dinner with the bryants

ON THURSDAY NIGHT, Garcia had dinner at the Bryants’ place in East Hampton on Long Island. Ethan Bryant, despite this solid Yankee name, was actually a city upstart who had started his career doing various illegal things but had navigated the family into legitimacy. Tall, strong, with short gray hair and a handful of a chin, he was nouveau riche of the finest crust and had all ten of his fingers in diverse endeavors. Restaurants, theaters, travel, film. I suppose one could say he was an entrepreneur, but there was no industry other than big money that claimed Mr. Bryant. His wife, Tilda, was the consummate socialite but privately restless. Tilda would often do very rash things, like buy tickets to some unknown Francophone Caribbean island and disappear for months on end. She very obviously indulged in affairs, including a fling with Eric Clapton, and it was said that Ethan knew but did nothing about it, concerned as he was with important phone calls, reviewing bottom lines, studying The Wall Street Journal. Like most things in East Hampton, their home was expensive yet somehow dull, dreary, and ordinary. A gray shingled colonial in the typical saltbox style, it was protected by looming hedges. Any such home in Merry Old Britain would be seen as a quaint but rather aged and boring estate, but its presence on the end of Long Island ensured its status, its secure place in the safe and ongoing transfer of European culture to American shores. These were the Bryants. They had everything and were admired. They were also deeply, deeply unhappy. Garcia showed up at the Bryant residence wearing a white suit he had tailor made in the Orient. He supposed to them, he looked like some kind of martial arts star. Of course, being a top travel photographer gets one invited anywhere in the Hamptons. Brunch with Gwyneth Paltrow. Afternoon tea at Roger Waters’ place. Even Dick Cavett begrudgingly had Garcia over once or twice, though in the company of people far more important than himself. The trouble with the Bryants was Tilda, and the trouble with Tilda was her zest for fun living. Tilda Bryant was a voluptuous society lady with gold hair and exquisite tastes. She was also more charismatic and engaging than her at-times slink-away husband. While eating, Garcia, a handsome Spaniard if ever there was one, looked at Tilda the wrong way, because Ethan chewed his food slowly and accidentally knocked his knife on the floor. Then Garcia must have looked at her again the wrong way, because Ethan dropped everything, stood up, and stormed out of the dining room. “Don’t mind Ethan,” said Tilda stroking Garcia’s arm. “Things have been so rough in the stock market these days.” Garcia was rather shaken and asked to be excused and found his way down the hall to the toilet. It smelled like old toilets smell in old colonial houses and the floor was covered with wrinkled stacks of The New Yorker from the Nineties. While he was in there, he could imagine Tilda going to either scold her husband or rub his shoulders as he gazed out the window at his trimmed East Hampton hedge. All this money, all this money and his wife still fucked Clapton in Antigua. Even if he bought himself a new woman, it still wouldn’t be love. Money was a prison. He had built himself a monied Hamptons prison. He had to keep it together though. Friday there would be a reception to support the East Hampton Library. Alec Baldwin would be there. While Tilda was meeting privately with her husband, Garcia wandered the crooked halls of the sad old house. Supposedly a witch had once lived here long ago, when it was also a tavern, but had become too powerful and the East Hampton town elders had her drowned in the village pond. At the end of the hallway, Garcia noticed a door was ajar. He looked in and saw their twentyish daughter sitting on the edge of an old antique bed, swinging her feet aimlessly. She had returned from the Boston Conservatory where she had been studying the violin. The violin case was at her feet. “You must be lonely,” she said looking at Garcia. “You have that lonely look of lonely men.” “That’s always nice to hear,” Garcia said sitting down beside her. “You even smell lonely,” she said. She had dark hair and was as captivating as her parents. Her name was Enid. Garcia reached over and pulled a book off the shelf. It happened to be Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin: Explorers on the Moon. The rocket was about to launch. On board were Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, and the research engineer Frank Wolff. “I like the illustrations,” Enid said. They read the book together.

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