Hugh left last Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with his mother in Louisville, Ky. I’ve been on this kick lately where I pretend that Mrs. Hamrick is my closest friend and confidante. Whenever I hear Hugh’s key in the door, I pick up the phone and pretend that his mother and I are having a conversation. “I love you too,” I say. “I’m sorry we won’t be able to spend the holidays together, but you know what it’s like with Hugh around. I’d rather just the two of us spent some time together, just you and me. Maybe next weekend we can go off to some quiet place upstate, and … hold on, Joan, I think I hear him coming.”
I pretend to receive gifts and checks from Hugh’s mother and write fake letters, in which she begs to legally adopt me as her son. In truth, Mrs. Hamrick could take me or leave me. She came and stayed with us for a few days in early May. She’s a trim, articulate woman who slept on the sofa and spent her mornings drinking tea and reading the international section of the Times. That’s the last thing in the world I’d ever read, but, Hugh’s family, having lived in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, loves nothing more than to debate the fine points of American foreign policy. They’re forever referring to some crisis in Ghana or Ethiopia, and know the first and last names of every rebel leader or diplomatic attaché. It’s a far cry from me and my family. Unlike the Hamricks, our world ends at hollering distance. We are the people who, when polled by man-on-the-street reporters, identify “Boutros Boutros-Ghali” as the name of a personal-injury law firm.
Hugh called this afternoon from Louisville. “Listen,” I said, “I know this is delicate, and I don’t want to put you in a difficult position, but would you please ask your mother to stop calling me every 10 minutes? She’s complaining about your visit, and I don’t know how much longer I can put up with her crying.”
I had more to say, but he hung up on me.
On the night before Thanksgiving, one of Lisa’s neighbors was arrested for having sex with his dog. An elderly woman spotted him through the window, and called the police. A crowd gathered in front of the man’s house, watching as he was carried off shouting, “She was asking for it! You should see the way she trots around the house with her tail in the air.”
My friend David Rakoff has been hired to portray Sigmund Freud in the uptown Barneys’ windows. His job is to sit in a chair, smoking a pipe and nodding his head in thought. The other windows are devoted to Beat poets and blondes of the 20th century. They’re cluttered and chaotic, these windows, and have nothing to do with Christmas. I went yesterday and listened to people as they observed Rakoff in his window. Japanese tourists tapped on the glass and took pictures with disposable cameras. Men in stocking caps cupped their hands to their mouths yelling, “How much do you charge for a 50-minute session?” A couple approached, and the woman said, “Oh, my God, it’s that guy. He’s the one who wrote that play we saw last year, about the woman living inside a shoe.”
The woman thought Rakoff was me. “He works with his sister,” she said. “You remember her, she’s the one with the face.”
It was awkward and exciting to hear someone talking about me.
“What a loser,” her friend said. “Playing Freud in a Barneys’ window. He must have really hit bottom.”
The woman thought about it a moment before saying, “Yeah, it is pretty sad.”
I wanted to say something, but, by the time I’d prepared my speech, they’d moved on to the next window.