Glancing at her Movado knockoff watch somewhere near Times Square, the woman sighed. Then she hissed so hard within her throat, she nearly choked on her tongue. The watch’s second hand seemed like it was moving two ticks forward and four ticks back. “Movado my ass! This crap reads Morado. ” She was glad the commuters and tourists were breezing past. No one could hear her. In New York City, no one cared anyway. “Lax” is how she referred to her fellow New Yawkuhs, meaning ex-lax® because, in Manhattan anyway, everyone walked like they had overdosed on the deceptive chocolate rectangles. Everyone was in a rush. She wasn’t, however. At least she didn’t want to rush to judgment that he — the man whom she was heading to meet — was still enamorado.
Her attention returned to her wrist, and she flicked a braid out of her line of sight so fast that it appeared to cut the little breeze that flowed. “Moron, that’s what my gullible Gullah-descended ass is. Somethin’ told me I shoulda known that tall, fine African brotha itchin’ to holla at me in half-French, half-Wolof, in front of Century 21 had me blinded on a cloudy day. Damn!” OK, now I look as if I’m chattering to myself like a madwoman … well, a foxy one anyway, she thought, trying to calm her nerves. Like the last time, she was fifteen minutes late.
In mid-flight from the elevator to the lobby of the Apex Building, where she was a legal assistant for the law firm of Greed, Avarice & Corruption LLP, modesty briefly had been hijacked by vanity in one act: her punching the buttons to all of the floors in order to increase the time to apply fresh coats of velvet-black mascara and midnight-blue eyeliner. By the time the rickety car had screeched to a jolt and the “L” had glowed in green on the golden panel, modesty had won the contest in the woman’s decision to go incognita behind Lennonesque black shades.
Panic set in again. As lunchgoers whizzed past her, she imagined the man standing on the corner in front of Big Apple Bank — a rendezvous of his choosing — tapping his loafer-clad left foot while pretending to read The Gotham City Times. The thought occurred to her that the lenses in her sunglasses were not tinted darkly enough, for the obnoxious clique of bovine paralegals would spot her en route to their daily grazing and then add to the usual fertilizer back at the farm — the firm, that is. Hearing no mooing within earshot set her mind at ease, but only for a moment.
The woman wondered how the man’s physical appearance might have changed over the past ten months, asking herself if perhaps he was sporting a beard lately. Or, if he could have lost the twenty pounds about which he had complained the previous year. Her mind savored the latter image to the extent that she dallied in the erotic landscape of a forty-five-second fantasy centered around his salient bulge in acid-washed denim.
A bike messenger’s shrill whistle disengaged her from such a daydream, during which she missed two “Walk” signals while standing on the street corner’s edge. She could kick herself for behaving like a schoolgirl, but she had not seen the man since November. After playing telephone tag and other games since then, she felt more than a pregnant pause in their unfinished dialogue about the forbidden passion that was causing an incendiary interlude in their platonic relationship.
Built in 1931, The Empire State Building in New York City is one of the oldest, yet tallest skyscrapers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Empire State Building on the island of Manhattan shone in the late-September sun like a gigantic compass in the distance. Heading east, with the sun baking the part down the middle of her box-braided head, the woman stumbled upon a lunchtime exhibition of young girls dancing their sprightly rendition of Riverdance in the shadow of the New York Public Library. She kept turning her head obsessively to watch the display, as if her eyes were unable to resist drinking in a scene that resembled one from her joyful childhood. Just one more glance, she thought whimsically, slowing down before starting again at a brisk pace.
Two yards ahead, the man stood in the center of the pavement. His smile welcomed her, thawed her. “Hey, Cora!” he called out. He had been watching her the entire time. In fact, if he had not uttered her name, she would have rushed past him.
When they were face to face, his mouth was the first to greet “hello.” His sensuous lips spread apart into the toothy smile of someone who could barely conceal a terrific secret.
“Hi, Luis,” Cora returned in an almost matter-of-fact manner. As he was four inches taller than she, a statistic he cited when they first met — after a competitive softball game between her law firm and his advertising agency, The Harrigan Agency, two summers prior — she had to strain her neck to plant an innocent kiss on his tanned face.
By their first date — a Spirit of New York dinner cruise from Chelsea Piers through New York Harbor that September — Coretta Piaget Richmond and Luis DeJesus were too much in lust to care about either’s height. She was wearing her fuck-me heels that night, and he was feeling the elements (though most of them manmade) when the deejay scratched in some Earth, Wind & Fire. On “September” she was doing her best Beyoncé rump rolls until several raunchy male co-workers who seemed more inebriated than her date began shouting, “Go, Cora! Get it, Cora!” and then changed EW&F’s lyrics on the chorus: “We say ‘badonkadonk.’ That’s what we remember. ‘Badonkadonk’ when we hit it in September … ” That’s when Luis, summoning Zeus, transformed his tenor into a divine baritone and channeled Maurice White while nearly spinning Cora’s blazing-rose-tatted breasts out of her strapless little black dress. Dancing on endorphin clouds, with Luis flying a little higher on Grey Goose, they appeared to be grooving with horny angels of a different kind while the hammered GAC paralegals sang “Great Balls of Fire” a cappella like Duwende.
“Mmmmm … lookatchu, girl! How long it’s been?” Luis remarked, his eyes as intense as Laz Alonso‘s in any role but the wack one in Issues. With the quick reflex of a batter ducking out of the path of a supersonic fastball, Luis dodged her wine-tinted lips, stepping backward and to his left. She reacted by twisting her mouth into a scowled response, then smacked his arm.
“Guess you forgot who won that softball game for Team Harrigan, hunh?” he said, chuckling in the shadow of her hooded eyes. ”I know how to get my smile back, sexy. Here you go,” he offered, switching the subject by whipping out a slender white box wrapped in a royal-blue ribbon from a side pocket in his trench.
A gift for me, but it’s not my birthday, she pondered. “Thank you. OK, bye,” Cora said, becoming painfully self-conscious from his intense stare, this time like Mekhi Phifer’s, into her dark brown eyes. If she had worn heels, she would have gladly pivoted on them to escape his endearing presence. But Luis Laz Mekhi had other plans.
“Have you eaten?” he inquired.
“No.” She was abrupt but not out of rudeness. Emotional paralysis rendered her immobile. His penetrating eyes were hypnotizing her and making her think of naughty deeds in secret Times Square alleys.
“Do you have time for something quick around T-Square?” he implored.
“Not much — oh, it’ll have to be q-q-quick,” she stammered.
“Same here. OK, instead of heading to Disney World — “ He was interrupted.
“Dizzy, I mean Disney?” she inquired.
“Forty-Second and Broadway?” he reminded her. ”Never mind that one. First let’s hop a downtown ’N’ train on Forty-Ninth and Seventh to pick up some ginkgo biloba herbal tea for you, then shoot back to midtown to grab some grub at that diner.”
“Which diner, Luis?” she asked nervously, rebraiding a few loose ends with the deftness of a macramé craftswoman as a fiftysomething male driver of a Chevy pickup truck sang lyrics to a favorite eighties song of hers: “You, you. You got me hangin’ on a string now.”
“Babe, you know, the one where we met last fall,” he suggested. “Or should I say where we re-enacted the Fall. What was its name? … Intermezzo … nah … Intercourse Diner … nah, nah … Intermission Diner. Yeah, that’s it. Hah-hah-hah!”
“OK,” she agreed hesitatingly due to dry mouth and, suddenly, dry vajayjay.
With a wave of his hand, Luis motioned for Cora to cross the street at his side, in heavy traffic. She was afraid to reveal that getting hit by an automobile was her worst recurring nightmare. Gathering that she would not budge, he said, “C’mere,” in his typical New York City lingo. His beckoning index finger rendered his mood playful rather than cautionary.
