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					                                             Wanted

                                          By Rachel Kash



       I’m at the City Opera gala, deciding which brand of vodka to order for my date’s martini,

when a woman’s body presses up against my tuxedo.

       “I know who you are,” she whispers into my ear, “and I’m willing to pay.”

       Crushed between the bar and her breasts, I set my eyes on the impressive array of alcohol

lined up in front of me. “You have the wrong guy,” I insist.

       “Oh yeah,” she replies, her voice getting louder, her breath hotter against my neck.

“Well, I have $5,000 in my purse to prove I don’t.” Her snakeskin clutch lands on the counter as

she pushes even harder against me. This woman is into Pilates.

       “You’re crushing me,” I eek out.

       “I could crush you, and your entire career, for that matter,” she says. “Unless, of course,

you’re willing to cooperate.”

       The bartender places the drink on the bar, eyeing me curiously.

       “Okay, okay,” I say in a hush. “What are we talking about? Hospital gala, the Ballet

fund-raiser, some fashion awards show?”

       When she backs away, I take her in. She looks familiar, with her licorice-colored bob,

slightly askew nose and eyes like slivered almonds. The neckline of the season’s hottest dress, in

an impulsive purple color, plunges down between barely there breasts.

       She slips a business card in my tux pocket. “Call me tomorrow. If you know what’s good

for you.”




                                                                                                     1
       It’s a little after two when I walk into my studio apartment on Avenue B and Houston. I

reach into my pocket and pull out the business card of Rebecca Romberg, Accessories Editor,

Flair Magazine. I should have known.

       I slam the door, forgetting that Bay, my girlfriend, has the night off from her medical

residency. Lying on our college futon in the fetal position, she mumbles something, stirs a bit,

and then flips over.

       We met seven years ago, as freshman in a small upstate New York college. Back then,

liberal arts schools were offering serious amounts of scholarship money to athletes like me, and I

was dying to get out of my Kansas hometown—dying to get out of entire Midwest, for that

matter. My guidance counselor described the campus as “artsy, intimate and cosmopolitan.” But

it was the football buddy who described it as “teeming with hot chicks” that really sold me.

       I was sitting in the dorm lounge during the first week of college, teaching myself to play

basic blues chords on the guitar, when I spotted Bay, curled up in that same fetal position on a

brown plaid sofa, reading “Frankenstein” for Freshman English. In the light of a small table

lamp, her skin looked pale and shimmery, like fresh snow—an appearance that remained, I

would later learn, even in the darkness of my dorm room. A long mane of apricot colored hair

twisted down her back, matching the faint clusters of freckles across her nose. Her eyes were the

brightest shade of green I’d ever seen. “Keep playing,” she said when I stopped, and that’s

exactly what I did.

       We bonded instantly on our Midwestern backgrounds—Bay was from northern

Michigan—and how obnoxious we found the East Coast private school kids, with their celebrity

name-dropping and unlimited bank accounts. Bay easily held her own against them in terms of

intellect and beauty, but I could see she was just a small-town girl at heart. She smiled when I




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referred to sneakers as “running shoes” and soda as “pop.” She was turned on by the fact that I

was athletic, as the popular jocks in her high school had never given the “bookworm” a second

look. She liked that I held her tray for her in the cafeteria, and that I didn’t seem to care what

other people thought. Most of all, she loved my passion for music.

       I was equally enamored. I fell into a trance just listening to her explain the concept of

“soul mates.” I listened, dumbfounded, as she deciphered the poetry in Dylan’s lyrics, and

dedicated songs to her during my coffeehouse performances. That first cold winter, Bay read

“Doctor Zhivago” to me, translating from Russian, and though I didn’t get most of it, I still cried

when Lara and Zhivago said goodbye.

       Like ill-fated lovers, we soon couldn’t bare to be apart, not even for a 50-minute class

period. Bay breezed through my studies (Food Science, Bruce Springsteen’s America), I

struggled through hers (Pre-historic Evolution, Subliminal Messaging in Post-Feminist Art). She

moved her things into my dorm room, then my frat house, and by Senior year we were living

together in a crappy little cottage off-campus, where Bay hung curtains made from vintage

dresses. We rescued a black lab from the kennel and named him Django, after the guitar legend I

learned about in Jazz 101. We discussed marriage when that sort of thing seemed avant-garde.

