Fates collide

It's hard to maintain a web of deceit in a small town like New York.

Published January 6, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Monday, November 1

"I was nice enough not to ask David for money," Jasmine said, "figuring he might turn out to be a freebie." She saw it as a risky but affordable investment -- little knowing that he was a gigolo having similar thoughts. He misread her largesse as exploitable hunger and thought she was rich, having heard her mention her "dead sugar daddy." But maybe he was not entirely misreading her needs. Jasmine's got the classic signs of empty bed syndrome: manias, meddling, even that unexpected urge to tear off Allison's clothes. And Jasmine's not even into girls! All work and no romance: She's finally paying the emotional price.

Despite Roxana's efforts to recruit me for the international hookers' conference, Allison flies to San Francisco this weekend without me. "I'll try to find Anabel a good lawyer," I promised, without actually mentioning Barry Horowitz. "Just don't insist that I meet her," I said. "Girls like that have caused me enough trouble already."

Meanwhile, I must figure out how to juggle my Wednesday appointment with Arthur and my date with Matt. (He's taking me to an art auction at the Salmagundi Club.) I don't want to turn down business after being on half-time for a whole week.

Thursday, November 4

Thanks to Arthur showing up 20 minutes late for his session, I was late for the pre-auction cocktails last night.

"Take a quick look at the paintings," Matt urged me. "I have to bid on something tonight. This is my boss's pet cause and I've gotta show my support."

I pointed out a beguiling, bejewelled adolescent nude -- Balthus meets Gigi -- and he smiled crookedly, handing me his paddle. "You bid. I'll pay," he murmured. "And we can hang it over your bed."

When the childlike nude was presented -- "This is by a dead guy!" the auctioneer wisecracked. "Do I have $500? He's not making any more of these!" -- Matt held my wrist down. "Not yet," he muttered. "Let's see what happens." Soon he was prodding me. "Raise your paddle, honey, raise it!" I obeyed.

"Six hundred? Do I have 600? 625? Ah ... 650?" At 950, Matt craned his head around to look and pinched my arm gently: "OK, raise it!" Like a marionette, I kept bidding until -- "Sold! To number 75 for $2,000." There was a smattering of light-hearted applause as Matt kissed me triumphantly.

Later, as we headed for the cloakroom, the wrapped painting in hand, Matt nudged me again. "That's the guy who was bidding against you." he whispered urgently.

I turned and saw, approaching the cloakroom, a tall, familiar man who was smiling at us. A slim brunette was moving and talking at the same time -- it was Jasmine! The flirtatious face of the man I'd seen at the sexaholics meeting: David! As David grew nearer, Matt pulled at my elbow.

"What's wrong?" I whispered to Matt. He looked stricken.

"Honey, I can't remember that guy's name!" he blurted out. "And he --"

"Congratulations!" David said cheerfully. "That painting's a steal."

Matt was still squirming awkwardly, leaving me no choice but to extend my hand rather forwardly to my best friend's date.

"Hello," I said, avoiding David's womanizing gaze. "I'm Nancy." Matt gave me a grateful squeeze, as David introduced himself to me.

Jasmine exchanged a panicky look with me: Neither of us girls had the other's story straight. What was I supposed to tell Matt about Jasmine? What was she supposed to say about me? How on earth did these two guys know each other?

"How's your sister?" David asked Matt. Jasmine's eyes widened in horror, mine in amazement. Matt's sister knows David? How?

"Elspeth's fine!" Matt said. "You transformed her marriage! They get along so much better now."

Jasmine and I stared at Matt. Why would Elspeth reveal a fling with a gigolo to her little brother? Are they a family of swingers? God, how -- how suburban! What does Jason, her husband, think of all this? A million horrified questions ran through my mind. Jasmine looked shell-shocked, a witness to the much-feared implosion of Manhattan's bedroom secrets -- the very thing she had warned me against. Her words echoed in my head: Don't tell Matt a thing because he'll go crazy ... Civilization depends upon it.

David and Matt chuckled complacently, as I wondered: How could I have been so blinkered about who my boyfriend actually is?

"Well, now that the dead space is so impressively occupied," Matt continued, "her husband gets to show off the Warhol but he lets her take credit for choosing it. So they're bickering a lot less. David's -- what would you call yourself?" Matt asked him.

"An amateur collector," David said, looking right into my eyes. Jasmine and I both exhaled at the same time, tremendously relieved. "I'd like you to meet Jasmine," David said.

