La Flor, AKA, the beautiful, tough, and edgy PI, and Little Carmen walked into Starbucks ahead of me. Little Carmen held the door for La Flor, then stepped inside and let the door close before I could squeeze in.
It was two in the afternoon. The drinks of choice in San Antonio on a hot July afternoon rank in the following order: Margarita – not offered by Starbucks. Beer or cerveza – not offered by Starbucks. Real Texas iced tea in a real Texas sized iced-tea glass not one of the plastic Starbucks things with high priced names – not offered by Starbucks. Then there is the fifty-two-ounce drink offered at all the gas stations for ninety-nine cents. Somewhere between uppity and I’ll donate my first born to Starbucks is their sugary, frosty, coffee concoction that costs the same as a good meal at a decent restaurant. A large line waits, everyone has their iPhone out, ready to collect stars.
La Flor turned to me and said, “Ray, give your iPhone to LC so he can order our drinks.”
“I don’t want anything. I’m only the driver,” I said.
“Don’t be so cheap. Live a little,” she said.
“Yah, Ray-mo, lives a little, like the beautiful, tough, and edgy PI says,” said Little Carmen sticking his paw out to take my iPhone.
La Flor said, “Pay attention, LC. Ray and I will grab a table and see if we spot LaRue. Ray, tell LC what you want.”
My first thought was, I want to get out of here. I was afraid Little Carmen would take me literally. So, I said, “A glass of ice with a touch of water.”
“He’s only kidding LC, get him the largest iced coffee they have and tell them to add a shot of espresso to it. I’ll have a Frappuccino.”
“Can I gets something two (blogger’s note: That’s the way Little Carmen said it, ‘two’ not ‘too,’ the way it’s supposed to be said), beautiful, tough, and edgy PI?”
“Of course, get whatever you want, Ray is paying,” said La Flor.
Why does it hurt whenever she says I’m paying?
Little Carmen handed my phone back to me and said, “How do I pay with the phone? Is it a trade or something?”
I reached for my phone and gave Little Carmen a quick tutorial.
“What’ll they think of next. I got to tell Big Carmen to get a Pap smear.”
“It’s an app,” I said.
Isn’t that what I said?” asked Little Carmen. Then he said, “You got anything on here I’m not supposed to see because I’m gonna look at everything.”
“It’s all PG-13,” I said.
I confused Little Carmen. La Flor rushed to his rescue, “LC has such an inquisitive mind, Ray. Run along LC, we’ll be waiting.”
Little Carmen blew a kiss to La Flor that almost knocked me over with the garlic flavored spray that came in its wake.
As soon as Little Carmen was in line, La Flor grabbed my arm, almost hysterically she said, “Ray, save me. I’m dying. He’s suffocating me. I want to dump him.”
“Dump Little Carmen? After the way the both of you were carrying on in the backseat?”
“I was holding my breath. He has the worst breath I’ve smelled since … I won’t go into that.”
“Is that the only reason?”
“No, it happens to be number seven on my list of reasons to dump him.”
“You’ve made a list?” I said a bit incredulously.
“Yes, and it’s growing. Number one, is this ridiculous, tacky white windbreaker jacket. La Flor in a tacky windbreaker? I’ll make all the tabloids. They won’t let go if they find out. If my public sees me with this thing on, I lose all cred.”
“And, number two?” I asked.
“His motorcycle. A beautiful, tough, and edgy PI does not ride on a motorcycle with her arms around a guy who’s wearing a plaid kerchief on his head to hold his hair in place.”
“Did you wear a helmet?”
“And ruin my doo?”
“Good point. What’s number three?”
“I need my freedom. I’m a free spirit. I can’t be tied down. I don’t want Sunday dinner at the pizzeria. I don’t want to smell sauce and garlic and pizza all the time. Oh God, Ray do something. Save me, I’m too young, too vibrant, too beautiful, too tough, too edgy to be tied down.”
