A Rec­og­nized Man

The Walrus - - CONTENTS - By Michael Harris

Ti­mothy was in love with René, or felt he very soon would be. All the looks and habits of love were there. They farted in bed with­out apol­o­giz­ing and ar­gued over toast and jam with the ca­sual hos­til­ity of mar­ried peo­ple. In fact, Ti­mothy felt so strongly that he would very soon be to­tally in love with René that his fail­ure to quite feel the sen­sa­tion hung over him in a fog of guilt.

At any rate, the awards cer­e­mony was in just a few months; it would be self- de­struc­tive to throw away ade­cent re­la­tion­ship and show up alone when he’d been inch­ing to­ward love with such a beau­ti­ful part­ner. René looked good in a tux and had a way of mak­ing for­mal events feel as sim­ple as card games. He would place a hand in the small of Ti­mothy’s back at pre­cisely the right mo­ment or in­ter­rupt a painful con­ver­sa­tion to sweep him away. As for the love part, it was prob­a­bly de­vel­op­ing, was prob­a­bly im­mi­nent. Very soon, he said to the mir­ror as he parted his hair. Any day.

“Heil Hitler,” said René, walk­ing into the bath­room. He’d show­ered in the guest suite, but all his lo­tions and oint­ments were here, in the mas­ter, along with a sil­ver tray of the colognes he liked to layer onto his chest in a spe­cific palimpsest that Ti­mothy could never quite fathom. “Your part is Nazi-rigid,” he ex­plained, and he mussed Ti­mothy’s hair from be­hind, wrig­gling two fin­gers down the neat line at the side of his scalp. “You said to be fancy.”

“Fancy, not fas­cist.” The spritzing be­gan, and Ti­mothy re­treated to the closet, where he se­lected a pair of trousers that both­ered him when he sat but worked well when he stood. He could sneak off the top but­ton once they were seated at what­ever restau­rant René had cho­sen. As­sum­ing there were table­cloths.

“You can’t wear that,” said René. “I’m wear­ing blue.” Ti­mothy looked down at the shirt he’d put on. René pulled down a thin navy sweater for him­self.

“But that’s not the same blue.”

“That’s what I’m say­ing. We’ll clash. We’ll be all — ” René made a face to sig­nify elec­tri­cal dis­junc­ture and be­gan un­but­ton­ing Ti­mothy’s shirt. He re-hung it on the wooden hanger and chose a pinkstriped sub­sti­tute that had lately been feel­ing too snug around the belly. Ti­mothy put it on and went to feed the cat.

They were in the el­e­va­tor by 7:50 p.m., which still left them plenty of time to go on foot, said René. Ti­mothy plot­ted a ten­minute walk­ing ra­dius in his head and de­ter­mined that his birthday din­ner would prob­a­bly be at Buca. This was a good choice— they had a sea-bass carpac­cio that was re­ally spe­cial — but it was also hugely ex­pen­sive, and the dawn­ing re­al­iza­tion that he’d be pay­ing for his own birthday din­ner caused Ti­mothy to let out a lit­tle sigh.

René re­tal­i­ated with a mock­ing sigh of his own, which made Ti­mothy look over in sur­prise, prompt­ing René to say, “Don’t be all” — he made his elec­tri­cal dis­junc­ture face — “tonight, okay? Just re­lax.”

René was mak­ing an ef­fort. And this was, in a way, quite touch­ing. He could have taken that sigh of Ti­mothy’s and spun it into an ar­gu­ment (he’d done it be­fore), but it was Ti­mothy’s fortieth, and so René would make an ef­fort. Ti­mothy smiled at René and reached over to rub the back of his neck. “Al­most there,” said René. And he gave Ti­mothy a what­sit­gonnabe eye­brow wag­gle.

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