Authors: Elisa Lorello
This book is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this work is strictly prohibited.
Sale of this book without a front cover is unauthorized. If this book is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher as "sold or destroyed" and neither the author nor the publisher may have received payment for it.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Elisa Lorello
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
Published in America by Lulu Press, Inc.
Manufactured in the United States of America
This book could not have been born without the following people:
First and foremost, thank you to Stacey Cochran, who introduced me to and mentored me through the community of published writing and writers.
Thanks also to Neil Coleman, the very first person to read the manuscript in its first incarnation, and to subsequent readers, including (in alphabetical order) Evelyn Audi, Tracy Branco Medeiros, Celeste Girrell, Mary Gonzalez, John Griffin, Linda Licata, Ariel Lorello, Katie Marciano, Crystal Medeiros, Susan Miller-Cochran, Kelly Sutphin, Bruce W. Tench II, Marisa Von Beeden, and all of my students and others who were kind enough to listen to excerpts and tell me what they thought.
Thanks to Elisa DiLeo, who helped me find my way around Manhattan, and Richard Romero, owner of Mirasol's cafe in North Dartmouth, MA, where most of this book was written and discussed over countless cups of vanilla chai latte.
Thanks to Dr. John Caruso, who advised me in college that sport psychology was not the way to go, and to Drs. W. Keith Duffy and Mary Hallet, who took me under their wings in grad school and married me to rhetoric and composition.
Thank you always to my mother, Eda, my father, Michael, my grandmother, Mary Mottola, my brothers, sister, and extended family for their unending support, especially my twin brother, Paul, who is a much better writer than I am and constantly raises the bar.
To all those well-established writers who inspire me and make me laugh on a regular basis, especially Aaron Sorkin and Nora Ephron, and to writer/scholar Peter Elbow and the late Donald Murray, I bow to you.
Finally, a special thank you to Sarah Girrell Paquette, whom I adore. Without her insight, feedback, knowledge of art, and love for this book, Devin and Andi never would have stood a chance.
Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world.
Rhetoric is the second oldest.
GATHERED MY BOOKS, PENS, STUDENT ESSAYS, water bottle, coat, and purse as the students sauntered out five minutes early, leaving behind muddy sneaker-prints and lackluster enthusiasm. It happens to the best of us at one time or another: we have a bad class, we bomb, we put our students to sleep. Today one of them actually snored.
With a briefcase and a tote bag slung over one shoulder apiece, I exited the musty room as the next class of students--poli-sci, I think--began filing in. My day was done; at least the teaching part was. Three stacks of essays awaited my zealous reading and feedback. "Zealous" is an overstatement; at best, I can get about five essays done per hour, three hours max. And I need breaks in between. If only our brains had scanning machines. If only mind melds really worked. It's my dirty little secret that I'd rather be looking at
than Shakespeare. I know I'm inches from being found out, about everything...
I moved back to Long Island because Maggie, my best friend and former colleague from SouthCoastCommunity College in Massachusetts, was now director of the writing program at BrooklynUniversity and offered me a position assisting her and teaching full-time. Maggie and I had collaborated on a number of projects and articles at SCCC (my favorite being the one we never submitted for publication but wrote to blow off steam: "Fuck the Modes: We Want Artifacts!"). We'd spend hours in her office, discussing composition theory and pedagogy and Wendy Bishop articles and what it was really like to work with Lad Tobin ("the Woody Allen of rhetoric and composition," I call him). She always knew when I was approaching her office by the rhythm and sound my shoes made on the carpet. We were allies, colleagues, and friends all at the same time. I couldn't resist the chance to work with her again.
So, that was the reason. (Oh yeah, and I also broke up with my fiance...)
I'd been back on the Island for only six months, and frankly, I was surprised at how long it was taking me to adjust. I'd been away for ten years, living in a small town in southeastern Massachusetts (small by Long Island's standards, at least). Fairhaven echoed faint similarities to the Northport of my youth and young adulthood: split-level housing developments on cul-de-sacs, nearby shopping centers and malls, minutes from the parkway (although in Massachusetts they call it the "highway") and a reasonable driving distance to and from both the city and the ocean. The familiarity felt comfortable.
I used to think the Island was life-affirming. Perhaps because it was home. Or maybe it was the "Mini-Me" of Manhattan. Whatever it was, I had spent the last ten years writing about and romancing Long Island from my Massachusetts digs. I wrote about the roads, the beaches, the shopping, the people, the accents, the sports teams, the Hamptons, you name it. But now that I was back and paying a thousand dollars more in rent for a thousand less square feet of space, I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was so energizing about this strap-on to the Big Apple and its wannabe inhabitants. Nevertheless, I took the job at Brooklyn U and a residential apartment in East Meadow, about fifteen minutes away from the Long Island Railroad, and the cost of commuting was killing me each month. Some days I would drive all the way to Brooklyn; other days I'd drive to the train station, take the train to Queens, and switch to the subway. I'd forgotten how everything on Long Island was high-maintenance. When you put a high-maintenance woman in a low-maintenance town, the woman just stands out as having it altogether. Put that same woman back into the town that made her high-maintenance to begin with, and you've simply got another stressed out New Yorker, no different from anyone else. Now I found myself missing--and writing about--the small shores of West Island beach, the slow service of Pop's Coffeehouse, and the shrill sounds of New England accents.
But that was all I had, it seemed. Memories.
