By now, you’ve learned to recognize her.
She wears the same heels every time.
You’ve been organizing these auctions for fifteen years,
and she’s the only hustler that eludes you.
You’ve caught the cheap skate boyfriends,
hoping to score a gift to cash out of the doghouse;
the elderly ladies who attempt to rewrite someone else’s
bid in red pen. They never seemed to realize the distinction
of a trembling hand, or the fact that no one puts such care
into their handwriting anymore. But this one. She is
your white whale in garter. And you hate those heels; no matter
what she wears, they always clash. But even more,
you loathe the self-satisfied glitter in her eyes,
as she flits from one conversation to another,
until–in mid-sentence–she excuses herself and walks away.
You know where she’s heading. This time she wants
those plane tickets to Florida. Not because she visits that
table, but because she visits all the others. It just can’t be that
easy. You wonder if she knows you’re watching.
But here’s the rub: she hasn’t broken a letter of the auctioning
law. Can you accuse her of sensing which item will get
the least attention that night? Can you prove why she
always knows when a leading bid is a bluff?
What you want most is not to expose and expel her, but to ask
why she chooses to exploit her talent here, at a pauper’s auction;
why she didn’t make a fortune investing, talking her way out
of speeding tickets, or coaching football?
Then, you feel her. Standing behind you,
waiting to speak. You turn, hollow a hello.
No one is there.
You dart through the room, searching for those heels,
interrogating every name that signed a bid for Florida.
You stop. You are unsure why. You excuse yourself to a quiet room,
hesitantly open your phone, and dial.
Your wife answers, crying.
She asks, How did you know?