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I thought of him not just on my walk to work and back but everywhere, in my own apartment, on my back porch, in my bathroom. I'd picture him, big and burly and black-haired, laughing loud, his feet up on her coffee table. And, let's see, I'll bet he's, right this very second, playing jazz CDs for her and making her dinners, amazing dinners like the crispy duck he made when we were first dating, with lemon potatoes and Veuve Clicquot. But probably he didn't need to cook for her to love him. Could be whatever was holding the two of them together was strong, something real important, something that makes me want to vomit. Damn hard to cook for a living when you want to throw up all the time.
I was still knee-deep in my stupor when I started to notice the developing war between our place and Pamela's. First one or two of my staff would show up at Pamela's drunk at closing time and be obnoxious in the dining room, until I found out about it and asked them to stop. I couldn't figure out whether I was flattered or annoyed, but it didn't look good.
Then Rick caught wind of it and got to the meat guys, and they started to be really nasty when they dropped off our orders. The van from Van Brunck & Sons Purveyors pulled up out back one day. Pete and Vinnie, these two big Italians who'd always been nice before, were snippy with me as I checked the order in. They haggled over every piece of meat in the box until it got down to a leg of lamb they said we hadn't ordered. Dinorah came out from behind the dishwasher to help me check in the order and he wouldn't hand her the lamb. He held it in his arms up over her head, the order slip caught between the meat and his sleeve where Dinorah couldn't get it, and she started screeching and grabbing at him. Vinnie stunk of smoke and started to laugh, threw the lamb to Pete, who caught it, and they played monkey-in-the-middle with it, sneering and being crude.
Then Sherry, our resident histrionic bleach-blond hostess, took to calling Rick's purveyors late at night and changing his orders. She'd cancel his lamb order and get him 100 pounds of Canadian bacon instead. She'd call his cleaning company and tell them to take the night off. She'd slept with Paul and worked for Pamela's and had all the phone and account numbers. She called up the linen supplier saying she worked for Pamela's and was such a bitch on the phone that they didn't get their linen for three days.
"We hate Rick!" read a note Pat left on my desk one morning. "We thought this would be fun."
Then Rick sent his dishwasher to be sick just outside our front door onto the herb garden. For three days running, a little round guy in whites named Juan destroyed the rosemary with a little vomit-like concoction. I stood there for close to a half-hour hosing off the rosemary, thinking I'd thought Marta had at least liked me on some level; maybe she felt bad about everything. And anyway, she's going to go out, for coffee or something, and Rick will have his big realization. He'll suddenly know what he's done and call me. How long exactly is it going to take for him to realize this?
I'd liked Marta. She was lovely, a natural blond. Next to her I felt like a 4-foot joke-cracking dwarf. She would pat me on my brown head and slip out to serve the house wine like a model. She smoked out back with Dominique and me. Then apparently she fell in love with Rick and that was it.
When you're just starting up with someone, everything moves so fast. Deep feelings develop in split seconds. You sit there with a Mona Lisa smile while your life swirls over your head like plastic bags on the sidewalk. Rick passed me a glass of wine at a party and by the time I'd finished it, I'd rearranged my life to fit him in. Which was fine, and had been fine the whole time until he left.
But when things end they go so slowly. The calls start to be interspersed with these endless empty waiting days. You think, maybe he's just busy? Really, really busy. Maybe he got home so late it would have been rude to call, then the next day was just a total mess, with not a second to spare. Sure enough, when you finally do get the guy on the phone, he's perfectly happy to tell you exactly how busy he's been, except you don't believe him.
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