Finished His Story
It's noon and Jill and Lucy have just seated themselves at a table at a coffee shop they like to frequent near the Embarcadero and Jill is stirring her coffee and talking, filling Lucy in on her weekend as she moves her eyes with varying degrees of interest over the faces of the other customers. She has dissolved two packets of Sweet and Low into her coffee and is stirring it slowly, speaking in the flat monotone of someone who is more thinking out loud than talking.
"Saturday afternoon I met this old guy down by the lake and we went up to his apartment and had sex through the afternoon," she said. There was a woman sitting over by the window in a short blue jacket and Jill was wondering if she hadn't seen her somewhere before, met her briefly, perhaps, at an office party last winter during the holidays.
"Sex with some old guy?" asks Lucy, looking up now from her menu. Lucy liked to examine the dessert list and to stir up old thoughts of sugar and whipped cream from long ago days when she would actually order such things at the ice cream parlor near her high school, eating them in the late afternoons with her friends in the middle of conversations very much like this one.
"Since when do you have sex with "old guys"? Do I guess he owns a yacht and a big house on a beach somewhere nearby? Not like you at all, girl. Not like you at all." She is looking at the entry for blackberry cobbler and thinking she's never had blackberry cobbler before. What's it taste like? Peach she could take or leave, but blackberry, my, my.
"How old is "old" anyway?" she asks, wondering what it might be like to eat blackberry cobbler in bed with an 'old guy' on a late Saturday afternoon, when there was nothing much otherwise happening. It was hard to imagine. To her mind, eating your dessert in bed was a recipe for disaster.
"I asked myself that very question," said Jill, sipping at her coffee served here in thin china cups. They had nice cups in this shop and both Jill and Lucy liked to sit and sip and think themselves somewhere else where impossibly thin people spent their lives sipping from pale china, the light shining through them translucent in the late afternoon, everywhere ruby lips and emerald hips and eyes like diamonds.
"And then, for some reason, I asked him that very same question," Jill said. "I mean, it was good
sex and it made sense to be there with him doing it in the afternoon, since I still had plenty of time to get back and get ready for Beth's party, but it seemed odd, like something I might read in a book but never really quite fantasize for myself, it was so out of character, so I just blurted it out: 'Why am I here? It seems so very odd'." It seemed a natural question and he said it was because I was a character in a book he was writing and that he'd decided to spend this afternoon in a new bed he'd just bought and make love to a soulful woman who liked Hunter Thompson, Guinness beer and potato salad."
"You were a character in his book?" Lucy laughed, and then thought, "which means what? I'm a character in his book too?". Blackberry cobbler sounded bogus, she decided. Couldn't be that good. Why had she never seen it on this menu before? And why these thoughts about food? Where was this going?
"Yeah. Afterward we went into his living room and I made potato salad in the kitchen and we sat down and ate the potato salad and drank Guinness beer and watched a movie I'd never heard of before starring Johnny Depp called Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and then we babbled on about various things that I do not now recall and then he kissed me goodbye and I went home and took a shower and got ready for Beth's party, which I do not, for the life of me, now remember."
This seemed a bit much to Lucy. "Potato salad? What kind of potato salad? Since when do you make potato salad? You don't even like potato salad." Lucy noticed potato salad on the menu. Since when had they served potato salad here? Did they have a new menu? Why was she even reading this menu? Things were starting to get weird and Lucy didn't like weird, particularly on a Monday over lunch in San Francisco.
"Potatoes and eggs and mayonnaise", Jill recited. "Celery, chopped fine. A light yellow, firm, but without being crunchy, no pimento, no little red bits, a distinct vinegar aftertaste that he particularly preferred."
"You, who have never in your life made potato salad, you, who are allergic to potato salad, if not to kitchens themselves, made and ate potato salad with this 'old guy' you have never met before and watched a Johnny Depp movie after having sex with him in this new bed of his Saturday afternoon?"
"I remember the Johnny Depp part. I seem to have understood a lot more about what we were talking about Saturday than I remember now," Jill said, seeming to drift, noticing the street out in front of the coffee shop seemed to be going in and out of focus.
"Well", said Lucy, "that would mean if we really were just characters in his book, we'd cease to exist when he finished his story."