J parked the Toyota on the gravel at the edge of the road. We got out of the car and walked to concrete picnic table ten feet away. There was a large green barrel with the word “TRASH” printed on the side. Flies and bees buzzed around the top of the barrel. As we got closer to the barrel, I wondered if there was rotting flesh in the barrel. The sudden thought hit my brain as if it were swung by a sledge hammer. Is J a black widow who kills her males after she makes love to them? Did she want to make love to me on the cement table top and then chop my body into little pieces and feed it to the flies and bees and ants and raccoons and whatever else would desire the flesh of a filthy rich trust fund baby?
My train of thought hit a brick wall when J tugged on my arm. Was it foreplay? I wasn’t quite sure. I’ve been misreading signs all along. I chose to refrain from throwing myself at her. If she makes one more move, I’ll not have the strength to resist her seductive charm.
“Give me a break.”
“I thought you were taking a break. Leave me alone.”
“I can’t. I was sent back in. I’m the only conscience willing to work with you.”
“Do you really think her touch was foreplay?”
“Uh huh. So what if she’ll kill me after she makes love to me. I’ll get to heaven early. Maybe I’ll be someone’s conscience.”
“Oh, please. Try treating her with respect and kindness,” said my conscience.
“I’ve heard of the words, but these are concepts foreign to the filthy rich. We can get what we want by buying it in one form or another,” I responded.
“How’s that worked with J?”
Before I could answer, J tugged on tapped me on the shoulder. “M, stop,” said J.
She called me M. She didn’t call me Double M, or Martin, or Marty, or Artin. I’m sure it was a term of endearment. Someone should make a film with that title. I turned and said, “What?”
J said, “This is disgusting. Let’s get out of here.”
I turned toward the trash barrel and said, “Don’t you think we should see if there is a body in there first, so we can call the police?”
“I wasn’t talking about the trash barrel. I’ve smelled worse.”
She smelled worse? My poor black Venus. I have to rescue her. I can’t imagine anything smelling worse than the trash barrel. I said, “What are you talking about?”
“I apologize. I was angry. I can’t eat this food. Didn’t you read the menu?”
“What menu?” I asked.
“The one on the ordering board.”
“That’s a menu?”
“Sort of,” said J. She continued, “They bragged that their beef is non organic, uses the best hormones, and only the highest quality antibiotics.”
I said, “That’s good, isn’t it?”
J took a step toward the trash can, squared her body toward it, and sent the bag of food flying through the air and dropping into the middle of the can. The two sodas followed, one after the other. “Nice shooting. Did you play basketball in school?”
“Why? Because I’m black? Is that what you think?”
I said, “It’s a legitimate assumption.”
“M. What am I going to do with you? Please tell me.”
“You’ll tear off my ears if I tell what you can do with me,” I said.
J started laughing. “You’re right. Don’t get me started. I’m still hungry. What about you?”
I said, “There’s a taco food truck on Ocean Drive three blocks past the Loomis Building. I never ate there, but Oscar recommended it to me if I ever worked past lunch hour.”
“I love tacos,” said J and I had a tiny feeling J was warming up to me. It was time for me to do a full court press. I’m trying to stay with a basketball metaphor.
It was a twenty-minute ride to the exit to Ocean Drive. J took exit 3 toward Loomis Boulevard and Ocean Drive. Loomis is one way ending at Ocean Drive. Ocean Drive runs above the coast and unfortunately giving the general population access to some prime beach estate. Mother claims it’s evil to allow anyone with less than thirty million access to pristine beaches or mountain views. I don’t think I’ll share Mother’s view with J. Once J marries me, she’ll be filthy rich and understand the logic behind Mother’s reasoning.
There were no on street parking spots available. I pointed to a parking lot charging five dollars and hour in the next block. I’m hoping lunch at the taco truck will lead to a walk along the sidewalk overlooking the beaches. If that works out, I’ll head J toward the best ice cream shop in city. A mid afternoon ice cream cone while we get to know each other. Once J understands who I really am my plan is to have us spend the rest of the day and evening at the Del Norte, a five star resort with three restaurants, each receiving Zagat’s highest rating.
J tapped my arm and said, “Whatever you are fantasizing, it is going to stay a fantasy. Don’t get worked up.”
J’s in the wrong line of work. She should have been a tarot card reader.
We got in line at the taco food truck. There were three people in front of us. I never ate a taco, let alone order one. I don’t know what they look like. If I like them, I wonder if Victor will make them. Mother doesn’t like ethnic food. She says it brings us closer to the common classes.