Gingerly walking on the sidewalk’s steel grating, she chided, “So this is how you plan on ending the friendship, hunh?” He laughed, then pulled her in close to his side. All she could think was: If only he would just kiss me.
“Why don’t you open the gift?” Luis asked.
“What? Right here in the street?” Cora returned.
He waited patiently while she removed the satiny blue ribbon from the box and cautiously opened it. He smiled that wide, toothy grin again as her eyes stretched open. “Ohhh, it’s a friendship bracelet!” she exclaimed, attracting several stares from passersby.
“And check out the engraving on the back,” he said as if he were reading her mind.
Cora’s hands trembled as she smoothed her ring finger over the Art Deco sterling silver bracelet. She carefully turned over the jewelry to read the engraving aloud: “For Katrina, All My Love.” All my love?! she repeated inwardly, as if the engraver had had a sick sense of humor.
“You bastard! Who the hell is Ka-tri-na!” she yelled. So enthralled had she been to receive his gift that she had not noticed a wedding band on his finger.
“C-C-Cora, I-I-I made a mistake,” he attempted to explain. “Katrina must’ve been on my mind when I placed the order.”
“How could you, Luis?” she asked between sobs.
“Listen,” he said, pulling her gently toward him and inadvertently tripping a Superman lookalike as he ambled across their path as if to find room to launch from the sidewalk to the gleaming crown of the Chrysler Building. “She and I’ve been divorced for eight years now. Try to understand; she was my first love. This ring – I was feeling sentimental last night – look, we can’t give up on us. Let’s not forget the passion the last – “
“Forget?!” she yelled. “I friggin’ barely remember you — Mister-I’ll-call-you-tomorrow-night! What happened? Is it the thirteenth of November and you and I have just traveled back in time?”
“All I can say is how sad that you barely recall me while I clearly remember you bare … and saying, ‘OK, I’ll see you whenever. So I called you this morning because today we can begin forever,” he promised.
“Whatever,” she murmured.
“What’s that?” he reprimanded.
“Just this,” Cora said, then curled her unkissed lips and hurled the box into the street, where it and the bracelet met their fate beneath the front wheel of a medallion taxi. She snarled in Luis’ direction but could only drop her head in defeat to his ex-wife’s indelible presence.
Luis had not attempted to retrieve the gift. His squinting eyes followed the arc of its route from Cora’s hand to the pothole-scarred street. When he turned toward her to lift her chin and apologize again, she slapped him. Her hand, which left a red imprint on his face, stung while his ironic infidelity seared her flesh and emblazoned upon her mind. If he was initially stunned, she was doubly humiliated.
Little did Cora realize that when she hit Luis, he became fully aware of his existence. Like a newborn, he was breathing air for the first time. In one act of creation, he was made into her man, sort of like the Book of Genesis re-envisioned on a Manhattan sidewalk.
Luis enjoyed a brief fantasy of Cora buoyantly issuing him a ticket for the transgression. Speeding in the fast lane of a friendship was a bond that only a year earlier he had banished to exile in the land of platonic love. The hell with a ticket, he thought. I’d say my traffic violation is punishable by eighty lashes. Studying her face, he paused at her glare and imagined double rows of twenty faux eyelashes morphing into tiny, black whips. After all, Cora was the true mistress of his heat — if not his heart — and he really wanted to obey her. Channeling Babyface, he ached to sing, “Whip it on meh. Whoo-oo!” Instead, he reached back several years farther, to The Deele, executing Face’s smooth spin and his fragile falsetto on the chorus: “I only think of you on two occasions. That’s day. And ni-i-ight.”
Cora laughed, which furthered lightened his mood. Yeah, if only she could know I have “gone for broke,” he sang, trying to reclaim her sweet lil pussy while attempting to win back my wife. Then he remembered that married life hadn’t panned out so well for Face either. Pussy it shall be. Yes indeedy.
Cora’s face was still flushed from her brief act of violence, no matter how justified. On the verge of sniffling, she apologized to Luis.
“Baby, please don’t cry. I accept your apology,” he said with smiling eyes.
“I’m not crying; it’s allergies,” she fibbed.
“Cool. Shall we eat now?” he asked as if nothing had transpired.
“Sure, c’mon,” she said.
Cora had never felt so turned on before — not even during foreplay. But, this could be foreplay, she mused.
“Now that’s the girl I used to know,” Luis said, snaking his arm around her thick waist.
Mmmm, I think this is foreplay, Cora heard the goddess inside of her purr. She felt her claws retract and a confident smile return to her face. When she glanced up at her man, she made a mental note of how his handsome face was framed by the midday sun. She couldn’t see his black rhinestone pupils but sensed the heat rising in her face. An orange glow from his radiant gaze. Around them everyone was rushing as if they really cared to where or to whom they were headed, but she reflected: Right here with him, yeah. I’m good.
Without missing a heartbeat, Luis leaned down to her like some divine entity and kissed eternal life into her. As he held her shoulders, her A-line coat, which was a Mediterranean olive-green, seemed to melt away. Wobbling within his embrace like a stilt walker on the verge of collapse, she trembled for what seemed like forever. Power had shifted to his hands and his lips, and she was surrendering — an inevitability assured by more than a year of celibacy-by-circumstance. Just then, a car drove past blasting a throwback by Stevie Wonder: “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You).” Yesssss, God’s a woman, she rejoiced inwardly as she welcomed a blossoming orgasm of fuschia and violet that clouded any remaining particles of reason among oxytocin receptors.
* * * * *
Standing directly behind Cora, Luis inhaled the coconut essence from his lover’s auburn-frosted braids. Dripping wet, she pretended to peruse the Intermission Diner’s distressed, laminated menu with interest, its edges taped to a large, weathered window facing West Forty-Third Street. What she craved lay beneath his fleshy nose. Fuck this soup ‘n sammich deal, she thought. Licking her lips while he sniffed among her braids, she desired the soft double swelling that for the moment trembled dangerously close to her slender neck. Instinctively, the fine hairs at the top of her back and along her arms bristled in a prehistoric response to approaching danger. Shaking in an embrace reflected in the window, she no longer could see the menu. As his hardness seemed to appear out of nowhere, her inner pear began contracting again and allowed a natural gel to seep onto her stockinged thighs.
Suddenly her nervous smile disappeared into his mouth. Through the dingy pane she watched his curly ‘fro circle closely under her nose; felt his tongue snake toward her tonsils. Once again she tried to focus on the diner’s offerings, knowing full well that she wished his generous meat was on the menu. When his lips returned to his favorite place, she regained her normal breathing pattern but not her composure. Invisible swirls of his impassioned breath inadvertently misted the finer hairs on the nape of her neck in the narrow path where her braids separated and dangled past the collar of her swing coat. Just as he started massaging her small, soft breasts through her blouse and thrusting against her rear, her eyes zoomed in on one of the early-bird specials: turkey burger deluxe with the soup de jour. Despite the midtown heat, she felt a familiar chill from within.
“You’ve got some stones to push up on me with only ten bucks to spare. I don’t mind being your cheap date this afternoon, Luis,” she paused without turning to face him. “Next time I want a fancy table, candlelight, roses and a menu that includes a whole lobster and not just lobster bisque. You dig?”
“This diner does have lobsters. Where is this coming from, Cora?” he asked. “You’ve always told me you prefer comfort food,” he said, staring at her generous bottom, which not even the roomiest swing coat could hide. He imagined her on any weeknight, shoveling in bowls of macaroni and cheese while feigning interest in the fate of the protagonist in whatever woman-in-peril movie was airing on her favorite cable television channel: Lifetime. Her shrill tone snapped him out of the daydream — or nightmare as it were — and back into her life.
