Beg (Page 10)

Beg (Songs of Submission #1)(10)
Author: C.D. Reiss

It was sweet, and doomed, and pointless, but it was late, and he was handsome and funny. I may not have been interested in having a boyfriend, but I wasn’t made of stone.

When Little Moustache had to break down the table, we had to admit it was time to go. The sky had gone from navy to cyan, and the air warmed with the appearance of the first arc of the sun.

We got to his car before he had to feed the meter. We didn’t say anything as he pulled into the parking lot at the Stock and went down two stories to my lonely Honda, sitting in the employee section. I opened the door with a clack that echoed in the empty underground lot.

“Thanks,” he said. “I’ll probably see you at the hotel sometime.”

“We can pretend this never happened.”

“Up to you.” He touched my cheek with his fingertips, and I felt like an electrical cable to my nervous system went live. “I wouldn’t mind finishing the job.”

“Let’s not promise each other anything.”

“All right. No promises,” he said.

“No lies,” I replied.

“See you around.”

We parted without a good-bye kiss.

***

Gabby and I lived in the house I grew up in, which was on the second steepest hill in Los Angeles. When my parents moved, they let me live in the house for rent that equaled the property taxes plus utilities. I was sure I’d never need to move. I had two bedrooms and a little yard. The house had been a worthless piece of crap in a bad neighborhood when they bought it in the 1980s. Now it had a cardiologist to the west of it and a converted Montessori school that cost $1,800 a month to the east.

The night Jonathan Drazen took me up to Mulholland Drive, I returned to find Darren sleeping on my couch. We had agreed to not leave Gabby alone until we knew she was okay, and she’d gotten no better after a week on her meds. The first blue light of morning came through the drapes, so I could see well enough to step around the pizza box he’d left on the floor and get into the bathroom.

I looked at myself in the mirror. The convertible had wreaked havoc with my hair and my makeup was gone, probably all over Jonathan Drazen’s face.

I still felt his touch: his lips on my neck, his hands feeling my br**sts through my shirt. My fingers traced where his had been, and my snatch felt like an overripe fruit. I stuck my hand in my jeans, one knee on the toilet bowl, and came so fast and hard under the ugly fluorescent lights that my back arched and I moaned at my own touch. It was a waste of time. I wanted him as much after I came as I did before.

My God, I thought, how did I do this to myself? What have I become?

I needed to never see him again. I didn’t need his lips or his firm hands. If I needed to take care of my body’s needs, I could find a man easily enough. I didn’t need one so pissed at his ex-wife he’d make me fall in love with him before apologizing for leading me on. He wanted to hurt women, and nothing froze my creative juices like heartache. No, I decided as I went back out to the kitchen, anyone but Jonathan.

Darren was already making coffee.

“Where were you?” he asked. “It’s six thirty already.”

“Driving all over the west side with I-won’t-say.”

“Mister Gorgeous?” He said it without jealousy or teasing.

“Yep.”

“He’s nice to you?”

“He wants to sleep with me, so it’s hard to say if he’s being nice or being manipulative,” I said. “How’s Gabby?”

“Same.” He got out two cups and a near-dead carton of half-and-half. “She’s volatile, then deadened. She started shaking because she wasn’t playing last night. Missed opportunity and all that. Then she rocked back and forth for half an hour.”

“Did you sit her at the piano?”

“Yeah, that worked. We need something to happen for her.”

“She’ll still be who she is,” I said. “She could play the Staples Center, and she’d be this way.”

“But she could afford to get care, the right meds, maybe therapy. Something.” I nodded. He was right. They were stymied by poverty. “And Vinny? I haven’t heard a damn thing from that guy. I tried calling him and his mailbox is full.” He was losing his shit, standing there with a coffee cup in his hand.

“We have six more months on our contract with him and we’re out,” I said.

“She doesn’t have six months, Mon.”

“Okay, I get it.” I held him by the biceps and looked him in the face.

“She’s like she was the last time, when you found her. I don’t want—“

“Darren! Stop!”

But it was too late. The stress of the evening had gotten to him. He blinked hard and tears dripped down his cheeks. I put my arms around him, and we held each other in the middle of the kitchen until the coffee maker beeped. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve, still holding the empty cup. “I’m working the music store this morning. Will you stay with her until rehearsal?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I shower here? My water heater’s busted.”

“Knock yourself out. Just hang the towel.”

He strode out of the kitchen, and I was left there with our dripping sink and filthy floor. The roof leaked, and the foundation was cracked from the last earthquake swarm. It had been nice to sit in that Mercedes and drive around with someone who never spent a minute agonizing about money. It had been nice to not worry about anything but physical pleasure and what to do with it for a couple of hours. Real nice.

Darren’s laptop was on the kitchen table, set to some Protunes thing he probably hadn’t gotten a chance to touch in the middle of taking care of Gabby. I fixed my coffee and slid into the chair, opening the internet browser. We stole bandwidth from the Montessori school during off hours, so I checked my email. I remembered my conversation with Jonathan about his ex-wife, so I did a search for her: Jessica Carnes.

I got a different set of pictures than Darren had shown us the other day. Jessica was an abstract and conceptual artist. Searching under Google Images brought back a treasury of pictures of the artist and her art, which despite Kevin schooling me in the vocabulary of the visual arts, I didn’t get at all.

Jessica had long blond hair and an Ivory Girl complexion. She might have worn a stitch of makeup and maybe used hot rollers. She wore nice flats, but flats nonetheless. Her skirts were long and her demeanor was modest. She was my exact opposite. I had long brown hair and black eyes. I wore makeup, tight jeans, short skirts, and the highest heels I could manage. And black. I wore a lot of black, a color I hadn’t given a thought to until I saw Jessica in every cream, ecru, and pastel on the palette.