A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
The Ballad of Lisa and Lacey (Part IX)
(for Part VIII click here)
And they went to Rome like two pilgrims looking for a private eternity. The apartment was small but it had a balcony, and if you leaned the right way, you could see St. Peter’s — so the next morning they walked it. It wasn’t very far, but they stopped at every opportunity, and by the time they found the long wall of the Vatican, the tourist lines were too long to conquer. So they abandoned organized religion, found an alley full of trattoria and put their feet up. They ate bread and cheese and spicy sausage, drank a couple of thick glasses of wine, and after that they were never really tourists again.
It was easy to live in Rome. They called themselves sisters and said they were teachers. They drank coffee in the morning and red wine at night. They ate and laughed and told each other stories. They flirted with the men in the shops on their street. They walked and got lost and walked again, seeing most of the “sites” by accident. They discovered they liked churches, dark with Caravaggio, and weekends in the park loud with children. They danced behind Fendi sunglasses and watched the rain from their balcony. It was spring. They bought flowers. The two single beds were on opposite walls and they stayed that way. Sometimes, Lacey would see Lisa, look at her and wonder if this was the woman she wanted — or was supposed — to be. And without ever trying, Lisa showed Lacey the quiet confidence of power — raw and deliberate.
“Never. It doesn’t matter what Bert thinks; he’s not going to divorce me. I’ve got a roomful of lawyers who play golf with Satan … and win. He’d end up with a handful of dental floss — and he knows it.”
And sometimes Lacey saw Lisa looking at her. She’d seen that look before — boy-shy and uncertain — and that wasn’t the Lisa that Lacey wanted to see.
They thought of taking the train to Venice, but never really did it. Although they did take a bus tour to Pompeii and had a picnic. They went to a flower show, saw a parade, watched fireworks, and late one night, crashed somebody’s wedding and danced with the bride. But mostly it was easy to live in Rome, and then one day, unexpectedly, it was time to go home.
Lisa left Lacey at the airport and Lacey watched her go, shouting “Arrivederci!” into the crowd. She saw Lisa’s hand in the air, laughed, turned on her heels, and with abrupt purpose, went home.
That year, Lisa came to Lacey’s graduation, sitting smiling, up front and incognito. They went for drinks after the parents went to bed. Lacey got a job with an investment company, but the hours were brutal and she had to dress for success. Six months later, she quit and went back to the coffee shop fulltime. Lisa called on Christmas Eve, and in May, they went to Spain.
That year, they really were pilgrims, walking the Camino de Santiago until, muscled, tanned and tired, they caught a train south. They bought bikinis in Malaga and spent the rest of the month drinking sangria and playing on the resort beaches of Costa del Sol. One night, far from sober, they got tiny matching “LOL” tattoos, just below the tan line. It was the year Tony got fired, and Lacey became assistant manager. It was the year the parents decided to sell the house. It was the year Ben went to Dental School.
“No, Lace. Bert isn’t Ben’s father. Haven’t I told you that story before? Ben’s father was a paper salesman from Chicago. I was a senior in high school, working weekends at the plant, and this guy — you should’ve seen him, Lace! He was drop-dead gorgeous. He drove a silver Vette and he had a smile that was just pure panty remover. Anyway, he’s selling paper — uh — I don’t really remember the details. But he took me to lunch and then he took me to dinner and he was from Chicago and … Don’t give me that look. He didn’t know I was 17, and he definitely didn’t know I was the owner’s daughter. Besides, I kinda launched myself at him. The poor guy really didn’t have a chance. Anyway, a couple of months later, all hell broke loose. Trust me, Lace, you don’t want to be rich-bitch pregnant in a small town. It’s amazing how many faces your friends have. So my parents and Bert’s parents got together, and we were married that summer.”
“What about Ben? Does he know?”
“Well, since Bert and I are the only ones left who actually know the truth, we decided to just leave it alone. Sometimes the truth isn’t the best way to go.”
The next year they went to Amsterdam, or was it London? London — then Amsterdam? Amsterdam, then London? Lacey couldn’t remember without thinking hard. But somehow that’s what happened; somewhere, without Lacey realizing it, the years just starting clicking away. Ben finished school and went to work with his father. The parents did sell the house and moved into that stupid condo nobody liked. Jerry and Jennifer had another baby. Wayne and Madison split up, got back together and finally divorced for good. Courtney got accepted at UCLA, moved to California and Lisa cried and cried and cried on the telephone. And somewhere, after Amsterdam (or was it London?) unable to control herself, Lacey found a lesbian lover — in fact, more than one. In fact, now that Lacey thought about it, quite a few more than one. It wasn’t that she felt the need especially, or even cared, but it just seemed like the right thing to do.