IN THE ISLANDS
I am watching my son through a mirrored window from the fifth floor of the office building I own. He is standing in line with someone to see Terms of Endearment which is playing across the plaza from where I work. He keeps looking up at the window I am standing behind. I’m on the phone with Lynch and he’s talking about the finalities of a deal we worked on last week in New York even though I’m not listening to him. I stare through the glass, relieved that Tim can’t see me, that we can’t share a wave. He and his friend just stand there waiting for the line to be let in. His friend—I think his name is Sam or Graham or something—looks a lot like Tim: tall and blond and tan, both wearing faded jeans and red USC sweatshirts. Tim raises his eyes to the window again. I put my hand up to surprisingly cool glass and hold it there. Lynch says that since it’s Thanksgiving maybe I would like to join O’Brien, Davies and him down in Las Cruces and do some fishing this weekend. I tell Lynch that I’m taking Tim to Hawaii for four days. Graham whispers something in Tim’s ear and Graham’s movement and subsequent grin seem almost lascivious to me and the idea that they are sleeping together passes and Lynch says maybe he’ll talk to me after I get back from Hawaii. I hang up, taking my hand off the window. Tim lights a cigarette and looks up at my window again. I stand there, staring down at him, wishing he wouldn’t smoke. Kay calls from her desk, “Les? Fitzhugh’s on line three,” and I tell her I’m not here and I stand at the window until the line goes in and Tim disappears through the lobby doors and when I leave the office early, around four, and I’m in the underground parking garage, I lean against a silver Ferrari and loosen my tie, my hands trembling with the effort it takes to unlock the car’s door, and then I’m driving away from Century City.
I have repacked the one major piece of luggage I’m taking many times, uncertain of what to bring even though I have been to the Mauna Kea often, but tonight, right now, I’m having trouble. I should have something to eat—it’s after nine—but I’m not too hungry due to Valium I took earlier this evening. In the kitchen I find a box of Triscuits and tiredly eat three. The phone rings while I’m rearranging the suitcase, refolding a couple of dress shirts.
“Tim doesn’t want to go,” Elena says.
“What do you mean, Tim doesn’t want to go?” I ask.
“He doesn’t want to go, Les.”
“Let me talk to him,” I ask.
“He’s not here.”
“Let me talk to him, Elena,” I say, relieved.
“He’s not here.”
“I’ve made reservations. You know how goddamned hard it is to get reservations at the f**king Mauna Kea during Thanksgiving?”
“Yes. I do.”
“He’s going, Elena, whether he wants to or not.”
“Oh, Les, for God’s sake—”
“Why doesn’t he want to go?” I ask.
Elena pauses. “He just doesn’t think he’ll have a good time.”
“He doesn’t want to go because he doesn’t like me.”
“Oh damn it, Les, stop feeling sorry for yourself,” she says, bored. “That’s … not true.”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s just that-“
“It’s just what? It’s just what, Elena?”
“It’s just that … he’s probably uncomfortable about …” Elena phrases the rest of this sentence carefully: “the two of you going away together, since you’ve never been away together. Alone.”
“I want to take my son to Hawaii for a couple of days, without his sisters, without his mother,” I say, then, “Jesus, Elena, we never see each other.”
“I understand that, Les, but he’s nineteen, for God’s sake,” she says. “If he doesn’t want to go with you I can’t force him—”
“He doesn’t want to go because he doesn’t like me,” I say loudly, cutting her off. “You know that. I know that. And I know damn well he put you up to this call.”
“If you really think this, then why are you taking him anyway?” Elena asks. “Do you think three days are going to change anything?”
I refold another shirt and put it back in the suitcase, then I sit on the bed, hard.
“I hate to be put in the middle like this,” she finally says, admits.
“Damn it,” I scream. “He shouldn’t put you there.”