Friday, November 24, 2006


Natvar sits at the white marble table. It is a round table, about four inches thick, polished smooth, but not shiny. The smooth white surface is shot through with black veins. It sits like a coin on the black wrought iron stand with curved legs. Nothing actually attaches the marble table to its support. It just sits on top. But it is so heavy that it never moves or wobbles. In the spring we lift the white marble coin -- all four of us -- and carry it out through the sliding glass doors, out onto the roof terrace, the terra cotta tiles surrounded by flower beds. And in the fall we carry it back inside.

Right now we are inside. We are all seated around the table in our regular places. As always, I sit across from Natvar. On one side of Natvar sits Mark. Mark is a young man with a bright boyish face who once danced with Merce Cunningham. He is going prematurely bald now. His eyes are round and blue. He is dressed up today in nice pants, a pressed shirt and a vest. He drinks his coffee from the blue and white cup and saucer. We are all having coffee. It is about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and our first client will be here in about thirty minutes.

Natvar has just gotten up from his afternoon nap and is still dressed only in his silk robe, tied carelessly. It is a dark burgundy color with a paisley pattern. Natvar is about ten years older than Mark, is also going bald, but where Mark is blonde and pink, Natvar is dark -- dark eyes, dark hair, pale olive skin. They are lovers, Mark and Natvar. They share the main bedroom that leads off the living room.

We pretend to our clients that they are half-brothers.

On the other side of Natvar sits his seven-year-old blonde daughter, Ariadne. She wears a pink terrycloth bathrobe that we bought her for Christmas. It was pretty much the most expensive bathrobe in all of Greece, but Natvar insists. He must have the best. And his daughter must have the best. Then comes Mark. Then me and Meredyth.

Meredyth sits next to Ariadne because they get along. They share the second bedroom, the one with two twin beds. Meredyth is in her early twenties. She has short straight brown hair and light freckles. She has a pretty, American face. She is dressed in a pressed white blouse and a navy blue skirt. She will be in the kitchen, cooking dinner while Natvar sees his clients in the living room. So she is not wearing her best clothes -- not the high heels that hurt -- but clothes that are presentable. She looks like a well-behaved young woman.

And I sit between Mark and Meredyth. Mark is sometimes my ally. Sometimes he is like my brother. Sometimes he and I are like the two leaders under Natvar. We're more sophisticated than Meredyth and sometimes psychically leave her behind.

But these things shift. Sometimes Mark and I are aligned. Other times Mark joins Natvar and everyone against me. Sometimes me and Meredyth line up as the two women, though we don't come together as easily as Mark and I can do.

Today I sit across from Natvar. We all drink the strong coffee that Mark has made. He always makes the coffee because Natvar says he makes it best. The coffee is in the blue and white china pitcher. The cups match. The sugar bowl and creamer do too. Natvar saw this set once in the home of a wealthy client and insisted we buy the same. It came from Bloomingdales. I couldn't udnerstand it. That was when we were living in the loft on W. 29th St., the one we had renovated ourselves. Every penny counted. We could hardly pay the electric bill, but Natvar insisted on this coffee set. We brought it with us to Greece where it makes us look rich.We live here now because the cops want to arrest Natvar back in the States for beating his wife and now kidnapping his daughter.

I am dressed carefully -- in stockings and heels. I am wearing a skirt that was a hand-me-down from a famous Manhattan client and a blouse I shoplifted from Barneys.

I am the one who will open the door when the client knocks. I will smile effusively, welcome them in, lead them across the shiny parquet floor into the tiny room off the kitchen that is our office and waiting room and my bedroom at night.

"So I think we should prepare a presentation for that man we met last week," Natvar is saying. "The one who runs the private school. We could do yoga classes there. Marta and Mark could teach them. Do you think you could put that together, Marta?" Natvar looks at me. He is leaning back in his chair. "Or is it too much for you," he adds. "You bloody people, you tie me down." Now he is looking out the glass doors, out over the verandah, off into the distance as if he didn't belong in this cage.

"Oh, I can do that," I say, my back straight. "I'll have something ready by dinner time."

"That's my girl," says Natvar.

1 comment:

Chris Howard said...

This is a beatifully written piece with a creep factor of nine point seven.