Bruce Calls From Mulholland
Bruce calls, stoned and sunburned, from Los Angeles and tells me that he’s sorry. He tells me he’s sorry for not being here, at campus with me. He tells me that I was right, that he should have flown to the workshop this summer, and he tells me that he’s sorry he’s not in New Hampshire and that he’s sorry he hasn’t called me in a week and I ask him what he’s doing in Los Angeles and don’t mention that it has been two months.
Bruce tells me that things went bad ever since Robert left the apartment they were sharing on Fifty-sixth and Park and went on a white-water-rafting trip with his stepfather down the Colorado River, leaving his girlfriend, Lauren, who also lives in the apartment on Fifty-sixth and Park, and Bruce alone, together, for four weeks. I have never met Lauren but I know what kind of girl Robert is attracted to and I can picture what she must look like clearly in my mind and then I’m thinking of the girls who are attracted to Robert, beautiful and pretending to ignore the fact that Robert, at twenty-two, is worth about three hundred million dollars, and I picture this girl, Lauren, lying on Robert’s futon, head throw back, Bruce moving slowly on top of her, his eyes shut tightly.
Bruce tells me that the affair started a week after Robert left. Bruce and Lauren had gone to Café Central and after they sent back the food and decided just to have drinks, they agreed it would be sex only. It would happen only because Robert had gone out West. They told each other that there really was no mutual attraction beyond the physical and then they went back to Robert’s apartment and went to bed. This went on, Bruce tells me, for one week, until Lauren started dating a twenty-three-year-old real estate tycoon who is worth about two billion dollars.
Bruce tells me that he was not upset by that. But he was “slightly bothered” the weekend Lauren’s brother, Marshall, who just graduated from RISD, came down and stayed at Robert’s apartment on Fifty-sixth and Park. Bruce tells me that the affair between him and Marshall lasted longer simply because Marshall stayed longer. Marshall stayed a week and a half. And then Marshall went back to his ex-boyfriend’s loft in SoHo when his ex-boyfriend, a young art dealer who is worth about two to three million, said he wanted Marshall to paint three functionless columns in the loft they used to share on Grand Street. Marshall is worth about four thousand dollars and some change.
This was during the period that Lauren moved all of her furniture (and some of Robert’s) to the twenty-three-year-old real estate tycoon’s place at the Trump Tower. It was also during this period that Robert’s two expensive Egyptian lizards apparently ate some poisioned cockroaches and were found dead, one under the couch in the living room, its tail missing, the other sprawled across Robert’s Betamax—the big one cost five thousand dollars, the smaller one was a gift. But since Robert is somewhere in the Grand Canyon there is no way to get in touch with him. Bruce tells me that this is why he left the apartment on Fifty-sixth and Park and went to Reynolds’ house, in Los Angeles, on top of Mulholland, while Reynolds, who is worth, according to Bruce, a couple of falafels at PitaHut and no beverage, is in Las Cruces.
Lighting a joint, Bruce asks me what I have been doing, what has been happening here, that he’s sorry again. I tell him about readings, receptions, that Sam slept with an editor from the Paris Review who came up from New York on Publishers’ Weekend, that Madison shaved her head and Cloris thought she was having chemotherapy and sent all her stories to editors she knew at Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper’s, and that it just made everyone very blah. Bruce tells me to tell Craig that he wants his guitar case back. He asks if I’m going to East Hampton to see my parents. I tell him that since the workshop is just about over and it’s almost September, I don’t see the point.
Last summer Bruce stayed with me at Camden and we took the workshop together and it was the summer Bruce and I would swim in Lake Parrin at night and the summer he wrote the lyrics to the theme song from “Petticoat junction” all over my door because I would laugh whenever he sang the song not because the song was funny-it was just the way he sang it: face stern yet utterly blank. That was the summer we went to Saratoga and saw the Cars and, later that August, Bryan Metro. The summer was drunk and night and warm and the lake. An image I never saw: my cold hands running over his smooth, wet back.
Bruce tells me to touch myself, right now, in the phone booth. The house I’m in is silent. I wave away a mosquito. “I can’t touch myself,” I say. I slowly sink to the floor still holding the phone.
“Being rich is cool,” Bruce says.