After the office I worked out at Xclusive and once home made obscene phone calls to young Dalton girls, the numbers I chose coming from the register I stole a copy of from the administration office when I broke in last Thursday night. "I'm a corporate raider," I whispered lasciviously into the cordless phone. "I orchestrate hostile takeovers. What do you think of that?" and I would pause before making sucking noises, freakish piglike grunts, and then ask, "Huh, bitch?" Most of the time I could tell they were frightened and this pleased me greatly, enabled me to maintain a strong, pulsing erection for the duration of the phone calls, until one of the girls, Hilary Wallace, asked, unfazed, "Dad, is that you?" and whatever enthusiasm I'd built up plummeted. Vaguely disappointed, I made a few more calls, but only halfheartedly, opening today's mail while doing so, and I finally hung up in midsentence when I came across a personalized reminder from Clifford, the guy who helps me at Armani, that there was a private sale at the boutique on Madison... two weeks ago! and though I figured out that one of the doormen probably withheld the card to piss me off, it still doesn't erase the fact that I missed the f**king sale, and dwelling over this loss while wandering down Central Park West somewhere around Seventy-sixth, Seventy-fifth, it strikes me profoundly that the world is more often than not a bad and cruel place.
Someone who looks almost exactly like Jason Taylor - black hair slicked back, navy double-breasted cashmere coat with a beaver collar, black leather boots, Morgan Stanley - passes beneath a streetlamp and nods as I turn down the volume on the Walkman to hear him say "Hello, Kevin" and I catch a whiff of Grey Flannel and, still walking, I look back at the person who resembles Taylor, who could be Taylor, wondering if he's still dating Shelby Phillips, when I almost stumble over a beggar lying on the street, sprawled in the doorway of an abandoned restaurant - a place Tony McManus opened two summers ago called Amnesia - and she's black and out-of-her-mind crazy, repeating the words "Money please help mister money please help mister" like some kind of Buddhist chant. I try to lecture her on the merits of getting a job somewhere - perhaps at Cineplex Odeon, I suggested not impolitely - silently debating whether or not to open the briefcase, pull out the knife or the gun. But it strikes me that she's too easy a target to be truly satisfying, so I tell her to go to hell and turn up the Walkman just as Bon Jovi cries "It's all the same, only the names have changed... " and move on, stopping at an automated teller to take three hundred dollars out for no particular reason, all the bills crisp, freshly printed twenties, and I delicately place them in my gazelleskin wallet so as not to wrinkle them. At Columbus Circle, a juggler wearing a trench cloak and top hat, who is usually at this location afternoons and who calls himself Stretch Man, performs in front of a small, uninterested crowd; though I smell prey, and he seems fully worthy of my wrath, I move on in search of a less dorky target. Though if he'd been a mime, odds are he'd already be dead.
Faded posters of Donald Trump on the cover of Time magazine cover the windows of another abandoned restaurant, what used to be Palaze, and this fills me with a newfound confidence. I've arrived at D'Agostino's, standing directly in front of it, gazing into it, and I have an almost overwhelming urge to walk in and browse through each aisle, filling my basket with bottles of balsamic vinegar and sea salt, roam through the vegetable and produce stands inspecting the color tones of red peppers and yellow peppers and green peppers and purple peppers, deciding what flavor, what shape of gingerbread cookie to buy, but I'm still longing for something deeper, something undefined to do beforehand, and I start to stalk the dark, cold streets off Central Park West and I catch sight of my face reflected in the tinted windows of a limousine that's parked in front of Cafe des Artistes and my mouth is moving involuntarily, my tongue wetter than usual, and my eyes are blinking uncontrollably of their own accord. In the streetlamp's glare, my shadow is vividly cast on the wet pavement and I can see my gloved hands moving, alternately clutching themselves into fists, fingers stretching, wriggling, and I have to stop in the middle of Sixty-seventh Street to calm myself down, whisper soothing thoughts, anticipating D'Agostino's, a reservation at Dorsia, the new Mike and the Mechanics CD, and it takes an awesome amount of strength to fight down the urge to start slapping myself in the face.
Coming slowly up the street is an old queer wearing a cashmere turtleneck, a paisley wool ascot and a felt hat, walking a brown and white sharpei, its bunched-up face sniffing low to the ground. The two of them get closer, passing beneath one streetlamp, then another, and I've composed myself sufficiently to slowly take off the Walkman and inconspicuously unlock the briefcase. I'm standing in the middle of the thin strip of sidewalk next to a white BMW 320i and the queer with the sharpei is now within feet of me and I get a good look at him: late fifties, pudgy, with obscenely healthy-looking pink skin, no wrinkles, all of this topped off with a ridiculous mustache that accentuates his feminine features. He gives me the once-over with a quizzical smile, while the sharpei sniffs a tree, then a garbage bag sitting next to the BMW.