Change

I’m not sure how much the Manhattan elite have really changed since before the start of the United States of America.

According to Edith Wharton in the early 20th Century, they were once rural idiots at heart. Bourgeois prudes. Clueless fools. At their best they were…innocent.

According to the 1990’s they still are to be considered backward in a way. But now they’re insipid, jaded, conformist-hoodlums instead of cute but gross-rich little farmers. Bourgeois…but not in a way we label bourgeois even yet. …Although I have.

…I don’t know enough to speak definitively on the matter. Certainly not. But my guess is that they’re…dark. At least their razor sharp edge has been captured in our art?

Maybe they were always jaded too.

“Not hateful at heart.” says Louis.

“I doubt it.” says Lacey. “Or naive, rich, but lovable idiots. And you’d have to combine all four attributes.”

“Manhattan dark? Ominous? Overwhelming? Tragic and complex and disturbing?!” Lem theatrically gasps at the thought.

“I loved New York!” says F. Scott Fitzgerald in defense of the pretty city with the big lights.

“Okay! You’re in love with Michael.” says Lem to Lacey.

“She is. But that’s not the point, Lem.” says Louis.

Lem looks at Lacey.

“You can’t just look at her and win.” says Michael.

“No!!” protests Lem.

“Why is that so disturbing to you, Lem?” Lacey asks.

“I wanted…you just be mine.” He means without complications. No clear rules or boundaries. Just perfection. Heaven.

“That’s so terrifying. That’s like skydiving without a parachute.” says Lacey.

Lem closes his eyes. Restrains himself from crying.

“I asked him to leave.” says Michael.

“Why?” asks Lacey.

“Because he needs to stop giving you false hope he’s ever going to apologize for hurting you with his past.” says Michael.

“He did do it out of jealousy. I’ll give him that.” Louis reclines on a chaise. “But…he just doesn’t understand.” Louis grows serious. “He needed to be so much clearer with you.”

“True.” says Michael who grows anxious.

“I think you might be stuck with me.” says Michael, apologizing.

“Are you being serious?” asks Lacey.

He smiles.

“Yes.” he gets in her face. He looks sad.

Lacey laughs, aghast.

He laughs too. Smiles.

Lacey looks angry.

“Don’t play with my feelings.” she says.

“You didn’t need to say that.” he whispers in her ear.

“There’s no way you’re being serious.” she says in self-defense.

Louis looks apprehensive.

“I really am that…hard on myself.” says Michael.

Lacey blinks, unsure what to say. She takes a deep breath. Thinks.

Louis looks at her curiously.

Then Lacey almost laughs. She covers her mouth.

“You think it’s absurd that I’m so down on myself.” Michael suggests. He rests his weight on a table in front of him.

“Yes.”

“Absurd to the point of hilarity.” he says faintly.

Lacey prepares for him to react badly.

He just thinks. Smiles. Then smiles to himself more. Furrows his brow.

“What about your problems?” he asks.

Lacey tries to suspend judgment.

“I bet that’s different somehow?” he asks.

She continues trying to refrain from judgement.

“Stop!” yells Lem.

“Stop what?” Lacey asks thoughtfully.

“I can’t let him hurt you like that.”

“You’ve done far worse.” says Lacey.

“So what?!” says Lem.

“Fair enough.” she says, relaxing.

“This is why I liked Harold Loeb for you.” says Scott.

Clark laughs.

“Let’s continue!” declares Michael.

He takes a deep breath.

“What is different about your views on yourself?” asks Michael.

“My views are based on logic. And reason. And context. And meaning. And science.” she protests. He looks worried. “I don’t have stupid but endearing misconceptions about myself. And to be clear, I’m not saying you’re stupid. …You aren’t stupid? Are you?”

He smiles. Licks his bottom lip and bites it.

“No. I’m extremely intelligent.”

“Are you? Really?”

“Yes.”

Silence.

“And you thought I was. But you aren’t right about everything.” he observes.

“I just want to trust you not to be wrong when I’m wrong. And not to correct my accurate answers either, so to speak.”

“Lacey! Why do you care about perfection!? You silly goose! That’s so passé!” he says teasingly.

“God is perfect.”

“He’s better than that.” says Lem.