Thursday, June 28, 2012
Diana, Princess of Wales (1997)
The glass coffee table sharing the phone and the powder cocaine vibrated with the ring of the phone bell. Dimitri scowled.
“I just got a fucking unlisted number. Who’s trying to sell me stuff today!?”
His housemate, Mike, a thirtysomething divorcee paying twice his rent in child support, just muttered, “Your turn.” With the rolled-up $20 bill that lived on the coffee table, Dimitri snorted his now somewhat disorganized line, and answered the phone on the third ring.
“Da?” He answered in Russian to leave open the possibility of making a telemarketer hang up.
“Dimitri, did you hear?” It was Samantha.
“No. Hear what?”
“There was a terrible accident. They think Princess Diana has died!”
Dimitri was not a big royals fan. In fact, he knew more about Kansas City Royals pitcher Kevin Appier than he did about the House of Windsor. He only knew about Princess Diana because her campaign against land mines held the attention of one of his piano students. Cheryl was a 15-year-old Miss Junior USA wannabe who needed to prepare something for the talent component of the competition. Dimitri wrote a song for Cheryl.
“Lady in white lace
Red velvet heels
Cries, ‘childhood’s no place
For funeral peals.’
Reflecting bright light
Shines on the children
With no place in this fight.”
Cheryl’s mom, a knockout, used to be a broadcast reporter with WCBS-TV out of Manhattan. She “stopped out” of the workplace to have Cheryl and her brother, twenty months younger. Oops. She struggled to return to a major market, finally joining the new Fox Broadcast Network affiliate WTAF in Philadelphia, after ten years of trying. She looked a little like Samantha. Dimitri knew that he should NO WAY do anything too interesting on his weekly trips down Rt. 561 to Voorhees. Cheryl was too valuable a student. So valuable, in fact, that even after he got the gig on the Boardwalk, he kept her and two of her friends on his calendar. On Tuesdays, he made the haul back from Atlantic City to do lessons with her after school. She could have been at a friend’s one day, and I could try it with Mom. Cheryl is still in high school – dangerous. Could I convince them to go out with me at the same time? Ostorozhno – careful. Besides, I give three lessons on one day. Can’t risk that.
That calculus had nothing to do with the price of tea in England. Samantha was shaken. Dimitri knew that the woman meant something to him, or he would find ways to blow her off when he wasn’t in her bed. He knew for certain that he meant way more than a ready orgasm to her. She called him. Him! She had three girlfriends she chatted with, and extended family in the area. Not to mention that she was starting to date someone steadily. Wow. He had better get over there. His 280Z knew the way. There had to have been streaks of rust on Haddonfield-Berlin Road from his underbody. He did one more line for the road, cut two lines for Mike, and shoved off. Literally. He always strode with a forward lean.
Out the metal door of Apartment 217. Through the plank with the torn veneer pretending to blend with the faux maple paneling in the hallway. Down the staircase and through the fire exit into the sizzling blacktop parking lot. Whoosh! Into the Z without even rolling down the roof and, in a daze, down 611 to Roosevelt Expressway, the Schuylkill Expressway, the Vine Street Expressway, the Ben Franklin Bridge, Rt. 30, then Rt. 70, right on 561, then off into Sam’s development before Cherry Hill turned into Haddonfield. The Z drove itself; Dimitri was tuned into special coverage on the NPR station Rafi the Kibbutznik always listened to. Who was driving, the Egyptian scion of the Harrod retail chain? Was he drunk? Idi na khui! Go to hell! The paparazzi did it. One took pictures of the dying princess and tried to sell the pics to the BBC. Asshole. Put him in jail and throw away the key. Better yet, put him in the Gulag. Naked. In February.
Dimitri swung the Z next to Samantha’s BMW. He checked the space that he left and avoided flinging the door into her shiny black side panel. Noticing that his khaki shorts had just been hooked by a spring that had cut through the upholstery in the driver’s seat, he uttered an imprecation, reached into the tape storage compartment and pulled out electrical, not audio, tape, slapped a piece on the errant spring, and slammed the car door. Before he could knock on the solid wood door of Samantha’s condo, it opened.
“Thanks for coming, Dimbo.” They hugged, for once without sexual overtones. Dimitri felt moisture on his cheek. Samantha had been crying. “Dim,” she said in an undertone, “don’t be alarmed. My girlfriend is here. She knows you’re coming. She wants to meet you. It’s OK.”
Dimitri misread Samantha’s comment.
“Which one?” He assumed it was Ashley, Jessica, or Val, the girls she would hang out with.
“No, this is my girlfriend, Natalya. She’s the assistant GM over at Hooters.”
Dimitri swallowed the hard-boiled egg that had suddenly blocked his throat. He and Samantha had an understanding since they had decided to be friends with benefits. Neither would talk about the other’s sex lives outside the relationship. Sam wanted to find a life partner. Dimitri just wanted to have fun, as Cyndi Lauper might have said. If Sam needed to become monogamous, so be it. Dimitri, for his part, promised not to bring any viral visitors to the bedroom. But Samantha a bisexual?? Never considered it. But, interessno. Ochen interessno. Very interesting.
Samantha removed her right arm from Dimitri’s shoulder and showed him in. As if he didn’t know every square inch of the place.
Natalya greeted Dimitri in Ukrainian, really just a dialect of Russian.
“Primitye moii soboleznovaniye, accept my condolences,” Dimitri replied. Nataliya, jet-black-haired, with green eyes tinged with red from sobbing, sat in her denim miniskirt and a white tank on Samantha’s sofa. “Please don’t bother getting up.”
The two conducted a bit of an introduction in Russian and Ukrainian. Dimitri was surprised to find himself translating half his thoughts from English into Russian. Unwrapping the linguistic pretzel of his trilingual brain, Dimitri switched to English to ask the women about the only question that mattered to them at the moment: the impact of Princess Diana on their emotions. If either woman felt discomfort with Dimitri in the room, neither gave evidence of it. As for Dimitri, the situation presented many possibilities, but he knew he’d better just support his friend in her shock and surprise, and let everybody figure out their emotions in the weeks to come.