Nancy liked to dangle men, to entice them to come nearer and then hold them at a distance. She often had two or three hooked at a time, but felt no guilt in trading one for another on a whim. One time she had made a date to meet a new boyfriend at a restaurant. An old beau saw her cross the parking lot and called her over. Nancy made out with him in his car while her latest waited inside for her to make an appearance. Latest became aware of her treachery. But when he confronted her she just laughed and said, “Oh Brian, we’re not really dating, are we?” Brian told her that he thought they were, and she laughed again at his foolishness.
She was attractive, intelligent, and had a good sense of humor. Boys and men had made moves on her, had given her The Look, from the time she turned fifteen. It must have been wearying to brave the constant attention and pressure, to sort through all the options. She had to weigh the merits of her would-be suitors and hope that her scales had been properly calibrated. And she must have wondered whether any of her gents really wanted her, the total sum of her, and not just the glittery package. In the end she probably threw up her hands and decided to make love, sex, desire into a game. She was the queen, and members of her entourage became her pawns.
Eventually she slipped and fell in love with an owner of a record store. He was fifteen years older, however, and didn’t see any future in the relationship. Steely Dan’s, “Hey Nineteen” played on the radio at that time, and the record man made it the theme of his argument when he broke up with her.
Nancy didn’t know how to deal with rejection. All her training had been in holding men at bay, not at winning them back, and certainly not at mourning their loss. She latched onto another record store owner, a mild-mannered stooge closer to her age, and began an affair. She got pregnant, and they married although neither loved the other. They named their son, Graham.
She called me up one day and spoke to me in her most charming, winsome manner. “It’s been so long, Dennis. I’m just dying to see you.” Brian told me that he too had received an invitation a few days earlier. Nancy was trying to reassemble her entourage and begin the game again. She considered marriage and motherhood as slight handicaps that had been added to give her a deeper challenge.
I kept my distance, though I once gave in to curiosity and visited her and her toddler. Graham was round faced, sandy-haired and good-natured. He liked to gurgle and bang his spoon on the tray of his high chair. Nancy seemed distantly amused by her baby and acted as if he were an odd creature who had somehow, through a series of madcap mishaps, become attached to her. “Oh Graham,” she said, “You’re not really playing the drums, are you?”