theme for a late winter fling, part three

Seven pm, and he texts. Whatcha up to? I answer: What's the next question?

Want to get together for a bit? he asks. I glance at my place, take stock of my state of personal hygiene. My place and I are a mess. In a bit? He says, Can't. Going to Hollywood to talk to a guy. I can't resist: Jumbo?

Don't worry Elizabeta, he texts. I'll find someone else to drive me to the ER.

Later, I'm on my way to Famima to grab an ill-advised cup of 11:30 pm coffee when I run into him on the sidewalk. He pivots jauntily when he sees me, jumping out of the crosswalk to change course and head my way.

He's bright eyed and cheery, and invites me to get a drink and a bite. I make him come back upstairs while I put on a different top, brush my teeth, and grab my ID. We go to Casey's, where we run into a new couple from our building, plus a female friend of theirs. We all team up for drinks and conversation, talking about the virtues of the Rhoomba and whether LSD should be taken after the age of 25.

I end up at a table with the drunk model girlfriend; he stays at the bar engaging in an increasingly enthusiastic verbal pissing match with the boyfriend. At one point, the boyfriend calls over to me from the bar where they're sitting: "Did he make you chili from scratch?" I look from the boyfriend to him. He's smiling in anticipation of my praise. He knows I absolutely loved his chili, and could have eaten a pot of it. His grin is so silly and guileless and goofy. I want to kiss him.

"Ugh, yes," I say. "So gross. He actually put yams in it. Yams! And they weren't even fully cooked. I was sick for days."

Another round of drinks, more segregated conversation. I'm dying. Model girlfriend is friendly enough, but killing my neurons with boredom. He texts from a few feet away, still at full throttle with Boyfriend. Hey. I text back: Next time we go out, I'm sitting you down at a table with a rock and walking away.

Message received. He finds an excuse to get up and come join me at the table. The other girl sits with us. Sitting across from him, she tugs tipsily at his jacket sleeve. "Hey," she slurs. "I have a question. How come you're so adorable?" I nearly spit my beer all over the model. He kicks me under the table. The girl continues examining him. She points at a tattoo on his collar bone. "What does that say?" she asks, unable to decipher the script lettering.

"It's latin for nice Jewish boy." She can't tell if he's fucking with her or not. "Really?" she asks, frowning suspiciously.

I shake my head, marveling. I have never in all my life met a bigger flirt. "You do know he lives for this," I tell her. "To have girls in bars ask him about his tattoos?" He just laughs. "It says memento mori," I say, and swallow the last of my drink, rising to leave.

Back on the street, we compare notes on our respective conversations. "She's a mess," I say. "And he sounds controlling and emotionally abusive, from what she said." He nods thoughtfully. "He thinks he's very smart."

We amble down the sidewalk, pleasantly buzzed and keyed up from socializing. He wants to eat at the Mexican food truck around the corner. I make him choose and order for me, while I try to puzzle out the Spanish on a huge sandwich board. There's a photograph of a goat on it. "What exactly am I eating?" I ask. He grabs me and we hug, staggering when we lose our balance. When the food is ready, he walks me through the shelf of condiments, pointing out what's spicy and what's not. I don't interrupt, even though I spent most of my life in Arizona.

We eat as we walk slowly down the sidewalk. It's a street packed with bars and restaurants, all expelling patrons. It's two am. We'd chosen the mild and medium salsas, but our lips and tongues are on fire. In his hands, along with a paper plate loaded with food, are a handful of napkins. He drops a couple on accident, but when he sees my look of disapproval, drops a few more on purpose. "Pick them up," I say warningly. He keeps his eyes on me, still eating, and tosses another napkin to the ground. The sidewalk around our feet is littered with white napkins. "I'm serious," I say threateningly. His eyes twinkle with mischief. I toss my plate into a trash can nearby. "If you ever want your penis in my mouth again, you'd better pick those up." He stuffs his plate in the trash, ignoring me.

I grab his hand, and using all of my weight, try to force his arm to the ground where the napkins lay. I can't get him to budge. He's too tall and I'm laughing too hard. I yank his arm fruitlessly, and he starts smacking the seat of my jeans. Bargoers are all around us. Suddenly he wraps his arms around my waist and launches me upside down and over his shoulder. I shriek. "My phone!" I pat my back pockets to make sure nothing has fallen out. He carries me across the street and towards our building. When he puts me down, I say, "I feel like Satan took a dump in my throat." He sits on a brick planter by an ATM, and pulls me in for a kiss. Our movement triggers a harsh security light that floods us in fluorescence. "Thank you," I say towards the bank. "Lovely ambiance you're providing." He stands, turns, and starts to tug down his jeans. "I feel like mooning this building right now," he declares. And he does just that.

Back upstairs, the intimacy feels different. I attribute it to how couple-ish the night felt, socializing as we did with another couple. He falls asleep, and I lay there for a while, looking at the art on his walls. An oversized, unfinished canvas hangs directly in front of the bed. He's doodled on it with spray paint: a stick figure in whose otherwise empty head is written "canvas", with oversized quotes.

I sneak out before it gets light.