We argued over moving back to the Midwest after graduation, but ultimately agreed that New

York would be better for my music career. Bay, who’d once dreamed of attending Stanford,

reluctantly applied to the top East Coast medical schools.

       The night before she left for Yale, we cried our eyes out to Leonard Cohen, consoling

ourselves with the fact that we’d only be an Amtrak ride away from each other. I’d already

accepted a job in Manhattan as an A&R assistant for an indie label, where I hoped to set myself




                                                                                                     3
on a music industry career path. I wanted to discover the next Nirvana, which suddenly seemed

possible given the fact that Kurt Cobain just shot himself in the head.

       It didn’t take long, however, for my dreams of overnight success to be slashed. I soon

learned that for every good-looking guy from a decent college in an entry-level position, there

was a better-looking trust-fund kid in a pinstripe suit and connections up the asshole. It seemed

that the “richies” from college were right; all you needed to be popular in New York was money.

But despite years of bussing dishes at TGI Fridays to pay for school, I still couldn’t smile while

fetching $3.50 cappuccinos for dicks named Derek. It was just a matter of time before I decided

that I’d rather work minimum wage than brown-nose a bunch of self-important posers.

       And that’s exactly what I did.

       Without telling Bay my decision, I quit the music industry and procured a job at a small

copy shop near NYU. I spent my days copying, collating and smoking pot with the aging,

harmonica-playing hippies in Washington Square Park. For the first time since I’d moved to the

city, I felt liberated, confident that I was “keeping it real.” And I have no doubt that life could’ve

continued that way for a while, had a young woman with a striking resemblance to Naomi

Campbell not walked into the shop one day, needing 2,000 glossy invitations for an upcoming

fashion show.

       “Has anyone ever told you you’re super-cute?” she asked, upon picking up her order.

       Now, I’d had girls have crushes on me in college—especially once they saw that I’d

gotten a girl like Bay—but there hadn’t been a single one since I’d moved to New York.

Certainly nobody that great looking. It felt good.




                                                                                                     4
       So did the flirting—innocent, at least on my part. But after a few minutes of back-and-

forth banter, the woman, a “stylist,” slid an invitation my way. “So, how about being my date for

the show?” she said.

       I gulped. “You’re really, um, hot, but I sort of have a girlfriend. She’s at Yale Medical

School, actually, but still, I don’t really think it would be fair of me to…”

       “You’re sweet,” she interrupted, with an eye roll I’d never forget. “But I don’t need to

fuck you, baby. I just need a date for the shows. Put you in a designer suit and I’m good as gold.”

       How right she was.

       A week later, dressed in a three-buttoned pinstriped number, I escorted The Stylist to an

entire day’s worth of fashion events, where flat-chested models filed down the runway in super-

sleek outfits and six-inch heels. The air was clouded with fake kisses. I tried to commit every

ridiculous conversation to memory so I could repeat it to Bay later, though Medical School was

leaving us less and less time for the phone.

       Afterwards, my date hauled me off to an after-party replete with complimentary Cosmos,

cocaine and collagen samples. After introducing me to some acquaintances, she disappeared into

a crowd of twenty-something models and their infant kids. I didn’t see her again for hours when,

in the midst of bonding with socialites over the macrobiotic lamb chops, I felt a hand on my ass.

       “My, my,” she said. “Aren’t you the hit of the party.”

       “Sally was just commenting on how delicious these are,” I said, grabbing a chop off the

tray for her. “Here, try one.”

       “Everyone’s talking about how delicious you are,” The Stylist said. “And do you know

what delicious boys in fancy suits get?”

       I gulped.




                                                                                                    5
        “Reach into your back pocket,” she whispered into my ear.

        I lifted out five, $100 bills.

        “I can’t,” I replied. It was one thing doing a favor for a nice woman; another thing

entirely to be a paid escort.

        “You just did,” she winked.

        By the time I’d dropped off The Stylist and stumbled into my apartment, I already had a

message on my machine from one of her socialite friends, offering me $1,000 to join her at some

big Mayflower event that week. Sure, part of me was nauseated by the fact that I was getting

paid for my looks; it made me no better than the guys Bay and I used to bash in college for

capitalizing on their family’s last name. Still, I couldn’t help but marvel: One thousand beans, for

one night of work! In what other city in the world would that be possible?

        I accepted the Mayflower Madam’s offer, deciding that if I wasn’t going to do the job,

some less deserving guy would—and god knew I needed the money.

