The food was getting cold and they were getting hungrier as Rhea drove past the third in a row of her favorite dark parking places… but it wasn’t even ten o’clock yet and there were too many people around.
“The alley behind IHOP is pretty good–” Andy offered.
“They closed it off.” she let him know, “Construction”
“The streets around Michelortenia?”
They both shook their head.
“Your place…?” He asked, casually. Hopefully.
Though she and Kevin had gotten busted in her car and it clearly wasn’t a good idea to fuck in it anymore and they were only about a mile from Rhea’s apartment, she sure as hell didn’t want any of these guys there. It was just too personal. And besides, Strickland was on call that night. He could be home. No way would she risk him seeing her with this kid. If anyone was going to see her going down again, so to speak, it wasn’t going to be him. In a way, she loved him. She sure as hell respected him. He’d tried so hard for so many years to be a friend to her.
SHe started to wonder what the hell she was doing. “This is a bad idea.” she told Andy and headed back toward Toolong’s. “You can have the food and I’ll give you ten bucks, but–”
He was quiet. He nodded; seemed OK with her decision.
“I just can’t risk this right now–” she tried to explain.
“That’s OK.” he agreed. “It’s still early. I’ll find another one.”
She laughed. “I’m sure you will.”
She stopped at a stop sign.
“It’s warm out.” he said. She nodded. “Yeah. Well, it’s August…”
“Yeah.” he agreed then pulled off his T shirt. She tried to keep her eyes on the road but his arms, his shoulders, his chest– the fitness of youth was something to savor.
“Thanks for the food. OK if I eat?” he said and opened a carton of Phad Thai.
“Sure.” she said and glanced over. He thrust a finger into the carton, then two – deep into it, the angle of his thrust let her know he knew what she wanted. He rubbed the nub of a prawn that stuck out, circling it. He pulled his fingers out and sucked the sauce off. “It’s still warm.”
She looked away. Kept driving. She was hot; wiped her brow.
“Want a taste?” he asked. Before she could answer he leaned across her, pressing down on her then he opened her mouth and put some noodles inside. They were thick and warm and flecked with heat; she let them slip down her throat. His fingers lingered; she sucked them. He pulled them out.
She drove up Cahuenga then down Odin to a little street below the Hollywood reservoir. It was quiet and almost dark. She parked, jammed against a clump of chaparral. He grabbed her legs and pulled her to him, kissing her neck, her shoulder, the hollow beneath her collar bone. He pulled her T shirt down with his teeth then sucked her breast as he pulled off her underwear. She grabbed his head and shoved it down, down down. He draped a string of noodles around her core.
“Jesus. They’re cold!”
He leaned in and blew warm breath on her, then sucked and ate and blew until she screamed.
“Get the fuck in me NOW.”
He reached down, unzipped with one hand, then came up to her. A second before he parted her, she shoved him away.
“No, no. No dipping.”
He grabbed her hand and put it on him. “Feel it–”
“Use your fingers–”
A little pissed, he asked, “Why?”
“Because it doesn’t count–!”
He put his face back into her. And his hands. But he wasn’t that into it anymore. She moved against him, harder and harder.
A loud sudden THWUMP! Rocked the car, scaring them. He jerked up, hitting his head. “What the fuck?!”
Rhea looked out the window and saw a coyote skulking up the street. There were coyote footprints on the hood of her car. Andy rubbed his head.
“You OK?” She asked him. He nodded then zipped back up. They were done.
Rhea grabbed a napkin out of the bag and wiped herself off. “What a waste.” She muttered.
“You can just give me forty.” He told her. “And a ride back.”
She closed the boxes of food and put them in their bag. She dug into her purse. She gave him twenty bucks. Neither said another word. She dropped him off on Cahuenga then went home.
Rhea parked in her spot in the underground garage of the Laurel apartments then hurried up the ramp and past the pool in the courtyard. She opened the door of number 114 and went inside.
She slammed the Thai Food into her microwave; nuked it then ate it with a cold Tecate by her open window. God she hated herself. She’d failed at absolutely everything in her life and now this… thirty eight years old and she still couldn’t come. She wondered why people always said “Failure wasn’t an option.” It was always an option… hence flavored coffee, anything soy, Domino’s pizza… Now here she was in the warm nicotine light of an LA summer night thinking up frothy innuendo for two bits a word and all the oyster sauce she could eat.
She opened her notepad and read the words she’d written there. “Noodles. Sticky. Young lips.”
She ate the nuked Thai food. She thought, then she wrote more on the paper pad:
“–I kissed pungent curry wan oozing from blistered chicken hunks dense with a lingering heat– And under a coyote moon with Phad Thai dripping down my thighs, good lord he made me smile – like every other time I’ve ever said ‘yes’ to a man or a meal that could set me on fire…”
She crumpled the paper and threw it in the trash. She grabbed another beer and went outside to the courtyard. It was late. All the apartments were dark. She sat in a faded plastic chair by the pool. It was quiet except for the soft constant whisper of cars driving by outside.
A moving shadow startled her as a young coyote darted from behind a trash bin. It stopped when it saw her – stared her down, unafraid. It skulked away and slipped out the open courtyard door, heading up Laurel, toward the hills. And coming from somewhere in those hills she could hear the distant sound of a pack of coyotes howl.
Rhea shivvered. She looked at her phone. Three AM. When the quiet settles into the cracks of the night and the ghosts in the air kiss your skin…