Standing there naked, I realized that I had made one, or maybe even two, very poor choices. As the spray from the fountain dappled my goosebumped skin, I stepped forward into the waiting arms of the law.
“Have you got an explanation for this, lady?” demanded a wide-bellied cop, nametag Anderson. He draped a coarse blanket around my shivering shoulders. His tired eyes declared he had seen it all, so I turned to him with relief. I needed desperately to unburden my plebian soul.
“It was because of Tristen,” I said, somehow thinking that would explain everything. Of course if he had known Tristen, it would have explained everything.
Tristen Alexander. Even his name has class. I met him three months and eleven days ago, when I waitressed the opening of some big art exhibit. Tristen glided around the room greeting people, whispering witty remarks and oozing the charm that set him apart from every other guest. Naturally he would never have noticed me – a short, slightly rounded, slightly worn-down waitress – if it hadn’t been for the blonde who made a snide remark, then klutzed into my tray, sending champagne glasses flying. One glass sprayed her hair then dripped like a sleazy advertisement into her scant cleavage. Another spewed itself over Tristen’s perfect suit. The rest splattered indiscriminately across anyone in a four foot radius.
The shattering glass was epic.
I should have groveled, mopped, and otherwise acted out my lowly position. But I have this problem. Just when you think this shy, sloppy, not too well-educated female is going to accept the role the universe slapped on her, she (meaning me) gets damned ornery. Watching the stick blonde spluttering and swearing like a slum queen struck me as crazy funny, so I started to laugh. A full belly laugh, not an appropriate smirk and tinkle. Tristen’s gorgeous blue eyes widened and then he started to laugh too. So there were the two of us, dripping bubbly, standing in the ruins of elegance, laughing like a pair of hyenas.
And it was love at first sight. Or lust. Who knows. I went home with him that night. We showered ourselves clean of champagne and then showered again later after you-know-what. I moved in with him a week later and for about two months, it was all champagne and laughs and me feeling like I had won the lottery with this gorgeous, rich, elegant man. He called me his Original Woman, and Feminine Masterpiece of Unspoiled Reality. (Tristen tended to talk in capital letters, or maybe italics depending on his mood.)
I went with him to art galleries, art films, and operas. I liked the paintings, especially Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, thought they should have used color in the movies, and wished I could understand the glorious songs coming from the throats of those singers. Tristen was not interested in my family get-togethers, popular movies, or baseball. He said that part of my life was a cliché that he declined to perpetuate. Stupid me, I thought that was funny too.
It became less funny a couple of months later when he stopped calling me an Original Woman and started on Poster Child for the Masses. I was still caught up in the champagne, silk suits and glorious feeling of being singled out and special, so I ignored it. Within a week, I’d lost the title of Feminine Masterpiece of Unspoiled Reality and became Someone Without an Original Thought in her Head. To give him credit, Tristen tried to expose me to classic original thoughts. We watched a clip of the streaker on the Academy Awards when David Niven never missed a beat. He read aloud from The Stranger. (My recommendation. Give it a miss. You wouldn’t want to even meet these people, let alone read about them.) We watched about twelve more art films.
It got a bit ugly when I asked if he was so damned original, how come he sold other people’s art, read other people’s stories, and watched other people’s films instead of making them himself.
I could see the big breakup on the horizon and I wasn’t going quietly into that good night. That’s when I came up with my genius semi-original idea.
We were scheduled for a big charity ball at the ritziest hotel in town. Tristen was doing his damnedest to leave me out, but like I said, there is this stubborn streak in me and I wasn’t buying.
When we got to the party, he started flirting with the stick blonde of the spilled champagne. I watched for awhile, endured a few pitying smirks, then put my plan into action. In a secluded alcove behind a palm, I dropped all my fancy clothes. Taking a breath, I streaked through the party, zig zagging and shrieking like an opera star. Just when the dropped jaws were starting to flap, I winged a balled-up Dear John note at Tristen and shot out the front door.
The plan was to retrieve the gym bag of clothes I’d left in the bushes earlier. Fiasco. The bag was gone. I wasn’t singing like an opera star now. For a few minutes I huddled in the bushes, but when the security guards started shining flashlights around, I bolted across the front entrance, praying I could grab a taxi. No luck. Circled by flashlights, I dove into the hotel’s fountain.
When I heard the sirens, I gave up. Rising like Aphrodite Rising From the Sea, I emerged into Officer Anderson’s arms. When they interviewed Tristen, he made such an ass of himself that Officer Anderson loaned me fifty bucks to pay the fine. I repaid him by getting baseline seats at the next home game. We toasted Tristen with draught beer. A few months later, when I stood naked on my wedding night, I realized I had made one or two good choices after all.