by Green Heron
“Single tall Americano with room.”
Sounds like a personal ad, Esme mused to herself as she listened to the woman three places ahead of her in line at Caffeinica. There usually wasn’t any line at her 10 o’clock break, but today she wasn’t going to make it back across the street to work in her allotted 15 minutes. Maybe she should have taken her chances on the breakroom coffee, “Misty’s Mystery”, named after the admin assistant who made it every morning, complaining with every (excessive) scoop that she was “the only one who ever made coffee.” True enough.
OK, that mental sidetrack had moved her one up in line, and there were only four minutes left in her break. Oh, the heck with it. She stayed late every night anyway. She looked at the sloppy stand of free local papers across from the ordering counter, and leaned over to grab the “Gay Day”, Yakima’s thin but encouraging gay paper. She wasn’t with any of her coworkers, so she didn’t have to put up with the inevitable “Lookin’ for a hot date, Es?”, or “Oh my god, Esme might go out, world is ending”.
“As if,” Esme muttered under her breath, simultaneously opening the paper to find “Women Seeking Women”.
“Just like see what’s going on,” she justified to her non-existent inquisitor.
“Vroom! Vroom! Racing fan searching for someone who appreciates speed with an attention to detail.”
Esme felt the blood rushing to her quickly warming cheeks. She looked around for someone she knew. Was she being punked? Had her office mates found out her guilty secret? No, that was not possible. She never loaded up NASCAR blogs at work, she never carried her DSport magazine in her tote bag. This was ridiculous. This ad couldn’t be for real anyway. “Vroom! Vroom!”? What were they going to do? Play with Matchbox Cars on the living room floor? She reread the ad.
“Next in line, please.”
Esme looked up to see an embarrassing empty gap between herself and the ordering clerk. She walked forward, then realized the paper was still gripped open in her hands. She quickly folded it, or rather wrinkled it enough to get it into her tote and looked up at the ordering sign over the clerk’s head.
“Short Americano, extra hot.”
“Vroom?” the clerk asked.
Esme stared at her.
“Room? You want room for cream?”
“Oh,” she laughed self-consciously. “Yes, please. I thought you said ‘Vroom’. Ha ha.”
Esme decided it was time to be quiet and not come back here for four weeks until barista turnover rate wiped this from everyone’s memory. She collected her Americano, added non-fat milk and raw sugar and headed back to the office. The crumpled “Gay Day” crackled guiltily in her bag as she walked.
Esme sat on the bench at the bus stop,
“Gay Day” open in her lap. She ran her hand through her
short, thick blond hair.
She was still trying to decode the ad. “passion for speed” Was this a secret signal for methamphetamine users? And “attention to detail”? Maybe this person wanted a cook for the meth who wouldn’t blow up the trailer.
But passion for speed, if it really meant just that, oh yeah, she had a passion for speed. That didn’t take it far enough. She had a passion for speed and a virtual jones for the power that produced it. Even on the bus, she loved it when her regular route driver cranked that smelly engine and took himself and his passengers barreling through traffic to make it through a turning orange light, the big engine whining under the back seat.
She had closeted her own speed driving by buying a Camry, but got regular rushes by getting rides on the back of her friend Dee’s Honda Shadow, or when her brother took her out in his Dodge Challenger. And every weekend watching the Speed network, she would have to catch at least one race that gave you that front-seat “I’m ramming Kyle Busch’s tailpipe” view.
Passion for speed. When the throttle was pressed and your back and hips were forced into the seatback and blood rushed to all manner of places.
Okay, hold it! Hold…It! Why was she going off in this semi-erotic, slant-6 fantasy? So what if she liked fast cars, NASCAR and Danika Patrick? So what? So what if somebody else did, too? So what? So they wanted to find someone like them. So what? So why? Why should she care? Why should she consider? Oh my god, was she considering? The whole idea behind picking up the classifieds was for her to get that “I would never…” response. Likes long walks and sunsets… no kidding. bi-curious, come back when you’ve checked it out, lady because…because…
“I want someone.”
The words stood out starkly in her mind, like stone monuments. Now they were there, she couldn’t ignore them.
“I want someone.”
She looked down Fair Avenue for the bus. There it was, just a stoplight away. She put the paper back in her tote as the bus pulled up to her stop with a squeak and a hot smelly wave of exhaust. She stepped inside as the door closed immediately behind her and the driver gunned the engine. Esme had to cling to the safety grabs to keep herself upright until she found a seat.
