Mason was still mired in a painful present. They were waiting. Their minutes doing so were counted chromatically, courtesy of a neon sign, one of two—the other, wood—that hung in the front window. Mason had his back to it while Gavin was seated on the far facing wall, so he was the one who kept changing colors. The sign flashed one for each of the rectangle shapes fused onto it, washing the room in a varying hue every couple of seconds. White. White/blue. White/blue/red. White-blue-red. Only when it was white light could you tell the room was a rich red, the color of a whorehouse. Or blood. The colors washed over them as they sat there, waiting for Delia. Women took longer to get ready than men, it was just a fact, and they assumed it was the same case here. This was the third time they had waited for her today.
The first was due to her selfie obsession on the plane, but Mason could hardly blame her. If he wasn’t so photophobic, he would have been doing the same thing. This was the first time on a private plane for all three of them and the chances it was going to happen ever again were skinny to slim, so Delia was probably wise to document the flight. He wondered if she’d take as many pictures on the return home, when the novelty had perhaps lost its luster. But do private planes ever lose their glamour? He’d find out tomorrow.
Gavin had been given the plane from the president of the agency himself. Gavin was a junior they were fast tracking and the plane was a perk granted, funnily enough, on the fly. He had hip pocketed a young actress who had just finished a film and word was she was going to blow up and, with it, Gavin’s stock at the agency.
“Big,” Gavin told them on the plane, sitting in the seat as if he’d been flying private jets his whole life. “Tiffany Haddish big.”
The truth of the matter was the plane was already fueled up for the agency president. But then a perfect storm of fluke happened—Gavin’s boss heaping rare praise on him for signing the actress—publicly even—in the hall just as the president was walking up behind him to hear every word only to have his secretary run up and, after waiting for Gavin’s boss to finish, informed her boss that his meeting with Warners was going to have to be moved to Saturday afternoon, sorry, there was nothing she could do but she tried.
Th president turned to Gavin and, basically, offered him the plane and when he asked where Gavin would take it if it was given to him (“Just hypothetically”), Gavin blurted out New Orleans, the first city of any distance from LA he thought of. It was only later, when he was talking to Mason on the phone, that he realized the real impetus for granting him the corporate jet was that it would lessen Gavin’s drive to ask for a raise. As soon as Gavin could drop his cool demeanor in front of his boss and the president, acting like being given a plane was something that happened every day (although still showing deference to the president for the gift), he immediately picked up his cell phone and called Mason and Delia, asking them what they were doing for the weekend. The rest of the conversation played out teasingly, Gavin waiting until the last possible moment, when their interest was turned into rabid curiosity, a demand to know why he was being so cagey about it and what was he trying to say, and that’s when he finally told them about the plane and what it meant for all three of them.
“A free weekend to N’awlins,” Gavin had told them, his slightly Long Island Jewish voice twisted into a Louisiana drawl. “That’s what it means.”
It didn’t take them long at all to get their bags packed.
Mason could see Gavin was making the most of it, too, but Gavin was like that. He wasn’t shy about taking advantage of opportunity, wasn’t as cautious as Mason was and you think that would be the opposite. Mason had a sense that everything given would be someday taken away, so he should have pursued things—an opportunity, a plane trip, an open bar on said plane—with ravenous gusto, but instead the impermanence made him overly cautious. While Gavin lapped at the trough, Mason’s tongue barely tasted the water. So Gavin had no qualms about opening the plane’s refrigerator and pulling out a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, although he was careful not to geyser the thing when he popped the cork. Delia snapped selfies of the whole procedure, then grabbed shots of each of them, as a different half of a couple, raising their glass while Delia took the picture, her lips planted firmly against their respective cheeks.
Mason wondered if Marayne would see the pic when Delia posted it. Ever since Mason and Marayne started dating, Delia and she had become Facebook friends. Mason hoped she would see it. Hoped that Marayne would be sad that he was happy.
He thought it, but it wasn’t actually the way he felt. He didn’t want to see Marayne hurt, though he wouldn’t mind it if she was forced to experience a short stab of regret she’d broken up with him. He wondered if she did feel any. But he quickly decided no, she wasn’t feeling anything of the kind, and was probably going out with another guy that weekend, Mason’s memory not even in the picture.
He was hurt, though. The whole conversation had caught him off-guard, her “wanting to have a talk” comment throwing him off axis. “We need to talk” had the same ring to Mason as “wait til your father gets home” and his blood ran cold at the hearing of it, certain the talk was more listen than speak. Of course she had brought it up just weeks after he’d let his near-constant apprehension subside, after they’d been dating awhile, after he was secure in their arrangement from friends to couple. So this whole excursion was good, this plane business. Delia would post a picture of the three of them having a fantastic time and Marayne would see it just before her date came to pick her up, probably finding out about it while she was killing time until the jerk got there, just checking her Facebook because that’s what people do. Maybe she would miss him. Even if she wouldn’t regret breaking up with him.
It was because of the Marayne situation that Delia had been so touchy-feely with Mason today as they walked the French Quarter. As they carried their drinks from one bar to the next, she would reach out and hold his hand, or wrap her long, bare arm around his shoulder. If there were single girls in the bar they landed in, Delia would somehow rope them into their conversation.
“Hey, settle a bet with me,” she would say.
“Let me ask you a question,” would be another effort to draw them into the discussion the three were having.
But invariably, the girls’ favor would be obvious: Gavin, just as Mason knew it would. Gavin was taller, better built, and he wore his body like it was a prize he’d been awarded and been comfortable with for years. Mason was 5’5”. He had a nice physique as well though, and had great hair, thick and wavy, with a little S-curl in the middle of his forehead that made him look like a smaller, blonder Superman with impeccable posture, his attempt to stretch is five foot five frame into a longer figure. But it never worked. When Gavin said something funny, the girl’s hand would find its way to his bicep or forearm and, once there, came the inevitable comment about “how hard it is.” Whereas when Mason told a joke, he receive nothing but an air wave.
“You’re so cute,” they would say. “Cute” for a man was like being seen with your mother. Somehow in the context you’d never be thought of as the guy who would take you into the alley, shove you against the brick wall, and kiss you deep and a little rough. “Cute” said Mommy’s boy, not alley fucking bad boy, an acceptably deviant detour taken on one of Gavin’s dates, of course.
“Mason was in the Olympics once! Tell ‘em, Mason,” Delia would say.
This Olympic story had little gas. One, the sport was rowing and, two, he didn’t win. And bringing it up never had the effect Delia was looking for. No numbers were exchanged. The whole scheme happened with such frequency, Mason halfway thought about telling her to knock it off, to just not try so hard, but deep down he was glad about it and always hoped it would work. It didn’t work with Marayne when he met her. But a lot of things didn’t work with Marayne.
White. Blue. Red.