Thursday, February 25, 2010

Repeat Thursday: Sugar Frosted Flake

I'm moving to a new apartment, so it's total bedlam here. In the meantime, here's a classic from the vaults.


I met Trevor bar-hopping one night. He was a few years older than me -- heck, a few hundred years older -- so I tried to lose him, but he was incredibly persistent.

"Come home with me," he said.

"I couldn't," I replied.

"It's just a small penthouse. Ten thousand square feet in Chelsea, overlooking the Hudson."

"I'll get my coat."

Almost instantly we became an item. My usual boring life vanished as I got swept up in a whirlwind of fast cars, expensive restaurants, and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. My mom always said it was just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one, but I thought it was easier to fall for a wealthy guy. He was cultured. He was refined. He didn't wear underwear twice. How could anybody resist?

A determined, confident lawyer, Trevor leapt into commitment headfirst. Waking up the morning after our first date I found myself alone in a bedroom the size of a football field, walls of glass on three sides. "Had to go to work," a note on the Noguchi table read. "Make yourself at home. See you tonight. P. S. The alarm is on so you can't leave."

Naturally, I was horribly annoyed. I felt like a goldfish in a bowl, a bird in a cage, a Fabergé egg, though I'd only pleased a couple members of the Russian royal family. But as I wandered the endless hallways dotted with tasteful Italian statues, passing room after room stuffed with armoires, wet bars, and Renoirs, I felt my anger fade. By the time I counted bathroom number eight I never wanted to see real life again.

The kitchen was vast and industrial, with more chrome than a Cadillac dealership, and the fridge was stocked like Balducci's. I smeared some brie with caviar and headed to the rec room, where a flat-screen TV covered the one non-glass wall. I'd never let myself be "kept," I decided as I watched a King Kong-sized Julia Child chop garlic larger than my head. But I could be cute and appreciative until chickens colonized Mars.

That first date lasted eight days, with just a quick pause for breath before the second: Trevor whisked me away to his home in the Hamptons. When he hosted a pool party, though, so I could meet his friends, it spiraled straight down the toilet. There were 50 of us: Trevor, me, and 48 other folks who, one by one, either congratulated me on my "catch" or suggested innovative ways to suck the poor sap dry.

"You know what you should do," one attractive man suggested, "is have an early birthday. That way you'll get a present whether or not he lasts until the real thing."

"Make up a sick aunt in Brooklyn," a thin young guy in Speedos advised, "so you can get out occasionally and sleep with someone attractive."

"Two words," a Leona Helmsley-type whispered. "Hot chocolate. It masks the taste of everything from Rohypnol to Beano."

I figured another intergenerational couple would understand, but once December wandered out of earshot May cut to the chase: "Getting him into bed was the easy part," he disclosed. "Now you've got to get into the will."

Eventually Trevor's sister sidled over and took my arm. "I can't believe the hateful things people are saying," she said. I felt like kissing her, but then she glanced over at Trevor, who was flipping burgers in his tiny swim trunks, and guffawed. "I mean, look at that eyesore. You'll earn every penny you get!"

I broke free of her grip and stormed into the house, Trevor toddling close behind. "I'm sick of these people," I said, tears welling in my eyes. "Every one of them thinks I'm after your money. It's like I have to be a gold digger just because I wear ugly clothes, cut my own hair, and buy my cologne from Rite Aid."

That last one froze Trevor in his tracks, so I continued to the bedroom alone. I changed into street clothes, threw my stuff in my suitcase, then cleared my toiletries out of the bathroom. I stumbled outside and got in the limo, but before I could tell the driver where to go Trevor had jumped in beside me, fully clothed.

"I hoped we could ignore the differences between us," I said, "but your friends don't seem willing to try. Why are they so suspicious? Why can't they see us as a couple, as two men in love, instead of old and rich paired with young and for sale?"

"Roman," he said, taking my hand in his, "it's nothing personal. Everybody makes assumptions, rich and poor alike. It's just the way people are."

"That's where you're wrong," I said. "It's the greedy who think we're all after money. It's the conniving who suspect us of plots. It's the backstabbers who think everyone's after them. I'll go hang out with poor, stupid, lazy people if that'll stop me from being insulted."

I don't know why this made me think of McDonald's, but it did. My stomach started growling, so I told the driver to head there, and we rode in silence until the golden arches appeared. "If you set one foot in there," Trevor warned, "it's over between us."

"I know," I said, nodding gravely, "but that's how it's got to be. This is my world. Here, I know I won't be judged."

Trevor followed me inside, resigned to my decision. "At least let me pay for you," he said, "as my farewell gift." I gave him a hug, for the last time inhaling the woodsy cologne that cost more than my education. When I let go, he stepped up to a register and bravely faced the geeky clerk. "I don't want anything, but I'd like to pay for him." The clerk looked to me for my order, punched it in, and read the total aloud, his pubescent voice cracking.

Trevor and I exchanged one final glance. I'd miss him, as strong feelings intermingled with my love of his wealth. But I knew what I was doing was right. Maybe these people weren't rich or fun or creative or smart, and maybe they had to move their fingers in the air to read the menu, but they wouldn't damn someone based on appearance. We were below pride, with our farts and flab and turquoise fannypacks. This Dorothy was back in his Kansas.

As Trevor fished the bills from his wallet the clerk looked at the two of us -- him in his tailored finery, me in my humble attire. His mouth twisted into a scabby pink smile and he scratched the top off a zit. "I love it when folks buy food for the homeless!" he said.

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