“What do you want?” asked J.
I didn’t know. I figured the only way I could get through this and continue to work my plan was to let J take the lead. I said, “J, why don’t you order for the two of us. I’ll have whatever you have.” I handed J a twenty. She handed it back.
“I’ll pay,” I said.
“No. I tossed away the Burgers. It’s my treat.”
“But I have tons of more money than you,” I said.
J came right back at me, “I have tons of more self respect than you.”
That hurt. I felt like J kicked in the cajones and in public. “Before you pay, you can’t count it as a business expense. I can. I’ll tell Pettibone we were discussing work.”
“I’m not going to talk about work.”
“He doesn’t have to know. Father said Pettibone will do whatever we tell him to do and if it’s dishonest, Pettibone will claim client and lawyer privilege,”
J ignored me. She spoke to a dark skinned man with a full mustache and thick black hair. She ordered two fish tacos with the works, whatever that is and two sodas. She turned toward me, “It smells really, really good.”
The dark skinned guy handed J two tacos wrapped in white butcher block paper. She grabbed a hand full of napkins, and turned toward me. “Make yourself useful. Carry the drinks. We’ll sit over by the fountain.
When we sat down, I watched J sit her drink down to her side. I did the same. She placed her wrapped taco next to her drink. I did the same with my drink. She picked up a paper napkin and unfolded it and shook it out. I did the same. She looked at me, “You never ate here or at any food truck before, am I right?”
“Sort of,” I said.
“What do you mean, sort of?” asked J.
“I’ve thought about it, but I didn’t have anybody as beautiful or as nice as you to go with me.” I surprised myself. I was being honest.
“That’s sweet, M,” said J.
“Why are you calling me M,” I asked.
“I can’t stand any of your other names.”
“What about Double M?” I asked.
“You are no gangbanger. Don’t even pretend. You wouldn’t know where to start. You’ll only make a bigger fool out of yourself than you already are.”
I changed the subject, “I love you.”
“You going to start that again?” asked J.
“I never stopped. You have to admit my assault of the barrier you built against true love forever, TLF, if you’re into social media jargon, has been non stop. I’ll admit I’ve made a few missteps, but any misstep hasn’t deterred me from trying.”
J turned away from me and seemed to be staring out over the ocean. It was clear day with hardly a cloud in sky. I wondered where her mind was traveling. Was she thinking about us? About her? Was she thinking of some place she visited? She had this look in her eye that said ‘Don’t bother me, I’m taking a brief detour from our conversation while I think things through.’
It was a long couple of minutes before J reached over and picked up her taco. I did the same with my taco. She unwrapped it. I unwrapped mine. She rewrapped the lower half of the taco with the butcher block paper. I did the same. My mind didn’t understand why the wrapping and the unwrapping and the rewrapping. Was this the way Mexicans ate their food? I’m not aware of any Mexican customs. I made a mental note to ask Oscar about the wrapping and unwrapping thing. J took a bite of her fish taco. I took a bite of my fish taco. I’ve got to tell Victor to make these. I was having a culinary orgasm.
J tossed a glance my way, “It’s really very good. Nice choice.”
All I could say was, “Uh huh.”
J stopped chewing her food. Took a sip of soda. I did the same. She put the soda container down and said, “You want to date me?”
I almost choked on my food and I didn’t have any food in my mouth.
My conscience was back, “Don’t say anything stupid. I heard about lunch at the taco Food Truck and new I had to be on duty,” said my conscience. He continued, “If you mention sex or marriage, she’ll drop you faster than an escargot will slip off your fork.”
I was pleased my conscience was using a metaphor I could understand. I said, “I got it.”
J said, “Who are you talking to?”
“You wouldn’t understand and the answer is yes, I want to date you.”
“You didn’t mention sex or marriage. I’m impressed. That’s a good first step. Tomorrow’s Friday. We can go out then. First, I want you to meet my mother before we go out. I’ll text you her address. I’m giving you my cell phone number. If you abuse the trust I’m putting in you I will take your cell phone and … never mind.”
“I won’t. Promise. Promise. Promise. What’s your mother’s name? Did you get your beauty from her?”
She is a sweetheart. Her name is Evelyn. After we eat, I’ll drive you back to Loomis and you can have Oscar pick you up.”
I smiled. My world was okay. Life is good and getting better. I hoped Oscar and Mother were through and Oscar was not worn out. It didn’t matter how long I had to wait. My black angel wanted to date me.
THE STORY CONTINUES ON MONDAY