Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Narcissist (Slightly Extended but Revised)

Hmm.
I was thinking . . .
About?
Careful.
One minute.
There.
The lawyer poising, a finger on his mouth. His left eye swells puffed with three creases in his desertweathered skin, eyes glassy with red spiderweb lines. He makes himself looks like he's thinking, thinking only about creating this tableau of himself deep in thought. Taut skin over bones, dry and tan. A finger bulbous at a knuckle on his large though thin hand.
Hmm, he says again. Could I? . . .
Careful.
He turns his head in the other direction, facing a window in the underground. Against the black tunnel wall the glass mirrors him. That's good, he thinks, finally able to get past this show of consideration.
I have time to listen, if what you have to say is not about me, he says.
It's not about you, says the writer.
Well. What is it then?
Nothing.
I want to hear it.
As long as it's not about you.
She goes too far. He loathes her sarcasm.
Fuck me, he shouts. Fuck me.
Shadows from a passing train flicker across his face. A passenger rolls his eyes.
I've got to get to work.
I'm distracted.
If only . . .
Hmm.
The train doesn't go any faster.
Work, work, work, he says, maneuvering himself off the underground, walking briskly up the urinesmelling staircase and into a yellow day. He stands under a tree and lights a long, thin brownpaper cigarette. Tents housing the homeless form a grid on the grass in front of the government building. The lawyer looks toward them, but his vacant eyes show no sign of recognition. His gaze is one of someone staring into an abyss. He finishes his cigarette, throws the butt in a trashcan, and glances around himself as though deciding which way to go, though his destination at this stop is, as always, the courthouse. As he mounts the steps, he stops and turns, having heard a female voice call his name. A middle-aged woman dressed in black steps out of a cab.
What are you doing here?
What are you doing here?
[Laughter.]
I'm trying a case. You?
Oh, no. I'm just watching.
She appraises him.
First time in front of the 9th Circuit?
No, no. This is probably my 10th.
Are you a lawyer, she asks the writer.
No.
She's my girlfriend.
I came to watch too.
My boyfriend is in bed at the hotel in the East Bay.
[Laughter.]
She motions to his hand, which holds a pack of Nat Sherman's.
Got to watch him with those cigarettes.
She smokes more than I do. Me? . . . I only smoke a few a day. This was my first one.
She looks surprised.
Good luck.
Thanks. Good to see you.

Copyright, 2008, Jennifer Chesler, All Rights Reserved