WAS IT WRONG THAT SHE WAS HERE?
A little late to be asking that question now, she told herself. Besides there were other things to think about. This feeling, for instance. She believed she was addicted to it now. That sensation like she was suddenly hollow and filled with a storm. It was a space without gravity. Somewhere between mystery and revelation. Because at that moment, he was a mystery again, just a memory, nothing more. But any second he would return, become real. She would have analyzed it further, but the front door opened. And everything moved from concept to concrete.
“Hey there,” he said, smiling.
“Hey there,” she repeated back. He stepped aside and opened the door fully.
His entryway wasn’t carpeted so her heels made her presence in the house audible. He told her once that she didn’t have to dress up when she came over. “It’s not like you’ll be wearing anything for long,” he told her at the time. But she told him she wasn’t dressed up, this was always how she dressed. It was a little bit of a lie. She knew he liked the way she dressed, though. Like she’d just come from some other, possibly fabulous place. And if he thought she wore stockings, garters, and lace every day, that was an impression she was fine with.
“Drink?” he asked. But he didn’t wait for an answer. Instead, he just made his way to the bar.
“The usual, I suppose.”
“White it is.”
While he made the drinks, she made a slow circle in the living room, noting things that once were new to her but were now familiar. There was the large, comfortable sofa with two manly but attractive upholstered chairs. The coffee table in the center of the arrangement was one single sheet of bent glass and on top was a stack of art books that she’d thumbed through once when he was late, still getting out of the shower. Architectural Digest at 100, a book of photographs by Mark Seliger, and a third with nothing but images of swimming pools each one either clear blue or deep green, and all of them sparkling. Beside the stack was a white sci-fi sculpture that had in its bowl-like recess twenty or so white ceramic balls, each with a tiny vintage woodcut illustration etched on it. A squid, a fan, a phonograph, a feather. On the walls, a Longo print from his “Men in Cities” period, an enormous photograph of a monstrous ocean wave, a roaring maw of silver and black, and a picture of a nude woman in a desert, the dry ground caked and splitting underneath her feet.
“I can’t believe you haven’t seen anybody,” he said as he took a bottle of wine from the refrigerator in the kitchen and brought it to the bar.
“Yeah,” she said. For the first time, she noticed that the naked woman in the desert wasn’t black, just very, very tanned. Strange she hadn’t seen that before. “They sent those of us who could work from home, home. And it just so happened to be on the day I do my grocery shopping. So I swung by the store, went straight home, and haven’t seen anybody for a week. Eight days or something like that. Why you?”
“Just being cautious. The CEO knew someone in China and because he heard about it firsthand, he was a little more on top of it. We’re still getting paid though.”
“Those poor waiters and waitresses,” she said.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “Those $1200 checks or whatever they are are gonna go fast.” He popped the cork, which caused her to turn and look at him. It was reflex more than anything else. But now that she was looking at him, she could see the look in his eyes.
“Take off your top,” he said.
Was it a suggestion? A command? It was hard to tell.