Trying It On, a Toby Moment

"I find myself so vastly more interesting than nine tenths of the people I meet."―Henry James
Marcie looks in the mirror. What does she see? Blonde hair, blue eyes, a face that, even in early middle age, is girlish. Not that these details intrude on her consciousness. There’s only so much room in there.

Let us skim over her happier features to her translucent bare feet, of which she displays the arches as she pirouettes. What she sees is the dress she’s trying on. 

“Tobee! Is this one OK?”

“No,” I say.

She shrugs and goes back into the changing room while the salesgirl gives me a how-long-is-this-going-to-take look. This is the fifteenth dress.

I smile at her. She isn’t bad either. Legs crossed, bare feet pointed at me in a manner that can only be provocative, patient sarcasm in her smirk. I love Italian women. Through the door of her shop, boats bob in the little Portofino harbor.

We do this a lot, Marcie and me. She has an infinite amount of money, and I have an infinite amount of time. So it works! I stretch and yawn.

I mean, how do you spend your day?

The signorina leans forward and dangles her toes at me, disturbing my erectile tissue. How can you prefer her to me, her look says. I will undress for any indecency you care to inflict on me.

I glance around at the store. Do you own this? my look says. How would we live?

Marcie comes out in dress sixteen, reaching back for the zipper such as to show the heartbreakingly tender skin under her arms, and gives me a how’s-this look. 

I touch my fingertips to my thumb and explode them. “Bellissima!” What the hell, we’re in Italy. 


“Utter wowness,” I assure her. 

Delighted, she hurries behind the curtain to resume her street clothes, and my gaze falls on the Italian. Her eyes molest me, and I can do nothing but submit. Poor kid. Here I am, right in front of her, and she can’t have me. All she can do is lubricate.

She gets up and rehangs the rejected dresses, presenting me with a nicely developed pair of cheeks. Bean-shaped. Rounded at every possible contour. Concealing between them—well.

She turns, hand on hip, gives me an I-know-what-you’re-thinking look and we lock eyes—just as Marcie emerges—and stops, blinking her sadness that I should so much as acknowledge the existence of this woman, any woman. Marcie’s decency would make another man weep. Of course I am that other man, but let us leave him in the shadows.

“Gee, Toby,” she says, as we walk away along the port, her package slung on my shoulder, “do you like me better than her?”

“Sure,” I say. And when I see that this is not enough, “There is no comparison. You are the ultimate. Beside you she is negligible. The poor girl sees that.”

This earns me a hug, a rush of dopamine and a luxurious lunch.

I mean, how do you spend your day?

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