Margarine had had the world’s second largest collection of ceramic novelties — mostly grapefruit — bestowed upon her in the dying breaths of a grandparent. All sizes, kinds. Salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowls, soup bowls, refrigerator magnets, plates, pushpins, toothbrush holders, doggie bowls, sconces, everything.
Margarine was Industry by birth and could provide, on demand, evidence — in the form of positron emission tomography (PET) printouts — that her brain had evolved beyond what we‘ve come to think of as human.
But Margarine, bless her, stayed and lived among us just the same. She hoped, perhaps, that we might learn from her good fortune. For example, around her neck she wore a sweater, sleeves knotted precisely to obscure her considerable cleavage.
I wasn’t told about any of this. I was told only that Margarine was one of my father‘s wife’s friends‘ daughters; was bright, attractive and sexually unfulfilled; and that I should call her and arrange to meet her for dinner at a bad restaurant on Melrose. I too felt unfulfilled, so I made reservations and arrived 10 minutes early, ordered a coffee and set about scribbling in my ever-present scribblepad, the restaurant’s sole patron. And after Margarine was 20 minutes late, a woman approached my table, smiled and said, ”John?“
”Nope,“ I replied, also smiling. ”Sorry. ‘Dave.’“
”Oh,“ said the woman, still smiling. ”Okay. Is it all right if we go somewhere else?“
”That depends,“ said I, still smiling, still the only patron in the restaurant. ”Who are you, and where is somewhere else?“
”I‘m Margarine,“ said Margarine, smiling too, too much now. ”And I want to go somewhere else.“
I followed Margarine out onto the sidewalk and a few doors west to an indooroutdoor cafe with notoriously worse food but a vacancy on the patio, where Margarine could extract a very expensive-looking cigarette case from her very expensive-looking purse and light up a very expensive cigarette grown, she explained, on her family’s private tobacco farm. Tended by, I guessed, migrant slaves.
She spoke only at length, careful to avoid width and depth. A flat, rote recitation of her background (the Industry), her education (Ivy League), her occupation (the Industry) and her ceramic-novelty inheritance, all with exceptional indifference. Spoke with a clip-on Depression-era New York–aristocrat accent. Not as insistent as, say, Jennifer Jason Leigh doing Dorothy Parker, but close enough.
Everything was a brag, everything was important. The more she spoke, the less she said. I detected in her voice a slight bitterness; wondered how many times she‘d stated her statistics in this way, if this was why she couldn’t get laid and so on. Wondered if perhaps she‘d trapped herself in a story and then, having in some way published it, was now doomed to repeat and recite her statistics at uninterested strangers forever. Maybe she was thousands of years old but wouldn’t die because she couldn‘t figure out how to stop. Talking.
”Do you breathe? I breathe. My father taught me how when I was 3. My uncle owns an oxygen farm in Bolivia. Do you ski? I ski. My father taught me how when I was 6. My uncle owns a ski resort in Aspen. Do you menstruate? I menstruate. My mother taught me how when I was 13. My aunt owns an orphanage in Singapore.“
Someone had told her that I wrote this Sitegeist column, and just when I’d begun to wonder whether Margarine had mantra‘d her way to the deep, dark center of Margarine World, she surprised me by asking me about . . . me!
”So, you . . . you write ad copy for the Recycler? What’s that like? My grandfather won a Pulitzer in 1962. But then you know that. I don‘t read the Recycler. Too many sex ads at the back. I read the other one, the New Times. It’s much more get-to-the-point, you know? It‘s like, dig up the dirt on someone and publish it — bing, bing, bing. The Recycler is so, like, I don’t know. I can see how it might be a fun place to work, but I can‘t imagine actually reading it.“
I got about 15 words into describing my fascinating career here at the Weekly when Margarine concluded, apparently, ”Well, good for you,“ then repeated, with a smile, but in undeniably harsh tones, ”I don’t . . . read . . . the Recycler, I read New Times, so I don‘t think I’ve read any of your ads.“
Maybe she was right. Why was I wasting my life writing these despicable sex ads that no one really important — no one in the Industry — would ever read? What was I thinking? No wonder I felt unfulfilled. Should I even bother to go on? WHERE IS THE FUCKING CHECK?!#
Note: The Internet is closed this week to conserve energy for Margarine‘s SUV.