“He’s waving at you,” I said.
“Don’t look at him, Ray. You’ll only encourage him. You’re the writer. He’s only an alt ego. Kill him off. Make him a greeter at Walmart. Do something.”
“You’re not an alt ego?” I asked.
“No,” La Flor said defensively. I move between worlds. I am the best of both. I think my mother was a real person and my father was an alt ego. Maybe it was the other way around.”
“He’s carrying the drinks over. Oh, Ray. He got me the largest, most caloric drink on Earth. How will I fit into my jeans? Do you know how long I’ll have to go on the treadmill tomorrow? Hours.”
Little Carmen sauntered over, his hips jostling tables on his path to us. “Here’s your drink, beautiful, tough, and edgy PI. I made them put extra whooped cream on it with extra caramel sauce. I got one just like it. Here’s your coffee, Ray-mo. Use guys spot LaRue?”
“I think you meant to say whipped?” I offered.
“I don’t see no whips? I also didn’t hit any body,” said Little Carmen.
“Do you understand, now, Ray?” La Flor said, her eyes pleading with me to do something.
I shook my head, then looked at my drink. If I took one sip, I wouldn’t fall asleep for a week. La Flor swirled her straw around the whipped cream and caramel.
Little Carmen removed the top and straw to his drink, raised the venti cup to his lips, and began the alt ego male ritual of consuming a drink without swallowing or breathing. This is done anytime an alt ego male is in the presence of a female. It’s a standard matting practice. Little Carmen was letting his drink slide its way through his esophagus. He was obviously applying a male beer drinking technique to a cold drink. I didn’t think it would turn out well.
The whipped cream gave him a white mustache, not a good look. Even worse was the caramel dripping down both sides of his mouth as he attempted to impress La Flor with his male, drink it all at once move.
La Flor whispered, “Reasons eight through one-hundred, please. I’ll be good. I promise. No more sassiness. No more wisecracks. I’ll cook once a week.”
Little Carmen, three-fourths of the way through, suddenly set the drink down and pressed the palms of his hands against his temples.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I gots an ice cream headache. Oh geez, these are the worst. How am I going to get rid of it? I can’t think straight or crooked.”
La Flor pushed her seat out, she took off her tacky white windbreaker, tossed it on the table, and said, “That’s it, LC. We’re done.”
Little Carmen, still pressing his paws to his temples, raised his eyes without moving his head, and said, “But beautiful, tough, and edgy PI, what I do?”
“You couldn’t drink your cold drink all the way down without stopping. It’s part of the job description for my assistant.”
“Yes, and so is not getting ice cream headaches. I’m letting you go, don’t worry, I’ll be a good reference. Ray’s driving me home.”
“What about me? What about my motorcycle? What about us?
I spoke up, we’ve already had one bad breakup and I didn’t want another. I said, “La Flor told me she’ll set you up with J.J. Peterson, the romance writer. LaRue came crawling back and she told him to keep on crawling.”
“Geez, thanks, beautiful, tough, and edgy PI. Does J. J. like pizza?”
“Loves it. All in a day’s work, LC,” said La Flor pushing me toward the door. Then La Flor whispered to me, “LC is perfect for her. I can’t stand her. She’s a snooty b ….” I stopped her before she could finish her sentence.
The best decision is to stop making a bad decision. That piece of wisdom I picked up from a book has proven its worth to me time and again. La Flor applied it to a relationship going nowhere. I hope the piece of wisdom comes in handy for you.
* La Flor is a fictional character and acts as my alt ego. Her character has evolved over the blog posts. She began with a single letter as her name. Her name gradually grew to two letters, then three before she settled on La Flor. She liked the name because it fit her idea of a beautiful, tough, and edgy feminine PI. It is my interaction with her persona that serves as the source of these blog posts. I have no notion how La Flor will continue to evolve. It is an adventure for me as well as the reader.