Jeremy Thrane
them.
    “Anyway,” she said, “I don’t blame you. It sucks that Ted is so unavailable, but you know. If he didn’t live this way, he’d be stuck playing the heroine’s loyal best friend or quirky hairdresser until he got old enough to play her weird bachelor uncle. I mean, think about it. What would you do if you were him?”
    Felicia was one of Ted’s oldest friends, and by now, one of mine. She had been his quote-unquote girlfriend at Yale. The day they met, he’d asked her to see a movie with him. A week or two later, at the point at which their nascent affair had to be either consummated or nipped in the bud, she had confessed to him, just as he was beginning to panic, that she loathed sex. They worked out a mutually satisfying arrangement: After a date together, he took her home to sleep by herself, and then he cruised New Haven gay bars and picked up townies.
    “If I were him,” I said, “I wouldn’t have married Giselle.”
    “I wouldn’t take their marriage so personally if I were you.”
    “Then how should I take it?”
    She leaned her chin on one hand, her pointy elbow resting on the thick white tablecloth. Both cheekbone and hand were grotesquely, glamorously bony. The first two fingers on the hand that supported her chin held a long white mentholated cigarette whose smoke floated across her face like a film of nostalgia, as if this had all happened long ago. Her silk dress was the same bloodred shade as the booth. Her pale gold hair was piled on her head and stuck through with two chopsticks like a bowl of rice. She had rimmed her far-apart green eyes with black kohl and applied several layers of bloodred lipstick to her full, childlike mouth. Her face was serene and faintly, intelligently malicious, like a calm sea with a dark form skulking just beneath the surface.
    “Ted’s just like me,” she said. “Selfish, and pragmatic. Sold to the highest bidder. You can’t expect any more of him than that.”
    “That’s not true of either one of you,” I said hotly.
    “Please,” she laughed. “I can’t believe you’re still romantic about him after all these years. Maybe that’s what’s kept you together. You choose to see him as someone better than he is, and it flatters him because he respects you.”
    “Maybe I’ve seen parts of him that you haven’t,” I said stubbornly. “And maybe we truly love each other.”
    “It’s possible,” she said. “I wouldn’t know. He’s never shown me anything but his worst and truest self, the way I show him mine. He doesn’t bother trying to impress me.”
    “What’s that supposed to mean?”
    “I’m starving,” she said suddenly. This was a lie; she just wanted to change the subject before it turned into an argument. She was never hungry. She lived on menthols, vodka martinis, heroin, and weekly herbal injections from an old charlatan six flights up in a Chinatown tenement, Dr. Wong. He’d taken one feel of her pulse at her initial consultation and said, “Foggy brain. Very foggy brain.” This was preposterous; Felicia had honed herself to a flesh-and-bone razor’s edge of lucidity. The old quack was rooking her. But her romantic idea of herself was that she was poisonous and doomed, so she happily paid him to tell her this.
    Apparently she was entertaining parallel thoughts about my own delusions, because she added then, “You shouldn’t be threatened by Giselle, Jeremy. You have completely separate roles in Ted’s life.”
    “Well, things haven’t been so great between Ted and me lately,” I said emphatically. I looked around for the spaghetti I’d ordered and beheld with an appetite-suppressing convulsion the rounded back of Phil Martensen two tables away, sitting across from Gary O’Nan. Phil was a photographer, Gary a gossip columnist. They both worked for
Downtown
, the weekly tabloid-style magazine whose offices, now that I thought about it, were right around the corner. Felicia and I had been talking rather loudly

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