Oct. 7, 1999
Monday night, continued
I wasn’t sure Allison was making the right decision — sending me to her appointment at Liane’s — but she thought Liane would be more pissed off if nobody showed up at all.
When Liane opened her apartment door, she caught her breath. “Suzy!” she whispered — Liane has always known me as Suzy. “What are you doing here?” Before I could answer, she hushed me so the customer waiting inside wouldn’t hear.
“Allison asked me to fill in for her,” I whispered, “She didn’t want to let you down. She said you would understand.”
Liane shook her head with a disapproving frown, and ushered me into the dimly lit foyer where I stood under the chandelier, trying to explain: “She had to see Janelle — “
“That bizarre little roommate of hers — I might have known. Allison should not have sent you without calling me — she has no right to do that!” In her Chanel pumps and long pencil skirt, Liane glided toward the bedroom door — still elegant and willowy in her 70s — then disappeared into a room where her client waited. If his heart was set on Allison, this sudden switch wasn’t going to work. But Liane returned with a bright, decisive look on her face — my signal to proceed.
“Bert has to catch a flight — he hasn’t got all day. He thinks Allison sent you as a surprise,” Liane said, handing me a towel and following me into the bathroom. “You’re a student — you met Allison in the cafeteria and she’s been corrupting you.”
“Which school?” I stepped into the tub and grabbed the chrome hand-shower off the wall. “Are you sure he’s going to like me?”
“Just act like it’s your first time,” Liane advised me. “You can tell him you go to Marymount — but he won’t ask.”
He didn’t. But, after he came, he slyly tried to trip me up, to see if I was really the amateur Liane had promised him.
“Liane must keep you busy,” Bert hinted.
“Busy?” I replied with a confused giggle as I slipped into my panties. “I was afraid to do this, but Allison told me I would have a good time.”
By the time Bert was gone, Liane’s attitude had softened. There was a fresh pot of green tea on one of the small, tiled tables in her living room. It had been more than a year since we’d seen each other in the flesh. Liane gave me a businesslike appraisal: “I’m glad you’re taking care of your skin, dear, and your figure is still firm — and natural.” I sat demurely on the sofa, anxious to rehabilitate Allison’s flagging reputation.
“You’re a good friend to Allison — but I don’t really understand that girl. Who is this Janelle, anyway? Are they lovers?” Liane wrinkled her nose at the thought. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but she’s so possessive. There’s something unwholesome about it.”
“Janelle’s trying to help Allison quit the business,” I explained. “She’s like a mentor. They belong to a group, like Alcoholics Anonymous, except — “
“Oh, that!” Liane said with a soft snort. “Yes, Allison’s told me. She’s mixed up with something strange. They meet twice a week in a church basement.” Pouring another cup of tea, she began to reminisce. “In my day, if a girl happened to be a nymphomaniac, she would consider herself fortunate to end up in this business! I don’t know what nonsense Janelle has been feeding poor Allison but I understand that Janelle was once a streetwalker. How can a streetwalker presume to understand a well-brought-up nymphomaniac’s abnormal cravings?”
“Why do you assume Janelle wasn’t properly brought up?” I asked.
“I suppose we shouldn’t,” Liane conceded. “It’s very sensible of you to point that out, dear. You’d be a much better influence on Allison than that fellow nymphomaniac.”
“I don’t think women are called nymphomaniacs anymore — Allie calls herself a sex addict.”
“Yes, I know, everything’s unisex these days!” Liane said with a shudder. “We can’t call anything by its own name anymore. But her friend Janelle must be one. Is there anything more corrosive than the inverted passion of a bitter nymphomaniac? Two frigid women living under the same roof! It’s quite dangerous.”
“Well, that’s what nymphomaniacs are, dear — why else do they keep at it? Of course, I’ve never asked Allison — it’s rather private, isn’t it?”
“I’m sure Allie has orgasms,” I reassured her.
“You would know, dear. It’s not my place to pry.” A subtle reference to our generational distance — as if Liane’s outdated jargon weren’t reminder enough.
Well, a night of solitary rest awaits. I’ve turned all the phones off, applied my oxygen mask and popped a few herbal tranquilizers. Time to catch up on my beauty sleep.
Tuesday August 24, totally exhausted
Last night, a loud insistent buzzing interrupted my slumber. After the fifth buzz, I made my way to the intercom. “It’s me!” Allison announced. “Thank God, you’re home. Are you — um — alone? Is this OK?”
Allie was carrying her gym bag, a vanity case and a garment bag. I grimaced at her. There’s nothing worse than being dragged away from a richly deserved snooze.
“Just because I’m alone doesn’t mean it’s OK to come barging in here,” I said. “What happened to you?”
“Janelle accused me of turning tricks behind her back. I — I tried to deny it but — ” Allison sank onto my couch, with her head in her hands, looking truly defeated. “She says I can still come to meetings but she won’t let me stay with her. I don’t know where to go — my subletter won’t be leaving for another month. I’m homeless!”