        That night, I was photographed on her arm for The Times’ Style section, Town & Country

and New York Magazine, and became a gossip column staple, referred to simply as “Daniel.” The

more I started poking up around town, the more mysterious, and therefore desirable, I became.

Most women—the married ones—just assumed I was the new eligible bachelor. Only a select

few knew that I could actually be paid for my appearances.

        Soon, the calls started flowing in—and so did the cash. With every new date I learned

how hard it was to find an available man in New York with versatile good looks and the athletic

build of the late John Kennedy Jr. I had it, and single women—women for whom money was no

object—would do anything to get it. One event could change their career, or their stature in

society—and I was a guaranteed home run. Plus, it felt good to have a little female attention back




                                                                                                  6
in my life, as I was only seeing Bay on her one free night a month, when I took the train to up to

New Haven for dinner and a movie.

       The only positive aspect of Bay’s obsession with medicine was the fact that it made it

easy for me to keep my new career under wraps. When she called, it was on my cell phone (I’d

instructed her long ago that this was the best way to reach me between gigs), for a brief “hello”

on her way to or from the library. Her life was now consumed by blood samples and disease

diagnosis, mine with debutante balls and fashion fund-raisers. Her bible was The New England

Journal of Medicine; mine, Women’s Wear Daily.

       Did I feel guilty, you may ask, squiring the city’s most beautiful, rich and available

women around town while Bay slaved away at her degree? Of course I did. But the only time I

ever cheated on my girlfriend was in my fantasies. Truth was, none of these women really

wanted me—they wanted the image I provided. And I wouldn’t dare risk my relationship—or

my reputation, for one night of fun. No, Bay was the woman for me—adorable, smart, sensible

Bay, who was probably standing in some scuzzy lab at that very moment dressed in doctors’

scrubs and Nikes. High-style couldn’t have been further from her mind, which was ironic

considering she staked claim to the fashion world’s most wanted accessory: Me.

       Bay went on to graduate at the top of her class and was accepted by Columbia-

Presbyterian’s Residency program. I was thrilled I was going to have her back in my every day

life, though she explained at the onset that she’d have little time for anything but work.

       She wasn’t kidding. Here I was all worried that I’d have to assume the role of an actual

A&R guy, when in truth Bay couldn’t have cared less. She never asked about the latest band I’d

“discovered,” or why I still had the same CD collection from college, or why I still lived in a

walk-up studio apartment in Alphabet City. She became so busy that she barely had enough




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energy to speak, let alone interrogate. If she had, I’d have told her the same things I kept telling

myself: that my job was just a temporary way to earn a living while making invaluable contacts

in the entertainment industry. That I was planning to quit once I had the downpayment on the

Tribeca loft I’d been eyeing, where we would live happily ever after.



       Back at our tight little studio, post-benefit, Bay lifts her head from the couch and looks at

me. Luckily, I had removed my tuxedo jacket and bow tie before entering, so I stand before her

in a white shirt and black pants, acceptable attire for the “gig” I’d supposedly just checked out.

       “Honey, is that you?” she asks, wiping her eyes of sleep.

       “Yeah, it’s me,” I say. “And I have something for you.”

       “Yeah?” she says, still somewhat unconscious, but genuinely curious all the same. I let

my pants fall to the floor, then take her freckled little hand and place it on the bulge forming in

my boxer briefs.

.      “What? No!” she cries, upon realizing what I’ve done. “Daniel, it’s the middle of the

night. I’ve just been up for 36 straight hours. This is not my idea of sexy.” Then she rolls over.

       Bay and I haven’t had sex since her first day in New York, three months ago.

       “But baby,” I whine, “what am I supposed to do with this thing?”

       “Do what you always do,” she says.

       I slip under the covers next to my girlfriend’s sleeping body, and close my eyes. One

hand rubs up and down my chest, which has become even more defined since one of my clients

hooked me up with a fancy gym membership. The other grabs a swatch of silk fabric off of the

nightstand and rubs it over my dick.




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       So I’m laying there, imagining Bay waking up and begging me to take her from behind,

urinate on her, the whole nine yards, when the fantasy pops into my head again.

       There she is, standing alone against a wall at some society event, champagne glass in

hand. Her long, streaked blonde hair is blown out, stick-straight. Her pouty, scarlet-colored lips

highlight her smoky eyes and flushed cheeks. She is wearing an ultra-short , black satin sheath,

and simple diamond studs sparkle in her ears. She smells of Chanel No. 5 and smoke.

