Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Business of Love

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Business of Love

Article excerpt

There were Japanese tourists all over Oahu, and though Mark was himself of Japanese extraction, he had been born and raised in America and felt completely separate from these rich visitors who were always, as far as he could see, buying and buying, drunk with the exchange rate. The women traipsed around in gorgeously inappropriate outfits they had bought on the island, bargains they didn't dare leave on the rack. "I've seen them hike craters in full-length evening gowns," Mark said to his business partner, Porter, who had been with him on those very same hikes and didn't need to be told. "With matching high-heels! At Hanauma Bay a group of them wore their dresses right into the ocean. I saw it with my own eyes. They waded in up to their waists. They stood there laughing at the fish, taking pictures with underwater cameras!"

Mark's tone implied that the fish had been insulted. "Really?" said Porter, and to make things more lively, shook his head of blond hair as if in disbelief. In truth Porter had watched the women enviously. The sea-water expanded their skirts like parachutes, and Porter had become certain of one thing: only money, and nothing else, could make people so acutely carefree.

Porter waited for Mark to react to his gesture, but Mark hadn't seen it. He was leaning out the fourth floor window of the condominium, studying the activity on the street below. Ever since their arrival in Waikiki three days earlier, Mark had been keeping an eye out for possible iniquity. It was an interest he took wherever he went. Others might call it a hobby. Over the past few years Mark had developed (he thought) a bloodhound's nose for the illicit, the underhanded, the unfair. Not that he meant to take any action against such realities; it was enough for him to feel that he was no longer in the dark, that there was nothing left to surprise him.

Now Mark was certain he had located two prostitutes outside of the Warner Bros. super-store. "It's their handbags that give them away," he had explained the night before. "Those little silver-skinned purses with pearl clasps, the kind that real people never use. And look at how they're dressed, and how they stand there spaced apart, as if they don't know each other, when they're the only Caucasians on the corner." It was true, Porter had to admit. Anything Mark said was dismayingly reliable.

Porter and Mark were here on business, partners in their own small software company, praying (though neither would admit having stooped to such means) that they would finalize terms with a prospective client named Mackey. They needed this account in order to stay in business. In two days they would have the second, perhaps final, meeting of the week. In the meantime, they were trying to have fun in order to keep their minds off work, so that even if the deal didn't go through they could at least claim to have had a wonderful Hawaiian vacation.

Fun was something neither man associated with the other. Porter could not look at Mark without being reminded of the long, late hours the two had spent working, worrying, and fawning over clients, when Porter should have been fawning over his wife.

Over a year ago Diane, then still married to Porter, had given him an ultimatum: Either the business went, or she did. Where to she didn't say, but that wasn't the point. She voiced her threat over dinner at a frighteningly expensive seafood restaurant she had been wanting to try for months. Even back then the company's success was iffy, and Porter had been avoiding expensive meals. That night Diane pried shells apart with a vengeance, her big, baubley earrings shaking with the effort. Her gold bracelets knocked against each other with a heavy jingle each time she extracted a clam or mussel. Yes, Porter had been spending too many hours at the office. But he could not imagine things any other way. When Diane recited the phrase she had so obviously rehearsed, Porter was taken by surprise. …

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