It's not that I didn't look for anything else. I kept an eye out for single professors when I attended seminars or campus workshops on writing across the curriculum, or evenings spent at poetry readings in coffeeshops. No matter where I went though, unavailability was everywhere. Men were married, involved, divorced with children, too old, too young, or gay. They were Republican, unemployed, or mama's boys. They were atheists and Giants fans. And I couldn't help but wonder if I was projecting an unavailability of my own. Because none of them was Andrew.
Nothing to watch tonight, nowhere to go, nothing in the fridge, nothing in my wallet. Essays to read, laundry to do, bills to pay, rooms to clean, and the dust is forming its own kind of woven fabric on the furniture. No calls, emails, letters.
My God, there has to be something better than this
This is not enough. Not anymore
I thought that as I walked through the hallways, down the icy sidewalks, and to the train.
And that's when it all began.
ESTFORD-LANGLEY PUBLISHING COMPANY WAS hosting a seminar and textbook fair in the city. This one focused on the latest applications of electronic portfolios in the composition classroom. Maggie and I loved these kinds of seminars--they gave us a chance to talk about theory, meet and reunite with some of our favorite people in academia, check out the new textbooks on the market, and socialize. She and Jayce, our colleague and friend, sat in my office on the matching high-back chairs that I'd picked up at a Salvation Army rummage sale for twenty dollars apiece. Maggie was tall--almost five foot ten--and broad shouldered with a long torso and long legs. She wore her hair straight and bottle-blonde, with wire-framed glasses and flawless MAC makeup. Her appearance was intimidating and her voice was deep and full, yet her personality was kitten-like. Jayce, on the other hand, was paper-thin petite with smooth, dark skin, and very, very chic. A lifelong Brooklynite, one would take her for a fashion magazine editor than a writing professor.
"Andi, come with us to the cocktail party after the seminar," Jayce said.
"I don't know; cocktail parties aren't my thing," I replied.
"She doesn't drink," Maggie explained.
"So, I don't want to be the only sober one. Come on, you know those things. They're meet-markets and show-off fests and the more imbibed you are the more likely you'll get hit on by Joe Doolittle and not mind it."
"Might be worth it if he has tenure," Jayce said.
"I won't drink either," Maggie offered. Mags was the type of person who would give you a hundred dollars if you casually mentioned you needed to buy a hundred lottery tickets to increase your chances of winning.
"Just come," Jayce said again. "You don't have to drink. People-watch. It's a great time to network."
You can always convince me to network.
The cocktail party followed the seminar two hours later at the National Arts Club in GramercyPark. Most of the seminar attendees stuck around, making a weekend of it. Maggie, Jayce, and I found a small Thai place for a quick dinner before returning to the Club to freshen up. We entered fashionably late, of course. Jayce immediately began to mingle, a cosmopolitan already in her hand. Maggie ordered a wine spritzer. I slowly sipped a ginger ale. We found a high-legged table that was not too centered in the room yet not too removed from the crowd. We sat for awhile, invited people to join us and talk teaching for a bit, then people-watched.
"You know, John Kirkland is not as tall as he looks when he's at the podium," I remarked, watching him yukking it up with two professors from NYU.
"You're right. And did you notice the snorting noise he makes when he's about to begin a new thought?"
I tried to stifle my laugh but it came just as I sipped my drink, and thus I began both a laughing and coughing fit while the carbonation pinched my nostrils. Just then, as I smeared ginger ale from the front of my shirt, I saw him enter the room with one of the textbook reps: Tall. Six feet, maybe a few inches to spare. Mid to late thirties, possibly. He wore a taupe-colored suit--Versace, I think--with a finely woven shirt underneath. Alluring, to say the least. His dark hair fell forward in wispy layers yet stayed close to the nape of his neck. Perfect for running my fingers through, I thought. Olive skinned, yet could also be booth tanned--hard to tell in the lighting. When another rep greeted the couple, he flashed a smile that sent sparks from his--what were they, brown eyes? Regardless of color, they had transfixed me in the split second of that smile.
"Who is that guy with Allison?" I asked. "I didn't see him at the seminar."
"I don't know," Maggie replied, "but he's gorgeous, isn't he. Maybe he's her husband?"
"Let's mingle," I said, and got up to walk around. I chimed in on conversations about Trimbur's newest article and the memorial for the late Donald Murray and what's going on at Brooklyn U and had I heard any good gossip about SCCC lately. All the while I tracked Versace with my peripheral vision, like a hidden camera. I watched him schmooze with professors, sip his drink, and turn every woman's head in the room. What's more, I watched some of the women exchange knowing glances with each other, almost like a secret handshake, behind his back.
I had to find out who he was.
I approached another rep.
"Great job today, Carol."
Carol stood about five foot five and had audacious, red-orange hair that fell past her shoulders. She was pale and thin, in her forties, and wore silk scarves with every combination of business pinstripe pant or skirt suit.
I leaned in to her, underneath the chatter. "So who's the guy with Allison?" Her saleswoman smile turned into a sly grin, like the cat that not only ate the canary, but also had a smoke afterwards. "Is he her husband?" I asked.
She guffawed, "Good gracious, no!"
"Then who is he?"
"Let me put it to you this way: he's her 'cocktail-party companion'."
"So then, he's not with a university?"
Now she was laughing at my expense, and I felt my face get hot.
"No. But he's probably been with almost every female professor in this room."
I choked on my ginger ale for the second time.
"Excuse me?" I sputtered.
"He's Allison's cocktail party date, but he's also Wanda's New Year's Eve date, Joanne's every-third-Saturday-of-the-month date, and Sadie's 'I-need-a-good-lay' date." I still looked at her blankly, and she finally cut to the chase: "He's an escort."