“Was it a hard breakup?” He stopped at a light and turned his gaze to me, ready to offer me sympathy or words of wisdom.
“No. It was the easiest thing we ever did.” I couldn’t discern what he was thinking from the way he looked at me, but he got serious, draining his tone of all flirtation.
“Easy for you?”
“Both. It was dying for a long time.”
He looked out his window, rubbing his lips with two fingertips.
“You want to say something you’re not saying,” I said. “I don’t want to be your girlfriend, so being honest isn’t going to come back and bite you on the ass.”
the Stock, and my car, were a block away. He pulled up to the curb. He put the Mercedes in park but didn’t turn the key.
“You really want to know?”
“Because you make me curious.”
He smirked. “My wife and I were married that long. It’s wasn’t easy.” He rubbed the steering wheel, and I realized he regretted answering even the first part of the question. It was too late for me to give up on him now, so I waited until he said, “She left and took everything with her.”
“I don’t understand. Are you broke?”
He put the car into drive and turned to me. “She didn’t take a dime. She took everything that mattered.”
I felt sorry and then I felt stupid for feeling any kind of sympathy. I wanted to hold his hand and tell him he’d get over it someday, but nothing could have been less appropriate.
“I’m kinda hungry,” I said. “There’s this food truck thing on First and Olive. In a parking lot? You can come if you want.”
“It’s four in the morning.”
“Don’t come. Your call.”
“You’re a tough customer. Anyone ever tell you that?”
I shrugged. I really was hungry, and nothing sounded better than a little Kogi kimchi right then.
Jonathan was right in mentioning the time. Four in the morning was pretty late, as evidenced by the fact that he found a place for the car half a block away. We walked into the lot, against the traffic of twenty and thirty something partiers as they filtered out, one third more sober than they had been when they got there, carrying food folded in wax-paper or swishing around eco-friendly containers. The lot was smallish, being in the middle of downtown and not in front of a Costco. The only parked vehicles lined the chain link fence, brightly painted trucks spewing luscious smells from all over the globe. My Kogi truck was there, as well as a gourmet popcorn truck, artisanal grilled cheese, lobster poppers, ice cream, sushi, and Mongolian barbecue. The night’s litter dotted the asphalt, hard white from the brash floodlights brought by the truck owners. The truck stops were informal and gathered by tweet and rumor. Each truck brought their own tables and chairs, garbage pail, and lights. The customers came between midnight and whenever.
I scanned the lot for someone I knew, hoping I’d find someone to say hello to on one hand and wishing Jonathan and I could stay alone on the other.
“My Kogi truck is over there,” I said.
“I’m going to Korea next week. The last think I need is to fill up on Kogi. Have you had the Tipo’s Tacos?”
“Come on.” He took my hand and pulled me over to the taco truck. “You’re not a vegetarian or anything?”
“Hola,” he said to the guy in the window, who looked to be about my age or younger with a wide smile and little moustache. “Che tal?” he continued. That was about the extent of my Spanish, but not Jonathan’s. He started rattling off stuff, asking questions, and if the laughter between him and the guy with the little moustache was any indication, joking fluidly. If I’d closed my eyes, I’d have thought he was a different person.
“You speak Spanish?” I asked.
“You don’t?” Little Moustache asked.
He said something to Jonathan, and there was more conversation, which made me feel left out. They were obviously talking about me.
“He wants to know if you’re as smart as you are beautiful,” Jonathan said.
“What did you tell him?”
“Prospects are good, but I need time to get to know you better.”
“Anywhere in that conversation, did you order me a pastor?”
“Yes. Just one.”
“They’re small.” He made a circle with his hands, smiling like an old grandma talking to her granddaughter about being too damn skinny.
I pinched his side, and there wasn’t much to grab. It was hard and tight. “One,” I said, trying to forget that I’d touched him.
We sat at a long table. A few trucks were breaking down for the night. There was a feeling of quiet and finality, the feeling he and I had outlasted the late nighters and deep partiers. I finished my taco in three bites and turned around, putting my back to the table and stretching my legs.
He took a swig of his water and touched my bicep with his thumb. “No tattoos?”
“I don’t know. Mid-twenties. Musician. Lives in Echo Park. You need tattoos and piercings to get into that club.”
I shook my head. “I went a few times, but couldn’t commit to anything. My best friend Gabby has a few. I went with her once, and I couldn’t decide what to get. And anyway, it would have been awkward.”
“Why?” He was working on his last taco, so I guess I felt like I should do the talking until he finished.
“She was getting something important. On the inside of her wrist, she got the words Never Again on the scars she made when she cut herself. I couldn’t diminish it by getting some stupid thing on me.”
He ate his last bite and balled up his napkin. “What happened that made her try to commit suicide?”
“We have no idea. She doesn’t even know. Just life.” I wanted to tell him I’d found her, and been with her in the hospital, and that I took care of her, but I thought I’d gotten heavy enough. “I have a piercing though,” I said. “Wanna see?”
“I can see your ears from here.”
I lifted my shirt to show him my navel ring with its little fake diamond. “Yes, it hurt.”
“Ah,” he said. “Lovely.”
He touched it, then spread his fingers over my stomach. His pinkie grazed the top of my waistband, and I took in a deep gasp. He put a little pressure toward him on my waist, and I followed it, kissing him deeply. His stubble scratched my lips and his tongue tasted of the water he’d just drunk. I put my hands on his cheeks, weaving my fingers in his hair.