Esme sat curled up in her overstuffed
chair, a green single-subject, college-ruled notebook open
her lap. She chewed on her stick pen, then wrote.
I’m a big racing fan and am interested in meeting you. No, no, wait, she wasn’t really big.
I’m a petite racing fan and…
“Oh for god’s sake, I sound like a figurine.”
Have loved speed since I was in grade school.
Oh, that’s brilliant, Esmerelda. And in high school it was just heroin or nothing? Anyway, why did she have to mention speed at all? WRITER#G4877 had already brought it up. OK.
I am interested in meeting you. I think you will find that I match your criteria.
Now it sounded like a resume. She took a deep breath.
I am interested in meeting you. When I read your ad I thought you had been spying on me it matched me so much. Why don’t we meet and check it out.
She uncurled from her cocoon and stood up with the notebook and Gay Day, she walked slowly toward her guest room/office/gym/storage alcove where her computer was. Was she going to do this? She was beginning to become alarmingly concerned that she was.
Coffee was the center of everything now,
Esme thought as she picked up her Starbucks non-fat,
no-whip mocha, then set it down again without drinking. Her
stomach was not so much tied up in knots as it felt like it
might have shrunk to dime-sized. Putting food in it did not
seem unappetizing, it seemed unachievable. Why do people
meet in coffee shops, or restaurants, anyway? Well, she
immediately decided, it had to be the distractions.
Deciding, ordering, eating, not eating, anything to avoid
the communication of real feelings. The eye-to-eye
communication of “I want to want you. I want you to want
me. I want you not to be a big suck”. And the big one, “I’m
scared”. Well she was scared.
She took a long shaky breath, picked up her drink and took a sip. She stopped to consider whether that had worked for her. It had. She took another sip.
Esme raised her eyes and saw a pair of blue jeans over her coffee lid. Button-front. Look up, Esme. Up, up, up, up. Beefy-T, dirt-brown, that said “999 RPM –Ramp it up!”. Beefy-T that softly and securely covered a lean, curved torso. Up, up, up, Es. An elegant neck, a face with intriguing angles, soft lips, and such, such beautiful blue eyes. Eyes that looked at her with a half-smiling question.
“I’m sorry, I’m Jada. Are you Esme?”
“I…I…hello, sit down, hello. I’m Esme.” She finally became conscious enough to put her cup down.
Jada lopped one leg over the back of the chair and sat down. The two sat looking at each other. Esme suddenly thrust her right hand across the small table, wobbling the paper coffee cup. “Nice to meet you.”
Jada reached out, took her hand and shook it firmly. “Nice to meet you, Esme. Thanks for answering my ad.”
Esme felt instant regret as the hand dropped away. She was overcome with the complete certainty that there was a mistake, she would be found out. Jada would excuse herself and apologize politely. Surely goddesses had some kind of screening process for dating. Surely goddesses did not need to put an ad in Gay Day. Well, let’s think. Maybe gay goddesses that lived in Yakima might have to fish a little bit in the pond, but, oh my god she was beautiful.
“Hello?” Jada’s voice, just a tiniest hint of impatience but not an ounce of unfriendliness.
“Yes, well, sorry, Jada.” Esme took another sip of coffee. She was so glad they’d met at Starbucks. “I’m nervous. I’m sorry. I’m nervous.”
“Oh.” Jada pursed her lips in consideration. “Why don’t I go get myself a coffee. Do you need anything?”
“Good idea. I mean no, I don’t need anything else. Thanks.”
Esme watched Jada get out of the chair, or dismount it was more like it. That move alone was worth answering the ad for, she thought, as jeans stretched tightly across thighs and hips. Esme put her cup down so she wouldn’t grip it into eruption. She said something out loud, and only realized what it was after it came out.
Jada took another sip of the strawberry
cream concoction she’d come back with. They had gotten the
weather conversations out of the way, the “I’ve never put
in/answered an ad” discussion out of the way. Now it was
time to turn into the tender territories of what was real.
Esme took the 129th sip on her mocha. “Your ad said you were a racing fan. I was wondering what it was you like, NASCAR?, or if you go to the Speedway?
Jada’s head was tilted slightly as she listened to the question. She looked out the window and back before she answered.
“Yeah, I like NASCAR. I watch it on TV, but I like Formula One and drag racing, and I’m always at the Speedway.”
“You’re always at the Speedway.?”
“And people see you?”
“Jada, you’re just…” Esme didn’t finish. She wanted to say: I cannot believe the whole stadium doesn’t turn around and watch you, let alone that you can’t find a single, or 30, lesbians there with “a passion for speed”. OK, stop it, Esme. Let’s just have this coffee. Talk to her, not to yourself.
