To be specific, the last time we really spoke was in Gabriella’s room, the afternoon before graduation. I sat cross-legged on her bare desk and watched her dress for dinner with the folks. She was meeting them at the Hotel Northampton at six.
‘Cocktails at six! Can you imagine? They have no idea, absolutely no idea.’ I figured the ‘they’ was the Golds, but I wasn’t sure what it was they were supposed to have no idea about. Rather than betray my ignorance, I shook my head and made ‘tut’ noises over the Golds’ obtuseness.
Gabriella put on a bra which made her small, round boobs look pointy, like sharpened pencils. The bra was white, with a small pink bow between her breasts.
‘Wow,’ I said. When Gabriella bothers with bras at all, they are usually sheer, sherbert-hued gossamer, allowing her nipples to jut forth at their natural, pouty angle.
‘Not a word,’ she warned, as she sat and began pulling on her stockings.
‘No, I mean … it’s nice.’
‘No, really! It’s pretty.’
I couldn’t resist. ‘Feminine.’
‘You’re asking for it, you really are!’ She threatened to throw one of her beige pumps at me. I giggled and pretended to duck. She smiled and went back to yanking on her stockings.
‘I’m just surprised. I mean, do your parents have x-ray vision or what?’ She didn’t look up. The late afternoon sunlight brassed her hair and lit her milky skin, but put her eyes in shadow.
‘Yes,’ she said simply. ‘Yes, they do.’
Sex. Sex sex sex sex sex.
‘So, man chiquita, how is Mark doing? How are you and Mark doing?’ This from Gabriella as we finished packing up her room.
See, Mark and I are a different kind of ‘couple’, and most people don’t get it at all. Especially not Gabriella. I hate it when she asks about Mark. ‘Mark is fine. You can’t say “man chiquita”.’
‘Because “mon” is French and “chiquita” is pidgin Spanish. Plus the gender doesn’t match.’
‘The French and the Spanish.’
‘Is he fucking you or what?’
‘Or what,’ I responded brightly. ‘Wow, this is gorgeous.’ I was looking at an indigo slip on a padded hanger in her wardrobe.
‘You can have it. What’s his game?’
I lifted the slip down, cautiously, afraid it would unravel in my hands like a dream when you awaken. It was slippery and cool to the touch. Ivory lace crowned the bodice the way foam crowns a wave.
‘What’s his game ?’
‘What game? No game.’
‘Two years and no sex? You sleep together.’
‘And he doesn’t touch you?’
‘He does, but not in the way you mean. Our connection, it’s more … spiritual.’
‘Does he touch other women in the way that I mean?’
‘I don’t want to talk about this.’
‘I’ll kill him! I’ll chop off his balls.’
‘He doesn’t, okay?’
‘Really.’ She stood with her arms folded, staring me down.
‘Really, he doesn’t, as far as I know. And even if he does, it isn’t really important.’
‘Chickie, baby.’ She stepped over an empty box to place her hands on my shoulders. ‘It’s important. Fucking is important.’
‘To some.’ I tried a grin.
‘To all. Be careful.’
‘Oh, that’s rich. Really. You’re telling me to be careful? You?’
‘Yeah I am! We’re different, you and me.’
‘Because I’m a brunette?’
‘Because you’re you, chickie baby. Because you’re you.’
I flinched, feeling vaguely insulted.
She took the blue slip from its hanger and held its length against me. ‘Yeah,’ she concluded. ‘You should have this.’
‘Nah. It’s too nice to give away.’
‘But I never wear it. It’s the wrong color. Perfect for you, though. Brings out your eyes.’
‘When would I ever wear it?’
‘Oy! What a question!’ She draped the slip over my shoulder and combed my short hair with one manicured hand. ‘Wear it whenever you want to,’ she said, and then whispered, ‘Wear it the next time you and Mark are connecting spiritually. Nudge nudge, wink wink.’
‘Oh for God sake!’ But I was laughing. ‘I’m going to miss you.’
‘I know!’ She smiled smugly and did a happy little pirouette. ‘Dance with me.’
‘No music, strange white woman.’
‘Stereo’s already boxed up. We must dance to the music contained in our hearts.’
‘Wow! Greeting card deep! Is that your idea of wise words to leave me with, ya nutcase?’
‘No.’ She was spinning like mad now, watching her skirt billow like a little girl on the Sunday School steps. A blur of arms and legs, copper hair and emerald satin. ‘No,’ she called breathlessly, ‘here are my wise words. Ready?’
‘I’m waiting with bated breath.’
She tilted her head back and screamed at the ceiling, at the trembling heavens beyond.
‘FUCKING! IS! IMPORTANT!’
I have never tried on the indigo slip. I think it will fit, but I’m afraid to see what it will look like on. Most likely I will resemble a sausage bursting its casing. Anyway, it doesn’t seem to need me, this garment; it hovers, more than hangs, in my wardrobe, with a shape and a pulse that is not Gabriella’s nor mine but its own.