Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Leather Pants

Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 10.54.00 PM
This tiny Indian restaurant was lit like some Christmas fanatic’s suburban mansion. Those bright, colorful blinking lights were almost seizure inducing.
“Are we ready for a birthday treat?” Marais said, grinning ear to ear.
“Whose birthday?” I asked.
“Yours of course, silly!” Everyone at the table burst out laughing.
Two Indian waiters sang Happy Birthday song while carrying out a special dessert cake with one lit candle in the middle of it. I blew it out unenthusiastically. Applauses all around. It wasn’t a big deal really. A harmless fun to get a free dessert out of this BYOB joint for a night out with my co-workers. But because it was Marais who initiated it, I resented it.

Marais was one of those people who got it easy in life because of his good looks. He resembled very much of a British actor, Ralph Fiennes. His wavy blond hair and charming smile were irresistible to many.
Marais came in for some carpentry work at a gallery where I worked as a lowly art handler. Then he charmed his way up to become a permanent hire in no time.

I got a leather jacket for my birthday that year. It was a jacket I had my eyes on for years but never had enough money to buy. I wore it day in and day out, not just because I loved it so much, but because it was my only winter jacket. Soon the pockets inside were worn out and had big holes in them. I’d lose my keys and change and they jangled inside it as I moved.
One day after work, I put my jacket on and found the inside pockets miraculously fixed. Marais tapped me on my shoulder.
“I think this is yours.” He said, handing me a leather jacket, which looked suspiciously similar to mine.
Apparently, Marais had exactly the same jacket as me.
“That’s funny, what a coincidence!” I told him, feeling mighty fraternal.
“Serendipitous it’s not. Mine isn’t all fucked up like this.” He said.
Holes in the inside pockets. Change, gone.
“Why do you have such an expensive jacket?” He asked me, smirking.
I didn’t like this guy.

It was an opening night at the gallery. People in fancy clothes crowded the place. As usual in these events, it wasn’t about marveling at those wallpapers passing as art but rather art of seeing and being seen. All staff had to work, serving wine and o'd'oeuvre to rich patrons. Marais fit in perfectly. He was having the grandest time chatting away. I saw countless old society ladies giving Marais huge tips and their phone numbers as they exited smiling at the end of the night. Call me petty. I hated Marais.

Then he disappeared. A Visa problem I heard.

I ran into him a year later on the street. I was contemplating where I would come up with $300 in two days for the deposit on our new apartment as I walked. I was still living with my then-girlfriend in a tenement building in Alphabet City, Manhattan; a real shit hole. We were about to move to Brooklyn for a better place. Everything was packed up and moved to a storage space and we were only sleeping there for a couple of nights until the move. Still $300 short. Those were hard times. Then I saw Ralph Fiennes smirking at me at the corner of 4th and Avenue A. It was Marais.
He looked sharp in a black dress shirt, a fancy velvet vest, black leather pants and riding boots. My fingers kept playing with the tattered inside pockets.
“I’ve got to ask you a favor. I need a place to crash tonight.” He said, smelling like gin and smoke.
“Bad timing. I’m about to move and-“
“But you are not moving today, are you?” He cut me off.
“Well, no.”
I told him the place didn’t really have a living room space. It was true. It had a useless long narrow hallway that led to two tiny rooms- one for me and my girlfriend and the other for my roommate. Marais was adamant and very persuasive.
“Come on, just for one night. I’ll sleep on the floor.”
I finally caved in.
“Okay. You can sleep in the hallway.” I told him.
“All right, see you then.” He said as he turned around to leave.
“What? Where are you going?”
Apparently, he had some prior engagement. He’d call me when he came around.

“What an asshole!” My girlfriend exclaimed as I told her about Marais.
“And you’re letting him stay?”
“Well, you know that I usually don’t pick up an Euro-trash from the street on a regular bases. But gotta tell you, he’s very good looking.” I told her.

Marais finally showed up at the doorstep at two in the morning. He was completely inebriated. Before I even properly introduced him to my girlfriend, he fell on the floor face down. I had to back up because of the narrowness of the hallway.
“Well, nice to meet you too.”
I nudged Marais with my foot. No movement. Out cold.
“Look at him. Look at what he’s wearing. I bet those leather pants alone must’ve cost more than our rent.” She said with the tone of disgust.
That gave us an idea. We looked at each other and smiled mischievously.
Everything was going to be okay.