“Eric what are you doing? We need to be leaving for the theater if you plan to make it on time.” Pam’s voice drifts across the room to where I’m standing by the window. I’ve been looking out the window for nearly an hour, though I haven’t really seen the world below me. My hotel room at The Plaza affords me a view of Central Park, but it’s not the park itself that holds my interest. It’s the memories of when Sookie and I used to spend our days wondering the paths with our hands clasped tightly together, lying in the grass letting our lips and hands get the best of us, or watching her worship the sun she loved so much. Sighing I drag my eyes away from the window. I hate coming back to this city; it always brought up some of my happiest and most painful memories…all of which involved Sookie.
“We have time Pam,” I say with a sigh. “I planned to walk to the theater anyway. It’s not like it’s far.”
“Fine, you can walk, but I’m taking a cab! I’m not risking these shoes on the streets of New York!” She gestures towards her newest pair of Manolo Blahnik’s as if they are a newborn infant that needs to be protected from the world. I close my eyes and sigh internally. How the hell did my life spin so far out of control? Sookie hadn’t been concerned with material things; all she ever wanted was my time and love. And I fucked it all up; I turned my back on the best thing in my life for a shot at fame and fortune. Look what it got me; I was famous, I had a fortune, women and men threw themselves at me seeking my company, but none of it made me fucking happy. The only happiness I had known was in the arms of the only woman I had ever loved…a woman who now wanted nothing to do with me. So why was I being a glutton for punishment and going to see her performing on Broadway, knowing that all I could do was admire her from afar?
Pam must sense my melancholia because she drops the brisk facade for a moment to ask me softly. “Are you sure you want to do this? We don’t have to go see the show.”
I nod my head slowly. “I need to be there Pam; I need to see her final performance.” Of course I don’t tell Pam that I’d also seen the first performance and several in between. Every show Sookie had been in, I had seen at least twice. But this one was different; this was the show that had made her the darling of Broadway; the first time her name had been above the marquee. I wish I could have been there to see her face the first time she had seen her name in lights. With a faint smile, I remember how excited she had been for me the first time she had seen my name in the credits of the TV show that gave me my big break. She had been my biggest supporter; it seemed like the least I could do was support her even if it was from afar.
“Are you going to talk to her this time?” I guess I wasn’t as discreet as I thought I was. I didn’t think anyone knew about me watching Sookie from afar.
I sigh again as I look at Pam. Pain fills my eyes and my voice is lifeless when I respond. “What’s the point? She made it pretty clear the last time we saw each other that she wanted nothing to do with me.”
“Can you blame her?” Pam looks at me critically and I feel like a little boy that’s disappointed his mom; I feel two inches tall.
“No,” I mumble. “I still love her Pam; no matter how much time has passed. Me not loving Sookie wasn’t the reason for our relationship ending.”
“No,” she says with her snark coming back in full force. “It’s because you couldn’t keep your dick out of another woman, that’s why you lost the best thing that ever happened to you.” Her heels click loudly against the marble floor as she crosses to the door. She opens it and turns back to me. “If you’re done with your pity party for one, we are officially late. The show starts in less than a half hour.”
The inside of The Palace Theatre is jam packed when Pam and I arrive and are escorted to our seats. It seems tonight’s performance is a who’s who of the rich and famous. The show is actually starting a little late this evening because of all the madness that is taking place inside. I cannot help but feel a sense of pride knowing that all of these people are here to see Sookie’s last performance in Bayou Blues. She is, after all, the reason the show has been a smashing success for nearly three years. The story seems as if it had been tailor-made for Sookie; it’s the tale of a nightclub singer in New Orleans as she struggles to balance her life with her quest for fame. Sookie’s character, Emeline known as Emme, works in a nightclub tucked in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The show opens with Emme alone on stage, illuminated by a single spotlight, singing about how she is looking to escape. She is from a poor background and seeks fame and fortune so she will be able to take care of herself and never be poor again. While working in the club, she falls in love with Rene, a musician that works there. However, she ends up casting Rene aside for Louis, a man that claims he can make Emme a star. The show ends with Emme a star, but she is alone and heartbroken. Louis only uses her to further his own career, he does not love her. Emme returns to the nightclub in New Orleans, hoping to find Rene. However her search does not end the way she hoped; Rene is now the owner of the club and happily married to Marie, who used to be Emme’s best friend. The show ends the same way it began; Emme singing alone on the stage lamenting her lost chance at happiness. The overall message of the show hits too close to home for me; the first time I had seen the show I felt as if I had been punched in the gut and as if my heart was being squeezed by a vice. I had wept right along with Emme as she cried for her foolishness in giving up the person she loved for fame. It was a mistake I too had made.
