“Clay, did you ever love me?”
I’m studying a billboard and say that I didn’t hear what she said.
“I asked if you ever loved me?”
On the terrace the sun bursts into my eyes and for one blinding moment I see myself clearly. I remember the first time we made love, in the house in Palm Springs, her body tan and wet, lying against cool, white sheets.
“Don’t do this, Blair,” I tell her.
“Just tell me.”
I don’t say anything.
“Is it such a hard question to answer?”
I look at her straight on.
“Yes or no?”
“Damnit, Clay,” she sighs.
“Yeah, sure, I guess.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“What in the fuck do you want to hear?”
“Just tell me,” she says, her voice rising.
“No,” I almost shout. “I never did.” I almost start to laugh.
She draws in a breath and says, “Thank you. That’s all I wanted to know.” She sips her wine.
“Did you ever love me?” I ask her back, though by now I can’t even care.
She pauses. “I thought about it and yeah, I did once. I mean I really did. Everything was all right for a while. You were kind.” She looks down and then goes on. “But it was like you weren’t there. Oh shit, this isn’t going to make any sense.” She stops.
I look at her, waiting for her to go on, looking up at the billboard. Disappear Here.
“I don’t know if any other person I’ve been with has been really there, either … but at least they tried.”
I finger the menu; put the cigarette out.
“You never did. Other people made an effort and you just … It was just beyond you.” She takes another sip of her wine. “You were never there. I felt sorry for you for a little while, but then I found it hard to. You’re a beautiful boy, Clay, but that’s about it.”
I watch the cars pass by on Sunset.
“It’s hard to feel sorry for someone who doesn’t care.”
“Yeah?” I ask.
“What do you care about? What makes you happy?”
“Nothing. Nothing makes me happy. I like nothing,” I tell her.
“Did you ever care about me, Clay?”
I don’t say anything, look back at the menu.
“Did you ever care about me?” she asks again.
“I don’t want to care. If I care about things, it’ll just be worse, it’ll just be another thing to worry about. It’s less painful if I don’t care.”
“I cared about you for a little while.”
I don’t say anything.
She takes off her sunglasses and finally says, “I’ll see you later, Clay.” She gets up.
“Where are you going?” I suddenly don’t want to leave Blair here. I almost want to take her back with me.
“Have to meet someone for lunch.”
“But what about us?”
“What about us?” She stands there for a moment, waiting. I keep staring at the billboard until it begins to blur and when my vision becomes clearer I watch as Blair’s car glides out of the parking lot and becomes lost in the haze of traffic on Sunset. The waiter comes over and asks, “Is everything okay, sir?”
I look up and put my sunglasses on and try to smile. “Yeah.”