“Leaving my house now, will see you in a bit.”
“What kind of car should I look out for?” I text him.
“A wagon.” He replied.
I stepped off the porch, and made my way out the front gate, my clogs crunching against the cement with each step. I made sure to wear my shortest baby-doll dress, no cleavage, but short enough to show some peek-a-boo ass if the wind picked up. I wore spandex shorts underneath my dress, knowing damn well that if the night was going in his favor, I could slip them off with ease in the bathroom before anything exciting transpired. Spandex shorts, it was a habit I would never grow out of. You see, I come from a family of tias, who if they thought that my dress was too short, they’d lift it up while simultaneously asking “Y los calzones?” I could never bare the shame if they’d done that to me and I was just wearing a thong. When I was a hoe-on-the-go though – well that was a different story. But this was only our first date, so I kept them on and made sure my purse was large enough to fit them if he impressed me after-all.
Was that sarcasm? I pictured a wooden wagon with big steel wheels, stupid Nicole, no seas mensa. Maybe he drove a beat up, dusty VW wagon, a Subaru, maybe something a modern day, much younger, and less goofy, but always handsome Clark Griswold would drive. Maybe the windows wouldn’t roll down all the way, and the A/C didn’t work and I’d start sweating before we even got to the restaurant. The seats probably smelled like stale cigarettes. Great. What the fuck did I get myself into? It was much too soon to be dating again. What if he asked about my parents and I’d start crying? What if I ruined the night by talking about death and my mom and how much I missed her? It had only been six months ago that she passed away. I tried to ignore the feelings. “Not now,” I told myself. I looked down at my phone, gave my purse one last inspection; chapstick, lipstick, wallet, bobby pins, tampons and mace, all of the essentials. When I looked up, a sleek, grey Audi with tinted windows pulled up to the corner. He put the car in park, came around to greet me. He held the car door open and waited until I was comfortably inside before he shut the door —just like my dad always did. “Fuck. He drives an Audi?”
He’d made reservations at Cliff’s Edge, a restaurant I had eaten at once before and had fallen in love with but could never afford on my own. We drank whiskey and had steak under the stars on the outdoor patio. The August breeze blew through the leaves of the ancient tree, a pretty perfect start to a summer-in-the-city type of date. I stared at his crooked teeth while he thanked the waiter for refilling our drinks and wondered what his lips would feel like against mine. I was a sucker for crooked teeth. His lips looked soft but his hands had calluses and scars on them from working on his motorcycle and building sets for commercials, he’d tell me. I was getting lost in my head, staring at the shape of his fingernails, the way he held his fork and knife, the gleam in his green eyes. The mention of his wife though, snapped me back to reality.
“Shit. I’m sorry, I’m, I’m not married.” He slid his drink across the table and took a big gulp before he continued, “We’re divorced, it’s kind of a long story.” I reached for my glass too, “It’s okay, you don’t have to explain anything if you’re not comfortable with it.” I reassured him. If he hadn’t gotten used to calling her his ex-wife yet, who was I to blame? I couldn’t get myself to say, “my mom is dead,” so who was I to judge? Death had made me a more accepting person. I guess that’s what made me fall so hard for him. I had nothing to lose anymore, the one person who meant the world to me was gone. Nothing could hurt me anymore than that and I didn’t see the point in refraining from anything that brought me pleasure. Life was too short, too crazy, and too damned unpredictable for reservations.
“I really enjoyed dinner with you. I don’t want tonight to end, but I’m house sitting for a friend and I need to check on their dogs, would you want to go with me? We can grab a blanket and drive to the beach after if you’d like.”
I liked that idea very fucking much. “I love dogs” I said. The truth in every sense of the word.
When we arrived at the house, he put a Black Sabbath record on and fetched me a beer while I waited for him to return from relieving the dogs. I sat around and wondered who really lived here and what they’d thought if they knew I was here, did they know? Would they care? Would they be happy for him, or upset? When he came back inside, he pulled me up from the bar-seat, grabbed my face in his hands and kissed me. The dogs lay on the couch licking themselves as we stood by the record player making out to Wheels of Confusion.