Eight Years Ago
My two night trial audition at Merlotte’s turned into a full-time job for me. I worked Friday and Saturday nights, with two additional nights during the week. The thing I really liked the most about the job was that it left me free during the day to attend auditions. I didn’t necessarily enjoy the work; it was backbreaking and tiring. However, the pay was good, and I enjoyed the time I spent with Lafayette and Sookie. Both Friday and Saturday night, Sookie had sat at the bar while Lafayette and I cleaned up. She was a beautiful girl with a great personality and we flirted a lot my first weekend working at Merlotte’s. I was fascinated by her, and I wasn’t against the idea of pursuing something with her. However, Sam put a wrinkle in my plan when I showed up for work Thursday night. He informed me that he had a no dating policy for his employees; he didn’t want outside relationships interfering with his business. What the fuck?
“What’s got your panties in a twist? I’d be more than happy to take them off a’ya and help you relax,” Lafayette tells me with a wink. He has been trying to show me how to make mixed drinks, but I keep screwing things up. I’m not really concentrating since I keep replaying over and over in my head Sam’s words from earlier.
“After I finished filling out all my paperwork tonight, Sam made it a point to tell me about his no dating policy,” I say like a sulky child.
Lafayette stands up straight and raises both his eyebrows. He puts his hands on his hips before he demands, “What no dating policy?” Before I can respond, he starts muttering under his breath. When he catches my wide-eyed stare he calms down a bit. “Don’t let that mutha fucka get to ya. He’s just pissy that you and Sook were battin’ eyes at each other. Sam’s been in love wit her fo years, but she’s never looked at him that way.”
Shit! I need this job and I don’t want to lose it because I flirted with the girl the boss likes. Things pick up and I don’t have much time to think about Sam’s words. However, the waitresses must not have gotten the memo about the no dating policy because I am suddenly the shiny new toy they all want to play with. Each of them tries to gain my attention one way or another. Lafayette tells me if I know what’s good for me I’d give all of them a wide berth. I should have listened to him; but like most horny twenty-something men, I let my dick do most of the decision making when it comes to women. After work that night, I hook up with Dawn. She is attractive; brown wavy hair, green eyes, and nice tits. The best part of Dawn is that she made it perfectly clear she isn’t interested in a relationship, just someone that will fuck her hard and make her cum. I’d say I fulfilled her requirements; she shows up to work Friday night walking gingerly and her voice is a bit hoarse from all the screaming she’d done during our sexathon.
I can’t help smirking when all the waitresses turn their attention to me during our prep work; I guess Dawn was singing my praises. Lafayette glances in the direction of the waitresses and then back at me. He shakes his head in disgust, “You a damn fool. I just hope you triple wrapped your dick; no telling what types of diseases that skanky bitch has.”
“Are you jealous sweetheart?” My tone is a teasing purr as I walk to Lafayette and put my arm around him teasingly. “You know you’re still my favorite.” Lafayette’s response is to “hmph” before shrugging out of my grasp so he can continue his work. I am laughing at his reaction until I turn around and my eyes meet Sookie’s baby blues. The laughter gets stuck in my throat and I swallow uncomfortably because her eyes seem to be filled with disappointment while looking at me. I open my mouth to say something but she beats me to it.
“Lala, do you have my tea ready?” He nods his head and passes her a tray containing a mug, a large tea pot filled with boiling water, tea bags, honey, and lemon slices. Before I can say anything to her, she turns quickly and makes her way back to the dressing room Sam had created for her. She didn’t say anything to me; didn’t even acknowledge my presence. I feel guilty and I don’t know why; I feel like I did something wrong.
“I told you; yous a damn fool,” Lafayette says quietly by my side.
I didn’t see Sookie again until she went on stage. Her voice is as enchanting as usual but something feels off about her performance; I don’t think anyone else can tell, but to me, she seems distracted. She doesn’t seem to have the same sparkle in her eyes she did last weekend. I want to talk to her after her performance is over, but she doesn’t stick around. Tray, one of the musicians in the band, says she went home as soon as the encore was over. When I ask Lafayette if that is normal, he shrugs and says “Sometimes”.
Dawn chooses that moment to slide up beside me. “Hey handsome; how about an encore performance?” She trails her fingernails up my arm to my chest in what I guess she thinks is a seductive manner. Something about her touch now makes me feel dirty and I can’t suppress the shudder that courses through my body. By the way her grin widens, I’m sure she thinks it is because she is turning me on. I don’t remember what I say to her, but I know that I go home alone after my shift. I do not sleep well. Every time I close my eyes, I see Sookie standing there looking hurt and disappointed.