       I am almost there, so close, so close, when it hits me: My fantasy is—my god—an

amalgamation of every woman I have “dated” the past few months.

       I come like a teenager.



       When I wake up, Bay is gone, and there is something damp beneath my ass. Shit, I

think—I’ve fallen asleep again without cleaning up the mess. But as I touch the cream-colored

800-thread count sheets—another gift from a grateful client—I realize that the moisture is not

sticky but wet. Django is at the edge of the bed, batting his big dog eyes, guiltily.

       “Bad!” I yell. “Bad, bad, bad!”

       This is the fourth time in recent weeks that our dog has relieved himself in our bed, and

I’m starting to worry. I think Django senses that something’s changed between Bay and me.

Either that, or my dog is a mind reader and knows about my urination fetish.

       I’m wiping up Django’s stinky piss when the phone rings.

       It’s Bay. “Hey. What’re you doing?”

       “Cleaning up Django’s piss. You know, this is the fourth time he’s gone in

the past month.”

       “Fifth,” she says. “There was a puddle in the living room when I got home




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from the lab last night.”

       “What do you think…” I begin.

       “I don’t know,” she says, and I hear the clatter of test tubes in the background. “We

haven’t exactly been model parents lately.”

       I’m not sure what she means by this. “What do you mean?” I ask.

       “Animals are very perceptive,” she says in her academic voice. “I guess what I mean is,

well…I think we need to have a talk, Daniel.”

       Shit…does she know? Did Rebecca Romberg blow my cover—already?

       “Okay, when?” I ask, dreading the response.

       “As soon as possible, I suppose. At least for the dog’s sake. Dr. Slavin just told me I have

to be on call until 4 o’clock tomorrow afternoon. Is there any way you can leave work early? I

could meet you at home around 5.”

       “Yeah, well, Bo did ask me to check out some gig tomorrow night,” I lie, trying to keep

up my front and postpone the talk as long as possible.

       “I have to be back on call at 6:30,” she says. “This will only take an hour.”

       “Wow, a whole hour,” I kid.

       “Fuck you,” she says, without her usual giggle on the end.



       Though it would probably shock Bay to hear this, I have to work almost as hard as she

does to be a success at my job. No, it’s not just a matter of weekly facials and personal training

sessions. I also need to keep on top of trends, brush up on dinner conversation and be the life of

the party. I memorize the names of fashion designers, publications, and eras the way I once did

Super Bowl scores, and spend my days reading Women’s Wear Daily, watching the “Style”




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network and listening to the foreign language tapes that will make me a hot commodity at next

season’s European shows. All this—and catching up on my much-needed beauty sleep.

          After hanging up with Bay, I shower, walk Django, flip through some magazines and turn

on cable. Jackpot! The spring Menswear shows, from Milan. I make a mental note that pleats are

“back” before fading into a daydream.

          So I’m swimming laps in the parallelogram-shaped pool of an uber-sleek hotel, the sky

the mirroring the water, bikini-clad women everywhere, when a husky voice infiltrates my dream

space like some seductive Big Brother.

          “…And I will need you to be ready by 6 o’clock, and you will need to meet me at my

apartment on Beekman Place.”

          But I am not dreaming. The voice is coming from my answering machine.

          Rebecca Romberg. Flair Accessories Editor and infamous back crusher. How the hell did

she get my home number?

          I shake myself from sleep, press the “erase” button immediately, and reach into my jeans’

pocket.

          “Rebecca Romberg’s office,” a nasal voice says.

          “Can I speak to Ms. Romberg, please?”

          “Daniel? Is that you?”

          Gulp. “Yes. Hello, Betsy.”

          “Hey baby. Now let me get this straight: You want Ms. Romberg, and not Ms. Schorr?”

          “Um, Ms. Romberg today, Betsy. And please don’t tell Ms. Schorr about this.”

          “Course not, doll,” she says, though I sense she’s typing up the interoffice memo while

we speak. “Please hold.”




                                                                                                    11
       “Donatella?” Rebecca Romberg says.

       “No,” I say, clearing my throat. “It’s Daniel.”

       “Oh.” Her office door slams in the background. “Hi. You got my message?”

       “How did you get my home number?”

       “I have my ways. It’s just that…well, it was imperative that I reach you.”

       “You have me now.”

