A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
The Ballad of Lisa and Lacey (Part VII)
(for Part VI click here)
Time got lost in the big restaurant and they lingered and talked. They remembered Europe vividly — retold and laughing. And when Lisa asked, Lacey told her about Tony and the tight t-shirt and sailing through her exams and how things were good and she was going to be an aunt for the fourth time (last brother.) Lisa had pictures of her children and Lacey asked questions in the right places. Ben was going to be a senior (“God, I feel old!”) and Courtney was already picking out universities and working on the second love of her life. Work? Work was busy — too busy … but … I’ve been doing that all day, let’s not talk about it tonight. What about …? And, so, by the time they were sharing dessert (poached pears/two forks) the evening was gone and the restaurant had filled up. It was clattery and loud, and both women were having trouble keeping the noise out of their conversation, so they decided to take their coffee on the 6th floor patio. The city lights were already on and they sat for a moment, admiring the night.
“It’s beautiful up here.”
“I’ve been staying at this hotel forever, and I’ve never done this before.”
“Just never thought about it. I was always too busy — uh — doing other things.”
The night was close, warm to the touch. The faint and full glare of the buildings around them hung in the air, searching their light into the night and hiding the two women together in its intimate shadows. The sound of the city, low and breathing, was somewhere beyond them — below them — holding them up. There was a red goblet candle on the table, and they watched its tiny flame trembling between them and wondered what to say next.
“I found an apartment in Rome?” Lisa said tentatively.
“We need to talk, Lis.”
“I know, but I don’t know what …” Lisa’s voice trailed off.
“I need to know what we’re doing.”
“It’s not very complicated. It doesn’t have to be complicated. We had a great time, and I want to do it again.”
“That’s not what I mean. I need to know what we’re doing? You and I?”
Lisa looked beyond Lacey into the night.
“You’re spending all this money. I can’t keep up with that. And then what? Are you going to disappear again? Am I just supposed to wait? God, I’ve been miserable for four months, wondering what was going on.”
“I’m sorry, Lace. I thought you needed time to think. You said you did. Then when you called, I didn’t know what to do.”
“You knew I called?”
“Call display. Jennifer knew who you were before you hung up.”
Lacey looked stricken. Lisa reached over, took Lacey’s hand and pulled it across the table toward her. She covered it with her other hand and held it there.
“Look, Lace, this is me. I’m filthy rich, I’ve got a great job that’s tons of hard work, but I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’ve got two beautiful children who are a pain in the ass and I happen to like my husband — just not that much. But the bottom line is I want something more than that. Something that’s just for me. Unfortunately, when a woman in my position climbs above the glass ceiling, everybody thinks they have the right to look up her skirt. I just refused to give them the opportunity. I have a lot of people depending on me. So I take my private affairs outta town.”
“Okay,” Lacey interrupted, “But what am I? Where do I fit in? Why are you doing all this for a stranger?”
“We’re not exactly strangers, Lace. We slept together.”
“Yeah, in the same bed. But we didn’t do anything. It’s something I’d remember.”
Lisa let go of Lacey’s hand.
“Okay, but… This is what I want to do. We feel right, Lace. We have from the moment I met you. You’re funny. You’re happy. You’re smart. You’re kind. You’re full of life. You understand me — or at least you try to. You’re all the things I’ve never been and everything I’ve ever wanted.”
“I’m not gay.” Lacey said, shaking her head.
The night was long and quiet and longer still.
“Does it matter?”
Lacey looked at the questions in Lisa’s eyes and didn’t have any answers. But feeling the warm night holding her, watching the desperate little red fire shivering in front of her and seeing Lisa sitting across the table, smiling and warm, Lacey did feel alive, and, strangely, she felt happy. For the first time in months, she felt as if she were Lacey again — and that she was everything Lisa said she was. She reached across and clasped Lisa’s hand.
“I don’t care, if you don’t.”