The Upper East Side vs. the Upper West Side

After her third divorce, and because he had always begged her to do it while they were married, she died her hair blonde. She hovered in upscale stores in West Palm Beach calculating the value of the outfits and accessories other women shopping wore. The heat outside simmered above the parked cars, most of them made in Germany.

Her second husband had imported marijuana from Mexico to his offices in London, via Federal Express, when he didn’t bring it into the country himself wrapped around his waist in see-though plastic and deodorant. British public school-educated he ordered the most expensive wines on the list in order to impress the waiters while not actually being able to taste the difference between one vintage and another. His “business” had been borrowing money from friends and relatives and investing it in Eastern European manufacturers who went out of business at a steady rate.

Her mother lived nearby in a 12th floor condominium apartment overlooking the water, and lunched at the Bridge & Tennis Club each day, sitting with the same two or three widows who gossiped about their various children’s successes and pregnancies in the Upper East side of Manhattan. When not shopping she sun-bathed on her mother’s porch and took self-photographs of her browning legs and feet up against the railing on her blackberry, which she would occasionally post to facebook or send to her high-school friends — who would send back encouraging messages: “ way to go Helga! wish we could be with you in the tropics!” She didn’t actually want to see her friends, but besides the fact that her mother would never be critical of her behaviour and supported her in her endless cruising for a rich man who would elevate her from her gloom, she was genuinely lonely and didn’t know how to make friends that she didn’t feel superior to — or who she felt subordinate of. Her mother had two men friends, a gay couple one of whom ran the BMW dealership on Federal Highway near the Museum of Art.

Helga’s first husband had since remarried and had two children old enough to receive Helga as an almost relative. She would bring the children presents back from her trips abroad as a way to drive a tiny emotionless wedge between their father, them and herself.

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