Rachel Alexander 04 - Lady Vanishes
We Followed Dash
“Hurry,” Chip said, “we can make the light.”
He grabbed my hand and began to run across Hudson Street, the Don’t Walk sign flashing. Dashiell broke into a run too, hitting the end of his leash as if he were in a weight-pulling contest.
We stopped in front of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame to catch our breaths, and I gave Dash the eye to stop him from lifting his leg against the flimsy faux Western fence that separated the outdoor diners from the rest of the sidewalk. Had he marked one of the wagon wheels, the patron dining at the adjacent table would have gotten what’s called a golden shower, not everyone’s cup of tea, even here in Greenwich Village, the neighborhood that invented de gustibus non disputatem est.
I didn’t ask Chip why we had to risk getting mowed down in the prime of life. It’s not as if Waterloo took reservations. But New Yorkers don’t argue about their relationship with time. It’s always of the essence. You never kill it. More often than not, it kills you. Worst of all, if you’re caught in the act of not rushing, people will think you’re from Kansas.
We headed uptown a block, turning left on Charles Street, passing the little farmhouse that had been moved down here intact from the Upper East Side. On the other side of Greenwich Street, we passed a co-op that used to be a couple of warehouses, then a rental building called the Gendarme because that’s where the cops were before they moved to Tenth Street. Waterloo was on the comer of Charles and Washington. It used to be a garage. Like it or not, things change.
It was midnight, and the place was in full swing. We were greeted cheerfully and shown to the only empty table, one near the pull-down frosted glass wall, which was raised high enough for us to see passersby only from the waist down, but allowed a full view of any dog who passed. Dashiell positioned himself to enjoy the show while Chip ordered a bottle of Vouvray.
“You look especially beautiful tonight,” he said after the waiter left to get our wine.
A thick-set little man with ruddy skin delivered our bread, crusty rolls that, as soon as we began to tear them apart, would cover everything with fine white flour.
Chip was grinning. He reached across the table and took my hand.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” he said. “It’s just that I love you very much.”
A waiter with a ponytail came with our wine.
My cell phone rang.
Listening to the caller, I watched the waiter pull an opener from the back of his belt and begin to uncork the wine.
I said, “Uh-huh” and “I do,” then “I’ll be there,” before hanging up and slipping the phone back into my jacket pocket. Then I picked up my glass of wine and held it, thinking about what I’d just heard.
His eyes darkened with concern.
“You’ll be careful?”
“I promise.” I took a sip of wine. “When do you have to leave for the airport?”
“We shouldn’t have left Betty home alone.”
“She’ll be fine.”
I tapped my nails on the thick white paper that covered the table.
“I’m not all that hungry,” I said. “Are you?”
Chip grinned. “I’ll be back before you know it.”
He took a sip of wine.
I slipped off my sandal and slid my bare toes up under the bottom of his pants leg.
He raised a hand to get the waiter’s attention.
“Check, please,” he said.
The waiter nodded.
Chip paid in cash, leaving a generous tip. Hand in hand, we followed Dash into the dark, quiet night, walking home without saying another word.
Afterward I got up, slipped on his shirt, stepped over Betty, who, typical shepherd, was sleeping in the doorway, and tiptoed through the dark cottage, Dashiell padding along behind me. Once outside, I sat on the steps, looking up at the night sky, the air I inhaled coming from the heavens, the air I exhaled returning to the stars, feeling completely alive and one with everything.
She’d said her name was Venus White and that she was the manager of Harbor View, on West Street between Twelfth and Jane, a small, privately owned residential treatment center for throwaways, high-maintenance people who needed more care than their families were willing or able to provide. Those who even had families.
She was whispering.
“Can you hear me?” she’d asked.
There was a pause then.
“Right,” she said. Loud. “Remember that pin of mine you love, the Art Smith with the tiger’s
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