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So hopefully you have read Chapters 1 and 2 before starting on this Chapter, if not I would encourage you to go back and have a quick read. Again, this is a collaboration with the magnificent SiteNonSite.
And as always I encourage you to take the time to read all of SiteNonSite’s stories if you haven’t already.
Take Care of Yourself
Usually, I try to get to work at least a half-hour early but on Monday I arrived just on time. I stopped to heat my coffee and ran into Keith and Ben in the break room.
“Friday night was great wasn’t it?” Ben asked.
“Yeah I had fun,” I told him but felt sheepish about leaving without saying goodbye. “I was glad to head home though.”
“Who was the blonde?” Keith asked, a sly look in his eye. “You looked like you’d hit a wall.”
I blushed. I hated myself for blushing in front of them. Ben was my age, but he was a big barrel-chested bear of a man. While Keith was diminutive, even for a Japanese man; slender, only a little taller than me. He’s only six or seven years older than us, yet he was already the wunderkind at Pentagram when we were still in high school. Now he’s in charge of his own department at the Times, and I was blushing in front of him and Ben.
“Oh, you saw that?” I said, my color rising. I found myself thinking of my hand on Claire’s breast, her hard dark nipples. “…That was no one.”
‘What is wrong with me?’ I wondered, hating myself more. They were looking at me in confusion.
“I mean, that was no one from work… that was my friend Claire,” I explained. “I was pretending to be drunk? Helping her out of a jam I guess? She was with a bachelorette and felt bad leaving early.”
Keith gave me a quizzical smile but said nothing. Ben just hid his smirk behind his coffee mug. Luckily my phone started vibrating, I made a show of taking it out and looking at it seriously, there was a text from Claire.
“I need to deal with this,” I lied, turning and heading towards the ladies’ room. Once I was safely tucked in a stall I open Claire’s text:
How’s your Monday? There’s an opening at the gallery Thursday night, Sophie Calle – the show is going to blow your mind – are you free? Can you come?
That sounds great, I don’t know Sophie Calle, what kind of artist is she? My Monday is fine, but I just found out my boss saw our departure, he saw us leaving and thinks I was totally white-girl wasted.
Aïe! Sorry about that, I hope it’s not bad…
No, not bad at all. Keith is cool, I think he’s just amused. What should I wear Thursday night?
Something sexy, there will be many eligible gentlemen there, but you’re my date! There’s a big dinner afterward, very posh. Sophie will be there (she’s AMAZING, as for what kind of artist she is, she is her own kind, but I promise you will love it the most InfoPorn!
Sitting there on the toilet I had a flash of cold terror. I tried to imagine what I owned that would measure up to Claire’s standards of sexy. I thought of the little green dress I’d bought for a friend’s wedding that spring. I’d chickened out at the last minute after Danny had become irritated with me.
“You’re not wearing that?” He’d asked. “You might as well be naked, Sarah.”
I had been so excited to wear it, to be seen by my friends, but I couldn’t do it, he was right, it was just too revealing. I could hear my mother’s voice lecturing me about being a good girl, my thoughts, at the time, had been interrupted by his voice.
“Your boobs are hanging out,” he’d told me. But I’d known what he meant, that I looked like a whore. I’d started to cry, ruining my makeup, and he’d stormed out of the room. “Jesus Christ, Sarah you’re so fucking neurotic.”
In the end, I’d worn a black dress that went down to my knees and no neckline whatsoever. Danny had sulked all night because he didn’t know anyone at the wedding. We hadn’t even danced because he was sulking… and I was afraid he’d start a fight if I danced with someone else.
I was staring at Claire’s text. The tiny picture next to it. Maybe her at the beach?
I was squeezing my phone and clenching my thighs. I tried to relax.
‘You’re so fucking neurotic,’ I told myself.
I would love to say that my week sped by, but the truth is I wasn’t really sure how cool Keith was with my drunken departure. Although we were super busy I felt like I was walking on eggshells at work, and after work, all I could think about was what I should wear for my “date” with Claire.
The highlight of my days was texting with Claire, who would send me links to something funny or an update on her day.
When Thursday night finally rolled around I was a nervous wreck, and I came very close to bailing. I stood in front of the mirror and stared at myself in the little green dress. It was soooo short, the neckline was sooo low. But I was invested, it was too late to choose a different dress, or at least too expensive.