“Your ambivalent ways with me for the past ten months have made me anything but comfortable,” she said. Her oasis of pussy had turned to desert sand.
Cora stepped to her left, out of Luis’ erotic force field, and turned sharply toward him so that her braids whipped the front of his parted trenchcoat. He barely had time to look away.
“You should watch those tendrils of yours, hon’,” he said, his usually sparkling black eyes narrowing to slits. “I can feel the sting right through my trench.”
“Well,” she returned with a defiant flip of her braids, “I could’ve castrated you for bumping my grill. Couldn’t you see that I was parked?”
“Ouch!” he cried out. Sensing that he had just been lashed and nearly rendered a eunuch, Luis nevertheless did not want to admit to the emasculation. Instead, he reminded her, “You need to accept that we have an indefatigable sexual attraction to one another, so let me just, uh, roll up to your bumper, baby.”
“Excusez-moi, but I’m not Grace Jones, and so you’re not going to ‘drive it in between’ — I believe are her lyrics,” she said.
“Don’t avoid my statement. We are sexual soulmates. Admit it, woman,” he insisted.
“Okay, okay, I confess that the thought of you turns me on. Well, sometimes. Look, enough of that. How about we get together on a weekend for a change? I can’t repeat this kind of long lunch hour, or else I could lose my job at the law firm. Then I’ll really be up shit’s creek,” she said.
“So what do you propose?” he asked. Instantly he regretted it.
“Next Saturday’s the fifth of October, so I’m thinking an Italian restaurant — maybe one of the quaint ones in Little Italy. C’mon, babe. Whaddaya say?”
He was dumbstruck and not just because she made him realize that Chinatown had not obliterated Little Italy, a neighborhood that was two blocks away from extinction — which in his mind made her a cultural anthropologist. Hell, I’d accompany her on an excavation anywhere in the world, but I wish she’d delve more into my soul because I really dig her, his thoughts rambled. The source of his shock, what had his senses spinning like those of terrified Jimmy Stewart-as-“Scottie” peering over the stairwell in Vertigo, was: The fifth of October would be his ex-wife’s birthday. However, Luis could not divulge that to Cora. As far as he could discern from his stolen moments with Katrina, she had no one with whom to share her celebrations. Besides, he already had promised to treat her to dinner at Sardi’s.
Struggling to imagine how his best friend, Yannick, would advise him in this awkward moment, he turned somatically febrile. He averted his gaze from Cora, stripping off his trench and revealing an acid-washed denim shirt that matched the jeans which flattered the contours of his lower trunk.
“Errrgrrrr.” Cora was unleashing her inner feline. She remembered that he never could resist her growly purr à la Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman paired with a demure smile evoking the actress in the title character of Anna Lucasta opposite Sammy Davis Jr. a decade earlier. At present, however, her borrowed man’s mind was on his failing juggling act. While he was dropping his balls like an amateur circus clown, she easily was losing her grip on the present upon glimpsing his fetching bod, which conjured up memories of how, two years prior, he had pinned her against the railing of the boat — a yacht as far as she was concerned — as it floated through New York Harbor. Now as then, she was slipping off the railing of reason and falling hard for a married man. He may have been divorced on paper but still held emotional ties to his ex-wife.
Once Cora’s senses returned, she told him, on the verge of drooling: “I don’t know how you stay in such great shape. Beating off after our naughty phone sessions couldn’t possibly be that much of a workout.”
“Uh, have you ever heard of a gym, hon’?” he quipped. Before he could follow up his question with a chuckle, Cora jabbed her elbow into his ribs. Passersby were astonished, clutching their sides and sighing as if sympathetically suffering from his injury.
Beads of perspiration doubled in volume as if conspiring against him. Still smarting from the pain, he nevertheless was far more worried as to how he was going to break the news about Katrina to Cora. After all, he was still in love with Katrina LeNoire — despite the fact that she had resumed using her maiden name — and could not delete that Al Green ballad from his cerebral eight-track. Unlike R&B’s Reverend Al, though, Luis had little control over his organ. Instead of imagining orchestral strings forming a celestial canopy over the soulman’s emotive strains, he heard bedsprings squeaking in clave rhythms beneath the groove. Suddenly he stumbled, unable to find his center, as if in a tug-of-war between restraint and desire.
“Oh, dear God, Luis! I’m so sorry, babe,” she said, kissing from his ear to his mouth, then to his other ear.
The thought that invaded his existence was: This is the kind of woman that would cut my throat as easily as she kisses me from ear to ear, and I bet she’d apologize profusely while choking me in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
On tiptoes, she clutched his face and licked along the shadow of his moustache. His lips swelled from the hot, wet sensation. Using her meaty tongue like a penis, she penetrated his parted lips. She sucked in his hot breath and felt a faint contraction in her tilted womb. Then she turned so he could embrace her from behind. Like the vixen he begged her to roleplay during their occasional phone bone, she poked her plump posterior against his junction.
He felt his briefs tighten on his genitalia. He bit his lower lip and risked spraining his neck to whisper amorous words into his lover’s ear. She sank back into his trembling embrace and tried to hide her delight from his gentle prodding against her derrière. They were both grateful for the diner’s dirty windows, which they hoped shielded their erotic deeds from the patrons inside. She leaned forward, pressing her palms to the warm glass. His present intertwined with their past like the interlocking strands in her ropelike braids. He was experiencing a delusional fantasy that carried him to the edge of ecstasy. Shutting his eyes, he imagined them having an afternoon tumble on the firm futon she had described in many of their erotic phone sessions. He could taste her briny perspiration and see her muscular shoulder blades sliding upon his firm caresses of her pillowy breasts and continuing around to her back.
As if on cue, a sixty-ish saxophonist with the complexion of dark Jamaican rum scraped his crate against the curb to grab their attention. When the harsh sound of hard plastic on concrete failed to cut through their discord, the musician angled his ax in their direction and blew a swirl of harmony their way in the form of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” His arthritic fingers still worked their magic, their stubby nimbleness a blur on the dull brass valves of his instrument. He seemed to summon all the air in his lungs to breathe new meaning into the song, its freshness in stark counterpoint with his unkempt silver beard, tarnished gold stud molded into his right earlobe and tattered beige camouflage jacket with baggy, soot-stained khakis.
Cora changed her tune. “I want you by my side, Luis. The way I’ve desired you to be since reuniting with you last November.”
“I was just waiting for the invitation,” he said, his hands buried in his pockets. “Mother, may I?”
She howled with laughter at the reference to one of her favorite childhood games. “Yes, you may take one giant step,” she said in a mock-haughty tone.
“Ah, that’s more like it, hon’,” he said and craned his neck for a peck on hers while planting his sizable palms around her shoulders. Despite her plus-size physique, she was lithe and easily slid out of his embrace.
“Luis, be a darling, why don’t you. Take my hand and pretend you’re a doting lover consumed with the idea of bedding me upon the first orange rays of sunset.” He was still scowling at her comment when she fondled his firm buttocks. She could not believe he yelped, though his effeminate sound was drowned out by the saxman’s frenzied crescendo.
The Intermission Diner’s sign, its name set in a sans-serif Broadway font, hovered above their heads. It was a fact that did not escape Cora, who had been superstitious since childhood. She hated when her friends would tell her to “break a leg” just prior to going onstage for any of her progressive junior high school’s plays. At present she was Lady Macbeth casting a chilling glance at Luis, who looked back at her meekly. She rubbed her forearm as if missing the “friendship” bracelet she had hurled into the street less than a half-hour earlier.
