The pretty Chinese girl in Ferragamo shoes is here to sell me
large-format color prints with velcro backing. I need these things
for a business event, which will not be described for the purpose
of this story. But here's the scene: we are in my office. Nice chairs,
nice desk, nice view of glass towers and a stone cathedral. For
a while, we do some techno talk: the possibility of dot gain, the
nature of moires. But because I know this girl a little, because we
have established what we will give and what we'll take in the
course of making sales, when I see that her mind is wandering
and her hand, maybe, is shaking, I can say, What's wrong,
Miranda? and she tells me. Oh boy, is she ready to talk.
But not here. So ten minutes later, at two-thirty on a cold spring
afternoon, we are sitting in a bar on Second Avenue. Little blue
lamps on the tables, orange lamps on the polished bar. We think
about wine, but then, the hell with it, we order lemon Stoli. The hell
with the rest of the afternoon. And so here's the story: her
ex-boyfriend has palmed a key and trashed her apartment.
Wrecked the stereo, punched the iMac, looted all the coordinates
from Ikea, and peed in her dresser drawers. Her cat is hiding in
the splinters and will not come when called. What's wrong with her,
she asks, that she thought the boyfriend could be a husband? Or
rather, she says, I guess I should be asking, what's wrong with men?
Ah well. Broaching that subject calls for at least three more drinks
Since we both have brothers that we hold in high esteem, we agree
that we cannot condemn the gender as a whole. Then she mentions
Jersey boys, those beauties in bandannas ruined by fate and rock
and roll. And Spanish boys, too hot, too sensitive. Even in winter,
the fruits of the Caribbean are the meal that they will feed to your
desire. But Miranda is still dreaming. And me? I decide to let my
guard down, to confess my real problem (I mean, beyond my
limited budget for the event): that lately, I have grown nostalgic for
an old identity, for someone who unexpectedly kissed me in a
hallway twenty years ago. For Eastham and Provincetown. For
cold sheets and a Portuguese tide. Oh, I always knew that,
Miranda says. What did you think you were trying to hide?
So what happens next? I get a discount on my color prints.
Miranda goes home to clean her house and find her cat.
And the next day and the next day, we return to work,
for such is the nature of women in business, of the years
spent in the office, watching sun and shadow pass along
the ledges of the stone cathedral: to trade clues in conversation
even as we conduct a fair transaction. Even as the headache
builds, the lover leaves: to sell each other hope.
--- From Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds
©2005 Sarabande Books