What was all that?" demanded Harriet under her breath as we left the
Red Room. We turned, as if on cue, and waved goodbye at our group, who
were still downing oversized cosmopolitans and shouting over the din.
Señor smiled back at me mysteriously, and then waved.
"I admit it," I said. "He's very cute."
"Huh," she said, buttoning her jacket. "Subtle is not your middle
name." Harriet had recently fallen in love and was, I thought, very
unforgiving about a little harmless flirtation. "Who the hell is he,
"Umm," I tried to remember. "He knows Laura somehow, from junior year
in Barcelona. He's just here visiting from Boston. He's a, a ..." I stifled
a giggle, "... I think he said he was a poet."
"Oh, good God," she said, and started to laugh.
"Nothing wrong with that," I said.
"No, of course not. He sounds like he's right up your alley."
I chose to ignore that. Harriet and I have known each other since
childhood, so I could translate her comments without thinking. "Right up
your alley" meant flaky, artistic, moody and most likely egotistical.
That was the problem about old friends: There were no dark continents
with them. I'd felt Harriet looking at me pointedly while Señor Poet had
been droning on and on about his latest performance art piece, knowing
full well that my carefully arranged expression of polite curiosity would
collapse if I so much as glanced her way.
We crossed against the light on Mason Street. "Listen,
Harriet," I said. "You think you know me so well. But why do you think I
insisted on leaving when I did?"
"Because you're playing by 'The Rules.'"
"No," I sighed. "It's you who read 'The Rules.' Not me."
"Because we're meeting Bill in half an hour."
"The restaurant is only 10 minutes away. No."
"Well, why?" She shivered and looked at me curiously. "Didn't you
think he was cute?"
I kept walking. "Yes, he was very cute," I said. "And he knows it."
She galloped to keep up. "Ah! Very cool. You are playing by 'The Rules.' You just don't know that you are." I held open the heavy door for her and we threaded our way toward the bar. "Hi," she said to the bartender, who sported a gelled ponytail and a set of
suspiciously white teeth. "My smartass friend here will have a Gibson. I will stick to a straight-up Manhattan." She smiled at me. "Now Señor will definitely be sniffing. Mark my words. Watch your e-mail box in the next few days," she said with the pomposity of one in love.
I sat down on a stool. "If there is one thing I have learned,
Harriet," I said, "it's that cute boys who know they are cute are not worth my
"That guy? He wasn't that cute."
"It doesn't matter. He believes that he is."
"So maybe he's good to go to bed with," she said, and nibbled on her
cherry. "Don't tell me you've ruled out that possibility already."
How do these in-love types forget so fast? "Absolutely. I can tell you
with almost 100 percent certainty that he is no good in the
Harriet laughed. "You don't know that," she said.
"Of course I do." I looked around the bar at all the sparkling couples,
laughing and drinking. Most of the women still had that Jennifer Aniston
haircut, with little silk scarves tied around their thin, well-exercised
necks. "My hairdresser told me that if I ever asked for that 'Friends' do,
she'd take her scissors and stab me in the heart. Anyway," I
said, eating a cocktail onion, "I can tell you exactly what kind of
lover he is: He enjoys being on top. He likes to look at
himself while he's coming. He likes doggy-style only because he can see
his dick, which, given his personality, is probably on the large size. He
expects me to come at the same time he does, and if I don't, then it's my
problem. He likes women with large breasts. He'll say that it doesn't
matter to him, but believe me, it does. He'll use a condom, but
eventually he'll expect that his girlfriend will go on the Pill, at which
time he will never ask her about side effects or splitting the cost."
"Wow," said Harriet.
"In the beginning," I said, "he'll give me his poetry to read, and ask
what I think. Eventually, he'll write a poem for me, something having to
do with a muse with red hair and the circularity of life's encounters. In
the seduction phase, he'll offer to cook dinner at my house. He won't
bring flowers, ever. Once in love, he will use my hair products, comment
on all the books in my bookshelves, particularly my choice of Neruda, and
tell me that he wants to call my mother to thank her for bringing me into
the world." I scratched my head and smiled at the bartender.
"Then what?" Harriet widened her eyes, her drink held mid-air.
"Then it fades," I continued. "Quickly. Maybe he's met somebody else --
he'll say she's 'just a friend' -- or maybe not. He stops calling so
much, he stops coming over late at night. If he does come over, he's
tired. And he says quietly that I'm very high-maintenance and demanding
when I ask him what's happening to us."
"You aren't living together?"
"Oh, God, no. And finally he gets all of his stuff together, collects
his Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star and Leonard Cohen CDs from my collection and says he needs to
find himself, by himself. At this point he's probably referring to
himself in the third person. Look, there's Bill," I waved at Harriet's
boyfriend, who was nervously scanning the sitcom crowd.
"I guess you don't need to go out with him," Harriet said. "You already
"I know it's hard for you to remember," I said as Bill sat next to Harriet and
gave her a big kiss, "but we have all had a Señor or two in our closet."