“Jada, I have a question.”
“Do you drive fast?”
Jada tapped her index finger a few times on the table. She looked back up into Esme’s eyes. “I like to drive very fast.”
Esme cleared her throat. She opened her mouth, shut it, then asked the next question in a rush. “What kind of car do you drive?”
“59 Lincoln Continental.”
“You are kidding? I mean, um, the gas!”
“Whadja think? What do you drive?”
“Oh well, I just have a Camry?”
“Those are nice. Do you drive fast?”
“No, I don’t, only when I’m passing.”
“Now you’re kidding me.”
“Well, the line I have is, I only speed when I’m out of my driveway.
“You gotta be careful, Esme.”
“I mean, you gotta be careful.”
“But you just said you drive a 100-foot long car ‘very fast’.”
“Yeah, but I pick the place. I’m careful.
“Oh, well, I guess I drive fast most of the time. I think I’m pretty careful.”
“You get tickets?”
“Oh yeah. You?”
“I pick my place.”
They sat in reasonably comfortable silence for a minute, until Jada ventured, “So you wanna go for a drive in the Lincoln sometime?”
“Sure!” Esme winced. Did she just say that with such lightening speed and enthusiasm? She could have looked demurely down and waited at least a full second.
“Great! How about we meet here next Saturday morning about seven?”
“You’ve got to pick your place and your time.”
“Well, OK.” Esme was more than willing to give up Saturday morning in her recliner for one more chance to see this woman again.
She was guaranteed doomed.
The long, teal-blue vehicle loomed into
the Starbucks parking lot. Esme had been sitting at a metal
outside table and she stood with the intention of running
out to the car so Jada wouldn’t have to park the behemoth,
but the driver had already handily swung the Continental
into the space right in front of her. Esme could hardly
hear the hum of the motor, but she noticed when it shut
Jada stuck her head out the window. She had on a button-front multi-colored checked shirt and her soft dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Please let her be wearing those jeans again, Esme begged any helpful deity. Cancel that, please let her smile, she looks worried. Oh god, she’s going to cancel. Okay, forget the jeans, don’t let her cancel.
“I already got a coffee at the grocery store, sorry.”
Esme’s shoulders relaxed in relief. Thank god! It was just guilt. She dropped her three-quarters full cup in the garbage can and walked over toward the passenger side of the car.
“Hey wait!” Jada called.
Uh oh, now what? Esme stopped at the front of the beautiful angled front fender. Jada opened her door, slipped out and jogged over to the passenger side. She stopped, staring at the side of her car.
“Mm-hm, woops,” Esme agreed.
Jada had parked next to a black 2008 Cadillac Escalade. There was about a micrometer of space between them.
“I guess you’ll need to pull out a little.”
Jada had her fists on her jean-covered hips. Those jeans. Thank you, deity. “Come on over to my side Esme.” She trotted back to the driver side of the car, but didn’t open the door. “Come on!”
Esme walked toward her. She really had never been close to Jada yet, without a Starbucks table between them. She felt she was walking like a string puppet but she managed to get over to stand by her. Jada smelled good, like soap and carnations. Jada leaned toward her, reached out her arm and…opened the driver door. “Hop in,” she said cheerily.
Esme recovered quickly from what she would have to describe as a swoon, she ducked her head and pulled herself into the car, scooting across the bench seat to the passenger side. But not all the way over, who was she kidding? She loved the Gay Day. She wondered if the paper took donations.
Jada eased her world-class self into the driver’s seat, shut her door and put on her seat belt. She looked over at her semi-hypnotized passenger. “Put on your seatbelt, Esme.”
“Oh, sure.” Esme fiddled and found the shoulder strap and pulled it over and snapped it. “Done.” She pulled the seatbelt forward with her thumb and looked at it. It was some kind of high tech material. “Did you put these in? They can’t be standard.”
“Sure I did. Like I said, you gotta be safe, Esme.” Jada started the engine, pulled out of the tight spot as easily as she had pulled into it and they were on their way.
They had been driving about half an hour.
It was a beautiful June morning. They had headed east on
the slightly less traveled Highway 82. The only things in
the blue sky were a few little puffs of white clouds. She
turned to the driver, who had been holding the speed to a
fairly sedate 65. “This is a perfect day.”
Jada nodded. “My dad used to always say, ‘what is so rare as a day in June?’ I don’t know where it came from. Maybe Shakespeare?”
