Tuesday Evening: Unsweetened Lemonade

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We shot into the night. After awhile, I felt like we were riding upwards, into a section of town I’d never been to.The city transformed before me – the streets a little cleaner, then cleaner still, the buildings growing taller and better kept, until suddenly the world seemed ornate and polished, all posh buildings and bright lights.

Trix pulled up in front of a massive apartment tower, throwing her keys to the valet.

“Anything valuable in that bag?” she asked me.

“Just clothes.”

“You may be short some panties when we get back,” she laughed.

“Where are we going?”

“Tasha Lefoyt’s birthday party.”

“No way!”

“Yes, way. Just don’t ask for any autographs.”

“As if!”

A uniformed doorman found Trix’s name on a list, pushing a special button to allow ascension to Tasha Lefoyt’s penthouse. I felt both uncomfortable and excited to see this other side of city life; an intruder.

On the elevator, Trix stripped off her outer gear, ripping it cleanly along seams designed for just that purpose. Underneath, she wore a skin-tight leotard of swirling colours, like some kind of new-age hippy Star Trek uniform. A sparkly cloak billowed out as she removed her jacket. Her big motorcycle boots completed the ensemble – only she could off pull this look.

We stepped off the elevator into a large foyer overlooking a great room filled with people. A quartet played unobtrusively from the corner. Trix passed her gear to the coat check girl, and made me give up my guitar. I kept my leather jacket hoping to hide behind it. I was definitely under-dressed.

“Be good, I’ll be back,” Trix whispered down at me. “Blend, or something.”

“Trix! You came,” called none other than Tasha Lefoyt herself.

“Miss your birthday, sweet Tasha? I could never!” Trix strode across the room, hands outstretched, leaving me on my own. No one noticed me at all, after an initial glance to see if I was someone, which I clearly was not. I hung back to watch.

Trix worked the room full-force. People followed her like metal filings to a magnet. Her laugh, her stories and her boisterous flirting thoroughly enchanted the crowd. She held our full attention. I stood enthralled when BOOM, I got body-checked into the food table. The lout didn’t even interrupt his rollicking story to acknowledge me, or the red punchbowl slosh spreading across the satiny white tablecloth. His companion shot me an amused expression that might have been apologetic. Without turning directly to me, Linebacker asked,

“Is there seafood in this?”

When I didn’t answer right away, he directed an impatient head-jerk my way. At that angle, I recognized him as an actor I couldn’t name, from a recent indie film breakout. Two months ago, nobody. Now, Mr. Important.

“I asked you if there’s seafood in this.”

“Why don’t you try it and find out?”

His eyes focused on me for the first time.

“You don’t work here, I guess?” He clearly couldn’t imagine any other reason for my presence in the room – this new information did not compute. I shook my head clearly from side to side, in order to confirm his understanding.

“Bitch could have just said that,” he smirked for anyone watching, and sauntered off. I felt my cheeks redden. His friend shrugged, palms upward to disassociate himself, then smiled at me. This guy looked familiar too, but if he was famous I couldn’t say why. Comfortable in his expensive suit, hair that took a lot of product to look natural, a smile that got regular whitening. Maybe he’d been on the front of GQ? Whoever he was, he didn’t follow his friend, nor did he help himself to food. I entertained the possibility that he actually wanted to talk with me.

“He’s been drinking,” GQ offered as explanation more than apology. “He’s not usually such an asshole.” I doubted that, and let my raised my eyebrow say so.

“Okay,” he conceded with a chuckle. “But usually he’s just…oblivious and overbearing. I don’t think he was trying to be mean. I can see why he thought you work here.”

“You’re a flatterer, too, I see.” I didn’t really care if he thought I was The Help, but I thought it might invoke some rich-guy guilt if I did. My sarcasm didn’t phase him at all.

“You’re standing alone, by the food table, clearly…”

“Out of place?”

“Well, not frolicking, anyway. Dressed…simply. And your expression…”

He trailed off. I waited, not willing to let him off the hook when he’d already insulted me once. I smiled as though encouraging, my sweet tone a promised reprimand in cheap disguise.

“Yes? My expression…?”

He wrinkled his brow, searching for the words, or at least seeming to.

“Like, we’re all just here for your entertainment, and we are SO boring you can’t stand it.”

I laughed, loud and quickly, tickled that he’d said his honest, honest thought out loud. But that didn’t mean that I liked what he was saying.