The veteran saxophonist cleared his throat and rattled his coffee cup of coins in the pair’s direction. Defeated, he slammed the cup against the concrete beneath him and expectorated several times into the street, nearly slipping off his crate. He licked his lips the way he must have before a session at the Savoy, Cotton Club, or any number of elegant clubs where, back in the day, he and many other ”colored” musicians were forced to enter by the back door. The man fixed his chapped lips around his reed instrument and serenaded Cora and Luis with “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”
Whether affected by the old man’s mojo or simply the gentle swagger of his sax, the pair moved inches closer to each other. They both squinted through the soot-tinted glass to spot a vacant table. Another ten minutes and they would get lucky, though not in a Daft Punk way. Like a natural history museum’s carcasses, Intermission Diner’s patrons were of varied stripes and sizes, and Cora was stupefied that she could discern most of them. She was certain that the phenomenon was not due to her visual acuity, though, as she had left her eyeglasses on her desk in a deliberate act of vanity to which all women past a certain age were entitled. Instead, she attributed her unusual ability of making out the diners, despite the grimy glass, to a gestalt that traced back to a childhood obsession for games of connect-the-dots. The problem was she had trouble discerning where to draw the lines in her current, labyrinthine involvement.
Luis, on the other hand, was a sun-kissed Narcissus so enamored by his reflection that he appeared unfazed by the opaque streaks formed by a curious mixture of water and airborne grime. He leaned back with the dexterity of a limbo dancer in a feeble attempt to capture his likeness in the few slivers of light that the window would allow of the sun. Only by absorbing himself into his physical beauty could he temporarily forget his promise to his ex-wife. The former Katrina Monique Fatale was a gorgeous, dark-eyed, übersensitive woman who embodied a song she had often played on Sunday evenings: Ginette Reno’s “Une Femme Sentimentale.”
Cora stood by Luis’ side, a hand on her cloaked hip, sizing up his 5-foot-10 frame. Lawwwd, whatta god, she intoned. She vacillated between fascination and annoyance until she no longer could bear either. “Fucking Luis-in-the-looking-glass! Let’s go in or dine somewhere else. I won’t have much time to eat anyway; I’ve got to get back to work. I’m not a hotshot like you, able to make your advertising bosses swoon at the sight of you and forget that you’re taking advantage of their lunch hour policy.”
“Relax, sweetie,” was all he could say as he checked out his profile. He removed a small comb from his back pocket and touched up his springy ’fro.
She was frustrated less by his vanity than by their phone sex ritual, which always culminated with him groaning loudly into the receiver and with her frowning from not having a chance to get beyond a lubed state. Indeed, her soles were wearing thin from the relationship dance with Luis. She fixed her gaze on the Intermission Diner’s sign. Flashing in gaudy bile-green neon lights — despite it being daytime — save nine of the one hundred twenty-five bulbs, the sign dangled outside the establishment’s second-story windows. A peck on the cheek from Luis brought her back to earth.
They walked through the fingerprint-mottled glass door and waited for the hostess to seat them. Within five minutes a shapely waitress and faded beauty queen named Janine shimmied over to their Formica table. “What can I get for youz?” she said between cracking her gum, which made Cora’s eyes twitch like Vivien Leigh’s Blanche DuBois’ when the latter was having one of several nervous breakdowns in Elia Kazan’s film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.
Luis gesticulated toward Cora and transmitted what he used to call “the eye beam.”
“I ain’t got all day, ma’am. My shift’s endin’ soon,” said Janine.
“Cora, watch it. Watch it now,” Luis warned.
“All righty, then,” said Cora. “I’ll have two eggs … uhhhhh … scrambled medium, with … uhhhhh … bacon, home fries and toast. I’m not finished. Uhhhh … make that no butter.”
“On what? Lemme guess … uhhhhh … the bacon?” Janine mocked.
Luis made things worse, pretending to snore, which elicited a swift kick in the shin from his lover.
“Ow! Dammit! OK, I’ll have one egg over easy and an English muffin,” he said.
“Anything to drink for the botha youz?” Janine asked, smirking.
“Make it two freshly squeezed OJs, hon’,” he said, winking at the waitress.
“What the fuck was that?” Cora asked as Janine swiveled her hips in the direction of the grill.
“I’ve been coming here for years, mujer,” he scolded. “Listen, don’t start.”
“Forgive me, babe,” she said softly, then kicked off her patent leather flats. And not to air her tootsies.
“C’mon, that tickles,” he told her as her stockinged left foot circled his right ankle through his sweat socks. When her foot fumbled at his crotch, he stopped complaining and his rock-hard bulge complied with her seduction.
“Down boy,” he demanded. They both laughed raucously.
“Why’d you break the mood?” she complained. “Are you opposed to sex before breakfast?”
“What, are we supposed to screw on top of the table before our eggs are served? I don’t want to get slivers of glass from salt and pepper shakers embedded in my dick, sweetie,” he said with a grimace.
“Hey, what we were just doing–”
“What you, you were just doing,” he corrected her.
“Whatever — that was foreplay. We could always go and have a quickie in a bathroom stall,” she said. “Speaking of which, where are the commodes in this joint?”
“Downstairs,” he said, pointing toward the rear of the diner at the large, dingy Restrooms sign.
“Ooh, that’s quite discreet, don’tcha think, huh?” she teased. Batting her eyes at him, she snaked her right foot up his denim-clad right leg until she reached his expanded crotch.
“I see we’ve been watching Unfaithful again,” he said, referring to one of her favorite scenes from the once-controversial film. During more than one of their late-night phone bones, she told him she often had fantasized about acting out the film’s torrid scene in a restaurant’s bathroom stall. She even insisted that Luis not only rent the DVD of the film but also study French in his spare time. A few Berlitz lessons and nearly a thousand dollars later, he managed to perfect a French accent so that he could impersonate Olivier Martínez, for which Cora rewarded him with orgasmic phrases in English.
Considering his lover’s mean left hook, Luis feared her other fantasy — that of acting out the pseudo-S&M scene in which Martínez’s Paul Martel commands Diane Lane’s Constance Sumner to slap him senseless.
“You know, I haven’t had the balls to admit this until now,” he said, grinning, “but that movie’s a lousy remake of the great French film La Femme infidèle.”
“That may be, mon chéri, but let’s just pray I don’t wind up getting a blow to the head with a snow globe,” she quipped.
It took him a moment, and then he grasped her point. “Look, Cora, I told you that me and my ex–”
“For the love of God, man, you can say her name out loud. ‘Katrina,’ there!” she cried, attracting unwanted attention from surrounding tables. Barely lowering her voice, she continued, “You’re still in love with her, aren’t you? I can’t get over that engraved bracelet.”
“You already tossed the bracelet, which, I might add, was unnecessary. Let’s get off that topic and the one of Kat … my former wife, that is,” he insisted.
“Fine, just fine. Uh, here comes our juice,” she said in a not-so-smooth segue that let him know he wasn’t going to get any of hers that night. She accessed her telekinetic iTune browser, reciting the refrain of a New Jack throwback – En Vogue’s debut song – in hushed tones, albeit without four-part harmony.
In case he dared to ignore her passive-aggressive warning, she decided to toss sexual manipulation out the diner’s soiled window and went for the jugular: imitating Glenn Close’s inflections and countenance in her psychotic, iconic Fatal Attraction scene. “I will not be ignored, Luis,” she cautioned.
However, he disregarded her faux-threats. “So you’re a Renaissance woman now,” he responded facetiously. “What’s next? A spontaneous sonnet in iambic pentameter?”
“Screw you, Luis!” she barked, to the chagrin of a white December-December lesbian couple who had just blown out a dildo-shaped, rainbow-striped candle on their wedding cupcake.
“Apparently you won’t even do that, mujer!” he volleyed defensively. Then, his semen turned to venom, he added: “I hope you’re into swinging ’cause I’m ’bout to hang you by your bra strap.”
