I left the memorial service early to go on a date. The memorial was for a man I knew from high school, a Taylor Williams. He killed himself. The date was with a man I met at a party, a Jared Taylor. He worked for a bank. You might say I had Taylors on the brain.
Jared Taylor ordered us a bottle of champagne. I am no aficionado of champagne but I am pretty sure it was an expensive bottle as the waiter raised his eyebrows and quickly looked at me. Then he nodded. We weren’t allowed to fill our own glasses, the waiter did that for us. It made me uncomfortable.
I stared at my date from my side of the red leather booth and thought about high school Taylor. Taylor Williams had pointed at my legs one day in homeroom—usually covered by a long, flowing velvet skirt my mother had repeatedly begged me to throw out—and commented, “You have really white legs.” It was one of the first things he had ever said to me. I made sure from that point on to wear stockings under the skirt so my paleness could not be identified.
“Have you ever thought about suicide?” I asked my date.
He frowned and signaled the waiter to pour me more champagne, though my glass was still half full. I took that as a yes and was thankful I wasn’t the only one who lacked follow-through.
Taylor Williams and I had ninth grade history together. He sat behind me and always smelled like the Big Red gum he chewed. Sometimes during a test I could hear him smacking behind me. It got to be so annoying I would make sure to switch seats during an exam day.
Once, when we were both early to history, I asked him why he chewed gum. He said it was to stop him from smoking.
“You smoke?” I asked, horrified that a fourteen-year-old boy had picked up the habit my parents informed me would kill me before I was thirty.
“No. But it’s to stop me from starting. It’s something to do with my mouth.” And he offered me a piece. I accepted, though I preferred spearmint.
Taylor still died before he hit thirty. At the service, his parents cried and I offered them a tissue that they accepted without remembering my name.
My date asked me if I liked my job. I had forgotten that I had lied to him and told him I was employed as a receptionist at a Cosmetic Clinic specializing in face-lifts and liposuction. Reality—temping while I wrote the archetypal Angeleno screenplay—was just too typical and uninteresting to tell.
“I love it,” I said as I took another sip of my bubbly. “Sometimes I save a little bit of the fat we slice off and use it in my cooking.”
My date gagged a bit and excused himself to the restroom. I knew he was actually going to call some buddy of his and tell him what I just said. I would have done the same thing.
I should have tried to make it work with the guy, my friend Susan said we’d make a really cute couple. But after the memorial service it seemed like an awful lot of effort to go to when, in the end, we’d both be dead. Perhaps via self-inflicted measures.
I took a piece of fancy sourdough bread from the breadbasket and started to rip it into tiny little pieces.
“Why are you doing that?” I imagined Taylor Williams asking from across the table.
“It’s something to do with my hands,” I would reply.