Sunny had shepherded me through that awkward summer afternoon and even more awkward evening, introducing me as if I were her friend then later dragging me out to the open space by the pool where other couples were gyrating self-consciously to the kind of music they had probably liked better when they were younger. I assumed she was trying to drain away some of the discomfort produced by a brief encounter I’d had with Jack Shott, but Sunny denied it. Jane’s new husband was going to have to accept his bride as she was, and that included what had happened in the mountains north of LA. #
Sunny watched with hilarity what she later characterized as my Brobdingnagian dancing style; and when I told her I wasn’t embarrassed by me if she wasn’t, she said her strategy would be to pretend not to know me.
Well, I’m not in the habit of dancing by myself!
Nor with anyone else, apparently, Sunny said, then dragged me over to a table draped with a white cloth where they were pouring a thin but drinkable North Fork Chardonnay.
I tried to explain how Jane’s uncompromising self-honesty had resulted in a kind of morbid listlessness.
You can say depression. We do. Along with other things.
But her sister hadn’t been depressed in my opinion, just empty, at zero. With no negative readings. But no positive readings either.
Nevertheless, Sunny said, not enjoying our return to a topic she had thought set aside for the evening. The wonders of modern psychopharmacology got her here.
And that’s where they met?
Yes. In her therapist’s waiting room. Shotty was learning how to manage his anger better. Then remembering my unpleasant encounter with him, Sunny placed one hand on my forearm, leaned in toward me with her face lifted the way one might display a salver of cut flowers, a characteristic gesture I would soon learn to anticipate and come to cherish. But that’s not your problem, she said.
Jack Shott had bought a new Jaguar, a low sleek silver convertible; and we all walked out to watch the happy couple depart in it. The elegant car glowed on the circular gravel driveway, serene as a new knife blade under the summer stars. It’s a hard on, Sunny said; and I laughed but didn’t disagree. The top was down, the black leather upholstery fragrant, the polished wood veneer of the steering wheel and dashboard and gear selector knob redolent of the proud history of English automotive craftsmanship as Jane approached, seeing the Jaguar for the first time.
And didn’t you look at your new husband with a smile of complicity then, Jane? Of recognition that marriage would become a matter of making adjustments? I think you would have to agree that you did.
Because not only would she ride away in this extravagant vehicle, Jane would also be the one to drive it. Jack Shott’s hands were too damaged for him to be able to grip the steering wheel. His bachelor party had ended with a late-night encounter in a roadside tavern. Obtuse locals had been incapable of assessing the ramifications of looking at him the wrong way as he strode in for one last one, and the damage he inflicted on them in the parking lot had also made it impossible for Jack Shott to turn the ignition key of his new car, drag the selector down to D, steer with his wrists. It was his wedding night; and he had been required to accept the humiliation of settling into the passenger seat, pulling the door closed with his elbow, using both swollen thumbs and the less damaged of his forefingers to force the passenger-side seat belt into its locking base, and then just sitting there like a victim staring grimly straight ahead, saying nothing to anyone.
Jane in the gravel driveway displayed the ignition key with its attached remote control unit the way a person might hold up something fished out of a toilet. She pushed a button. The boot popped open, and she smiled at herself as she walked back to close it, her naked shoulders fragile in the starlight. She watched us watching her, her small nipples puckering behind the silver skin of her bridal sheath. Another button flicked on the lights and set off the alarm system. Isn’t there an instruction manual?