“We haven’t even had it once,” I say softly.
Danny turns away from the glass doors, leans against them and swallows hard, staring at a new video on MTV.
I look away from him, following his gaze to the TV screen. A young girl in a black bikini is being terrorized by three muscular, near-naked masked men, all playing guitars. The girl runs into a room and starts to claw at venetian blinds as fog or smoke starts to pour into the room. The video ends, resolved in some way, and I turn back to look at Danny. He’s still staring at the TV. A commercial for the Lost Weekend with Van Halen contest. David Lee Roth, looking stoned and with two sparsely dressed girls sitting on either side of him, leers into the camera and asks, “How about a little ‘oyride in my limo?” I look back over at Danny.
“Just don’t leave,” I sigh, not caring if I sound pathetic.
“I signed up for that,” he says, sunglasses still on.
I reach over, disconnecting the phone, and think about the window wipers being snapped off.
“So you signed up for the Lost Weekend contest?” I ask. “Is that what we were talking about?”
I’m having lunch with Sheldon in a restaurant on Melrose. It’s noon and the restaurant is already crowded and quiet. Soft rock plays over a stereo system. Cool air drifts from three large slowly spinning silver fans hooked to the ceiling. Sheldon sips Perrier and I wait for his response. He sets down the large iced glass and looks out the window and actually stares at a palm tree, which I find momentarily distressing.
“Sheldon?” I say.
“Two weeks?” he asks.
“I’ll take one if that’s all you can get me.” I’m looking at my plate: a huge, uneaten Caesar salad.
“What is this week for? Where are you going?” Sheldon seems actually concerned.
“I want to go somewhere.” I shrug. “Just take some time off.”
“Where is somewhere? Jesus, Cheryl.”
“I don’t know where somewhere is, Sheldon.”
“Are you falling apart on me, baby?” Sheldon asks.
“What is this, Sheldon? What the f**k’s going on? Can you get me the week off or not?” I pick up a spoon, stab at the salad, lift lettuce to my mouth. It falls off, back onto the plate. I put the spoon down. Sheldon looks at me, so bewildered that I have to turn away.
“You know, um, I’ll try,” Sheldon says soothingly, still stunned. “You know I’d do anything for you.”
“You’ll try?” I ask, incredulous.
“You lack faith. That’s your problem,” Sheldon says. “You lack faith. And you haven’t joined a gym.”
“My agent is telling me that I lack faith?” I ask. “My life must really be a disaster.”
“You should work out.” Sheldon sighs. “I don’t lack faith, Sheldon. I just need to go to Las Cruces for a week.” I start to pick at the salad again, making sure Sheldon notices I’ve picked up a fork. “I used to work out,” I mutter. “I used to work out all the time.”
“I’ll see what I can do. I’ll talk to Jerry. And Jerry will talk to Evan. But you know what they say.” Sheldon sighs, looking out at the palm tree. “Can’t get water from the sun.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I say, then, “Are you on dope or something, Sheldon?”
The check comes and Sheldon pulls out his wallet and then a credit card.
“You still living with that pretty boy?” he asks with what sounds like definite disdain.
“I like him, Sheldon,” I say and then, with less confidence, “He likes me.”
“I’m sure. I’m sure he does, Cheryl,” Sheldon says. “You didn’t want dessert, did you?”
I shake my head, tempted, finally, to eat the rest of the unfinished salad, but the waiter comes and takes the plate away. Everyone in the restaurant, it feels, recognizes me.
“Turn that frown upside down,” Sheldon says. He’s putting his wallet back in his pocket.
“What would that get me—an upside-down frown, what?” From the way Sheldon is looking at me, I try to smile and put my napkin on the table, mimicking a normal person.
“Your phone has been, um, busy lately,” Sheldon mentions softly.
“You can get hold of me at the station,” I say. “It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Talk to William lately?”
“I don’t think I want to talk to William.”