Neither, perhaps, is Alicia, but she has apparently determined that she will have little further use for it; she and her mother have informed Lindsey and me that they do not intend to return to the Inn; they and the sisters whom they have displaced have apparently come to like their current arrangement. Parts of it sound rather incestuous, but I suspect that may seem a small price to pay to no longer be living this life.
It is not, however, entirey without opportunities. Though much of this job involves all the negative experiences of air travel but no actual time at the other end of the flight, once every week or two the schedule will line up and I can spend an afternoon taking in a museum or some other attraction. There may not be enough in many cities to justify a full vacation, but they can make for a perfectly pleasant day out.
New York is not a city I particularly love, though I have, given my field of expertise, been required to spend enough time there to develop a certain fondness for some institutions. Several, alas, would not be particularly appropriate or welcoming places for Alicia Polawski, but with appropriate attire, I can enjoy an exhibition with only a few instances of people acting as though I do not belong.
That was the case yesterday. I had a few hours up enjoy the Guggenheim, and was taking advantage of the fact that this was my second free day in New York in as many weeks to take a leisurely stroll through the new Giacometti exhibition rather than dividing my time between the temporary and permanent displays. Marvelous work, only occasionally interrupted by young men trying to pick me up with their questionable knowledge of art.
Taking time to absorb what one is seeing does have the unfortunate side-effect of being somewhat annoyed as less-conscientious visitors pass. The solitary ones who just give the works a quick glance, perhaps spending more time reading the label than examining the art, are fleeting bothers, even if they do tend interpose themselves between oneself and what one came to see; they are at least generally quiet. No, it is the ones who come in a group, making the most surface-level declarations of "that's pretty" and "I don't get it", presuming that because you have given something your attention, you will feel obligated to discuss it with them. You can hear them coming behind you and the relief of the group moving along is soon dispelled by others like them.
Yesterday was worse, because I immediately recognized one of the voices saying that something was so interesting. It was Lindsey's voice, her real one, and I failed to make the split-second choice that would have perhaps put me out of the Coopers' view. I tried simply studying the piece in front of me, but it was in the middle of the room, and Debbie took a position opposite myself. "Oh my God, Har-- uh, Alicia! Is that really you? I hardly recognized you!"
Tempting as it was to pretend that they had mistaken me for someone else, I opted for honesty. "It is."
"Well, what a coincidence! I suppose you're wondering why we're here..."
"Taking a vacation at my expense between the end of the academic year and your return to the Inn?"
"Well, I guess you could put it that way." Undeterred, she continued. "I'm just amazed at the transformation! Seeing you at Christmas, I didn't figure you'd ever embrace your feminine side, but that skirt, those boots -- the cleavage!"
(It wasn't so much decollatage as to inspire a loud-whisper, just enough for my unruly bosom to not be pinched by being buttoned up; the boys only had an inch or so of extra heel.)
"It's a nuisance, but the idea of visiting a place like this in casual dress..." I did not mention her "I heart NY" t-shirt and jeans. "Well, old habits, as they say." I turned to look at her husband, morbidly curious what he was wearing, trying not to betray my shock. "What have you done, Cooper?"
He seems confused for a moment, then saw I was looking at the walking stick in his hand. "Oh, this? It's nothing, I pulled a hamstring trying to keep up with Debbie in Wal-Mart a few weeks back. It's just about healed. I don't really need the cane, but Debbie said not to take any chances before returning the leg to you."
"Of course, of course." Not wanting to talk about Inn things, I instead gestured to the sculpture. "So, what do you think of this?"
Debbie blushed. "Oh, I don't really get it. You know what they say, I don't know art, but I know what I like!"
"Of course you do. May I suggest the Tannhauser Gallery? It's far more conventional."
The Coopers agreed that this sounded "swell", but insisted on a "selfie" first. Before they moved on, Debbie said they were planning on a late lunch at a famous deli, and I should text them when I was done to meet up. Unless, of course, I was counting calories.
I was not, and dutifully said I would meet them there.
It was not entirely unpleasant - though they gawked at the signed pictures on the walls, their tourist guidebook had pointed them to a fine place for a sandwich - but I did have to pass when they suggested another stop. Not only did I have to be on a plane later, but I had to admit, I found doing things with other people in this situation, especially, disturbing, that I would prefer to simply bide my time as Alicia quietly and eventually forget that this ever happened.
They were disappointed, but did not press, not did Lindsey when I returned today. Truth be told, I am not sure how she keeps such close contact with the Coopers. It seems like it would be completely unnerving.