They’re standing in the corner of a darkly lit room, two older men in the same v-neck cardigan pulled over a button-up shirt — the financier’s uniform. “Jenny Bahn,” I hear from the taller of the two, the one with the blue eyes and the salt-and-pepper hair. Jeh-nee Bahn. My name delivered in a slight Spanish accent and the winking familiarity of someone you’ve been naked with once. I haven’t seen him since last April, back when we spent the weekend at a sprawling estate somewhere in the Hamptons with a university professor, a celebrity journalist, and a model from Germany. Because of what did or did not transpire in the weeks following, I’m not supposed to like him.
“What’s up?” he says, arms crossed, wine glass in hand, his head assuming the position of interest that it did a year ago when I first met him at a dinner, talking to me about Ivy League schools and trips to Paris. That interest was a false one. Body language is nothing but trickery, easily spotted when you’ve been fooled a few times, easily fallen for when you want someone to like you. “Just work,” I tell him. “Going to Mexico next week.” He asks if I’m going with my boyfriend. “No,” I say, “I don’t have one.”
“I’m looking into going to the beach,” he says, meaning St. Barths, St. Thomas, St. Wherever, some place in the Caribbean with white beaches and sunshine and $100 bottles of French rose. “You should come with me.” I’ve heard this racket before, not just from other flippant rich guys but from this one in particular, just 300-something days ago. What a joke, I think, that he can’t even switch up his own game. Forty years old and still rummaging through a stale box of recycled material with a recycled girl.
“Uh huh,” I mumble.
“Let’s grab drinks this week.”
Time and distance has afforded me perspective, shining a light on the reality that is (and always was) Francisco Cortez. He’s not the fascinating, intelligent, handsome man I made him out to be the first time around. In truth, he was some of those things, but moreover, he was a jerk with a live-in girlfriend that I didn’t know about. Now I don’t like him or need to like him or want to like him; there’s no pulling the wool over my own eyes this time.
I tell him I’ll get a drink with him. Because I am a masochist.