       “Yes. I’ll cut to the chase. You may have read about the Sloan Kettering Benefit being

held tomorrow night at the Tribeca Rooftop,” she says in a hushed tone. “My ex-husband, Dr.

Philip Jaffe, is chairing the event with his very young, very British new wife, Antonia Lyons.

Yes, of those Lyons. I am hoping to show that prick precisely what he left behind, along with his

3-bedroom co-op on Park. The attire is Black Tie, and I prefer that you wear tails, if possible.”

       I clear my throat, the sleep still melting off. “Well, I’m sure you’ve heard, Ms. Romberg,

that I’ve decided to hang up my jacket. In the business, I mean. Gotta quit while you’re ahead,

that’s my motto.”

       “If I had quit while I was ahead, then I would be married to the Crown Prince of Spain

right now,” she says. “Now, I will say this once, and I will say it softly, so please listen up,

Daniel. I am desperate. Desperate, do you hear me?”

       “Yes,” I say.

       “And a desperate woman will pay whatever it takes to get what she wants.”

       “Yes,” I repeat.

       “Name your price.”

       I think about the loft in Tribeca. I’m just $10,000 away from the down payment.




                                                                                                    12
          “$10,000,” I say and hold my breath, knowing this is nearly twice as much as my usual

fee. “Under the circumstances…”

          “Fine. Now, I want you to fax over the details of your outfit to my private office line by

tomorrow morning, for final approval. And then, you will have to meet me at my apartment, as I

said on the machine, by 6 o’clock tomorrow evening. I will be having friends over for cocktails

first.”

          I will have to rush from my talk with Bay over to Rebecca’s.

          “No problem,” I say. I’ve been in binds before.

          “I didn’t think so,” she says, then clicks down the phone. I do a set of push-ups, hop in

the shower, and prepare for what was, until Rebecca Romberg’s phone call, going to be my

farewell event, my curtain call.



          I wake at 10:30 the next morning to a Red Bull and Vodka hangover and the sound of

“Dueling Banjos” blaring from my cell-phone. I let the call go to voicemail and put the pillow

over my head. Just a few hours earlier, I’d been out with Lisbet Harris, the young heiress to a

pharmaceutical fortune and an infamous party girl, and the gossip columns were undoubtedly

calling for the inside scoop.

          Lisbet’s parents had booked me months earlier to escort their daughter to her 21st

birthday party, a task that required drawing a fake thorn tattoo around my left bicep and wearing

an outfit that was part Helmut Lang, part Hell’s Angel. At the time, it seemed worth it. Not only

was Lisbet the reigning princess over a new crop of socialites, but she was also supposed to be a

lot of fucking fun.




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       She did not disappoint at the party, making out with just about every man and woman in

her loft and smearing birthday cake across her naked breasts. When her ex showed up with the

model-of-the-moment on his arm, Lisbet doused him in tequila and stuck her alcohol-soaked

tongue in my mouth. I quickly scanned the room for possible gossip columnists posing as guests,

but before I could even say “People magazine,” Lisbet had grabbed my wrist and dragged me,

along with 30 of her closest friends, into the back of a white Hummer limo. There, she passed

around truffles with a surprise filling: Quaaludes.

       I traveled through the rest of the night on a velvet cloud, where I reigned as prince over

an adoring harem. Somehow, we ended up in a suite at the Mercer Hotel, where Lisbet’s

inebriated girlfriends clawed at my body. I remember an attempt to wiggle free from their grasp,

but in my hazy state there were simply too many manicured hands to fight off. I closed my eyes

and let them take over, waking only when the driver announced that we were outside of my

apartment.

       Now, nearly seven hours later, I dial my voicemail merely to end the beeping that’s

penetrating my brain. On it is the tortured whine of Rebecca Romberg’s assistant, Mandy. “Ms.

Romberg is still waiting for your fax,” she informs me.

       I muster up the energy to print out the details and send it over. The machine confirms

transmission just as I feel myself about to wretch. I run into the bathroom, puke up a night’s

worth of revelry, and reach for a bath towel. Then I turn on the sink, splash cold water all over

my face, pat it dry, and open my eyes.

       My. Hair. Is. Gone.

       I look like a skinhead, the spitting image of the many young punks that have appeared

beside Lisbet in The New York Post. Upon closer examination, I notice that I have rope burns on




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the insides of my arms. Suddenly, the hour between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. comes back in a flash. The

hour during which I was tied up by Lycra-clad nymphettes and shaved completely bare, from my

toes to my tush to the top of my head.

