The lack of scheduled activities came as something of a shock to Danny, who hadn't had such a hole in his social calendar for many months; even the nights he'd spent alone at home had been carefully calendared to provide a restful counterpoint to his busy round of dates and outings. This complete lack of anything to do was something quite unaccustomed.
Those blank white spaces on the PDA calendar embedded themselves in the front of Danny's mind, glowing ominously with the pulsing cathode rays of the high-resolution monitor. In those spaces, eight hours stretched vast and desertlike between the end of his river-rock massage and the earliest conceivable moment of calling an early night and going to bed with a good book. The question of how to fill those hours began to nag at Danny's consciousness, blossoming quickly from a bud of slight anxiety to a small bloom of worry.
Danny started to pick at the petals of that worry as he left the computer and returned to the kitchen for his vitamins and health-smoothie. He thought about various solitary activities as he assembled the different protein powders and liquid vitamins, then poured them into the industrial-strength blender with a basket of fresh blackberries, a handful of icecubes, and a pint of nonfat milk; while the blender did its work, Danny shook one or two pills out of each of the eleven bottles of herbal supplements that stood in a row next to the toaster and placed them in a little Baccarat footed candy dish.
After three minutes of high-speed agitation, the smoothie was a peculiar but uniform aubergine color and ready to drink; Danny poured it into a tall crystal glass, hoisted himself up onto the black-granite counter, wedged the pill-filled candy dish between his thighs, and turned on the little square television mounted under the brushed-steel cabinets in order to watch South American soap operas and try to guess what the incredibly handsome and over-groomed men were saying to each other (he was fluent in French and Italian, but the high-speed idiom of the soaps went beyond what little Spanish he'd ever picked up).
I could go to the movies, he thought as he put three pills in his mouth and swallowed them down with the first sweet-and-bitter gulp of smoothie, one for energy, one for cognition, one to make his semen taste good; I don't mind seeing movies alone, he tried to convince himself as he swallowed the next three pills and gulp of smoothie, two for healthy joint cartilage, one for improved blood-circulation; then I can see whatever I want, I don't get distracted from the narrative by my date, I can just get completely absorbed in the film, he reasoned with the next three pills, one that was supposed to block fat-absorption and two to enhance metabolism, counteracting the heavy meals and desserts that Danny tended to eat in the evenings; but there aren't any movies out that I really want to see, he finally groused with the next trio of pills, one to enhance fluid production, one to stimulate nerve-endings, and the last to prevent head-colds.
Gulping down the rest of the smoothie with three little capsules intended to prevent gas from the bizarre admixture of herbs and fruit he'd just ingested, he poured the last of the coffee and took the cup into his dressing room.
When Danny bought the townhouse, not quite two years before, he'd immediately renovated the second-floor flat for maximum luxury: the original bath, toilet, and light-well had been thrown together to make one long, elegant, top-lit bathroom; the dinky kitchen, utility room, and breakfast nook had also been thrown together to create a more spacious galley-like room; and the smaller of the two bedrooms at the back was converted into a comfortable dressing-room with satiny flame mahogany wall-panels concealing wardrobes, with mirror-backed doors and fragrant cedar linings, covering all four walls — except where doorways gave access to the hall, bathroom, and bedroom, and where the wide mullion window let light through a ruched rose-silk curtain to illuminate a built-in dressing-table.
Danny set his coffee-cup on the glass top of the table and took up a large pink tube of 50-spf sunscreen, which he lovingly rubbed onto his legs, arms, torso, and neck... anywhere the sun might possibly age and damage his delicate skin once he stepped outside, leaving only his face (which took a different kind of sunscreen) and the middle of his back (which he couldn't reach) unprotected.
I could try a new restaurant, he thought as he sat down at the little bench before the dressing-table mirror and carefully applied his Swiss moisturizing facial sunscreen, gently tracing the smooth, fine curves of his remarkable face; something new must have opened lately, he told himself as he spritzed another kind of cunningly-formulated sunscreen into his hair and spread it through with his fingers, sealing the carefully highlighted curls from the natural highlighting of the sun; but I'm just not up to the risk of a disappointing meal, he concluded as he brushed the excess hair-sunscreen onto his arched eyebrows and thick, tinted lashes.
Danny got up and crossed the scarlet carpet to the full-length triptych mirror that stood between the hall and bathroom doors, admiring his perfect physique again as he turned this way and that, checking for any stray hairs or blemishes that might have cropped up in the night. With a pair of silver tweezers, he plucked out a tiny black hair that had broken ranks with the faint treasure-trail on his belly, as well as a new whisker on his otherwise beardless chin; at twenty-three, he was still as hairless as a fourteen-year-old, with only the merest feathering of silky black down gracing his armpits and pubis.
I could go shopping, he thought as he opened a drawer full of underwear and selected a cleverly engineered white cotton tricot jock-strap that pushed his genitals up and forward, allowing maximum freedom of movement as well as creating an eye-popping package; there are clothes and antiques and books and all sorts of things to find in the stores, he rhapsodized as he wrestled himself into a pair of thin Wedgewood-blue cotton fleece short-shorts that clung lasciviously to his hips, crotch, and ass, leaving very little to the imagination; but then, I have more clothes and antiques and books than I know what to do with, he reminded himself as he slipped into a loose butter-yellow cotton tank-top that left his shoulder-blades free in the back and just barely covered his nipples in the front, allowing them to peek out the sides whenever he moved; and stores close too early, that won't take up any of the evening, he finally discarded the idea as he knelt down to pull on white ankle-socks and a pair of scuffed white hightop cross-trainers that were so comfortable he sometimes worried what he'd do if the company that made them ever discontinued the model (it was against such an emergency that he kept twenty-five extra pairs stored in his garage).
Tossing back the last of his now-tepid coffee, Danny returned to the kitchen and put everything he wanted washed in the sink for the cleaning lady to deal with; she always came while he was out at the gym, and finished her work before he returned, giving him the illusion that he was the only person ever in his home and that all the cleaning was done by magic. He grabbed a large bottle of French spring-water from the refrigerator and headed out to the hall closet for outerwear.
I could rent a couple of movies and make dinner at home, he thought as he slipped on his gym-jacket, an oversized petrol-grey microfleece hoodie with big pockets that hung loose off his shoulders when he was warm and zipped tight up to his throat when he was cold; shopping for food and picking out some videos will take up a couple of hours, and then the cooking and eating and viewing will finish the night off, he tried to sell himself on the idea as he chose a pair of big orange-lensed aviator glasses from the basket of sunglasses and settled them over his eyes to prevent squinting; but then I'd have to actually cook the food and everything, he resisted the idea as he settled a dust-blue tennis visor over his brow to keep the sun off his face, artfully fluffing his hair out over the visor and band.
I really just don't feel like being alone tonight, he decided as he plucked his PDA out of its cradle on the desk, checked to make sure he had the headset for it, snatched his keys out of the china bowl on the table by the front door, and left the apartment.