It was a while before the others at the table had finished pointing out the celebrities who had come to the restaurant for the gala benefit: the Broadway actresses, the Seventh Avenue designers, and the world’s most famous rock star’s most famous ex-wife, a woman to whom fame belonged like logic to a syllogism, axiomatically. Before the list was quite done, I caught a glimpse of something, a flash of saffron at the other end of the room, and I had to turn and look again.
Peering through a thicket of reed-necked women, I saw that I’d been right: yes, it was a monk in saffron robes, it really was a Buddhist monk – Tibetan, I was almost sure. He was sitting at the head of a table on the far side of the room, spectral in the glow of the restaurant’s discreetly hidden lighting. But he was real. His robes were real robes; not drag, not a costume. He was in his early middle age, with clerically cropped hair and a pitted, wind-ravaged face. He happened to look up and happened to notice me staring at him. He looked surprised to see me: his chopsticks described a slow interrogative arc as they curled up to his mouth.
I was no less surprised to see him: he was probably a little less out of place among the dinner jackets and designer diamonds than I, in my desert boots and sweater, but only marginally so.