“The fact that you’re about to lose your girlfriend would obviate that,” she returned. But she was bluffing. Seeing him was the manifestation, recently, of nightly masturbatory daydreams. She wanted him, in girth and mirth.
“Oh, Luis, let’s not fight – ” she wasn’t allowed to finish.
“Each other or the feeling?” he wanted to know.
“Both, baby. Both,” she answered, tears welling up in raccoon eyes.
Janine had eavesdropped on enough of their conversation and Cora’s music-and-movie moment – not to mention Cora’s Tammy Fay Baker impersonation – to discern that a storm was brewing and that it was far more bitter than the house java. She smiled Luis’ way as she placed the glasses of orange juice down on the table. “Sure I can’t get youz no coffee?”
“We’d like some privacy. Just bring our food, please,” Cora snapped.
“Two coffees, one black, one with half-and-half. Thanks, hon’,” Luis added with two winks.
Janine shot a glare at Cora, cracked her gum for emphasis, scribbled “Bitch at Table #7” onto her pad and swayed her hips toward a party of three across the room.
“Just keep winking at our waitress like that, and I’ll put that eye out,” warned Cora.
“Accept that you’re a paranoid woman,” he advised, “but don’t take it out on Janine. That woman’s been busting her ass at this diner going on twenty years. She couldn’t care less about our love affair.”
“Oh, suddenly it’s love that you feel for me. Luis, really?” she said.
Attempting to change the subject, he asked, “Why don’t you go back to showing me how you appreciate seeing me again, ma chérie?”
Aided by the sunlight bathing her and Luis, Cora’s snarl melted into a smile. She shifted in the booth seat upon feeling her boy shorts dampening.
Forty-five minutes of demonic gastrointestinal gurgling later …
Cora braced herself for the onslaught of a hot platter of soft-scrambled eggs, bacon, home fries and toast as waitress Janine seemed to be perfecting her flying disc toss to an imaginary canine seated at the table. Blessed with quick reflexes, Cora unfolded her white napkin and used it to shield her face and prevent first-degree burns from the greasy strips of bacon and home fries performing sizzling somersaults before her eyes. “Damn, now that’s a sure sign I should’ve worn my eyeglasses!” she exclaimed.
Luis was tittering at his lover’s expense but, one swift kick to his groin later, was doubled over in excruciating pain.
Laughing so hard she nearly choked on her leatherized gum, Janine, unaware of Luis’ condition, turned her back to Cora and switched her way toward the kitchen. As she weaved through the hopscotch of tables in her path, she gave her difficult patron the finger, letting it waggle on the downbeat of the güira heard in the eardrum-splitting merengue that was cranking from the diner’s speakers.
Unaware that she was keeping her own rhythm with the butter knife against the Formica table, Cora followed the waitress’s percussive digit to a path beneath her dingy apron. She could not believe her eyes when the saucy server began scratching somewhere down in the valley of the Cordillera Central, between La Pelona and Pico Duarte. Instinctively, Cora shot a glance at her moist scrambled eggs. Are those white particles amid the fried yellow yolks really the egg whites, or a rooster’s sperm or — heaven forbid — are they bilious projectile from that hen? she wondered.
Luis, why didn’t you chide that heffa?” she clucked. Hen, cow — any farm animal would do. She might have repeated her query, but realized that her companion’s eyes were shut and his mouth twisted into a whorl of flesh. “Luis? Lu — oh my God! What’s wrong with you?”
Patrons at surrounding tables paused only long enough to belch and to curse under their breath at the loud disturbances coming from Table #7. The din of suits and sluts resumed with the merengue segueing into Barry Manilow’s ode to showgirl Lola and her lover, Tony: “Copacabana.”
“Awww, awww,” Luis was still groaning. Before actual words could travel from his brain to his lips, Janine trotted back to the fated table to the beat of Manilow’s disco cowbells. Slinking her sixtyish figure down toward Luis, she lowered her eyes to his groin and sang, “At the Copa … we fell in love.”
“Awww, awww, no. Nooo,” he said, moaning and diverting his eyes from hers. To his chagrin, one of Janine’s stretchmarked pink breasts gingerly boxed his generous tanned nose. Then she swung a plate of hot eggs over easy and an English muffin from behind her back. “Fuuuck!” he yelled. Looking in Cora’s direction, he added, “My huevos will never be the same after your swift goal kick to my monkey, sweetie. Fuck me!”
“I’d love to,” joked the waitress, her grin disappearing when she noticed the silence.
Cora played back the tape of Janine’s first serve. She realized she had been giving Luis a footjob under the table, so she already had stepped inside a danger zone.
“Have you no compassion, dear?” he intruded into her recollection, sounding hoarse. While he gently squeezed his companion’s wrist as if to find a pulse, Cora eyed her target and relied on her rapid reflexes. Her fork’s trajectory barely missed Janine’s rear end as she moved away from the booth.
“I guess that’s my answer, hunh, baby?” Luis asked raspily, all the while cupping the deflated denim over his pruned scrotum.
“I suppose you’ll beg me to use my hands to stroke your ego next time, hon’,” was all the endearment that Cora could muster before shoveling down her cold scrambled eggs. “Eat your eggs before they grow their shells back.”
Just for good measure, Luis mouthed the words “I love you” in her direction, but received nothing in return except a few home fries beside his lukewarm, floppy eggs. Where is the woman who used to coo when I undid her bra with my telekinetic vision? he mused.
“Mmmm, I love the Intermission Diner’s scrambled eggs,” she said. “They must use a special ingredient, you think?”
“Yeah, nothing like hacking up a good one from the throat,” he said, regretting the remark before the last word was enunciated.
“Care to repeat that, mister?” she threatened. When she addressed him impersonally, he knew any chance of nookie was several months farther away from the long shot.
“Look, sweetie, I’m damn near infertile from your, er, involuntary capoeira move in the cojones. I knew I shouldn’t have encouraged you to take that Intro to Kick Ass course.
“It was an African Brazilian dance class, and don’t be such a smart ass, Luis. I didn’t object to your repeating the Salsa y Sueños class with ex-wife Katrina at the 92nd Street Y when, as you insisted, she was trying to deal with her immense solitude. Salsa y Sueños, all right. Hmpf. That woman remains la mujer des tus sueños, I bet.”
“Oh, boo, don’t be so hard on me, especially when it’ll take rehabilitative therapy for me to get hard in your presence again. Besides, my intimacies with Katrina soon will be a memory.” If Pinocchio were not a fairytale, he would have his only possible hard-on, one long enough to whiff more of the coconut essence from behind her ears, which now were blushing like her face.
“Am I really your … boo?” she asked, her voice softening upon uttering each syllable.
Knocking over what remained in his glass of orange juice and sending his utensils clanging on the tiled floor, Luis reached over the table and embraced Cora’s tense shoulders through her tan blouse’s rayon until they surrendered to his warmth. She tasted his eggs over easy; he, her bacon bits. In the next minute, they both were wearing an assortment of condiments, from ketchup and butter to strawberry jam. They both hated the deli variety, but this kind of tongue sandwich whetted their appetite.
“Ah-he-he-hem,” Janine said while cracking a new stick of gum. She was not amused by the pair’s foreplay. She had a reason to feel selfish, having survived the first year of celibacy since the third of her husbands ran out on her with yet another friend. In a tough city such as New York, friends were hard to come by, but apparently not to come with. At least that’s what her first dear heart used to tell her when she would complain to him about needing a boob job to keep up with her friends’ silicon masterpieces.
“Hey, hey,” piped up Janine, interrupting her smooching customers. “Mickey and Kim, it’s nine-and-a-half weeks later, and my shift has ended. Botha youz get a room … A-whorrr-ah.”