       Motherfucker. What am I going to tell Rebecca?

       I pick up my home phone and dial.

       “Rebecca,” I say, having made it through a corps of Flair assistants.

       “Mandy, where the hell is my Slim Fast!” she yells, with her hand over the receiver.

“Daniel. I received your fax. Looks fine. Please make this quick; I’m just wrapping up a piece on

the perfect spring wardrobe for under twenty-five thousand.”

       “I have something to tell you,” I say.

       “You’re canceling on me, right? Goddammit! Could anything else go wrong today?”

       “No, no, it’s not that. It’s just that, well, I’m not sure if I mentioned this last night…”

       In the background, Mandy knocks on Rebecca’s office door. “It’s about fucking time,”

she yells at her. “Now put yourself to some real use and phone Valentino’s people pronto.” She

turns her attention back to me. “Daniel, what are you saying?”

       “I, uh, just want you to know that my current look includes a bald head.”

       She bangs the phone down on her desk, then picks it up again.

        “Well,” she says, surprisingly calm. “I suppose there will be a lot of bald heads at the

biggest Cancer Research benefit of the season, won’t there?”

       I think back to the men’s shows from this year: Were shaved heads “in”?

       “Rebecca, I’m sorry I didn’t mention this…”




                                                                                                     15
          “I saw you two nights ago Daniel—two nights! Did one of my colleagues get her hands

on you and do this, just to humiliate me? Oh, I bet it was that Georgie Willis over at Elle—I’m

right, aren’t I?”

          “Rebecca, I have no idea what you’re talking about…”

          “Like hell you don’t!”

          “Rebecca, you need to calm down…”

          “Calm down! Calm down!” she yells at me. Then there is silence. Then a series of deep,

methodical inhalations and exhalations that I recognize from a celebrity yoga session that

recently aired on E!.

          “Okay. I’m going to be okay,” she says, sounding somewhat calmer. “Now Daniel, as

soon as we hang up, I want you to call the Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue and ask for

Walter Burns. Tell him you are my date for the benefit tonight, and that you will be stopping by

at five sharp for one of Ralph’s classic top hats. Have him put it on my credit card. You do have

time to do this for me, don’t you?”

          “I guess. I mean, I think so. I mean, yes…” There’s no easy way to break it to her that my

5 o’clock time slot is already booked by my own girlfriend.

          “Good. Because you have no other choice. Either Walter covers that bald head of yours,

or I will tell your sweet little Bay about this double life you’ve been leading. Do I make myself

clear?”

          “How do you know about my…”

          The phone clicks down. I immediately dial Bay’s pager.




                                                                                                  16
       My girlfriend doesn’t call back, and why should I be surprised? The only emergencies

she acknowledges are those that come from complete strangers.

       Too tense to watch read the new W or watch TV, I stick a French foreign language tape

into the cassette player and listen to the narrator’s repetitive, Gerard Depardieu drone.

       “What would you like to drink? Qu'est-ce que vous voudriez boire?” “Did you enjoy the

collection? Est-ce que vous aimiez les collections?” “How much fat is in the escargot?” Combien

de grasse y a-t-il dans les escargots?”

       It doesn’t work. My heartbeat gains momentum with every passing second. I try

everything I can to relax: sit-ups, self-hypnosis, Xanax. In a last ditch attempt, I slide a hand

down my pants. My dick is limp as a wet sock. It would take a pre-motherhood Madonna in her

Gaultier harness to stiffen that baby up.

       When four o’clock rolls around and Bay still hasn’t called me back, the inevitable truth

sets in: I am losing my girlfriend, whether I keep my talk with her or my appointment with

Rebecca Romberg.



       “Daniel, what’s wrong?”

       It’s Bay, standing in the apartment doorway. I have just taken a cold shower and am

sitting on the edge of our bed, naked, with a towel wrapped around my lower half. An empty

paper bag is beside me. Django is curled up at my feet.

       “I’m just, it’s that…”

       “What happened to your hair?”

       “Um,” I say, needing to think fast, “I shaved it. You don’t like it?”

       “I hate it,” she says. “Now let me take your pulse.”




                                                                                                    17
       She sweeps her hair aside and leans into me, placing two fingers behind the back of my

right earlobe. It’s the first time she’s really touched me in weeks.