I’ve been working at Merlotte’s now for a couple of months. At first, Dawn and the other waitresses constantly pursued me, but I never responded after that one hook up with Dawn. She became slightly bitchy towards me, but got over it when she set her sights on the new security guard Quinn. I really am enjoying my job; the money is great and I like working with Lafayette. Despite his attempts to convert me to playing for the same team, we become close friends. He and his partner Jesus, a nurse at New York Presbyterian, welcome me in their home with open arms. I mean that literally; they invited me to live with the two of them in the brownstone they rent. I had reservations at first, but considering what I paid for a flat the size of a janitorial closet and that my neighbors are cockroaches and roodles (rats the size of poodles), I quickly accepted the offer. Their brownstone is located in Greenwich Village; Lafayette teased me that by living in the Village my conversion to the same team will only be a matter of time. I love living in the Village; it reminds me a lot of home with its markets, restaurants, and Bohemian lifestyle. Even though we are still in Manhattan, life seems much slower in our neighborhood. The brownstone Jesus and Lafayette rent is amazing. Given Lafayette’s flamboyant tendencies and affinity for animal print, I worried their home would be like walking into Liberace’s personal petting zoo. However, I must admit I am pleasantly surprised by how tastefully decorated everything is and how much it feels like home. You walk up ten steps to get to the entrance and enter the main living area which consists of a living room, eat-in kitchen, and bathroom. The second level has two bedrooms that share a bathroom and another sitting area. The third level is the master suite which Lafayette and Jesus share. In addition to no longer worrying that I will be eaten alive by cockroaches or roodles, the food in their home is always amazing! Lafayette tends to cook soul food or Cajun style and Jesus is always making a Latin inspired dish. I don’t think I have ever eaten as well as I do living with them. Despite all of the perks that I get living with Lafayette and Jesus, there is one that is head and shoulders above the rest.
In addition to working at the club with Lafayette and me, Sookie also lives in the brownstone; she occupies the other bedroom on the second floor. Her story is fascinating. She had come to New York City from Louisiana to attend NYU; she is a third-year college student. During freshman orientation, she and some people she met ended up at Merlotte’s for karaoke night. Everyone in the group had taken turns doing karaoke, with Sookie being the last in the group to go. The story I heard was that Sam offered Sookie a job after hearing her do a karaoke version of Etta James’ At Last. According to Lafayette, her version that night put Ms. Etta’s to shame. Sookie only works Fridays and Saturdays for Sam; occasionally she will fill in as a waitress during the week if he is in a pinch, but she prefers to devote all of her time during the week to school. She has grown quite the fan club while performing at Merlotte’s the past three years; there is never an open seat in the house when she performs. Sam knows she is the reason his bar is so successful, so he makes sure she is well compensated. Lafayette told me some stories of other clubs trying to lure her away and Sam had acted like a rabid dog marking his territory. I’m not sure how much she makes, but I know it is enough for her to completely support herself while going to school and live off campus; no easy feat for a normal college student, and damn near extraordinary considering we live in NYC.
Sookie fascinates me; from the moment I’d heard her sing in the club, I was smitten. I never acted on the attraction for two reasons; Lafayette and Jesus made it perfectly clear to me they will kill me and hide my body so it will never be found if I hurt Sookie, but most importantly, Sookie has shown no interest in me since she found out I slept with Dawn. There are times when she acts like I don’t even exist at all, but then there are other times when I get glimpses of the Sookie I met that first weekend.
Sookie had moved in with Lafayette and Jesus at the end of her first year at NYU. Her family had argued with her to come home, but she refused stating she could earn more money as a waitress in New York for the summer than she could in Louisiana. Her family wasn’t happy with how infrequently she came home, but they couldn’t fault her logic and they couldn’t find fault with how well she did in school. I thought given her career as a singer she would be majoring in performing arts at NYU. Imagine my surprise when I learned she was a duel major in art history and urban design/architecture. Sookie confessed one night she hated performing in front of people; she hated being the center of attention. When I asked her why she sang at the club she shrugged her shoulders and said the money was too good to pass up. She has no desire to be an actress or a singer; she sings because she enjoys it. Lafayette complained good-naturedly that if he had one quarter of Sookie’s talent, it would be him in the revival of The Producers instead of Matthew Broderick or Nathan Lane.
Despite all the information I know about Sookie, I don’t really feel like I know her. What information I know has come from Lafayette, Jesus, or Sam. She never talks about herself, and she doesn’t really hang out with anyone besides Lafayette and Jesus. Even in the house she keeps to herself. Before I moved in, I tried to talk to Sookie about how she felt about having me move in. Her response was to shrug her shoulders and say it wouldn’t matter to her since she wasn’t there all that much. The only thing she asked was that I be considerate about the bathroom since we had to share it. I jokingly told her that I would try to remember to leave the seat down for her. Her response had been to blink at me owlishly before saying that didn’t bother her; she said she her brother was more of a wild animal and less of a human. Her concern was about my “lady friends” that would be staying over; she didn’t want to find random women in her bathroom.
How do I tell her that I don’t want any lady friends staying over? I just want her.