All that Cora could muster, once Luis removed his octopus suckers for lips from her neck, was, “Geez, Janine. I would’ve expected more sophistication from you. For instance, that classic line delivered by the server in A Man and a Woman, where the couple is dining in the Normandy Hotel –”
“Yeah, yeah, I know that movie,” Janine interrupted her. “I remember when Un Homey et Une Farm was released with that happy-go-fucky ‘chubba-dubba-da’ theme by Francis Lee .”
“I think you mean ‘Lai,’ Janine,” Luis corrected her.
“Whatever, honey. Lay is what youz wannado at dis here booth table, but not on my watch,” the waitress cautioned. She emphasized her point by tapping the table with her forefinger, further chipping away nail polish about three shades too bright for her age.
“Are you a warden or a warlock, I mean, waitress?” Cora teased.
“No, hon’, only men can be warlocks. Women are the witches,” Luis offered, grabbing the remainder of his smashed English muffin and stuffing a ten dollar bill inside Janine’s exposed bra. “Adios, Janine.” He accentuated his farewell by slowly spinning Cora away from the booth and into a hustle figure to the first strains of Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You.”
Wrapped in Luis’ arms, Cora had a twenty-second fantasy of their own version of Saturday night fever that made her body tremble. He noticed and embraced her tighter as they headed out of the diner and into the urban humidity. Kissing me would make it better, she desired to confess to him. He pulled her into his body, into his stiffness, and held her there. Her knees buckled suddenly, but he provided all the support she needed.
Dragging her backward, tango style, toward a concrete wall of a bank that was going out of business, he pondered how easy it might be to make a quick deposit. A no–brainer, he thought as he smothered Cora’s profile in full-lipped kisses. Pedestrians either skated past them, their jaws fastened to their mobile phones, or pounded the pavement while their telltale white cords announced to onlookers that they had been invaded by body snatchers via iPods.
Urban zombies rushed by the euphoric lovers, unaware of their undulating movements and primal aromas. In the sliver of shadow beneath the building’s roof, Luis’ long fingers made a swamp of Cora’s grassy vulva, and her writhing response sent them probing her canal down to his knuckles. Her moans matched his in intensity and wavelengths. Feeling her muscles contract and release around his dewy digits, he knew it would not be long before his throbbing erection, impaling her buttocks’ crevice through her swing coat, would turn to titanium in a chemical reaction.
“Mi corazón, I wanna do you here. Aquí. Out in the open,” he whispered with rattled breath into an ear reddened more with ketchup than with the flush of embarrassment.
It was a mission possible. Cora refused to abort. Besides, Luis had Tom Cruise beat by a thousand miles. And Luis had Cora whoozy and surrounded in a billion stars.
“Y’know,” she spoke hoarsely, “it’s illegal … ahhh … in New York C-C-C-City … aaaahhh … to carry a concealed weapon … aaaAAAHHH! Oh, oh … Ohhh, my GOD!!!”
“Amorrrr,” he whispered between licks on her earlobes.
By the time she turned holy, he had maneuvered her clothing and his coat so that he could slip inside her. Before he could join her denomination – or demonization as it were – he spotted a police car with his peripheral vision. The pair straightened up quickly and gathered their composure.
“Guess you’ll need to wear that trench back to the trenches,” she teased her lover.
“Yeah,” he agreed, “it can be a circus there, with jerks putting guys with involuntary hard-ons on blast. I’d better conjure up a hideous thought to subdue the clown beneath this tent.”
“How about Oprah having an ‘aha’ moment during a big ‘O’?” she gibed.
“Baby! I meant I need to lose my erection, not make it shrivel to an okra!” he joked, always trying to upstage her.
“Rubbish,” she said.
“Nah, Cora. We’re talkin’ succotash ’cause the woman does have some nice tomatoes,” he said.
“What, genetically enhanced – ”
“Time out!” Luis called, gesticulating for emphasis. He yanked her away from the faintest notion that either one of them would ever be anywhere inside the buxom billionaire’s mansion, and then he returned her to their penniless heaven. After swinging his flexible body around her, he slinked sensually like Vernel Bagneris, though pretending to catch coins from a sky that was immune to rain. Flipping his hands palm down, he reversed his smile to an Emmett Kelly frown, then made his two-dollar umbrella appear and disappear like a delusioned illusionist-clown.
As they walked past the diner again, they held hands and smiled each other’s way like schoolkids. They read into each other’s eyes the regret of having to sublimate their erections. He squeezed her hand firmly, then brought her knuckles to his moist lips the way he wished to kiss her levitated hips. Their passion, wet and wild like autumn waves crashing under the moon, shone in their eyes. Although it was daytime in Manhattan, they wished it night. They made it so, for under cloak of night could they skulk about Dionysian shadows to writhe in sin. Their tortured souls, having summoned shamanic sex magic, searched for sensual drumming beneath their consciousness to synchronize their heartbeats and override the mechanics of time.
Cora’s dark brown pupils swam inside Luis’ black rhinestone irides, where she envisioned riding his surf on the cusp of every sunrise. Before they could reach the corner, however, they were separated from their fantasy world when the curbside saxman appealed to them with his clairvoyant sense of humor: his rendition of Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “I Don’t Know If It’s Right.” Gee, why not bebop through rapper Triple V’s “Not Another Jump-off,” Cora wanted to snap at the senior serenader.
She began panicking although the chapped-lipped musician had no way of knowing about her stolen moment with somebody else’s husband. Yet she was hallucinating that the viceroy of the valves was also the judge of their transgression; her co-workers at the law firm of Greed, Avarice & Corruption LLP, the jury — that is, if clucking and snorting were allowed in court. Not that Animal Farm had ever been on any of her middle-school or high-school teachers’ required-reading lists, but Cora had survived the firm into her fifth year by the motto of “better seen, not herd.”
While she was chewing on her cud, it was as if Luis were reading her mind when he sighed and said, “Back to the cutthroat culture of the ad agency, cutie.”
Watching Cora’s plus-size figure disappear into the late-lunch crowd, he meditated on how her absence created a safety zone where he could reconnect with his fidelity to his former wife, Katrina. He was like a chameleon in his erotic desire, having no guilt over his residual lust shared with one woman to fulfill another’s emotional void. He walked out of the saxophonist’s line of sight and yanked out his mobile phone. Bluetooth inserted, he phoned Katrina on his way back to the ad agency while rehearsing a script stored for priapic days like this, when he needed her manual relief by midnight. It would take only twelve hours to make good on his booty call, but he wished he had more than a week to figure a way to weasel out of the planned romantic dinner with Cora. He had never missed celebrating Katrina’s birthday with her, and this year would be the big four-zero.
English: Empire StateBuilding From NJ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The following week, on the fifth of October …
Less than four hours remained until his dinner date with his ex-wife, Katrina, at her favorite Manhattan restaurant: Sardi’s. In less than five minutes his mistress would emerge from the ladies’ restroom with freshly scrubbed hands, ready to pry open a three-pound lobster across from him at a ramshackle diner. As the wisecracking waitress Janine approached their table, adjusting her apron and popping open one button too close to her mountainous cleavage, ad man Luis Manuel DeJesus wondered aloud, “How in hell did I wind up in this predicament, needing to take out a secured loan to wine and dine a girl who can only be a side dish and an ex who’ll always be a snide bitch?”
“Hi, hon’,” Janine greeted, snapping a stick of gum and sending spearmint spittle into a glass of water likely sourced from the polluted East River.
“Heya, Janine. Say, don’tchu work daytime shifts only?” asked Luis.
“Well, since my last boyfriend absconded with my fourteen-karat gold vibrator that a previous lover had got me from Sand Trapeze or somewhere in the South of France … ” her story trailed off in some tawdry universe while he reminisced the previous night with his lover, Coretta Piaget Richmond.
