At last we were finished. Our days and nights were no longer dominated by nits and itching. Our lice crisis was over. Summer vacation was over. Reed went back to school and I went back to my writing life.
In the car, I was obsessing over how much cash I needed to get the job done and Reed released. Was three hundred dollars enough? Would it come to four? Or more? Dear Reader, I was not at all sure I had the money in my account.
We piled into Judy's van and set out for a delousing. Judy had never been to that section of Brooklyn. Directions from MapQuest were on the seat beside her. I sat in the back. I was thinking how I had never wanted to spend money on lice.
Penn Station is like an insult. Like an instrument of torture on a massive civic scale. It's totally democratic. Everyone seems to suffer equally. I guess this is especially true on a Friday afternoon in August.
At the hotel room in Rhinebeck, I set Axel on a chair by the foot of the bed. I lay towels down, on his shoulders and at his feet. We turned on the TV and scanned the channels. Hairspray had just begun. He watched. I drew back the curtain of his hair to check his neck.
Life by the lake is idyllic. It's easy to rest and sleep there. And, if I succumbed to slumber, on a couch or the dock, in a hammock or on a rock -- not one of my sympathetic in-laws would blame or bother me.
One by one, Atticus, Wendell, Ursula and Andrew emerged from the jumbo revolving door and into the baggage claim area at LAX. I was as happy to see each one of them as if they were the surprise guests in an episode of This Is Your Life!
The day before Atticus returned, I was running errands in an obscure part of town. It's one of the few remaining areas in LA where you don't have to pay to park. I made a stop at my favorite coffee shop. Suddenly, I saw someone and froze.
The reading of my play in London was cancelled. The director of the museum called to tell me. He was chagrined. Quite contrite. There had been a change in leadership necessitating the abandonment of many-many much-cherished plans. Including the presentation of my play.
Afterwards, in the semi-dark, I lay naked, languid. Shadows of the mahogany posts of his four poster bed lay flat across our immobile forms. I lay still, savoring the assortment of sensations, tingling, burning, floating.
He called Friday afternoon from the airport lounge in Toronto. He wanted to propose a change in our plan. He had managed to get on an earlier flight. Could I pick him up? Could he take me out to dinner? Was it possible I was free?
With Zeus gone, the house was eerily still. I tried not to notice. Luckily, I was on deadline: staring at my computer screen all day was a helpful distraction. I completed a piece for a magazine. I was revising a play for a reading in London.
The subject of sex had been broached. My feelings about this oscillated wildly. Sometimes I felt dread. Like a small creature who moves within the sight or shadow of its predator, and knows it is imperiled. Other hours I felt random exhilaration.
Dating strangers is like detective work. Stripped of the customary and useful dimensions -- like context, like time -- one is always trying to find out the answer to the question: Who is this person, really?
His intensity at tennis took me by surprise. There was no easy opening rally accompanied by smiles and encouraging compliments. There was no foreplay. From the get go the eHarmony vintner set out to conquer me on the court.
The drive was soothing. My doppelganger fell asleep in the back seat. I drove on surface streets to the 5 North, merged onto the 134 East, glided onto the 2 South and picked up the 210 East. On the off-ramp, I headed towards the foothills of the San Bernadino mountains.
I did not sleep well that night. I flailed, wrangling with all the options. Wasn't it early on to be in a tiresome predicament with a potential romantic interest? I lay awake imagining conversations with his friends at his party at his house.