Another woman approached me, an Asian woman. She was smiling warmly. “You have appointment!” she said. “What you like, manicure, pedicure, wax?”
“A manicure please.”
“Come this way.”
She led me to a row of beautiful chairs carved in ivory or marble, finely made, and upholstered in luxurious fabrics, including fur. I sat down and that is when I realized who was sitting next to me: It was Mrs. Elizabeth Edwards and she was getting a pedicure from Rielle Hunter! I looked away so I wouldn’t stare, and that’s when I saw, a little further away, Hillary Clinton getting a foot massage from Monica! I looked away again and realized that Silda Spitzer was sitting in a chair opposite me, reading a magazine! I suddenly remembered that it was she who had invited me—yet I found myself afraid at the sight of her. I looked down, wondering if there was a way to leave.
The Asian woman pulled up her little table-chair apparatus and sat down before me. “So,” she said. “You like French?”
“Okay,” I said.
“Very elegant for lady,” she remarked, taking hold of my hand, appraisingly. “How you do today?”
I didn’t say anything; I was noticing that both Monica and Rielle had much longer hair than I’d thought, down to their waists, and very thick—black in Monica’s case and red on Rielle.
The technician patted my hand. “You troubled. I understand.”
I sneaked a look at Rielle; she was working intently with a file on Mrs. Edwards’s nails. Mrs. Edwards was talking on her cell phone, seemingly to a friend about a kid’s birthday party. Monica was concentrating on Hillary’s feet; Hillary had reclined her chair and was sleeping with a paperback covering her eyes. And then—Jenny Sanford came out of a back room in a very beautiful robe and sat next to Silda!
“I am old woman now,” said the tech, expertly buffing my nails. “But long time ago, during Vietnam War, I was prostitute. I didn’t want to be, had to be. I was young, family killed, except little brother.”
Gigantic pictures appeared in the sky around us, pictures of men fighting, seen from far away, in a terrible pattern, then close up, their bodies powerful but broken, trying to help each other, failing, limbs torn off, blood pouring from them, running, shouting, trying to wield giant iron machines, bombs exploding, women running, their faces shattered, children naked in their arms …
Mrs. Edwards ended her call, and turned toward the manicurist, respectfully.
“I took much pain into my body; many terrible things. But now I am married, work here in Queens. Husband still alive, have children, many grandchildren. You see?”
There was a whiff of spring air and fresh grass. Children appeared in the suddenly bright sky, laughing, chasing each other, playing in golden light. We all looked, admiring. “They’re beautiful,” I said. The technician’s face glowed with pleasure.
“But you’re different,” said Mrs. Edwards. “You didn’t choose it. They did.”
“Fate choose,” said the tech, not looking up.
“Fate, shmate,” said Mrs. Edwards, addressing Rielle. “You ‘ladies’ have worked some kind of scam. Because in the not-so-distant past you would’ve been stoned or at least shamed out of public existence—now it’s decent women who have to explain to the world why they allowed themselves to be ‘humiliated’! While you parade yourselves on TV and write tell-alls, or try!”
Rielle looked up and smiled. “I believe it was you who wrote the supposed tell-all?”
And then, I’m not kidding, Oprah appeared in the sky, with a crown on her head, and she was driving a chariot with Viri Canes Sunt written on it, and it was pulled by—OMG—James Frey and John Edwards, and they were naked!
Rielle’s lower body turned into a pillar of flame; she gestured toward Oprah. “In this time the Empress acknowledges in secret that sometimes Lilith loves better than Eve.”
“She did not say that!” cried Elizabeth. “She was on my side! You love better? With flattering lies and cheap lines like ‘You’re so hot’? I wouldn’t repeat that, not because I’m prudish but because it’s too corny!”
Rielle smiled serenely, looked back down at her work and said:
“As the worst of the venom left my lips, I thought ‘If, despite this lie, he strips The mask from my soul with a kiss—I crawl His slave—soul, body, and all!”
“Oh please!” snapped Elizabeth.
I glanced at Silda; she didn’t look up from her magazine.
The Vietnamese lady squeezed my pinkie and whispered, “That you poet, Robert Browning.”
“Pardon me,” said Mrs. Sanford sarcastically. “But I don’t understand bragging about crawling on your belly, which you have been doing since the beginning! And as for poetry, I prefer Proverbs 2:18–19.