“Yes,” my wife agreed, “anyone.”

As she climbed into our car, I could not help but admire her long, lovely legs.

Driving off, I thought I glimpsed that familiar face in the passing crowd. The face, however, was watching me. I wasn’t sure. Resemblances, I now knew, are superficial.

The face vanished in the crowd.

“I’ll never forget,” said my wife, “when his pants-fell!” I drove very fast, then drove very slow, all the way home.


Good evening. Welcome. I see you have my invitation in your hands. Decided to be brave, did you? Fine. Here we are Grab onto this.”

The tall, handsome stranger with the heavenly eyes and the impossibly blond hair handed me a wineglass.

“Clean your palate,” he said.

I took the glass and read the label on the bottle he held in his left hand. Bordeaux, it read. St. Emilion.

“Go on,” said my host. “It’s not poison. May I sit? And might you drink?”

“I might,” I sipped, shut my eyes, and smiled. “You’re a connoisseur. This is the best I’ve had in years. But why this wine and why the invitation? What am I doing here at Gray’s Anatomy Bar and Grill?”

My host sat and filled his own glass. “I am doing a favor to myself. This is a great night, perhaps for both of us. Greater than Christmas or Halloween.” His lizard tongue darted into his wine to vanish back into his contentment. “We celebrate my being honored, at last becoming-“

He exhaled it all out:

“Becoming,” he said, “a friend to Dorian! Dorian’s friend. Me!”

“Ah.” I laughed. “That explains the name of this place, then? Does Dorian own Gray’s Anatomy?”

“More! Inspires and rules over it. And deservedly so.”

“You make it sound as if being a friend to Dorian is the most important thing in the world.”

“No! In life! In all of life.” He rocked back and forth, drunk not from the wine but from some inner joy. “Guess.”

“At what?”

“How old I am!”

“You look to be twenty-nine at the most.”

“Twenty-nine. What a lovely sound. Not thirty, forty, or fifty, but-“

I said, “I hope you’re not going to ask what sign I was born under. I usually leave when people ask that. I was born on the cusp, August, 1920.” I pretended to half rise. He pressed a gentle hand to my lapel.

“No, no, dear boy-you don’t understand. Look here. And here.” He touched under his eyes and then around his neck. “Look for wrinkles.”

“But you have none,” I said.

“How observant. None. And that is why I have become this very night a fresh, new, stunningly handsome friend to Dorian.”

“I still don’t see the connection.”

“Look at the backs of my hands.” He showed his wrists. “No liver spots. I am not turning to rust. I repeat the question, how old am I?”

I swirled the wine in my glass and studied his reflection in the swirl.

“Sixty?” I guessed. “Seventy?”

“Good God!” He fell back in his chair, astonished. “How did you know?”

“Word association. You’ve been rattling on about Dorian. I know my Oscar Wilde, I know my Dorian Gray, which means you, sir, have a portrait of yourself stashed in an attic aging while you yourself, drinking old wine, stay young.”

“No, no.” The handsome stranger leaned forward. “Not stayed young. Became young. I was old, very old, and it took a year, but the clock went back and after a year of playing at it, I achieved what I set out for.”

“Twenty-nine was your target?”

“How clever you are!”

“And once you became twenty-nine you were fully elected as-“

“A Friend to Dorian! Bulls-eye! But there is no portrait, no attic, no staying young. It’s becoming young again’s the ticket.”

“I’m still puzzled!”

“Child of my heart, you might possibly be another Friend. Come along. Before the greatest revelation, let me show you the far end of the room and some doors.”

He seized my hand. “Bring your wine. You’ll need it!” He hustled me along through the tables in a swiftly filling room of mostly middle-aged and some fairly young men, and a few smoke-exhaling ladies. I jogged along, staring back at the EXIT as if my future life were there.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray