An excerpt from ‘Performance’ one of my new series of shorts, my Solos. For other Solos, go here.
After three dates – and on one occasion a quick meeting after work for drinks – Iris was fairly certain she would sleep with Michael Orfield. He was a high-level investment something-or-other at T. Rowe Price, and wore tastefully expensive suits. His nails were neatly manicured and he always instinctively reached for the correct silverware at the expensive restaurants where he’d taken Iris to dinner. And though he wasn’t devastatingly handsome, he had a nice smile and didn’t wear too much cologne. He didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time talking about himself and always seemed interested in what Iris had to say; even on subjects it was clear she had no real knowledge about.
For their dates, Michael Orfield sent a Lincoln Town Car to pick Iris up at her apartment and they met at the restaurant, so she had never seen his place, nor had he seen hers. Truth be told, Iris was somewhat relieved because though she had a fashionable downtown address, the building itself was far from fashionable. Her apartment was directly above a grocer’s and to get to it, one had to enter through a shabby doorway to the left of the store entrance and climb two flights of narrow, old stairs. To make matters worse, at the top of the stairs was a rusty wrought iron gate that remained locked until visitors rang a buzzer corresponding to one of the two apartments above and was let in.
The first apartment was Iris’, and distant cousins of the Lees – the couple that owned the grocery store and the entire building – inhabited the second. The Lees’ cousins were quiet enough neighbors, but they cooked a variety of spicy and flavorful Korean dishes, the smell of which permeated the stairway and seemed to have seeped into the upholstery of Iris’ furniture. None of this was more than a minor inconvenience until she’d started thinking about sleeping with Michael Orfield. Now, the shabbiness of her building (fashionable address notwithstanding), the smell in the stairwell and her furniture were all logistics problems she would have to solve before inviting him over. She’d tried spraying the stairwell with Lysol but that only resulted in a slightly medicinal odor overlying the basic spiciness, the combination of which was nauseating. And as far as the furniture was concerned, short of throwing it all out, there was really no solution.
Iris did not view herself as the kind of woman who would normally even consider sleeping with someone after only three dates and a drink, but lately things were far from what she would consider ‘normal’. She had begun to notice disturbing new details about herself. Like the tiny, barely perceptible lines at the corners of her eyes, and the extra five pounds that would appear as though by magic when she indulged in too many lattés at Starbucks over the course of the week. Then there was the issue of parties. Though there was still no shortage of social engagements, Iris could now hear a certain new shrillness to her laugh at these events, with a hint – but only a hint, thank god – of desperation in its tone. Men who previously would have fallen over themselves to have even the most inane exchange with her now looked past her almost as often as they tried to get her attention. But perhaps worst of all was the fact that suddenly, and she wasn’t quite sure how, all of her friends seemed to have disappeared into the institution of marriage.