I slipped my hand under his jacket, then under his shirt. I felt his taut stomach and the little hairs on it, the warmth of his skin making me feel safe and cared for.
“Are you making a pass at me?” he asked in my head.
“Not at this speed.”
“Okay, because I’m having you in a couple of hours.”
“I know.” I leaned my head on his back. “You’re a big ho.”
“Only for you these days.”
I hoped my sigh wasn’t audible through the microphone. I knew I was choosing to believe him, and that choice was conscious, and thus, fallible. I knew he could walk out on me at any minute, for any reason. If he really was over his wife, he could look for a more permanent mate with whom he had more in common, like money, and social standing, and similar friends and interests.
But I chose, maybe unwisely, to believe he wanted me for more than a short time because it made me happy to think it.
I was screwed.
He turned off the freeway at Carson, and after a few more quick pivots, he slowed in front of a grassy, floodlit field where a blimp was parked.
“We made it,” he said, pulling up to the chain-link fence around the field’s perimeter. A man in a white shirt and vinyl jacket approached us with a clipboard. Jonathan took off his helmet. His hair was a complete wreck, a school of wild-armed starfish backlit by floodlights. He fingerbrushed it and faced the man with the clipboard.
“You just made it. Park the bike in the lot to the left. Have fun.”
“How are they doing?” asked Jonathan. I took off my helmet. I could only imagine what my hair looked like. A bunch of broken strings in the same backlighting, no doubt. And the little braid I’d left coming from my part probably looked like a dreadlock.
“Down two in the second. Having trouble getting men on base,” the man with the clipboard said.
Jonathan shook his head and started the bike again. We cruised to the center of the lot and parked by a sheet metal trailer held up by a cinderblock foundation. He put the kickstand down and leaned the bike over until it was stable.
“What was that?” I asked, dismounting first. “The game? They’re losing already?”
He got off and set the bike straight. “Apparently.”
“Are we going on the blimp?”
“If you’re good.”
“And we’re going to Dodger Stadium? Maybe? I don’t want to assume, but the second blimp always comes about the fifth inning.” I was trying to keep my shit together, but I’d lived my whole life in the Stadium’s backyard and had never found a way to even get into a playoff game. When I knew the right people, the team had been in the basement. During good years, I’d been hanging with people who didn’t “do” sports because organized team activities were uncreative, uncivilized, and boorish.
“Yes,” Jonathan said. “We’re going to see the game from the sky if you move that tight little ass. They won’t wait.”
I jumped on him. I couldn’t help it. I’m only made of flesh and blood, and that blood is Dodger blue. I kissed his face and wrapped my legs around him. He caught me, hitched me up by the backs of the knees, and started for the blimp. The white noise was deafening, and before he let me down, I said in his ear, “Thank you.”
He took my hand, smiling as if he was pleased to see me so happy, and we ran across the grass to the huge machine. It was bigger than I’d imagined. Massive. Overwhelming. A tire company’s name was written across it in letters two or three times my height. I couldn’t hear any of the men who greeted us, but I put on my customer service smile. In this case, it couldn’t have been more genuine.
We were hustled into a gondola with six seats facing front. The two at the windshield were pilot and copilot. Jonathan and I were guided in behind that, and behind us were two men who appeared to be businessmen. We were surrounded by windows, but Jonathan made sure I got the seat closest to a view. I jumped in. I wanted to talk to him, but it was simply too loud. The copilot gave us headphones with mikes on them.
I heard Jonathan say, “Can you hear me?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Can you hear me?”
“Loud and clear.”
“Baby,” I said, smiling until I felt my face might snap in two, “I’m a sure thing tonight.”
Everyone in the cabin cracked up. Of course they could all hear me. Jonathan put his arm around me and pulled me to him, kissing my forehead while he laughed. I buried my head in his chest.
“Don’t worry, miss,” said the pilot, his voice loud and clear. “We get that a lot.” After a pause, he continued. “I’m Larry. This here is my copilot, Rango. We’ll be heading for East Los Angeles in a few seconds, set to arrive at Dodger Stadium in about forty minutes. Hold on, takeoff can be a little jarring for first timers. Buckle in.”
The noise got even louder. I found my buckles and strap. Jonathan helped me click in, then he took my hand. Seconds later, I felt as if I was being launched from a rocket. Larry turned a wooden steering wheel set between his seat and Rango’s.
“I’ll have the game on,” Rango chimed in. “We’re in the bottom of the fourth against the New York Yankees. Cashen is pitching for the Yanks as we speak.”
I closed my eyes and heard Jonathan’s voice. “Open your eyes. These flights are hard to get, even for me.”
I opened them and looked at him in the darkened cabin. He touched my cheek and smiled, and I felt protected and secure. Even if it was an illusion, knowing he was there made me feel less like I was shooting out a cannon and more like I was on a fun trip I wouldn’t have dreamed up for myself.
The city spread beneath us in a blanket of lights made of a plaid of streets, freeways, and floodlit parks. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. We were low enough to see cars and people but high enough to turn them into dots of velocity and intention. Everyone was headed somewhere, and we were above, passing in the wind.
The game wasn’t going well for my team. I listened without discussion as another inning went by with three men stranded on base, a pitcher who threw balls that were fouled off until I knew he must be exhausted, and a beaner that may have left star hitter Jose Inuego with a concussion.
I felt Jonathan leaning over me to see the window. He rested his chin on my shoulder, then his lips landed on my neck. Leaning there, we looked out the window together. The gondola chilled as the minutes went by, and though we had jackets, I put my hand on his and found his fingers icy. I moved one of his hands between my knees to warm it and folded the other in mine. We stayed like that, looking out the window, his chest to my back, his chin on my neck, and his hands warmed by my body, until I saw Elysian Park. I probably could have picked my house out from there.