I step into the big white-and-black tile shower stall and stand there. The water, cool at first, then warmer, hits me in the face hard and it weakens me and as I slowly drop to my knees, the black-and-green capsule somehow lodged in the back of my throat, I imagine, for an instant, that the water is a deep and cool aquamarine, and I’m parting my lips, tilting my head to get some water down my throat to help swallow the pill. When I open my eyes I start moaning when I see that the water coming down at me is not blue but clear and light and warm and making the skin on my br**sts and stomach red.
After dressing I walk downstairs, and it distresses me to think of how long it takes to get ready for a day. At how many minutes pass as I wander listlessly through a large walk-in closet, at how long it seems to take to find the shoes I want, at the effort it takes to lift myself from the shower. You can forget this if you walk downstairs carefully, methodically, concentrating on each footstep. I reach the bottom landing and I can hear voices coming from the kitchen and I move toward them. From where I stand I can see my son and another boy standing in the kitchen looking for something to eat and the maid sitting at the large, wood-block table staring at photographs in yesterday’s Herald-Examiner, her sandals kicked off, blue nail polish on her toenails. The stereo in the den is on and someone, a woman, is singing “I found a picture of you.” I walk into the kitchen. Graham looks up from the refrigerator and says, unsmiling, “Up early?”
“Why aren’t you at school?” I ask, trying to sound like I care, reaching past him into the refrigerator for a Tab.
“Seniors get out early on Mondays.”
“Oh.” I believe him but don’t know why. I open the Tab and take a swallow. I have a feeling that the pill I took earlier is still lodged in my throat, stuck, melting. I take another swallow of Tab.
Graham reaches past me and pulls an orange out of the refrigerator. The other boy, tall and blond, like Graham, stands by the sink and stares out the window and into the pool. Graham and the other boy have their school uniforms on and they look very much alike: Graham peeling an orange, the other boy staring out into water. I’m having a hard time not finding either one of their stances unnerving, so I turn away, but the sight of the maid sitting at the table, sandals by her feet, the unmistakable smell of marijuana coming from the maid’s purse and sweater, somehow seems worse and I take another swallow of the Tab, then pour the rest of it down the sink. I begin to leave the kitchen.
Graham turns to the boy. “Do you want to watch MTV?”
“I don’t … think so,” the boy says, staring into the pool.
I pick up my purse, which is sitting in an alcove next to the refrigerator, and make sure my wallet is in it because the last time I was in Robinson’s it was not. I am about to walk out the door. The maid folds the paper. Graham takes off his burgundy letterman’s sweater. The other boy wants to know if Graham has Alien on cassette. From the den the woman is singing “circumstance beyond our control.” I find myself staring at my son, blond and tall and tan, with blank green eyes, opening the refrigerator, taking out another orange. He studies it, then lifts his head when he notices me standing by the door.
“Are you going somewhere?” he asks.
He waits for a moment and when I don’t say anything he shrugs and turns away and begins to peel the orange and somewhere on the way to Le Dôme to meet Martin for lunch I realize that Graham is only one year younger than Martin and I have to pull the Jaguar over to a curb on Sunset and turn the volume down and unroll a window, then the sunroof, and let the heat from today’s sun warm the inside of the car, as I concentrate on a tumbleweed that the wind is pushing slowly across an empty boulevard.
Martin is sitting at the round bar in Le Dôme. He is wearing a suit and a tie and he is tapping his foot impatiently to the music that is playing through the restaurant’s sound system. He watches me as I make my way over to him.
“You’re late,” he says, showing me the time on a gold Rolex.
“Yes. I am,” I say, and then, “Let’s sit down.”
Martin looks at his watch and then at his empty glass and then back at me and I am clutching my purse tightly against my side. Martin sighs, then nods. The maitre d’ shows us to a table and we sit down and Martin starts to talk about his classes at UCLA and then about how his parents are irritating him, about how they came over to his apartment in Westwood unannounced, about how his stepfather wanted him to come to a dinner party he was throwing at Chasen’s, about how Martin did not want to go to a dinner party his stepfather was throwing at Chasen’s, about how tiredly words were exchanged.