I’m looking out a window, at a Spanish valet standing in front of a Rolls-Royce, staring into it, muttering. When Martin begins to complain about his BMW and how much the insurance is, I interrupt.
“Why did you call the house?”
“I wanted to talk to you,” he says. “I was going to cancel.”
“Don’t call the house.”
“Why?” he asks. “There’s someone there who cares?”
I light a cigarette.
He puts his fork down next to his plate and then looks away. “We’re eating at Le Dôme,” Martin says.
“I mean, Jesus.”
“Okay?” I ask.
I ask for the check and pay it and follow Martin back to his apartment in Westwood where we have sex and I give Martin a pith helmet as a gift.
I am lying on a chaise longue by the pool. Issues of Vogue and Los Angeles magazine and the Calendar section from the Times are stacked next to where I am lying but I can’t read them because the color of the pool takes my eyes away from the words and I stare longingly into thin aquamarine water. I want to go swimming but the heat of the sun has made the water too warm and Dr. Nova has warned about the dangers of taking Librium and swimming laps.
A poolboy is cleaning the pool. The poolboy is very young and tan and has blond hair and he is not wearing a shirt and he is wearing very tight white jeans and when he leans down to check the temperature of the water, muscles in his back ripple gently beneath smooth clean brown skin. The poolboy has brought a portable cassette player that sits by the edge of the jacuzzi and someone is singing “Our love’s in jeopardy” and I’m hoping the sound of palm fronds moving in warm wind will carry the music into the Suttons’ yard. I’m intrigued by how deep the poolboy’s concentration seems to be, at how gently the water moves when he skims a net across it, at how he empties the net, which catches leaves and multicolored dragonflies that seem to litter the water’s gleaming surface. He opens a drain, the muscles in his arm flexing, lightly, only for a moment. And I keep watching, transfixed, as he reaches into the round hole and his arm begins to lift something out of the hole, muscles momentarily flexing again, and his hair is blond and windblown, streaked by sun, and I shift my body in the lounge chair, not moving my eyes.
The poolboy begins to raise his arm out of the drain and he lifts two large gray rags up and drops them, dripping, onto concrete and stares at them. He stares at the rags for a long time. And then he makes his way toward me. I panic for a moment, adjusting my sunglasses, reaching for tanning oil. The poolboy is walking toward me slowly and the sun is beating down and I’m spreading my legs and rubbing oil on the inside of my thighs and then across my legs, knees, ankles. He is standing over me. Valium, taken earlier, disorients everything, makes backgrounds move in wavy slow motion. A shadow covers my face and it allows me to look up at the poolboy and I can hear from the portable stereo “Our love’s in jeopardy” and the poolboy opens his mouth, the lips full, the teeth white and clean and even, and I overwhelmingly need him to ask me to get into the white pickup truck parked at the bottom of the driveway and have him instruct me to go out to the desert with him. His hands, perfumed by chlorine, would rub oil over my back, across my stomach, my neck, and as he looks down at me with the rock music coming from the cassette deck and the palm trees shifting in a hot desert wind and the glare of the sun shining up off the surface of the blue water in the pool, I tense and wait for him to say something, anything, a sigh, a moan. I breathe in, stare up through my sunglasses, into the poolboy’s eyes, trembling.
“You have two dead rats in your drain.” I don’t say anything.
“Rats. Two dead ones. They got caught in the drain or maybe they fell in, who knows.” He looks at me blankly.
“Why … are you … telling me this?” I ask.
He stands there, expecting me to say something else. I lower my sunglasses and look over at the gray bundles near the jacuzzi.
“Take … them, away?” I manage to say, looking down.
“Yeah. Okay,” the poolboy says, hands in his pockets. “I just don’t know how they got trapped in there?”
The statement, really a question, is phrased in such a languid way that though it doesn’t warrant an answer I tell him, “I guess … we’ll never know?”
I am looking at the cover of an issue of Los Angeles magazine. A huge arc of water reaches for the sky, a fountain, blue and green and white, spraying upward.
“Rats are afraid of water,” the poolboy is telling me.