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by Walter Giersbach
Adrianna signaled 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 from 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 her eye.
“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 waiter.
“Julie, dear girl,” drianna 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 automatic gesture, withdrawing her hand without a cigarette as if suddenly realizing the restaurants had all 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 Corona virus! It was a joke!”
Julie stiffened 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 you imagine?”
“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.”
“Only children 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 pubic hair.”
“Well.... Well, it could have been true.” Julie paused and went into sleep mode, which might have passed in anyone else for deep thought.
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!”
Julie slurped 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 these rumors 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 its 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 love you.”
“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 stock trading 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 peed 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.”
The metronome of silent clicks went on.
“Shall we go out?” she asked. “Tonight or tomorrow? You drag Julie and I’ll find someone.”
“That might be fun.”
“What’s fun have to do with it?” She closed the connection.
Julie plumped 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.
Adrianna sighed, 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!”
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