I watched from the window table as the long black Mercedes limo came to a smooth stop curbside in front of Jake’s, a tony restaurant in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC. The chauffeur came around to open the door for the elegant well dressed woman who, with the chauffeur’s assistance, slowly, and with some difficulty, got out. Her hair was the color of a raven, and cut in a Louise Brooks style. She took his arm and they slowly walked towards the restaurant’s entrance. She was wearing what was no doubt a Chanel suit, grey, a single strand of pearls, matching pearl earrings, on her feet classic British tan heels, and in her hand she carried a matching British tan leather clutch. She looked a bit hunched over and her movements betrayed no small amount of pain as they approached the restaurant’s entrance. Upon reaching the door she spoke a few words to the chauffeur who then turned to go back to the limo.
I rose from my chair and stood waiting as she paused at the Maitre d station, uttered what was undoubtedly my name to the tuxedo clad gentleman who, with a gracious sweep of his arm, proceeded to escort her to our table. She was jarringly beautiful, and despite the fact that she was clearly a young thirty-something she moved slowly. Besides her inability to straighten up completely I could see she was also obviously favoring her left side as well as her tastefully shod right foot – and the leg that went along with it.
They reached our table and the Maitre d pulled the chair out for her to be seated and, as she started downward, again, with some difficulty, he deftly moved it in closer. He proceeded to hand her a menu, and imperiously gestured towards a waiter who came over and poured her a glass of the Pellegrino water I had ordered.
“Ms. Doe, (I’d promised not use her real surname here) before we start I want to say that I’m so very glad you could meet me here today, I appreciate it.”
“Pas de quoi.”
The voice and the phrase matched the look.
“Please excuse my moving a bit slowly. My back is killing me. I hope you’re hungry – I could eat a cow. Grass fed.”
She smiled. It was one hundred watts..
“I could have a little something…but I basically, as I said on the phone, wanted to know more about you and Mr. Romney. How you met…things like that.”
“Things like that?”
Her voice had that flinty quality I like – even more so than over the phone. She looked at me – the smile still there but dimmed to a twenty-five watt secret. As if she’d just told herself a private joke. Mona Lisa.
“And other things of course…Forgive me, I have to ask; did you fall or something? You seem to be having a great deal of difficulty, even some pain.”
She took out a small silver pill case and proceeded to take one with a sip of water.
“Vicodin, I’m a wreck all over. My back, my leg…I twisted my right ankle and my left hip is out – what a combo eh?”
The hundred watt smile. She took another sip of water.
I couldn’t resist: “When we’re young we’re always looking for a new hip joint, later we’re looking for a new hip joint.”
Don’t judge me here – please. But her laugh made me immediately horny.
“How I met Mitt? …I met Mitt when I was working my way through grad school at a gentlemen’s club on the other side of the tracks so to speak…I was struggling, he seemed nice…
Her voice tailed off…I waited.
“I’m not ashamed to say I could work the pole better than any girl there. You should’ve seen me then, I was in the best shape of any girl there, and some of them were quite athletic. But I could work them all off the stage – easy.
She picked up the menu, and took a pair of exquisite horn rims out of her clutch. If it was at all possible she was even more attractive with them on.
“Shall we order?”
Then, without taking her eyes off the menu:
“See anything you like?”
I had an immediate mental picture of how many times she’d asked that question, and to how many drooling idiots…but I was no ordinary drooling idiot…and keeping my eyes on my own menu:
With my eyes still on my menu I could see her look up at me, saw the trace of the Mona Lisa smile, then:
“Hmmm…Well – I said I could eat a cow so…I want…a huge bone-in rib-eye steak, medium rare, and…the pommes anna…and… a Caesar to start. You?”
“I think I’ll have the grilled turbot and a salad.”
“Watching your girlish figure?”
Now it was my turn to smile.
“You have a nice smile Nicholas.”
“Thank you. Wine?”
I kept smiling.
“Red…maybe a nice Bordeaux. Perhaps they have a Haut-Batailly?”
She made move in her chair and winced.
I scanned the wine list and gestured for the waiter who came over immediately, took our order, gave us the “very good,” bowed, thanked us, and went.
“Um…Look, I don’t mean to pry, but I can see that you’re in some physical difficulty. Can I… ask what happened?”
She looked at me for a good ten seconds – turning her response over in her mind.
“Sure. I actually don’t care anymore. Mitt Romney happened.”
She took out her silver pill case again, removed another one, and took it.
“I’m not sure I understand Ms. Doe.”
“Please – call me Kathleen.”
The name fit too. She again shifted in her chair. Then, seemingly apropos of nothing:
“You know, the media has no idea what they’re talking about when they say that Mitt keeps changing positions.”