On Tuesday I’d splurged on a new pair kurtköy escort of heels that went perfectly with the green dress. I’d gotten up early and gotten a blowout, which everyone at work had made a fuss over. And while I don’t usually wear much makeup, I’d done my eyes and was wearing the red lipstick I’d bought for the same wedding and NEVER worn. If I changed now, I’d not only be late, I’d have wasted a lot of money on the heels. My whole body was shaking.
“You don’t look like a whore,” I told my reflection as I grabbed my little trench coat and dashed for the door before I had a chance to chicken out.
It was warm and my trench flared like a cape as I walked down Tenth Ave. My hair, loose and swept back, floated behind me like big loops of rose gold silk. I felt beautiful and fierce in that moment.
My breasts swayed and bounced without a bra, something I was not at all used to. I tried to take courage from the click of my heels as I walked down the block and under the enormous black iron bridgework of the Highline. The exhibition was on a wide dark side street, lined by plain, relatively low-rise commercial buildings. The block would have been deserted if not for the crowd of people milling around outside the gallery door. Lots of happy excited voices, but I had a terrible sinking feeling in my stomach when I saw how casually everyone was dressed. There were students in paint-splattered jeans, men in windbreakers, and girls in jeans. There was an old couple, he was in a welder cap and she was wearing a corny red beret. I almost spun on my heels and ran.
‘You are a gem,’ I heard myself think, wondering where that thought had come from. But it didn’t matter, it was enough, I joined the crowd.
There was a bottleneck at the door as a few people came out and then a few people went in, but no line. I waited my turn and moved with the crowd. Just inside the door was a stack of printer paper four feet tall and two young women each holding a small stack of the same paper. They were handing out pages as people came in. I was relieved to see they were both in little dresses and beautifully made up. If they were also going to the dinner I’d fit right in. The girl who handed me my sheet smiled as she did.
“You look amazing, girlfriend,” she told me. I could have hugged her.
“So do you!” I whispered back, surprised by how excited I sounded; how excited I knew I must have looked. I’d felt my face explode in a smile – saw my burst of enthusiasm reflected in the gallery girl’s eyes as she returned my smile.
I followed the flow around a corner and out and around into a large square gallery. It had a peaked ceiling of wood struts, no less than 30′ high.
It wasn’t as crowded as I’d expected, based on the crowd outside the gallery, but the gallery is full of people talking loudly. I hadn’t known who Sophie Calle was, but had overheard Claire telling her date about her the first night we met at the wine bar. I had found the image of her, disguised as a hotel maid, going through people’s belongings, strangely erotic.
Since inviting me to the show Claire had sent me some articles about Calle. Grids of pictures of other peoples’ belongings laid out on their unmade hotel beds. Blurred photos of a man she followed. A picture of a beautiful young Calle in a girlish nightie with words projected across her bare décolletage. But still, I only had the vaguest sense of how her work was displayed and was confused by what I was seeing.
It looked almost like a science fair. On three walls were pictures, monitors, and texts hung salon style. On the fourth floating wall that formed the entrance and exit of the gallery, there was a grid of video screens. I was at a loss, but then I remembered the sheet of paper I was holding.
I had been paying so much attention to what the girls were wearing when I came in I hadn’t even thought to look at the paper they had handed me. It was printed on both sides, French on one side, English on the other. It was a letter, addressed to Calle. It was very formal, almost literary. I realized with a start that it was from a lover and that he was breaking up with her.
He signed it “Take care of yourself,” which seemed cold and strangely clinical. Calle had made his closing the title of her exhibition.
I walked over to the nearest group of texts and pictures. There is the text of the email, but marked-up with corrections by a proofreader, the email rendered in cipher by an agent of the secret service, a report on its legal standing by a contract lawyer, the reaction of a nine-year-old child… all of them women. Dozens of women all picking apart the same asshole’s letter.
I’d burst out laughing, then caught myself, but too late. I’d laughed out loud and an older couple had turned and shot me disapproving glares. I gave them an apologetic smile, but they just looked away. Each new interpretation was harsher and funnier than the last meanwhile. I tried to stifle my laughter but I couldn’t, it was all too fantastic, too bold. Finally, the people around me start laughing aydıntepe escort too. It’s all too much.
I turn to see a smiling Claire.
“Oh my God Claire, Sophie Calle is a BOSS BITCH!”
Claire barks a laugh, but her eyes convey a look of shock, even a little panic.
