Second Fiddle

They gave us a cellophane-wrapped sandwich, our choice of a mealy apple or green banana, and mercifully a cold canned Coke. Some of us were standing out on this little balcony during the break and she was there, the woman with whom I’d had a brief public exchange, not that I had any actual interest in whatever issue it was, having been suckered into it. The point was, she had disagreed with me in some meaningless conference moment, and something about that made her, unlike the others, real.

I walked over and leaned against the parapet beside her.

“What’d you get?” I asked her.

She lifted a corner of her kaiser roll. “Hard to say,” she replied.

I peeked at mine. “Doesn’t seem to be moving,” I observed.

Fast forward.

We went off to find a drink after the last panel. She seemed as relieved as I was not to be bored anymore. I got a beer, she a Long Island, and as we sat down I laughed. “Why’d you pick on me?” I asked her.

“You just happened to be there.”

“Can you reproduce now what I said and what you said?”

“I can’t even reproduce why I came here.”

“Go ahead and tell me about Raul before we go any further.”

“As chance would have it, Raul just vacated the premises. No more Raul.”

“Oh. Familiar.”

“What? You got a Raul of your own?”

“Well, a Raulette.”

“I’m sorry. Is this recent?”

“About a week ago.”

“Well. Imagine that. And I was wondering if we were going to have anything in common.”

“I would have preferred something else.”

“Something besides they need room to grow?”

“Did he say that?”

“Of course he said that. He didn’t elaborate on what would be growing.”

“Some shameless tart, no doubt.”

“I would never be that lucky. Smart, beautiful, gives to the poor. Has a daddy who makes all things possible.”

“Have you met her?”

“Yes, before I knew I was meeting her. A couple of months ago.”

“So she’s been around.”


“Sorry. It’s just that I can relate.”

“Not some random dick?”

“Hardly. A perfect Ken. Gives to the poor—and a black Porsche and a cleft in his chin.”

She gauged me in silence. Then: “So you’ve met him.”

“Like you. Briefly. Before I knew I was.”

“I don’t suppose you caught his name.”

“Yes, but only because it didn’t fit him. Harold.”

“Harold what?”

“I don’t remember.”

She laughed. “Ralston.”

“Could be.”

“I’m just curious. Did your ex go on a trip to the Galapagos?”

I stared at her. “As a matter of fact—”

“Oh my God.”

“Wait a minute. How did you—”

“It just wasn’t your thing?” she said.

“I sort of wasn’t invited.”

“Imagine that. I really don’t want you to tell me her name, but you’d better.”


She laughed and leaned back in her chair, looking at me. “It’s all molecules,” she said, and offered her glass.

She had become familiar, just like that. I laughed too and we shared a toast. “Hungry?” I said.

“Sure. Why not.”

A waitress was passing. “Can we have a menu, please?” I asked her.

She took one from the cluttered and just-vacated table next to us and handed it to me.

“Thanks,” I said.

April 2, 2019

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