the masculine arms of a cushy leather chair. The guy she was dancing with has left her, and she says, “I know I’m pretty enough. I just wish I was more interesting.”
“You are interesting.”
“You don’t think so.”
“Yes I do. Just because I don’t want to sleep with you doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re interesting.” He takes her hands and pulls her up off the chair. “Come on. Some of us actually have a curfew.”
He’s slightly disturbed to find his mother up watching television, the way she used to right before his father moved out.
“What are you watching?” He backs up, hands in his pockets, so that he’s standing next to where she’s sitting.
“The late show. The one who replaced David Letterman.”
“Conan O’Brian. Is he still that guy?”
She sighs. “He’ll always be that guy. It’s a tough act to follow.” She moves sideways, makes room on the couch. “Do you want to watch?”
“No thanks. I’m really tired.”
“Did you have a nice time?”
Sam shrugs. “It was okay. You know.”
“Don’t I ever.” She frowns at the television, the look she gets when confronted with popular culture.
He kisses the top of her head, and she holds onto him, pulls her head back and pushes his hair out of his face. “What perfume does Daphne wear?” she asks. “It’s pretty.”
“Something by Armani, I think. Why?”
“You don’t have to be embarrassed, sweetheart. It’s fine.”
Sam stares at her; then he gets it, and begins to blush.
Daphne’s mother and stepfather are out of town, so he spends the next day, Saturday, with Daphne at her apartment; watching television, calling Chinese restaurants and asking for Mexican food, jumping on the king-sized master bedroom bed, listening to music from the eighties and singing along. He tells her about the kid from the party. “How did he know? How did that Italian guy know?”
“I think it’s just one of those things. You have to be extra-sensitive to it, because otherwise you would never know who else was. It’s like a blind person, the way they hear and smell so well. Or like the way animals do.”
“Yeah, but . . . it’s not like being handicapped. Or like being an animal.”
She raps his knee impatiently. “Anyway, what I mean is just that men or women learn to smell it on other men or women, because they have to, they have to learn how. It’s Nature’s way,” she says.
At home he takes a hot shower, and in it he masturbates, thinking about the toffee-haired kid standing behind him at the sink, reaching around his waist to unzip his fly. He gets into comfortable sweatpants and goes to the kitchen for a bagel and a soda. As he waits for the toaster to pop, he notices a white bag from the pharmacy around the corner on the part of the counter where his mother keeps her purse. He goes to it, and presses the paper up close to the cardboard; it’s stapled shut and if he opened it, his mother would know. He sees a white and pink box, cursive lettering spelling “Replens.”
It strikes him that it’s some sort of vaginal cream. He can see the outline of a flower next to the name. He grabs the bagel, hurries back to his room, and starts work on his paper. He hears his mother come home, open the fridge, take a shower. She knocks on the door. “Donald and I are going to Lincoln Center. I’ll be at his place tonight, if you need me. You have the number, right?”
“It’s on the board.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“All right. Have fun.”
Her heels click determinedly down the hallway. He wishes he hadn’t told her to have fun—it sounded weird. He cracks his knuckles over the keyboard and crunches on a piece of candy, his gums buzzing. When he goes into the kitchen for another soda, he sees that the white bag is gone.
A week later, his mother tells him that she and Donald have decided to stop seeing each other. “We’ll still be friends,” says Sam’s mother, but school lets out for the summer, ice cream carts appear around Central Park, days grow long and damp and hot, and Donald doesn’t come around.
Sam misses Donald: his jokes, his smell, the sounds of him around the apartment, rustling through the paper and clearing his sinuses in the morning. At night, from his own window, Sam sees his mother’s reflection in the window of the building opposite them, walking back and forth across her room. He notices that the apartment isn’t a mess, exactly, but magazines have piled up on the coffee table in the living room, and mail has accumulated on his mother’s desk: insurance offers, tax documents, expiration notices, a summons to jury duty – stuff that must have been piling up all along, but seemed happily chaotic in the benign glow of Donald’s presence. Now the stuff reminds Sam of how dreary it must be, most of the time, to be an adult.
Daphne tells Sam about a place on Fourteenth Street where she thinks they should go together.
“It’s just like any other club, except that it’ll be easier for you to meet someone.”
“Why do you want to go?”
“I’m your friend! I’m trying to help you.”
Her tight, small face is focused on a piece of chocolate. Her can-do attitude is beginning to get on his nerves. She’s beginning to remind him of the sort of girl he used to hate at camp. He suspects that she wants him to come out; and not for his own happiness and satisfaction, but because she wants a friend like him.
“I don’t know. It sounds creepy. Don’t those places have like, sex in the bathrooms?”
“You don’t have to do that. We can just dance. It’s not like we have anything better to do this weekend.”
“I’ll think about it.” He leans back on the banquette, rolling an unwrapped chocolate between his fingers. “Hey, do you know what Replens is?”
“Replens—like the cream?”
“Yeah, cream.”
“My mom uses that. I’ve seen it in her medicine cabinet.”
“What’s it for?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“No. I don’t, actually. Forget it,” he says, but it’s too late.
“It’s to use during sex. You know. Lubrication.”
“Oh, terrific.” It’s what he suspected, but his face gets hot and his throat stings, as if he’s caught the delicate interior on a thorn. He wraps the chocolate back up and stashes it in his book bag.
