It’s Wednesday night, I think, or Thursday. I’m driving, alone, but I finger my cell and contemplate calling somebody, maybe Mark, maybe Melanie, maybe not.
I pull into Dupont Circle and my headlights illuminate flashes of people, college kids, tourists pretending they aren’t, an FBI shirt and a bike with a bell, messenger bags, a mohawk, a kid, twelve or thirteen, by herself, until I see the dad behind, pushing her along, two black guys, three black guys. I change lanes, onto Connecticut, then change my mind at the last second and swerve back into the circle, the inevitable honk. Around and around and around we go, where we’ll stop, nobody knows, I roll up my windows and turn up the volume when Elliott Smith comes onto the car's speakers, all I can hear is his guitar and his voice, he tells me to stay up all night, I drive deeper into the district, farther and farther from the freeways, toward the heart of the city, I turn left and right and around until I run out of gas and have to stop to refuel.
I text Simon to meet me somewhere, anywhere.
“dad hosting thing at the portrait gallery tonight, meet at 12? i'm bringing amy”
No, Simon, you fuck, you can’t bring Amy, but I can’t say that, and it's his dad's party, and instead I text back:
Thirty minutes later, I’m in the basement of the museum, between my fourth drink and tipsy, hiding from the state senators and European gallery owners awkwardly mingling, evading the trust-fund government brats in navy blazers and white skirts; clad in black, I clash with them as I walk past.
Simon walks up, vest and slacks with shades, indoors, like a jackass, Amy burrowed in his chest, mumbling.
“She’s wasted,” he says, raising his voice to be heard over the shitty house music, and I throw back, "What else is new?"
He blinks, frowns, then brings her over to lean against the same railing I'm on.
“At least she’s still conscious.”
“That’s not something to celebrate,” I say, as he tries to balance her with little success.
“Fuck you.” He groans, then says, “You know she asked me to marry her again.”
“What the hell is wrong with you two?”
“What? I think we can do it this time.”
“Third time’s the charm.”
“I love her.”
“You love loving her.”
“You’re an ass.”
“She’d fuck any guy in this place twice and not give a shit about you.”
“She did it to me.”
“She didn’t love you.”
“And she loves you?”
He looks at her, takes her in, and says, “Yeah.”
I mimic his groan and tell him I’m getting another drink.
"Whiskey sour," I tell the bartender, her name is Julia, I think, or Julie, and she's blown me before, just the once, so I contemplate making the effort to flirt, maybe get a fuck out of this whole shit night. I down the rest of the drink and I'm about to order another, when I feel a claw on my shoulder.
“Paul," Amy says with a drawl.
“Amy. Where’s Simon?”
“I don’t know. Who cares?”
“He’s your fiancée, isn’t he?"
“Ugh, yes, he’s going to be my husband.”
“You’re so ugly, you know that?”
“Shut up. Go find Simon.”
I walk away and head toward the first floor of the museum, hoping she’ll be too drunk to find the stairs.
“Paul,” she calls out.
“Go find Simon."
I’m surprised when I’ve walked halfway there and she’s still right behind me, dragging herself along the wall. I speed up, toward a crowd of more Washington socialites and C-list politicos, to bury myself in them, but there’s some VIP event going on, the Marcel Duchamp fanatics who paid extra to sip their martinis among his work, I’m turned away before I can come up with a story so I am once again face to face with Amy who can barely keep her eyes on anything.
“Paul, you know, you were my favorite fuck.”
“Thanks. You were a shitty fuck.”
“I want you,” she pauses, keeps looking around, squints as if she's forgotten where she is, and then finishes, “inside me.”
“Shut up,” I say, but this time, it's less forceful. “Shut up,” but it's even quieter. She does it again, abracadabra, and we’re in the bathroom stall, and after a few lines, pretty cheap coke but whatever, her jeans are at her feet and so are mine and we fuck, her exclamations yielding angry pounds from the stalls next to us. Finally, she comes, screaming, I hear the guy to the left say, ”Can’t a guy take a shit in peace?”, and I clean myself up then pull her clothes back onto her and we leave, she tugs at my shirt all the way back to the stairs until I turn around and yell:
“What the hell do you want?”
“Paul, you know,” she pauses and thinks, “husband and wife aren’t supposed to keep secrets.”
“What are you talking about?”
She motions me closer, to whisper in my ear, and I indulge her once more.
“I’m going to tell him about Stanton.”
I pull away and say firmly, “No."
“I will! I’m going to tell the world what you and Brian did! I’m going to tell them how you--”
I slap her across the face.
It takes her a moment to recover, and when she does, I can see it, that burning rage that always comes at the peak, the hostility that kicks underneath the surface until she mixes the right cocktail to let it free.
“You deserve to die,” she says, speaking lucidly for the first time tonight, and she pushes past me to go downstairs but she stumbles on her dress and her left foot catches her right and she is falling down the stairs, clang, bang, thud, the onomatopoeias floating above her in big white action bubbles, and I look past the people who turn to see what's happened, head for the door, and leave, out, into the night, somewhere else, anywhere else.
Simon is the Young Self, he is the version of Paul untainted by the knowledge of Stanton's death, he is still innocent (in this part of the story). Amy is Inspiration, she is the fickle bitch of imagination, the source of creativity that rips apart as much as it builds up.