“So, you think I look contemptuous?”

He didn’t deny it. “Well, not right now. Right now, you look kinda angry-cute.”

Unbelievable. Incredulity overwhelmed me.

“Are you hitting on me?”

“Would that be effective?”

“No.”

“Then I’m not.”

But he didn’t leave. I realized that, another night, I might have enjoyed bantering with him, maybe flirted a little to enjoy the party. In another life, I might have tried to seduce him – he was cute and probably rich, after all. But that night, engaging this man’s conversation felt taxing.

“So are you someone I should know?” he asked. I didn’t feel like saying no.

“I’m supposed to be someone?”

“At this party, you’re either someone or you’re with someone. So, if you’re not someone, who’re you with?”

I flashed my thumb towards the gaggle surrounding Trix.

“Which?”

“Trix.”

I’d surprised him. I watched him trying to place my features. Then he smiled big, his eyes sparkling with recognition.

“Mouse! I knew I knew you. You’re smaller than I thought you would be.”

“Gee, thanks. And I tend to go by Christine. Why do you know me when I don’t know you?”

He reached down and took my hand in a shake.

“Tyler Brendshaw. I tend to go by Bren.”

He didn’t let go of my hand. I pulled a little harder than I should have needed to free myself. This guy couldn’t stop playing if his life depended on it. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place him. Like everyone in this room, he must have some degree of celebrity, or money. I wondered when he’d lose interest in me and move on to more interesting prey. I felt like he was waiting for a reaction to his name, but I wasn’t sure what reaction he expected.

“You really don’t know who I am,” he pronounced, slowly. He sounded like saying this out loud tested an unlikely theory.

“Now you’re supposed to be someone?”

He shook his head. A surprised smile spread across his face –  a discovering-the-first-tulip-of-spring smile.

“No, not at all. Marry me.”

“Fuck off.” Even though he couldn’t possibly have guessed he’d hit a soft spot, I felt like I meant it. As he’d spoken, first Ethan’s and then Chris’ face had flashed up in front of me like apparitions. My reaction felt appropriate even though I knew it was extreme. I didn’t feel like taking it back, I felt like letting this man represent all the men.

“Wow, that’s some reaction.” I’d ticked him off.

“That’s some stupid thing to say.” I fumed. He took a step back, confused and embarrassed. I’d finally flustered him.

“I didn’t mean…I just meant…you’re refreshing.” He patted his suit like he’d just rolled in sawdust, then seemed to recover his swagger. “A bit hostile, but refreshing.”

“Like unsweetened lemonade?” He laughed appreciatively, then leaned in, sly.

“Come on, there must be a little sugar in there. I think maybe you just need a stir.”

That did it. I had no barriers left. What I thought came running right out my mouth.

“God, you men are all the same. You think your dicks can penetrate our depths. When all we ever want is your hearts.”

Even though I was acting like a freak, he didn’t run away – he met me head on.

“You want my heart, take it. But some hearts are made of fire, you know.”

“I don’t even know what we’re talking about.”

“I think you actually know exactly what we’re talking about.”

I’d gotten myself into this parallel-universe conversation, but I didn’t have the strength.

“Look, guy, I don’t have any bandwidth for your weird intensity right now. I’m in the middle of some personal shit, okay? You should leave me be.”

“I never do know what’s good for me. ”

I couldn’t believe I’d made such a snit-fit with a complete stranger. Hungry, tired, and at my emotional wits’ end, I’d let this rich guy bait me, when for him I was just a funny party story. Before any more words passed between us, I noticed him look up and over my shoulder – I turned to see Trix striding up behind me, with purpose. She put her hand on my shoulder and leaned her body up against me from behind.

“Now, now, Bren, you can’t have all the pretty girls,” she purred at him. “Ms. Mouse is spoken for and a lineup besides. Mouse, we’re off.”

Bren didn’t respond. He was busy watching me with her, assessing our relationship and the meaning behind her words. He was wondering if I was gay, whether Trix and I were together. I didn’t feel like giving him the satisfaction of an answer. Or maybe I wanted him to think about it.

Trix propelled me to the hall. She passed me our things from coatcheck, pushing me ahead of her into the elevator. She turned and waved to the room at large, calling, “Goodnight, farewell, until we meet again!” She and the hostess blew kisses at each other. A little sickening.

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