“Sarah, may I introduce you to Sophie Calle?” she asks, still smiling, her diction crisp, her manner formal, eyes enormous. She gestures to her right, and there is an older Sophie Calle than the ingenue I’d seen in the links Claire had sent. Calle’s long hair is done up in a bun and she’s wearing great big glasses with thick black frames and smiling with uncontained glee.
“I told Claire I wanted to meet the beautiful laughing girl in the green dress,” she says in a thick French accent, taking my hand. “You, my dear, are my absolute favorite!”
Moving around the gallery and later that night, at the private reception across the street, Claire looks beyond glamorous. She makes sure to check in with me regularly but is required to spend most of the night at Sophie Calle’s elbow – acting as her occasional translator, assistant, and bodyguard. The dinner is like something out of a movie, with celebrities and billionaires with trophy wives but still, Claire is easily the most beautiful woman there. I think I might be jealous if I wasn’t her “date.”
“Sometimes you sell art to flirt,” she tells me at dinner, squeezing my hand with a naughty smile, making me laugh like a girl.
“Oh my God Sarah! How good was tonight?” Claire bellows up at the buildings. We’ve left the party and are on the street heading back towards the HighLine and Tenth Ave. She isn’t wearing a coat, and instead, her bare shoulders and arms are wrapped in a vintage silk shawl, printed with a delicate filigree of Persian designs. She is visibly buzzing with excitement.
“I sat next to Lou Reed…” I say, still trying to wrap my head around our evening.
“I can’t believe how hot you look in that dress. Everyone was checking you out! I think you could have gone home with anyone tonight.”
“You said ‘sexy’ – but I was worried until I saw you. Claire, you look so beautiful!”
I had been thinking my neckline was daring, but then I saw Claire. Only she could pull off a neckline that stopped at the bow around her waist. She shows off her long bare legs, despite artfully covering herself with her wrap as we left the dinner. Her dress is a lovely robin’s egg blue and flared beautifully, the hem a bit shorter in the front than in the back. Offering a little peek at her knees.
“No! your dress is the subject of conversation, no changing it! The green suits your complexion – your strawberry blonde hair – ah, your hair, SO beautiful tonight!” she says tucking a looping lock behind my ear. And then, after giving me a once over, “And I very much liked seeing the girls on display.”
“How do you feel now that the opening is done?” I ask, desperately hoping Claire will allow me to change the subject this time. It works.
“Perfect! Seriously I can’t believe it – Paula could not have been happier – I’ve never seen her laughing like that – and the dinner afterward… WOW!” Claire hoots, spinning to face me and grabbing me by the shoulders. “I can’t even… How amazing is Sophie Calle?”
“BOSS BITCH!” I chime in. This makes Claire laugh. “No, really though, she was lovely, so funny and quirky. I hope I’m like that, in big kooky black-framed glasses when I’m a batty old lady.”
“Yes!” Claire laughs and lets go of me, she spins again. “Let’s grow up to be batty old ladies!”
It is already very late, much later than I intended to stay out. I knew I should go home, that tomorrow will be a death march if I don’t, but I also know I’m not ready to go to sleep, and Claire is literally spinning like a top.
“Do you think maybe we should go for a drink? Maybe somewhere we could dance off some of this energy?” I suggest. “I feel like I’m catching a contact-high – like it was my big night too.”
“Oh yes, let’s! Have you been to Bed?” she asks, I must look confused, because she laughs and explains, “It’s a rooftop bar on 27th, I think it’s a bit douchey, but we can dance.”
We head up 10th Ave towards Bed, arm-in-arm, heels clicking, Claire babbling the whole way. When we get there, there is a long line. Unwrapping her shawl as she walks.
‘The girls are awake,’ I think, seeing her nipples poking through her dress.
With me in tow, Claire breezes past all the people waiting and straight to the head of the queue.
“Hey!” Some girl yells as the bouncer, without any hesitation, makes way for us, pushing the crowd out of our way with an arm as big as my waist.
“Ladies,” is all he says, his voice a deep baritone.
“Merci!” Claire chirps.
“Do you know him?” I ask as we step inside.
“No, I’ve never been here.”
“But then how?”
“Sarah, you really don’t know do you?” She stops and is looking at me seriously.