There was a puzzled pause, as I wondered how to respond. Then Jasmine took the plunge. "Oh, Nancy and I have known each other for years."

"So you're one of Nancy's mysterious girlfriends?" Matt was eyeing Jasmine with alert curiosity. "How do you know each other?"

Jasmine pulled David toward her and whispered something in his ear. He smiled slowly and said, to my surprise, "Be careful, Matt. They go to the same hairdresser."

"Manhattan's like a small village," Matt observed. Jasmine nodded sagely.

When we all ended up at Park Bistro together, I followed Jasmine into the ladies' room. "What happened?" I asked. "I thought you were never speaking to David again!"

"I wasn't, but he kept calling! Do you know what he says? He thought I was looking for a way to help him out financially so he was trying to make it easy for me because women don't like to make the first move." She rolled her eyes. "Can you believe the way this guy talks? I told him we should both regard our one-night tussle as a professional courtesy. I was only ever interested because I thought he might have some bucks."

I was skeptical. "Is it possible you fucked David because you find him good-looking?" She didn't seem to like the suggestion that she might have anything in common with the ladies who pay him, but I persevered. "What was it like?"

"Why are you so interested? Maybe I should give you his number!" she said, turning a dagger-like eye on me. "We're just friends now," she said coldly. "I agreed to be his date because I thought I might meet someone new at the auction."

"Oh, come on. Why can't you admit that you like the guy?"

"He knows how to make himself liked, that's for damn sure. The last thing I need in my life is some guy who --" A look of uncertainty crossed her face. "How can I trust him? You know, Allison thought she was a sex addict but I think this guy's the real thing. He's never been able to give me a straight answer as to why he was at sexaholics. He just follows his instincts and every single one of them leads to some woman's bed!"

"How's that different from any other man?" I asked.

"He makes money from it, that's how! It's perverse! The male is supposed to be a resource for the female, not the other way around!"

"What's all this about selling a Warhol to Matt's sister?"

"That's how he operates! It was a present from one of his rich, besotted ladies. When the timing's right, he sells these things. That night when we -- when I let him fuck me -- he showed me a Beidermeir armoire. That older blond at La Caravelle must have given it to him. He doesn't charge by the hour, you know."

"Wow," I said, "A Warhol. Beidermeir. You've got to admit -- that's awfully nice stuff! He must really have his act together."

"Please," she said crossly, "don't rub it in." She powdered her nose lightly. "There is one thing that might explain his existence. David is very symmetrical. A female bluebird would rather mate with a male who has healthy, even feathers. And women have more orgasms with males who are symmetrical. Did you know that?"

Friday, November 5

I cannot believe I am sitting on this damn plane headed for San Francisco. I should have known that Allison had no head for politics! Last night, a pleading call from her, with Roxana in the background, apparently stage-managing. "You have to come out here," Allie insisted. "April persuaded the Latin Americans to exclude Roxana from the legal reform workshop --"

"Latin Americans?" I asked. "What's April doing there?"

"It's my fault," she said. "She's getting very chummy with the Latin American hookers and they won't allow us to speak at the planning session because they say the New York Council of Trollops has no prostitutes of color! Roxana told them you would come and represent NYCOT. You're a person of color."

"I am? But I'm not a member!" I protested.

"Roxana says you're a member if you want to be, and she'll pay you back for the ticket! Please, oh, please -- you won't believe what April's doing to us. Spreading vicious lies about Anabel Weston and Roxana. And Anabel's nowhere to be found. She can't defend herself. All these Latin Americans are giving me dirty looks and there's this horrible Australian girl who goes around with a clipboard. She told me I was a Northern oppressor! I told her I'm from Connecticut, not Canada!"

"But I can't just leave like this -- Matt and I have plans this weekend!"

"Tell him you have a family emergency! These girls don't believe that April tried to blackmail Milton -- they don't understand that April informed on Anabel. They don't believe me! But Roxana says they'll believe you because you're a woman of color. They're about to get totally behind April and make her the keynote speaker of the conference!"

In the background, I heard Roxana: "Can you imagine what will happen to Anabel if the international sex workers movement decides to make April the American poster girl?"

"And," Allison said, "Please don't be mad, but they don't have blow dryers in the rooms here. You'll have to bring your own."

In other words, she forgot to bring hers.

By Tracy Quan

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