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July/August 2018

After the ballet, I asked Laura if she cared for a drink, but since the next day was a workday, she suggested instead we have a nightcap at her apartment. She lives on Marine Drive, in a two-bedroom apartment, furnished in a modern minimalist manner.  (I live four blocks away, at 3750 Lake Shore Drive.) White couches and leather chairs were set among black tables, with few tschotchkes upon them. Only black-and-white photographs were on the walls, and I recognized a few Atgets and Cartier-Bressons among them. The 36th-floor apartment’s large front windows gave a swell view of the golf course and Lake Michigan beyond that. Her bedroom, too, was done in black and white, a white coverlet with black throw pillows, black dresser, more black and white photographs on the walls. I thought of the Cole Porter song, “That Black and White Baby of Mine,” but couldn’t recall any of the words.

I’ll spare you a blow-blow account of our first sex, except to say that it was disappointing, and the disappointment was owed wholly to me. Although I found myself aroused by this lovely woman, I had a difficult time transmitting that arousal to the proper station. When it finally arrived, it departed all too soon. In bed I began to apologise, but she put a well-manicured hand over my mouth, ran her other hand over the back of my head, and said, “Not to worry. It’ll be better next time. You’ll see.” And it was, and every time thereafter. Laura has given me no reason to complain, none whatsoever, in the boudoir department.

Driving back to my apartment after that first night in bed together, I questioned myself about what had gone wrong. What I eventually concluded is that, thoroughly excited at the prospect of sex with her as I was, I also, somewhere in my subconscious, sensed that there was danger here, cheri. Not the danger of scandal, or of pregnancy, or of anything of the sort. No, the more serious danger of my outraging the boys who did their study at Wayne State and falling in love with and wanting to marry Laura Ross. The male member, it is often said, has no conscience, which may be true enough, but I’ve found mine has a pretty good alarm system. In this instance it turned out to be infallible.

I know there is much talk these days of the disadvantaged, but is there such a word as “advantaged?” If so, Laura was more advantaged than I. She went, for one thing, to better-regarded schools: first to Wellesley, then Harvard Law, next to my rather drab University of Illinois, then DePaul Law School. My father was in the scrap-iron business, my mother didn’t work; her father was a surgeon, her mother a successful interior decorator on the North Shore. I grew up in West Rogers Park, in an Eastern European Jewish milieu. The Rosses were members of the heavily German-Jewish Lake Shore Country Club, about which my friend Allen Katz once remarked that the only Jewish event ever celebrated at that club was Kristallnacht. Laura later told me that her mother was Eastern European, or Ostjuden, her father German-Jewish, or a Yekke. “I’m the product of a mixed-marriage, you see,” she said. My income was considerably greater than Laura’s, but she was good at what she did and this figured to even out before too long. Not that any of these differences and distinctions were much discussed between the two of us, but I couldn’t help noting them.
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