* * * * *
After a lunchtime phone call from Katrina that began, “Luis, we need to talk,” he needed a distraction that was not female. Eyeing his BlackBerry, he could not wait to meet his team’s deadline, especially with the agency’s number one client arriving from Chicago at three-fifteen to listen to a presentation for its most prominent product. As team leader, Luis had had many sleepless nights, but in the end he and his crew had come up with the perfect thrust for multichannel advertising. Thus he was psyched when, immediately after the PowerPoint presentation for DuraThrust Condoms, agency head Thomas Scott Evan Harrigan sought him out to congratulate him. Though, he was pissed when his boss’ bone-crushing handshake nearly brought an end to jack-off mornings, nighttime fuck-chats and money shots on subscriber-paid Internet porn sites, and sexting that made Anthony Weiner’s pale in comparison.
“Luis, my man,” Harrigan said, oblivious to his employee’s physical pain, “I loved that grand-fucking-beautiful presentation: ‘DuraThrust Condoms – for men who desire intense pleasure without regrets.’”
Listening to Harrigan chortle and then sigh as a petite blonde stepped into his crosshairs and brushed her rear against the barrel in his Ralph Lauren trousers, Luis wished he could be so at ease — and a fly dresser, too. At forty-five he thought he had learned to manage the consequences of earning a Ph.D. in freakology. Why didn’t I get that vasectomy that I’d threatened Katrina with back in the day? Damn! he cursed himself for letting his boys out to play house. He had succumbed to temptation with an ex who was as fertile as Octomom. Abortions weren’t out of the question while we were married, so what gives? he ruminated over the crisis in his mind. What he would have given to be a part of the DuraThrust focus groups, especially since the extra-strength condoms contained a secret chemical that, when activated by withdrawal of the penis, destroyed any semen inside or outside the prophylactic’s magic rubber; thereby also destroying manipulative women’s chances of trapping men with unplanned pregnancies.
Despite the success of the presentation, Luis left work feeling deflated. It was time to return home to a seedy reality. Thus when his colleague and buddy Yannick sidled up beside him at a urinal in the company’s men’s room and suggested midstream that they toast their team’s triumph, all Luis could mumble was, “Man, sometimes science is a mutha — as in muthafuckin’ too late.”
“Yo, this isn’t like you, dude. What are you talking about?” Yannick implored.
“Don’t listen to me, Yan. I’m buggin’, just buggin’, man,” Luis lied.
“Luis, you know your boy’s always here for you. Look at my big-ass ears; I’m a good listener, OK?” his friend joked.
“Yeah, man. Thanks. Cool,” Luis said.
“Enough of this depressing shit — let’s go toast to DuraThrust!” Yannick suggested.
Little did his buddy know, Luis already had been fucked: by Katrina’s bombshell earlier that Friday. But Yannick would learn the news over brewskies at Lucky’s Sports Bar and, later, over Champagne at the swankiest restaurant in Manhattan: Yannick’s Upper West Side condo.
In the wee hours of the morning, Yannick put Luis in a cab, thinking he would have the sense to head home to East Harlem for solid sleep. Instead, Luis slid the window back and gave the taxi driver a Brooklyn address. After the thirtysomething man sent his unibrow into a series of abrupt pushups and littered Luis’ ear with Sudanese expletives, all while making eye contact in the mirror above the dashboard, he agreed to deliver his inebriated passenger as long as the rear doors remained locked until his destination. Pissed, Luis slammed the window forward and watched the cabdriver curse to himself.
Arriving in Bushwick, he stumbled out of the yellow taxi, labored up five concrete steps and nodded off while seated until a squirrelly man with icy-blue eyes and a pair of Converses in one hand swung open the creaky front door just inches from the rear of Luis’ ’fro. “Good luck to you,” the jittery man said, appearing to be sneaking out of the building as if wanting to escape the terror of seeing how his one night stand might look in the morning.
“Phew! At least I’m in here — well, not quite,” Luis muttered to himself, scratching his head while the one between his thighs did the thinking. Now, he wondered, where the fuck am I going to sleep until waking Cora’s ass up at a reasonable hour?
After napping for forty-five minutes in the dimly lighted vestibule of Cora’s apartment building, he lifted his head and peeled folded arms off a huge Universal Parcel Service box stained with his dried saliva. By that time, dawn’s bluish gray light had tracked him to Bushwick and had begun peeking through the blue-green-red stained glass of the transom. With an eighth of juice remaining on his cellie, he tried placing a booty call to Cora but was sent directly to voicemail. Click. His ego would not permit him to beg for booty from his mistress before sunrise. Oh well, there’s only one way but up, he reflected. More than he could say for his dick. Damn! Did I have to guzzle down those drinks? He was sober only in his determination to force Cora to shed her domineering shell and surrender to him. To whip not only her braids on him, but also her bush. Feeling his gut ripple, he tucked his phone in a pants pocket where his bone should have been.
Once the dry heaves were over, he climbed several flights of a pinewood staircase that was stained as dark as day-old blood until he reached the fourth floor. There, in the middle of the hallway, he leaned forward against a stucco wall outside Cora’s apartment. He dialed her number again and, when she greeted with “What the fuck!” he went against code and pleaded for the pussy. That did not work, as he wound up exercising his biceps by holding his cell at arm’s length whenever she would digress into cursing him out for procrastinating on consummating their reunion.
Finally he earned her sympathy when a would-be mugger limped his way from the staircase, his hand half-buried in a trouser pocket. Cryptically Luis whispered, “Stranger danger” into the phone. It took a minute, since Cora failed to understand why her lover would switch from begging for sex to complaining about dandruff.
When he insisted that he was located out in her hallway, she had the gall to ask, “How do I know to trust you, since we’re sexually estranged? If Mr. Mugger’s gun is bigger than yours, how do I know you’ll be able to hit it?”
“Woman, this ain’t the time for one-a-yo size queen moments and jokes. My man’s ’bout to riddle me with bullets right outside your door. Shit, I feel like Jean Reno in The Professional even though the dude resembles Gary Oldman’s villain in True Romance. And something tells me that whisper-singing, ‘Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there’ ain’t gonna save me.”
“Yeah, besides I have Allstate renter’s insurance. Suppose I’d better let ya in rather than listen to you die within earshot.”
“Yo, enough, Cora.”
Once inside Apartment 4-L, he was only several admonishments from getting inside Cora. “Sacred pussy my ass,” he cursed into her flushed ear while yanking a handful of braids away from it. “But I bet it suuuuure is still a sweet sticky thing in an Ohio Players kinda way.” She hardly had a chance to secure the deadbolt when his idle hand slipped under her pink polyester nightie and pulled her pelvis harder against him so she could feel all of his raw heat. He was five inches flaccid. By now he was six inches and counting. Unlike a broken mirror, seven inches wouldn’t bring him bad luck; just a fierce fuck. The space in Cora’s studio apartment was so confining that two people trying to walk past each other ended up screwing anyway. He used to tease her: “Girl, you put the ‘bush’ in ‘Bushwick.’”
“That’s right, baby. Fuck this! Fuck it, fuuuuuck …” he commanded her.
“Yeah, hit it. Like that, boy,” she taunted, veering to the right as she backed up, else risk flipping out her flat’s only window. “At least let me strip off these Hanes. You’re gonna sprain your fingers with my panties coiled around them like that.”
“Shushhh … You just concentrate on gettin’ wetter than a bayou,” he said, thrusting harder into her snatch but thinking of his “Nawlins”-born former wife. “Let me take care of everything, honey,” he assured. Rip! Cora’s wet white panties dropped at her feet; he to his knees.
Damn, Cora thought to herself as he began munching, I guess he’ll never do this while proposing to me with an engagement ring. I may have carpet down there; if only there were one on the floor so his knees could get rug-burned. Faint ripples through titanium nipples traveled to her clit, zapping away her negative chatter about marrying a man who had admitted to being smitten with his former bride.