       “I’m feeling a little anxious,” I say instead.

       “Well, from a medical standpoint you’re fine,” she says, lifting her head. It’s the first

time I’ve looked, really looked, into her eyes in a long while. And despite all the resentment I

felt toward her lately, her emerald beauties still blow away all of the eyes I’ve gazed into over

the past year. “Did something happen at work today?” she asks.

       I nod, transfixed. “I guess you could say that.”

       “Were you fired?”

       I shake my head. “Not exactly.”

       “So what is it, then? Daniel, you have to tell me.”

       And in that moment, I want to—I want to tell my girlfriend the truth. I want to be back in

school, watching “Dr. Zhivago.” I want to be waiting for her to return from class at Yale, want to

follow her anywhere she wants to go following graduation, as long as it isn’t New York. I want

her, and I want us, the way we used to be. The only problem is, for the life of me, I cannot get

myself to…

       “Oh honey,” she says suddenly, touching my newly bald head. “I think I know what this

is about.”

       “You do?” I gulp.

       “Yes, I do. This is about us, isn’t it?”

       I nod.

       “There I go again, underestimating your emotional intelligence.”

       My emotional intelligence?




                                                                                                    18
        “I mean, of course you’ve sensed that we’ve been growing apart.”

        We have?

        “And we’ve been spending so much time apart that I figured you’d probably be better off,

anyway…”

        Jesus Christ, I think. Bay is breaking up with me.

        “You’re breaking up with me?” I say, raising my voice.

        “Well, it’s just that…I feel like I don’t know you anymore. Our priorities are so different.

You like to go out every night, I like to stay in the lab…”

        “But baby, what about our history?”

        “That was college, sweetie. Things are different now. We’re not kids anymore, going to

parties, listening to music in the student lounge.”

        “But what about our future!”

        “Honey, we don’t have a future. We don’t want the same things anymore. I could care

less about fame and fortune, and I certainly don’t want to stay in this city for the rest of my life.

Plus, we haven’t had sex in months.”

        “Well, who’s fault is that?” I yell, a little too loudly. Django lets out a howl.

        “Quiet, Django,” Bay says to the dog. “Lower your voice please, Daniel. You’re scaring

him.”

        “Maybe you’re scaring him. Come to think of it, he probably doesn’t even recognize you

as his mother anymore, you’re so rarely here. And when you are, you’re sleeping!”

        She lets out a laugh, a sinister little laugh I didn’t think he capable of. “Daniel, I’m a

freaking medical resident. When I’m working, I’m trying to figure out a goddamn cure for

cancer. What in the hell are you doing?”




                                                                                                     19
        “I’m, I’m…” I pick up Django and start stroking him, nervously.

        “I suppose it doesn’t matter now, anyway. All that matter is that, well, we’re over. Yes,

we’re over. Wow,” she says, going over to the closet and stuffing some articles of clothing into

her backpack. “I really didn’t intend for it to be this way.”

        “Me either,” I say, realizing that it’s the truth. Looking long and hard at her face, as if to

absorb it for a later date.

        She stares back. I think—I hope—that her eyes look this radiant because of the tears.

“Yeah. Well. I have to get back to work now. I suppose…I’ll just call you…so we can figure the

rest out.”

        “Okay,” I say. She closes the door. I put my ear to it and listen to her walk away.

        “ So this is what this feels like,” I say to Django.

        He licks my face. The apartment is silent. Something smells.



        After ending a seven-year relationship and scrubbing dog shit off a duvet, there’s no way

in hell that I’m rushing off to Ralph Lauren for a hat. Instead, I put my tuxedo over the ratty gray

tee I’ve been wearing all day and find a beer in the back of the fridge. And then the last few shots

in a bottle of Jack. I turn on the stereo, loud, and drink. Then I go to a bar.

        By 8 o’clock, I have decided—with the help of Tommy the Bartender—that, what the

hell, I’m ready to go to the Sloan Kettering benefit. I give my new friend a high-five, then head

outside and hail a cab.

        I spot Rebecca Romberg the minute I walk into the Tribeca Rooftop. Both she and the

table seem to be draped in the same cut of white satin, though her outfit is a bit more form-fitting

and the table is accessorized with lilac. She is also surrounded by her cronies, all of whom I had




                                                                                                     20
been “prepped” on beforehand, via fax: socialites Helena and Simon Task, Hollywood darlings

Hopey Altman and Devlin Thomas, and furniture designers Damien Dunst and Mick Roban.

