The flash bulbs snap and pop like flamenco dancers on bubble-wrap and every flash is as blinding as the Sun, each one a translucent tile in a luminous mosaic aquarium being thrust up around them—the walls of which shift about them so fast that it makes Jason dizzy. He holds on to her hand like an anchor. Her, his tall, blond German goddess, caught by means completely mysterious to him. From somewhere behind them the sound of girls’ screaming voices mixes in with the low hoots of men, both of which sound simultaneously thrilling and threatening. All he can think in the rush and din and light and gold and red and speckled chaos is that he has no business in the firing line of such intensity, and after a moment that seems like forever, the photographers let him know it.

“Could we just get one of you, Elsa?

“Elsa! This way!”

“Could you step aside, sir?”

“Elsa! Just one of you, honey!”


“Work that dress, dollface!”

The strobe light effect stops time as she turns slow and looks at him with sorry hazel eyes. not that she’s sorry she has to ask him to step aside—she knows he could care less. She’s just sorry for the world. He leans in close and smiles, “C’mon. Fuck ’em.” He shrugs. “Let’s just go in.”

But she will not refuse them, and she has only to half-close her bronze and glittered eyelids in exhaustion to let him know. He steps aside for the pack to take their photos, each one calling for her to look at them; just them. With his hands in his pockets he tries to take in all the glamor and elegance so alien to him, but his mind is built to mirror and he can feel her growing pain. And Jason worries that they are going to take her from him, because she should never have been his in the first place. He just looks on as she gives the cyclops looks of utter contempt. Once he would turn to Page 6 and think that “the look” was so coy, merely ennui. But now he can see that she hates them.

Then, this melancholy Freya is again putting her arm in his and dragging him toward the entrance to the gallery, and he thinks they really do both feel lighter without the weight of all those stares. Making their way inside to the coat check, they drop off her jacket and she reaches out to grab the lapel of the three-button, single-breasted Monaco suit coat she bought for him just for the occasion. He is sheepish as she makes her unnecessary adjustments, and she beams at him and says, “Why so blue panda beah?” to which he cannot help but laugh out loud—the fear clouding his face blasted away. That line had become her most hilarious weapon since he had told her about it. He adored Elsa’s accent and for no reason one day, he told her that he loved the Milky Way commercial where a woman pops out of a candy wrapper and in a Russian/East European accent recites said line. Now Elsa loved to say it, too, because it made him laugh, and she reveled in that. He had even begun to suspect that, if she could, she would pop out of a candy bar wrapper to make him laugh.

“C’mon,” she says, “Drinks!”

She walks through the crowd like Venus on surf as the bodies part so that faces may gorge their eyeballs. He jingles behind her like an accoutrement, smiling like an idiot. They get to the bar that is three people deep but she somehow appears up front and the bartender is taking her order. I love the beautiful people, thinks Jason. Good God I’d hate her guts if she wasn’t with me. She shoves a dry Gray Goose martini in his hand. “I vill make you sophisticated if it kills you.”