“Oh my god. What happened?”
“Nothing. I saw that my mom had some, is all.”
“When, recently?”
“About a month ago. Right before she broke up with Donald.”
“I see.”
“Forget it.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake. You’re going to have to stop being so uptight one of these days.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, men use stuff like that, you know. They have to, because obviously that orifice is not meant to be penetrated in that way. It’s one of the main markets for that type of thing. I heard Ronnie talking about it, he owns stock in Merck or something. Older women, new mothers, and gay men.”
“Shut up!” Sam drops his voice. “How would you like it if I started yelling about your abortion?”
“I’m not ashamed.” Daphne’s small body whips out of its comfortable slouch, and she sits straight as a queen on the banquette. “It’s my right.”
“Neither am I. But that’s not the point. People still kill each other over stuff like this. Anyway,” he says, “it’s not like I’m one hundred percent sure.”
“I thought you said you were sure. The guy in Italy, and all.”
“Not one hundred percent.”
“Okay. Whatever.”
She crunches angrily and shreds foil with her long fuchsia nails, her breathing slightly agitated. Sam is sorry for what he said about the abortion. He looks away towards a mural of lascivious nymphs, but his view is obscured by the solid midriff and pelvis of a concierge.
“Excuse me,” the concierge says. “So sorry to disturb you.”
Daphne looks up, widening her eyes, tucking the sweet into the corner of her mouth. Sam swallows; the chocolate at the back of his tongue catches on the ring and drops painfully.
“Are you guests of the hotel?”
Daphne is the one who usually comes forward with an imaginative but sensible lie in such situations. But she’s silent, hunkering down into the banquette and dropping her eyes. The concierge looks at her, then back at Sam. “Are you waiting for guests of the hotel?”
And Sam can’t come through for them. He stares at his hands, grubby with chocolate, at his stained backpack, his jeans, Armani, but they haven’t been washed since March. He is aware of the brightness and tightness of Daphne’s tank top, the shortness of her skirt. “No,” he says. “We just came in to talk and eat the chocolate.”
Daphne starts to cry on the walk home. A few people shoot Sam dirty looks, and he tries to catch their eyes, to show them he is not the one who upset her. Then he puts his arm around her shoulders, her girlskin quick and strange against his own. Her soft hair tickles his ear and he breathes in her sour, expensive smell. The chocolate rises in his gullet. His neck breaks out into a sweat. He wants to shake her; he wants to grab her and kiss her; he wants to kill Todd, the Hillsdale jock. They stop for a light. A car honks at them, the driver yells something crude, and Sam gives him the finger. Daphne’s small bones shiver. She leans her head against his bicep. It’s the sort of moment that could have been erotic, even between just friends.
Sam stands in the sweaty bathroom, a thin towel around his waist. He squeezes pus from a pimple on his chin, and dabs the blemish with rubbing alcohol, then cover-up. He combs his wet hair and works in some gel. He dresses in jeans, a tight T-shirt, hoop earrings, a chain at his waist. He slicks Vaseline onto dry, nervous lips.
His mother is perched at the kitchen counter with a book, eating her dinner. She spoons cold shrimp and yellow tomatoes out of a plastic container. The sticker on the side of the container reads “Prepared Food,” which strikes Sam as ominous.
“I’m going out,” he says.
She looks up, her mouth full, and swallows. “With Daphne?”
“Good. Have fun, sweetheart.”
“What time should I be home?”
“Call if you’re going to be later than one.”
“Okay.” He shifts from foot to foot, his newly washed jeans too tight. “You know, I could call her and cancel. We could watch a movie or something. We could order pizza.”
“But you have plans.” She points to the Prepared Food. “Anyway, I’m eating already.”
“Well, I ate something too. We could still just watch a movie.”
“Sam, don’t worry about me.” She sounds almost cross with him. “Go on, go have fun. Do you need money?”
Daphne and Sam take a cab downtown and the driver lets them out in the western reaches of Fourteenth Street. “It’s somewhere on this block,” Daphne says. She consults a scrap of paper. “Even number, okay. The other side.”
They wait in line for twenty minutes. Daphne jiggles on the heels of her white go-go boots, looking around. Then the bouncer spots them and points. “You!” he says.
Daphne and Sam hurry to the head of the line. The bouncer lifts the velvet rope and stamps their hands and opens the club door. The interior beats hot and bright as an oven. Sam can feel the vibration of the music, passing from the sidewalk to his feet to his ankles. Daphne digs her nails into Sam’s wrist and pulls him forward. He sees an enormous underground space, the shabbiness of it only partly disguised by the disco lights. He sees men in slacks and buttoned-down shirts, men in drag, men dressed like he is, men dancing gracefully and violently with each other.
“It looks just like any other club,” he says to Daphne.
“That’s what I’ve been telling you,” she says. “That’s the point.”
Sam steps forward. When he gets home tonight he’ll wake his mother, sit on the edge of her bed, put his hand on her shoulder. “It’s not you,” he’ll begin.

Controlled Burn, 1/05

3 Responses to “At the Drake”

  1. tunnel fill Says:

    Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing in your rss feed and I’m hoping you write once more very soon!

  2. Ferne Varel Says:

    Right here is the perfect blog for everyone who really wants to understand this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject that’s been discussed for many years. Excellent stuff, just excellent!

  3. best dragon story cheats Says:

    Hi! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up
    losing a few months of hard work due to no back up. Do you have any methods to protect against hackers?

Leave a Reply