“That was really nice” he said as we pulled away from each other. “Mhm, I really enjoyed that too,” I said, smiling “Should we head out to the beach now?” I asked as he took my beer from the counter and chugged the remainder. “I just have to use the bathroom before we go.”
Inside the bathroom, I text my cousin, “Just had dinner, heading to the beach with him, if you don’t hear from me, I’m dead.” I took my spandex shorts off and stuffed them into my purse. I fixed my lipstick and hair in the mirror, “No reservations” I reminded myself.
We drove straight up PCH to Malibu. There was a surfing competition that weekend and there were surfers camped out all along the beach, giving us the thumbs up as we passed them with our blanket and beers. “Ay bro, there’s more privacy down that way.” They pointed us away from the drunk bums and surfers, as shadows popped up along the beach. We finally found a spot far enough away from any prying eyes. We sat on the beach and he gave me his jacket. We talked about everything we could possibly talk about before we finally ran out of words to say and he leaned over and kissed me. If it wasn’t for my period, I’d have fucked him then and there.
I don’t know what inclined me to bring up my mom, but I did. There was something about the impact of her death that made me not want to react by being fearful or ashamed or embarrassed about the pain that I felt. “My mom passed away six months ago.” I blurted out. He looked at me and reached for my hand “I’m so so sorry Nicole. I know what that feels like. I lost my mom three years ago too.” He didn’t react the way everyone else did, death didn’t make him uncomfortable, he was understanding and he listened and he asked questions. He made everything feel so normal and easy. We talked about his short-lived marriage and the divorce. There was no judgement between us.
As we drove down Sunset, he held onto my hand and said, “You can’t go home tonight. I won’t let you.”
“What? You’re crazy, I have to go home tonight, my brother will be waiting up for me.” That wasn’t necessarily true, but he didn’t need to know that.
“No, you don’t. I’ll do anything I can to get you to spend the night with me.”
“Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t spend the night, I’m out of tampons and I’m on my period, I have to go home. I used the last one at your friends house.”
With that, he abruptly pulled into the CVS parking lot by the Jack in the Box on Sunset and said, “What kind do you need, I’ll go buy you some.”
The last man to ever buy me a box of tampons was my ex Phillip, I thought of him now and how he’d cheated on me with my brothers girlfriend. He was probably buying her tampons now too. He was sweet like that.
“This is too embarrassing, you’re not buying me tampons. I can’t let you do that.”
“If it makes you feel any better, just text me the kind you need.” Before I could say anything, he got out of the car and went into CVS to wait for my text message.
“What kind do I get you?” He text me.
“Tampax Pearl, Regular. The yellow kind.” I text him, not believing what I was letting a stranger do for me.
What would my brother think if I didn’t come home? Would he be worried, or upset, would he think, “My sister is a hoe?” Since my mom had passed, I’d realized I spent a lot of time stressing over unwarranted guilt. “Who gives a shit what I do tonight, this person doesn’t know me and even if it never worked out, who cares.” I was learning to let go in one way or another. I guess that’s why I fell so hard for him, I’d learned to have no inhibitions with him. Life was too short to worry about those kinds of things. Who cares if he was going through a divorce and couldn’t remember to refer to her as his ex-wife now.
We spent the night holding each other. We were both deprived of affection, intimacy and want, and we were looking to fill that void. “I haven’t done this with someone in so long.” He said in the morning as he wrapped his legs around mine. It didn’t feel strange or foreign to me at all, in fact, it felt like the most normal and natural thing in the world to do that with him. I let him push his body against mine as his fingers pulled me in closer. I imagined myself waking up next to him again and the thought of it brought a smile to my face. Nothing else mattered, not even the fact that he’d bought me the wrong kind of tampons. My mom was gone and so was his wife, but at least we were alone together.