Your dog is biting my yellow tie, mister. Did you see her by any chance? Just mister? Down there I’m mister Polly. While I wait until she runs around this lake again, do you by any chance have a cracker? I’m insatiable. That’s why I’m no good in the desert. At least as a companion. I mean, if I were out there with an unlimited supply of food and water, yeah, I could do it. But it’s not going to happen in the near future. That’s the technology of the sci-fi novels. Now there’s and idea: a novel idea it is. And it will be unconventional like all art with twisty buttons and swooping trails of color, trails of tears, stories of those losers of history with ruins now crumbling through time like the pyramids.
I met her on December 26th, 2002. I tripped on my words and felt sure my chin was wet with drool. At the time, I had no idea I’d be seeing her increasingly over the next few years and eventually share an apartment with her; she radiated a scintillating temporality and I wrung thoughts from my mind, determined to soak up her presence like a sponge.
All my life, I thought meeting Rachel Bridile would be like feeling pounding heat in the middle of winter and her gentle smile would be like a glass of lemonade. But in the night of December 26th, watching her stride toward me with flashing cameras behind her, pushing light out of darkness like searchlights, I felt as if I were in the midst of an emergency, like a tornado was gliding toward me and I was too afraid to move.
“What are you doing behind the ropes, Mr. Brice?” she giggled, staring at me. I felt the flashing heat of the cameras on my face. “How mistreated you are! Please allow me to be your escort and come join the party. Everyone is anxious to meet such a designer as yourself.” She extended her hand across the red ropes. My name is not Mr. Brice, it’s Thomas, and I am not a designer; I’m a code monkey. But I did not have time to realize that she knew—it’s so obvious now—that I wasn’t a designer and had no idea who I was. I took her hand and jumped the rope as gracefully as I could, my heart hammering in my chest, and did not allow myself to believe that this was an elaborate joke rather than a misunderstanding, that she was doing what I idolized her for: acting. We walked down the isle into a wide panorama of cameras and red carpet, framed with gold fixtures.
Tinklebutt didn’t want anything for Christmas. He avoided watching sitcom families barter their feelings and balance friendships in their checkbooks—all with that perfect, fucking smile on their faces. It disgusted him (and he would be quite frank with you about that). He would accompany a few friends to the mall as a courtesy, but never failed to deliver an unsolicited harangue at every opportunity. When his friends gawked at green and red ornaments stacked in cardboard like mangoes, Tinklebutt was quick to swivel one in his hand and point out the price tag. There was no giving at Christmas, he asserted. Christmas is the holiday of trading: money for presents, money for wrapping, money for parties, presents for presents, presents for love, and sometimes presents for abuse. As he passed a marble manger, priced $700, he wondered how much of America’s GDP came from trying to stay happy.
Relieved to be finished, Amelie tossed the sponge back into the bucket of soap water and rinsed the car. She stepped back and looked at the glinting Mercedes-Benz SLR 722 with a mixture of admiration and indifference.
Over her shoulder she could see Mr. Mannings come out the office. Apparently, Mr. Mannings and her boss, Moonie, were college roommates, but haven’t kept in much contact over the years. As he approached, Amelie could tell Mr. Mannings’ face looked sour. Suddenly, the door bells clattered again and Moonie stuck his head out the door.
“And don’t think you need to come back!” he yelled. His face was red.
Mr. Mannings waited until he got to his car to call back.
“Blow it out your ass, Moonie!”
He handed me a fifty dollar bill and winked at me. “I’ll be back,” he said sternly and drove off. I quickly pocketed the tip and went back into the office to ask what made Moonie slam the door so hard he cracked the glass.