“Sure! Why wouldn’t we?”
“Well, you don’t Ed.” I explained a little of what we were in for, and with a shrug and a grunt, he said, “Let’s do it!”
When Ed invited us to spend the weekend at his home in the Hamptons with his lover, Tony, we knew it wasn’t going to be an ideal way of seeing the land of Daisy and Jay but it was a way of getting out of the city for the weekend and exploring a new and fabled realm. Ed was a celebrity publicist who had done a magnificent job for me in helping Without You, I’m Nothing become an off-Broadway hit. Emotionally over-wrought and a victim of plastic surgery giving him a Zsa Zsa mask, Ed was prone to relentless flirting and given to bouts of cruel petulance when things didn’t go his way. He also bragged about fucking Keith Hernandez. Repeatedly. I smelled trouble.
The drive was tediously long with Tony, sullenly silent at the wheel, and Ed turned in his seat facing us in the back. He was all hands, each word a pantomime until I feared he might poke out someone’s eye. His focus was locked on Billy but the Guyster didn’t have a clue. Billy chatted away about working at Goldman-Sachs while Ed pretended to be interested and would find any opportunity to land his paw onto Billy’s leg. Again, Billy didn’t realize the nature of the gesture but I was seething by the time we pulled into their gravel driveway.
The house was modest by Hampton standards but it was beachfront and cozy against the impending winter storm that was due to erupt any moment. After unpacking the car, Tony set about cooking dinner while Ed entertained us in the den with more stories about this sexual exploit or that movie star who was really gay. I wedged myself in between Billy and Ed. Start anything with him, motherfucker, and I will punch that collagen right out of your face.
Dinner was as over produced as their living room, and Billy and I moved the food around our plates, giving the impression there was activity and chewing and oh how we could have used a pushy dog underneath the table to take our meal away. We longed for some food remotely recognizable but that was not to happen and we left the table hungry. After dinner, we sat around the TV until it was bedtime, and Billy and I retired to a comfortable guest bedroom. We could hear the waves crashing as the storm wound its way toward the house and we slept well.
The nest morning, we took a walk on the beach with Ed then headed into town for some shopping. We looked through a few over-priced antique shops, a few clothes stores filled with things neither of us would ever wear and a touristy gift shop. I went outside the store to join Ed for a cigarette while Billy stayed behind. When he came out, he was beaming.
“Close your eyes,” he said with his hands behind his back.
“No,” my auto response was on.
“Just close your eyes!” he happily demanded. With my eyes closed, he said, “OK, open them.” He was holding a small red rectangular pillow in needlepoint that read P.S. I Love You. He stretched out his arms and handed it to me.
“Aw honey, that is so cute,” I said, reaching in to kiss him.
“Stop it,” he playfully slapped me away with his hands fluttering in a motion I liked to call the “Tweety.” He always pretended to be embarrassed by public displays. It was just another game for us, really. I’d sneak in for a kiss at inappropriate moments and he would Tweety. I’d grab his hand. Tweety. Reach in for a kiss, breaking his personal space barrier and bam, Tweety.
After shopping, we headed back into the city with our pillow in tow. Little did we know the important role that pillow would play for the rest of our years. It started a few weeks later. I had come home in a foul mood from work, juggling my boss’ alcoholic tirades and whiney clients. When Billy made an attempt to draw me out of my funkity grump, I jeered him away. He went into the bedroom and emerged, holding the pillow in front of him, the puppy face in full effect. I cracked into an uncontrolled smile at the innocent look on his face and the simplicity of the gesture.
From that moment on, whenever an argument erupted, the pillow would come into play. Back in Venice, after a fight, I’d open up the front door and the first step I took would be on the pillow, strategically placed on the floor in front of me. If I would become particularly rancorous toward him, Billy would find the little red message on his side of the bed. It was used often and its message was clear, to both of us.
I stood in Home Depot today, juggling paint chips and trying to figure out how they would look outside of the insistent fluorescent lights above, and I shuffled my feet and pondered the choices for the bedroom. What color would best compliment our silent apology? It rests atop an antique art crate from the 20s that Billy found that hangs on the wall in the bedroom. The little pillow faces me when I lie in bed. It’s collateral has grown, and the smiling and shy face of Billy’s presentation of it to me is ingrained in my memory savings account, drawing interest and as solid as a retirement fund.