“Oooh, baby!” he squealed at the sight of random thin braids in her marshy bush. Despite their thickness, her pubes could not stop her copious juices from oozing down her thighs and onto Luis’ serpentine flicking tongue. Clutching ample ass that compensated for modest tits, he slurped up a mouthful of pussy juice. He never used to encourage her to sing in his presence, but now her husky, off-key moans were driving him crazy. He grunted into her channel, tongued it inside out and then returned to nibbling at the hood of her tiny pink organ. Delighting her senses with ravenous licks, he gave her head with a vengeance. Every time she protested that neighbors walking down the hallway might hear them getting it on, he let out a Gayesque wail (Ohhh, babe!) before sucking hard on her clit.
While still kneeling before her wobbly fuzzy brown legs, he paused to realign broad, angular jaws that always reminded Cora of the singer-songwriter Maxwell. New cum, he noticed before a teardrop-shaped smear landed on his black Kenneth Cole shoes. With more, urgent ministrations between her trembling thighs, a tiny pool of her natural lube formed on the hardwood floor around him. At one point his hands slipped from her clenching buttocks because her sweat had rained down her back and because he was getting dizzier as more blood was directed away from his brain to his penis. “Dayum, girl. You sure keep the cream coming for yo’ man,” he said, eyes nearly crossing.
Doffing her pink nightgown, which was drenched with their perspiration and musk, Cora slipped into an alluring erotic mode. “Boy, you bettah finish what you started down nere,” she demanded.
“Nah, I’m full now, but I’m ready to fill you with cock once more,” he countered, “so spread those fine-ass legs.” Unzipped, his gray trousers slid to his ankles and, with a swift Astairesque kick, wound up in a wire trash basket.
“What? Only once?” she teased, twisting her erect ebony nipples beneath a sexy, crooked smile.
“No more questions,” he said upon resumption of deep thrusts into a pussy as tight as a Blacksummers’ Night groove. He was spreading her thick thighs with a brawny leg; pinning her rear to sheetrock that threatened to shatter down to the powder.
“Unh-hunh, like that. Yeah, girl. Break it off! Unhhhhh … unhhhhh … unhhhhh … yeahhhhh … Coraaaaa … UNHHHHH!”
“Unh, papi, shoot cho stuff … aaahhhhh …”
Oh, shit! She called me “papi.” Ahhh, yeahhh. Just like old times … Just … ahhh … like old tiiiiimes.
* * * * *
“Uhhh, Earth to Luis,” chirped Cora. “I lost you way up there. Make like Prince in Purple Rain and take me with you next time — and please give me Appollonia’s breasts before we speed off on your big black motorbike!”
Embarrassed that she had intruded upon his randy recollection, he cleared his throat. He didn’t mind the Prince reference, as long as she believed as he always did: that a diminutive man possessing his genius must be well-endowed.
“You’re back so soon!” he exclaimed, rushing to pull out her chair. He mistakenly thought that she was in a good mood, missing her sarcastic mannerisms: the conductor’s arms, Jean Dujardin’s smirk, and Viola Davis’ inflections from alto to bass.
Intermission was filled to capacity, and Luis’ late arrival made obtaining a booth impossible. Zilch on a restroom fuck, too. Seeing Cora’s knitted brows now as then, he had figured he would have no chance starring as her Olivier Martínez in Unfaithful.
“Ap-par-ent-ly, I haven’t returned to our table quickly enough,” she said, “since I walked in on Miss Janine chattering about her ex’s intimate theft — and her testimonial about the endurance of The Versailles Company’s Sun Goddess Vibrator with its ‘guaranteed d’or-gasms.’” Cora was too angry to chuckle, but not to send the saggy-bosomed server her walking papers.
Luis tried kissing an apology onto the back of her hand, but she whipped out a medium ballpoint blue pen and on his napkin drew a huge butt accompanied by an arrow, sans Cupid. Suddenly, the door to the establishment flew open as a group of pre-theater diners exited, but the chill between Luis and Cora had no connection to lower temps of an early-October evening.
Luis spied his cellphone for the time. Being late for a date with his mistress was excusable, he thought, but not for Katrina’s fortieth-birthday dinner a rat’s leap of six blocks away at Sardi’s. In his mind he fumbled for the words to inform his girlfriend that she indeed would become his mistress once he and Katrina remarried. He was banking on Cora’s understanding that, with a baby son on the way, remarriage would be more practical than paying child support for more than twenty years and, worse, having to deal with some dude raising his son and possibly turning the little boy against him. Of less concern was accepting the future boyfriend’s tongue-kissing the woman he loved like a priceless objet d’art and drilling his name into her pussy until Luis’ name was obliterated upon each uterine contraction.
A nerve-wracking hour later …
By the time their new waitress, Gertrude, had set their steaming-hot plates, both topped with a three-pound lobster, beneath their bibs and drooling smiles, Luis had managed to lighten his lady’s mood with a Cole Porter medley that concluded with “You Do Something to Me.”
“Cole, honey, please pass the butter sauce,” Cora said as eagerly as on their last intimate connection, when his desire to go anal won out over her plea for sixty-nine. In the absence of KY and Vaseline, he reached for Bertoluccian inspiration, grabbing a stick of butter from a saucer between their half-eaten croissants and rolling her over the way Brando’s “Paul” ravaged Schneider’s “Jeanne” in Last Tango in Paris. Although Cora was never impressed by Method acting, she inflated Luis’ head when, anus recovered, she expressed that “you deserve a Golden Globe.” He recalled outmatching her quip with, “Don’tchu mean ‘Golden Globes,’ sweetie?”
Glowing across the table from him, she looked like a cheerful expectant mother. In reality, she had intersected with his saucy memory and was anticipating filling up on both sex and the food beneath her effervescent smile. She watched her lover crack a claw like a caveman, then ducked from an errant bit of shell.
“Do yo thang, sweetie,” he said between succulent bites. ”I worked overtime back to back for a month to afford our crustaceans,” he added jokingly.
One minute it was “Well … all righty.” Then she remarked, ”Mmmm, this is some dayum delish lobster, baby! Check out all the sweet meat in this claw!”
“Honey, I love to see you so happy. And with your mouth full … even if it’s not with my – “
“So you got jokes, hunh,” she replied, cutting his profanity short and trying to laugh. Her face was beginning to turn as red as the lobster shell she was clutching.
“No, no. Don’t talk with your mouth full,” he said, pushing out his chair with his muscular rear end and rushing to lend her assistance.
Not only was Cora choking; her lips and neck were starting to swell. She had crushed what remained of the lobster claw as she struggled to breathe. Patrons’ conversations staggered to silent pockets while the overhead music — Alicia Keys’ “Unthinkable” — filled the grim void that remained. Luis attempted the Heimlich maneuver on his girlfriend, but the hives had begun to possess her flesh. How he regretted passing up a company-paid CPR course.
Like an alien invasion, perfectly circular welts spread all over Cora’s face, ears, neck and arms, and within minutes her flesh was turning blue. Asphyxiated, she slumped over a plate of tortured shellfish, mangled linguine and vomit. Flinging his heavy body over her back, he inadvertently knocked his cellphone off the table, which should have sent it shattering like a meteor upon entering Earth’s atmosphere. Instead, the device landed face-up.
A nanosecond after Alicia’s ballad faded out, Cora passed away. Although Luis’ eyesight was blurry with tears, he clearly saw Mrs. DeJesus’ first name — Katrina — asserting itself in black lettering against a cerulean background to the ringtone of Erykah Badu swinging with the Robert Glasper Experiment on Mongo Santamaría’s “Afro Blue.”
© 2000-2014 Chantale Rêve
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