He gets into his tux in the end in the bathroom, retaining his underwear, admiring the claret bathmat.
Sophie says, “You look nice,” to him, when he comes out, but in a way where everybody hears it who is in the room, so it’s not just like she was talking to him. She goes with everyone to the door and pretends to be a parent bidding them goodbye, and she shuts the door behind her back and stands in front of it with her shoulder bag hanging from her wrist, waving.
They are getting into a white limousine. They are going to take it into the city. Sophie is blowing kisses at them and knocking on the windows. They leave her on the lawn. Arthur can see, almost immediately, she is going out onto the sidewalk and is walking toward the commuter train station.
“Arthur,” Grover is telling him, “turn around.” She pats his leg, hard. “Hey,” she says, “how’s it going?”
“I’m good,” he says.
“Alright ladies,” Chloë is letting everyone know, extending her arms into the center of the stretch backseat and making motions with her fingers as if grabbing things, scrunching up her nose.
“Sorry,” Grover whispers.
All the girls put their arms into the center of the backseat and made identical motions with their fingers. They fall back and begin removing bottles of alcohol from their bags. The driver knocks, with his knuckles, on the glass partition that separates them from his cab.
“Thank you for supporting us,” Chloë romps toward the window, but the motion of the car brings her to her knees near Arthur’s lap. She puts one manicured hand on his shirt buttons, snickering.
“Hi,” she says.
He can see the pale makeup all over her face and the frosty substance on her lips, the black pigment applied above her eyelashes. He is given a bottle of champagne, and Chloë sits beside him, she begins telling a story. It is a story about her boyfriend Jaime. She is talking about Jaime’s new methods for training his body, how sometimes he leaves the campus of his college late at night and goes and stands in a park, hoping to be attacked, so that he can practice his self-defense skills. Jaime has an anvil-shaped head and large lips to which he frequently applies chapstick. He likes turtlenecks, scuba diving watches, Polo Ralph Lauren. “He caught up with some guy last night,” Chloë is cradling a large bottle of vodka in both arms, looking tenderly down at its silver cap. “And he’s telling me, he like fucked this guy up, like he kicked him. Anyway, so the guy is passed out, so Jaime goes and hides, and he waits for the guy to get up, like, then when he does, he follows him, and the guy goes back to his place, and Jaime reads the names on the buzzer and he sees this one name, C. M. Butts.” She pauses, giggling. “Do you remember that? Holy shit, guys!” she rights the bottle and is undoing the top.
“Seymour,” Grover says. “Seymour begins with an ‘s.’”
Outside the car, the river is to their right. Long red barges loaded with garbage are inching up it, and across the water are the cliffs of New Jersey.
“I like your story,” Arthur says to Chloë. “I remember that.”
“I so used to wish we had that in our car.”
Arthur nods. He reaches across and gently takes Chloë’s bottle, drinks. He looks around the backseat. There is actually a lot of space, actually it is kind of intimate, the four of them.
“I have a story,” he says. They all drink and look at him. “It’s a ghost story.” Grover immediately directs her gaze at her lap. “It’s not scary,” he advises someone, he is not sure who. “You know my mom? One time I thought I saw her.” The silence in the car gets noticeably more refined. “It was in the dark, at night, she was, uh,” he pauses, “sitting on the stairs in our house, her back was to me.”
“How’d you see her if it was dark?” Chloë asks this, twitching.
“I could just see, like, there was a person there, from the streetlights, you know. Anyway, I go down and go in front of her,” he has his hands out now, gesturing. “I felt like I had gone into the past, or, I was like, 11, or something. And I’m like, hello? And she shakes her head, like no, it’s not me.”
“And?” Grover is saying. “And? And?”
“That’s it,” he says. Another car makes the windows whistle and thump; it speeds past them on the right. “Actually, it was nothing.”