           “Darling,” I say, maybe a bit too loudly. “Don’t you just look heavenly.”

           “Shhhhh,” says Simon Task. “Rebecca’s ex is speaking.”

           I look up and see the very pompous, very overweight Philip Jaffe standing behind a

podium.

           ‘And I just want to thank my wife, Antonia Lyons, for her tireless efforts in making this

year’s Sloan Kettering Benefit a resounding…”

           “Daniel,” Rebecca beseeches. “What are you doing here, in that outfit? Jesus, you smell

flammable. Is that whiskey I smell on your breath?”

           “Sorry I missed cocktails, Rebecca,” I say, my voice even louder. Other guests turn and

stare. “I was actually at home, rubbing one out, if you know what I mean. I’m not sure about you

all,” I motion to the group, “but I have a little pet peeve about starting something that I can’t

finish.”

           “I know exactly where you’re coming from,” Damien confers.

           “Daniel, there’s something over here I’d just love to show you,” Rebecca interrupts.

“Will you all excuse us for a moment?”

           She pulls me into the corner, by a phicus plant. “I will never forgive you for this,” she

says. “I thought that you were a professional.”

           “Rebecca,” I whisper. “I have something I want to tell you. A secret.”

           She doesn’t budge.

           “I’m drunk,” I say in a hush.

           “No shit,” she responds.




                                                                                                       21
       “Listen, wait. Let me explain,” I say, having a moment of clarity, realizing that, with Bay

gone, I’m nothing without my career. “I’m honestly sorry.”

       “I’ll bet you are,” she says. “And you’ll be a hell of a lot sorrier once I publish my

column in Flair next month.”

       There goes the Hudson Street loft, I think. As if it really matters now, anyway.

       Just then, someone jams into the back of my foot, hard.

       “Shit!”

       “I am sooo sorry,” a male voice says calmly, sincerely, almost transcendentally. “Do you

know the way to the bathroom?”

       It’s Steven Stern, the man who designed Nicole Kidman’s dress to this year’s Oscars, not

to mention the tuxedo I am currently wearing. Steven fucking Stern—fashion’s “It” Boy, the

sexual fantasy of gay men and straight men and gay women and straight women everywhere.

       “Steven,” Rebecca says, beads of sweat hovering above her lip. “Rebecca Romberg,

Flair. Can I tell you how much I adored your last collection…”

       “You can tell me where a bathroom is,” he says. “Oh, and who this man is by your side.”

        “Him?” she says, pointing at me, though we are steps apart from one another and Steven

is the only other person in our proximity. “Oh, you must be mistaken. No, we’ve just met.”

       “That’s a shame for you, Ms. Rothberg,” Steven says. Rebecca does not correct him on

his mispronunciation of her name, and he turns to me. “Has anyone told you yet that your look

is so right now?”

       “I get that a lot,” I say, smiling.

       “And that shaved head! It’s a revelation! Who styled you?”

       “No one,” I say. “I guess I just really needed to shed my past.”




                                                                                                22
        “Well, it’s brilliant. And it would be perfect for my next Menswear show. Would you be

willing to model?”

        I pause. “Of course,” I say, thinking this could be the start of a more legitimate future.

“Ms. Romberg has all of my information.” I give her a wink.

        Rebecca hands him her business card, and Steven walks away. We watch his perfect ass

in his perfect pants head off into the perfect glow of party lights. I make a mental note that he is

dressed in pinstripes. Interesting.

        Then the band starts playing “It Had To Be You” and I give Rebecca the obligatory

dance, nestling just close enough to make her ex-husband look up from his Crème Brulee. When

the song is over, I kiss her hand and head toward the exit. I pray to make it there without

stumbling, or puking, or both. I figure that after the day I’ve had, it’s time to call it a night.

        I take the elevator down to the ground floor. My buzz is slowly fading from marching

band to quiet throb, and I decide to head over to my dream loft building on Hudson Street. As I

arrive out front, a taxicab stops on the cobblestones and an impeccably dressed young couple

step out, laughing. They brush by me and enter through double glass doors. A minute later, a loft

apartment above is flooded with light.

        I stand there, looking up, until the apartment fades into the rest of the Manhattan skyline.

And as it does, I can’t help but wonder how this world can be, all at once, so beautiful and so

fucking empty.




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