Class reunion – still at the milling around, schmoozing phase, drinking a little too deeply from our wine glasses, trying to either remember or forget something about the ex-classmate in front of us. From the periphery approaches Pam, gaze locked on me, slicing her way purposefully through the crowd. I try to finish my sentence, but now she’s here and things in our little circle grow quiet. Hey, Pam I say and she just stands there, unsmiling, reaching out to hand me something, her gesture reminding me of a cat dropping a dead mouse on the front steps.
I take it anyway, realizing that it’s one of the small cardboard dolls I made of her for the “Muse Show” at the Faculty Art Gallery. The image of her trembles between my fingers but I try to keep cool. Wow, where did you find this? Still nothing but her carefully composed face, her grim, drawn mouth, her deep, unfathomable eyes.
The tension’s broken by the former Class president, banging on a miniature gong, bellowing Dinnah is sahved in his famous fake British accent, still tedious after all these years. Pam turns her back and strides off to her table of cronies in the corner.
I get so caught up with the reprobates I used to hang out with (the ones who are still alive, anyway) that the dishes have been cleared before I look her way again, only to discover she’s already left.
I’m still taking that in, fingering the doll in my pocket, when one of the servers, a student of mine, approaches, carrying a bread basket full of torn paper. You should see this she says. I think it’s to you.
Me? It’s the remains of a ripped up note about my artwork that Pam wrote on the back of the menu card. On one scrap she seems angry and violated, but then on the next she’s flattered, almost titillated – quite literally torn.
There’s a piece with her hotel and room number and most of an invitation to come over and “hash it out.” Obviously it’s an offer she had second thoughts about, but I decide to take her up on it before I find another fragment that rescinds it.
Soon enough I’m at the hotel, knocking. Who’s there? she asks, and I say my name.
Silence. Seriously, Pam I think we need to talk.
She opens the door a little. What do you want?
I lift a doggy bag. I have something of yours.
What is this? Leftovers? She steps back into the room and I push through to shake the pieces of the note I’d put in the bag onto the hotel desk.
She sifts through. This isn’t right. I threw this away. She lifts the plastic trash can and sweeps the pile into it with the flat of her hand.
No, you’re right, you’re right. I’m sorry. Seriously. And I’m sorry if my work bothers you.
Bothers me! She stands there, looking strangely like the doll still in my pocket, immaculate and polished, her reading glasses hanging from the tangled strands of pearls around her neck, the name tag still stuck on her red sweater – I’m fixated on the way her arms are hanging, a hand on each thigh, molding the stripes of her skirt over the gentle curve of her belly, relaxed yet ready, like a gunslinger set to draw.
I have no idea what she’s going to do.