septembre 20, 2002
it's been a long time since i spent a whole night in a twin bed with a stranger

You know why? You know why? Because I have a gorgeously delicious enormous full bed sunk deeply & deliciously into a little nooky cranny of my bedroom, a gorgeous $300 bed that was delivered a week ago which takes me in its steady, quilted arms every night like the pleasantest, most pillowy lover in the world. Also, to do myself still more inexpensive favors, I went to Ikea last weekend and purchased a dresser, which I constructed all by myself, late at night, the wee awful children who live downstairs wincing and squealing with every stroke of my hammer. "Ah, Thor," thought I, driving a white plastic peg deep into two layers of antique-ivory-stained pine, "how I have bested you!"

In general things have been domestic, as seems to be usual these days. Receiving good mail: letters from foreign correspondents, sachets of tea and recipes for cold potato/almond soup from my mother, a new biography of the Empress Theodora from Daddy. "To my little Byzantine," he says, on the flyleaf. The Misnomered B has escaped to California, after a weary, helpless night of chocolate-flavored cocktails and forced sentimentality. The sentimentality didn't work only because we remain friends, will reunite, will be cattier than ever if we need to be. Her first letter has certainly put me in my place: she's living with another friend of ours, and they apparently go on long, haunted walks through the hills of San Francisco in the evenings, doubtless wearing flowers in their hair, and he darts off the path to gather fennel and loads her arms with it by moonlight. They feel married. I could weep.

Drank cold beers on a terrace downtown on Monday night with a few old friends from high school, who were all somehow or someway in town, living or learning or working or wishing. It's very strange how you can fall into the rhythms of high school so easily, within a few moments, even though the vocabulary is different, the voices have changed, roughened, deepened, grown tireder or more screeching or more dull.

Grocery shopping, a fascination with produce. The beginnings of the time for apples: I can't wait, actually. On one visit to a very recherche little place for special gingers and Swedish berries, I collided with the long-dreaded Lillian. Strange rough pink scarf over her hair, very decorative pleated tunic, black cigarette pants, interesting shoes. Bright shining shopping bag, heavy Oriental odor. Enfolds me in bisous. How have I been? Who knows. How has she been? Great, great. She has been great, everything's wonderful, you know, even after what's happened. What is it that's happened? Oh, you didn't hear? Oh, it was terrible, it was Jim, he was arrested, they found him in somebody's pool, drunk, singing, he was naked. Oh no! Yes, it was humiliating. I can imagine that it would be. But it's all right. Obviously there's a lot we need to catch up on. I have to buy these plums, and go, you know, because I have an appointment, but when can we get together? Thursday. Wonderful. More bisous.

So yesterday I went to Lillian's house and brought wine even though it was the afternoon and she made a cole slaw with red cabbage and vinegar in it and had some good bread. I was dreading it like nothing else, but luckily Arnaud was not there, though there was weird fascinating evidence of him: big gleaming men's shoes, a crumpled package of Gauloises (Lillian smokes those lettucey ones), a stack of opened mail. M. Arnaud Declevier. Mr. A. Declevier. Mr. Swift. But Lillian was not terrible at all. She did almost all of the talking, on and on, her voice clear and even and low, and I found it oddly and sensually soothing. I've never understood why she likes me. I'm nothing like her, I don't cook fascinating things or read glossy, large-format magazines or do interesting pottery or have elusive, mysterious sex or go to the hammam or eat dinner in the very newest restaurants. I think what happened is this: a) when I met Lillian, when we both were younger and working at this company chock-full of earnest, dumb-bunny post-coeds, we recognized each other as women with a vaguely artistic/intellectual bent & bonded over many lunches where we would have long, noncommittal, totally but secretly shallow conversations about Florence, shoe shopping, theatre, and things we had eaten in Spain. And I still carry that association, as the cultured artsy friend, for some reason. Also, b) even though Lillian has a slew of friends who are much more her sort of artsy cultured than I am, they're all just as murmurous and sophisticated as she and she doesn't really feel comfortable making them listen to her for hours. Whereas I rarely have anything to contribute to the conversation, and I think she likes that.

Usually I bristle at everything she says and want to toss up the coffee table and all of the cabbage or lychees or salmon sandwiches or little glasses of mint tea or whatever we're eating or smoking or drinking, but today I gazed at her as if hypnotized, tasting the cool, slightly greasy slaw in my mouth, my head warmly and perfectly heavy with wine. I rested my head on the crook of my elbow and listened, very peacefully, and felt the way I sometimes do around peaceful, boring women, as if we could be lovers in some weird, perverted, bored way, the way that odalisques can be lovers, only I promise you it's not sexual attraction, it's just this strange deep contentedness that reminds me of sexual attraction because that's how you feel after you've had sex with someone, not when you want to have sex with them. I'm used to having this feeling with women, but with Lillian it was odder, because I had kissed her husband. So underneath my contentedness there was this lazy, wicked knowledge that I shared something with her, physically, or had taken something from her, physically, but that it didn't matter, because I felt drugged and pleased with myself.

When I left, scarcely knowing what she had said, she lent me a CD of some weird Bengali music, and, deciding I might as well start a tradition, I slipped the package of Gauloises into my coat pocket. When I stole the tangerines it was out of malice, and when I stole the taste of Lillian's husband's mouth it was out of negligence, but when I stole the Gauloises it was an act of love, for everybody, for her and for him and for me, only not really, maybe. It was an act of sweetness and indulgence, because the whole afternoon had been so lulled and sweet and indulged, and I wanted to carry it with me through the evening and the night. When I had got a good few blocks away from Lillian's apartment, I sat down on a bit of brick wall on a shady, tree-lined street, in front of a sweet little brick house and next to a park made expressly for enchanted hunterlings, and I reached into the pocket of my new swingy camel coat and pulled out the package and selected one lovely cigarette and lit it, and let the rich wonderful smoke fill up my lungs and felt like a nice sleepy dragon and then realized it tasted like kissing Lillian's husband and then slapped myself sharply on the cheek to reprimand myself for sentimentalizing that shit. Because it is NOT to be sentimentalized.

My Ladies Paul Loves project has lain fallow for a while now, but I got a tip that he would be attending a concert this weekend where his friends' band, Reverser, will be playing. I've applied for a little travel grant to Rhode Island, because I think this might be good fodder for the list. Also, I can observe him with his girlfriend, in their native land. God, she's beautiful.

Posted by anonymousblonde at septembre 20, 2002 05:49 PM

I know what you mean. I too always imagine what it would like to be lovers with girls. It will be wonderful, I HOPE! (crosses fingers)

Posted by: Johnboz on septembre 25, 2002 10:03 AM

I do wonder what it would be like to be lovers with girls, but in this situation I wasn't really wondering what it would be like as much as feeling vaguely that it had happened.

Posted by: the anonymous blonde on septembre 25, 2002 11:05 AM
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