“We’ll that is the rap against him politically.” I smiled…“But…I’m really not here to talk politics with you.”
I kept smiling.
A server wheeled a cart tableside and began elaborately preparing our salads.
“Who’s talking politics?”
She looked at me, green eyes unblinking. No smile…maybe even a hint of sadness. I felt the smile leave my face. Just then the first waiter came, showed me the wine I, rather she, had chosen, and proceeded to opened it. He poured a bit for me to taste. Without doing so I passed my glass to her. As if she was expecting me to do this she swirled it, looked at its legs, stuck her nose into the glass to sniff its bouquet, tasted it, nodded to the waiter, and passed my glass back to me. She kept her eyes on me as the waiter then decanted it and poured each of us a perfect inch and a half. The salads were served. She was still looking at me…then, raising her balloon:
“A votre santé”
The smile was back.
“He likes it when I speak French – he sent me to school for it.”
We lightly touched glasses…the sound of fine crystal. It was quite a nice drop.
“Good choice, this…“Bon appétit.”
“Thank you, Mitt insisted I learn about wine. Of course nothing under a hundred dollars.
“Mais oui, bien sûr.”
“This looks delicious, bon appétit.”
We began eating.
“You said; who’s talking politics.”
“Uh huh. Ummm, this is a very good Caesar salad. I love anchovies.”
And she loves anchovies. I wanted to tell her I loved her but instead:
“When you say the media doesn’t know what they’re talking about when they say Mitt keeps changing positions – isn’t that about politics?”
“No. And they don’t know – and he sure does – like to.”
I know I must have had a very puzzled look on my face.
She put down her silverware, brought her napkin up to her lips, dabbed at it daintily, placed it back on her lap, smoothed it out, all of it carefully, deliberately, and leveled her gaze at me again. She was a knock out…an eleven.
“Look…we’re grown up boys and girls here. You asked me before why I was in this ridiculous pain. Why I’m limping, and my back and hip are killing me, why I can’t straighten up and I am completely out of whack and living on painkillers – which reminds me…”
She took another pill out of her pillbox and washed it down with some $185 Bordeaux.
“Like everybody says, politically, this boyfriend of mine keeps changing positions, and like I say, he changes positions every fifteen seconds…and not just politically.”
She took a deep breath – and winced with pain – even with the three vicodin. She took a sip of wine and said:
“Off the record?”
Any pretense I had up to then of being a hard nosed journalist went out the window.
“Off the record.”
The green eyes narrowed…gauging just how much trust I was worth…then:
“ Alright…An afternoon with Mitt goes like this; Kathleen, bend over this way, no, to the lef- no –I mean to the right – fifteen seconds later; No, no Kathleen – maybe the left is better, but put your arm there, no, I mean get your leg over your head – no, the other leg with your arm over your, yes – like that – fifteen seconds later; no, I like where it was before, could you maybe turn over and – no, no, turn back and maybe put both arms under there – again, fifteen seconds later; no, I know what, Kathy – I do not like it when anyone calls me that – can you take your glasses off? No, leave them on! I love them on – off – no, no, definitely on. Or off. Maybe the other frames. Or maybe change into the black bustier, I change, but fifteen seconds after that; except I really liked that white one so – no – yes – go on, change back, and hurry. Please. No, wait – don’t, don’t, come back. Come back and get on your knees facing there – and fifteen seconds later; no, you know what? Maybe that position you were in last Thursday – no, you squat and I’ll- no, even better, you turn all the way that way – or maybe the other way is better with your legs all the way behind your… and over and over and over…I have pulled every muscle in my body…I can’t tie my sneakers! I can’t go to the gym…Gym? What am I talking about gym? I can’t walk! I can’t zip my dresses up in the back! I’m a cripple! He’s turned me into Quasimodo. I started dressing for this lunch at 8 AM. For Chrissakes!”
Silence…as she looked at me and then:
She began to laugh. And I started laughing along with her…and we laughed until we were both almost in tears and gasping for breath.
She insisted on paying for lunch.
She took my arm as we walked from the table, out of the restaurant, and to her idling limousine. I steadied her as she got into the back seat. When she was quite comfortable she took a bright red enameled fountain pen and a small card out of her clutch, wrote something on it, and handed it to me.
Her smile was warm, open, guiless.
I watched as her limousine moved out into traffic and disappeared around the corner wondering, despite the “a bientôt,” if I’d ever see her again. Finally, I looked at the card and began laughing again.
On it she had written; “He’ll cripple us all.”
© tony powers and Barking in the Dark, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to tony powers and Barking in the Dark with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.