“That’s not true,” I say, then burst out laughing.
“You know what she told me?”
I don’t say anything.
“Oh come on, guess,” he says, smiling. “Can’t you guess?”
I do not say anything.
“She told me that you hung up on her.” William pauses. “Could this be true?”
“What if it could?” I put the brush down and put more lipstick on but my hands are shaking and I stop trying and then I pick up the brush and begin brushing my hair again. Finally, I look up at William, who is staring at me in the mirror across from mine, and say, simply, “Yes.”
William walks to the closet and picks out a shirt. “I really thought you hadn’t. I thought maybe the Demerol was getting to her or something,” he says dryly. I start to brush my hair in fast short strokes.
“Why?” he asks, curious.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I don’t think I can talk about that.”
“You hung up on your own f**king mother?” He laughs.
“Yes.” I put the brush down. “Why are you concerned?” I ask, suddenly depressed by the fact that the Jaguar might be in the shop for close to a week. William just stands there.
“Don’t you love your mother?” he asks, zipping his pants, then buckling a Gucci belt. “I mean, my God, she’s dying of cancer for Christ sakes.”
“I’m tired. Please. William. Don’t,” I say. “What about me?” he asks.
He moves to the closet again and finds a jacket.
“No. I don’t think so.” These words come out clearly and I shrug. “Not anymore.”
“What about your goddamned children?” He sighs. “Our goddamned children.”
“Our goddamned children. Don’t be so boring.” “I don’t think so,” I say. “I’m … undecided.”
“Why not?” he asks, sitting on the bed, slipping on loafers. “Because I …” I look over at William. “I don’t know … them.”
“Come on, baby, that’s a cop-out,” he says derisively. “I thought you were the one who said strangers are easy to like.”
“No,” I say. “You were and it was in reference to f**king.”
“Well, since you don’t seem to be too attached to anyone you’re not f**king, I’d think we’d be in accord on that score.” He knots a tie.
“I’m shaking,” I say, confused by William’s last comment, wondering if I missed a phrase, part of a sentence.
“Oh Christ, I need a shot,” he says. “Could you get the syringe—the insulin’s over there.” He points, removes the jacket, unbuttons his shirt.
As I fill a plastic syringe with insulin, I have to fight off the impulse to fill it with air and then plunge it into a vein and watch his face contort, his body fall to the floor. He bares his upper arm. I stick the needle in and I say, “You f**ker,” and William looks at the floor and says, “I don’t want to talk anymore,” and we finish dressing, in silence, then leave for the party.
And driving on Sunset with William at the wheel, a glass of’ vodka nestled between his legs and the top down and a warm wind blowing and an orange sun setting in the distance, I touch his hand on the wheel and he moves it to lift the glass of vodka to his mouth and as I turn away and we pass Westwood, up, above it, I can actually see Martin’s apartment flash by.
After we drive up through the hills and find the house and after William gives the car to the valet and before we walk toward the front entrance, with a crowded bank of photographers lined up behind a rope, William tells me to smile.
“Smile,” he hisses. “Or at least try to. I don’t want another picture like that last one in the Hollywood Reporter, where you just stared off somewhere else with this moronic gaze on your face.”
“I’m tired, William. I’m tired of you. I’m tired of these parties. I’m tired.”
“The tone of your voice could have fooled me,” he says, taking my arm roughly. “Just smile, okay? just until we get past the photographers, then I don’t give a f**k what you do.”
“You … are … awful,” I say.
“You’re not much better,” he says, pulling me along.
William talks to an actor who has a new movie opening next week and we are standing next to a pool and there is a very young tan boy with the actor and he’s not listening to the conversation. He stares into the pool, his hands in his pockets. A warm black wind comes down through the canyons and the blond boy’s hair stays perfectly still. From where I’m standing I can see the billboards, tiny lit rectangles, on Sunset, illuminated by neon streetlights. I sip my drink and look back at the boy, who is still staring into the lit water. There is a band playing and the soft, lilting music and the light coming from the pool, tendrils of steam rising from it, and the beautiful blond boy and the yellow-and-white-striped tents that stand on a long, spacious lawn and the warm winds cooling and the palm trees, the moon outlining their fronds, act as an anesthetic. William and the actor are talking about the rock star’s wife who tried to drown herself in Malibu and the blond boy I’m staring at turns his head away from the pool and finally begins to listen.