A Novel Excerptby Russell Banks
He knows her from some other crowded room, but can’t remember which room or when. Good-looking brunette, broad forehead, high cheekbones—eastern European, he guesses. A little fleshy from drink and insufficient exercise. Fortyish, with minor evidence of hard mileage: a younger woman’s butch haircut laced with gray that she’d color but she doesn’t believe she’s old enough yet for a dye job, black pantsuit to hide the belly muffin, red shoes. They’re called pumps, he thinks.
He takes her in as she slips between strangers, not exactly on a beeline for his corner of the ballroom but not stopping to sniff the roses, either. He likes to read people from a distance—that’s what he calls it, reading people. Speed-reading. She’s trying to disguise her intent, glancing at him as if by accident, then looking away as if she’s coming not for him but for some guy to his right or left, one of those hearty fellows, hard drinks in hand, bellowing so as to impress each other and the occasional nearby woman with their intelligence and wit and the size of their annual bonus.