Lucinda Rosenfeld

       “I’m sorry–you’re going to have to give me space,” bitches the maitre d’. For a split second I think I’m hearing myself lecturing boyfriend G. Then I remember where I am. I’m at a restaurant called Balthazar in downtown Manhattan. It’s a sumptuous art nouveau imitation of a famous Parisian brasserie. Silver egg trees line a polished zinc bar. The walls are painted a warm yellow-white. The mirrors are aged, and therefore kind. Balthazar has already been declared the restaurant of the moment. This means that by tomorrow it will be the restaurant of yesterday. It was my editor, S., who suggested I stop by. (At this late hour, I’m still looking for column material.) But the place is unbearably crowded. Wherever I stand, I’m in someone’s way. Also in the way is the enormous glass vase of tulips which appeared at my office at six this evening–a conciliatory offering by G.
       I earn money on the side doing administrative work for an Italian arts colony. I work out of a law firm, but I rarely talk to the lawyers, who walk right by me without acknowledging my presence. My friends are the secretaries. My closest secretary friend, L., was recently diagnosed with a stress disorder. She had been misdiagnosed the month before with Lyme disease. She resigned last Friday. She’s already lined up a new job closer to her home, which is on Long Island. I’ll be sorry to see L. go. I’ve grown accustomed to telling her my guy troubles. And I like her stories about high school in the late ‘70s. She was one of the so-called “burnouts.” She used to get high in the forest behind the A&P.
       Repositioning myself between the seafood bar and the drinks bar, I strain to overhear the conversation of a pair of 23-ish girls chain-smoking Marlboro Lights. I catch this much over the din. Says the brunette: “I think there are inherent characteristics about him that won’t change.” Says the blonde: “Don’t think you can teach him something. But don’t think you haven’t taught him something already!” Squeals the brunette: “Tom and I are done!” Sighs the blonde: “I only wish I’d said that in my letter to Jack.”
       G. shows up early. We’ve made a date to dine together, but decide not to do it here. We take a cab down to a favorite place of his in Tribeca. For whatever reason, the flowers have ended up in his lap. He asks me if I like them. I tell him they’re beautiful. It’s an inadequate response. I know this. I don’t know how else to characterize tulips.
       My pasta isn’t greasy, like last night. And G. and I are getting along again. But I’m anxious to get home. I’m tired. And it bothers me that my apartment is such a mess. Dirty clothes litter every horizontal surface in my apartment. The garbage needs bagging. By tomorrow, I will have run out of clean glasses. And I must buy a better shade for the bathroom window: The one I have is made of bamboo and isn’t long enough and I am quite sure that all of my neighbors see me naked on a regular basis.
       The couple downstairs who have probably seen me naked consist of a guy and his girlfriend, who lives in L.A. and comes to visit every few months. I know it the second she’s back. I can hear her having sex. I know it when she’s left, too, because that’s when he starts playing the Police again. He plays this one song, “Message in a Bottle,” over and over again.