“How exceptionally beautiful tuzla içmeler escort you are.” She takes my little trench and hands it with her wrap to a coat check. She looks back at me, studying my expression seriously, and touches my hair. “No, just as I thought, not a clue.”
We get into an elevator with about a dozen other people, Claire holds my hand. The music is getting louder on our ascent.
“They have these big beds to lounge on up on the roof, hence the name. But whatever, that’s for the finance bros and their mannequins, you’re here to dance with me.”
The elevator doors open and we are hit with a wall of throbbing sound, strobing lights, and writhing bodies.
Claire leads me through the press by the hand, bodies rubbing against us from all sides. People are packed around the bar four and five deep, but a tall guy next to Claire asks what we are drinking. She yells “mescal!” and signaling the bartender over the heads of everyone else he gets us each a tumbler of mescal on the rocks. It’s smokey and rich tasting. Claire thanks him and leads me to an open space near a high bar table.
“You like?” she asks, yelling over the noise.
“Yeah, it’s great!” I yell back. “But I want to dance!”
With a wicked smile, Claire raises her glass in toast tossing back her mescal, pouring it down her throat in one long swallow, her eyes never leaving mine. The mescal is strong and burns my throat, but I follow suit, staring back at her with watering eyes as I drain my glass.
I cough and blink away the tears as Claire grabs my hand, dragging me out to the dancefloor with her. She’s so uninhibited in her moves. She has a confidence that is contagious. I can’t help but laugh as she swings me by the waist.
I completely lose track of time. Men come and go, plying us with more offers of drinks trying to dance with us. We aren’t mean, but we are of one mind, tonight is our night, and all we want is to dance with each other. Claire is handsy from the start, and after we have our second and then third mescal she gets handsier still. I don’t mind.
She spins me, catching me by the hips, pulling me against her. Pushing her pelvis against my ass, her hands touching me again and again. She keeps her hand against the bare skin of my back, neck, and arms as much as possible. But there are times when I can see her losing herself in the feeling of her own body, enjoying the slinky curving movements of her spine and limbs. This is my favorite. She is incredible to watch. I try to imagine how it would feel to be that sexy, to feel myself moving and twisting the way she did.
At first, watching her, I try to imitate the things I see her do, the way she rolls and turns her hips, the twisting and curling of her arms. But more and more I’m not watching her. My body is taking its cues directly from hers, from her hand on my back, her thigh sliding between mine, her hip pressing into my ass, her forearms circling my waist. It’s as if we are dancing some sort of super sensuous waltz and she is leading.
I have never been handsy but like the rest of my body, my hands are following Claire’s lead, holding her by the waist, moving up her bare arms, resting on the back of her neck. I find myself absorbing her rhythms but also the flow of her movements. I’m not a terribly confident dancer, but with Claire, I feel like the sexiest woman alive.
And while we are making a bit of a spectacle of ourselves, we don’t take it too far; nothing the crowd around us finds too outrageous. If anything it feels like we stand out in a good way. I start to understand Claire’s comment about being exceptionally beautiful.
I think if Claire’s feet didn’t give out we might have danced all night. But her heels are cutting her. As soon as I see the blood I call an end to the night.
“I’ve got work in the morning anyway,” I soothe when she makes a face. “We both need to go home.”
“No, I’ll come with you,” she states, not giving me a choice in the matter, “let’s get a cab.”
We make our way down the elevator, retrieve our things, and head out the doors. The street seems brighter than when we arrived, stark and silver light frosts the buildings across the street. Looking up I see there is an enormous full moon.
“Être dans la lune,” Claire laughs. She is smiling at me. I am standing in the doorway, transfixed.
“Clair de lune,” I whisper, surprising her. I return her smile and step out onto the street.
The line is gone, but the same bouncer is still there. He makes a show of walking us to the curb and securing a cab that a couple had just vacated.
“Come again ladies,” he tells us, his voice rumbling like distant thunder.
Claire is talking and laughing nonstop, about Sophie, about dancing, about New York, the whole time holding my hand in her lap possessively. Her other hand gently strokes my bare knee and thigh, I feel my body respond. Her fingers gently stroking my bare skin. I’m not sure how I would react if a guy had done that, but I let her, even enjoy it. I am laughing and smiling but I also feel an anticipation building in me. The cab is alone in the deep, narrow canyon of buildings on my block when it drops us at my front door. I have to negotiate paying our fare single-handedly as Claire chatters on, still holding my other hand tight.
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