Esme looked out at the sky. “I don’t know, but amen to it.”
Jada drummed her thumbs on the steering wheel, preoccupied, then bounced in her seat, startling her rapt passenger. “Oh, I remember! Sometimes Dad would say the lines in front of it, ‘There is no price set on the lavish summer. And June may be had by the poorest comer.’ Wow, I hadn’t thought of that in a long time.”
“Sounds like rap. Jesus, Jada. Good memory.” Esme was considering her date (oh the word, shudder of joy) with even greater interest, which hadn’t seemed possible 25 minutes ago. NASCAR and poetry. And the day, as the poets had said, was young. “Does your dad live around here?”
“My dad died three years ago.” Jada looked to her passenger and back to the road. “Pneumonia.”
“That’s so tough, sorry Jada.” She didn’t try to make it OK. She knew from personal experience, those would be wasted words.
They had turned on 22, and were on the outskirts of Toppenish. Jada pulled into a Quickie Mart. She jumped out of the car and stuck her head back in. “You want anything?”
Esme reached for her door. “I’ll come in.” She got out, but not before Jada had run around to her side and helped her finish opening the door. Lordy.
“I have to use the restroom.” Jada smiled sheepishly. “I had one of those jumbo coffees.”
“Understandable.” Esme nodded and then followed behind into the convenience store.
Esme had made a slow circuit of the two aisles in the store when Jada came back from the restrooms . She stopped next to Esme, said “Let’s go!” and started to stride to the door.
Esme unconsciously grabbed her arm to stop her. Jada stopped immediately, and Esme took her hand away, embarrassed. The taller woman reached out and put her hand on her shoulder “Yes?”
“I just wondered. Do we need to get something, maybe to eat later?”
Jada took a look around the store. “I don’t think so. I got what I think we need this morning at the grocery store. Cooler’s packed in the trunk.”
“Oh,” Esme was surprised, but delighted like she used to be as a child when a surprise was manifested by her parents. Like a stop at Kaybee Toys. After they got back in the car she asked, “where are going to stop?”
“River.” Jada answered shortly and singly as she turned on the engine and pulled back onto the road. They were headed south.
On the other side of Toppenish the road
cleared to practically no traffic. Instead of speeding up,
Jada slowed the car down to about 10 miles an hour and
pulled over, and looked in her rearview mirror.
Esme got just a little uneasy. “What’s up?”
Jada looked at her and then deliberately looked back in the mirror. “Nothing, just what I do.”
Esme turned around and looked behind them. “There’s nothing back there.”
“Is someone coming?”
“That’s what I’m seein’”
Esme turned back around. This might take awhile. She looked around at the scrubby Eastern Washington desert around them. Maybe she’d see a coyote.
“OK!” Jada said suddenly, and pressed her foot down on the throttle, hard. Esme felt her whole body trying to push into the backseat through the upholstery, and her heart started to pound out in the opposite direction. She could feel her feet start to lift off the floor mat. This was more g-force than she felt on the Mighty Hammer at the State Fair. The upcoming rise in the road was looking bigger and getting closer very fast.
The term “launch pad” zipped through Esme’s mind, which turned out to be accurate as they arrived at the swell in the road and seemingly simultaneously went airborne off the top of it. Esme’s behind lost contact with the bench seat as her hands scrabbled around for something to hold onto, and then just as quickly they settled with a smooth bounce back on the road.
From there, they proceeded at a slightly lower velocity. They had probably already broken the sound barrier, Esme reasoned giddily, so what was the point. They took the next hill at what seemed a very sedate speed.
Esme peeked at the chrome framed circle speedometer. 78 miles per hour. Dear. Her heart was still thudding madly. She looked over at the driver. Her right hand was on the steering wheel at the 12 o’clock position, and her left arm was propped relaxed on her door armrest.
Jada sensed the look and glanced over at her. “Nice, huh?”
Esme nodded rapidly. She deliberately turned her attention to the sagebrush landscape outside. What was she expecting? The little old lady from Pasadena? Jada was a maniac! One thing she felt sure of. Oh my god, she loved this woman.
They had made the rest of the drive at a
sedate 20mph or more above the speed limit. When the road
had turned quite curvy, narrow, and potentially dangerous,
Jada actually went under the speed limit. She seemed to
enjoy steering her purring beast of a car deliberately
through mortal roads.
After a leisurely drive southeast and back north, Jada pulled the Continental into the gravel parking lot at the Floating Claw Recreation Area and Boat Launch on the Yakima River. There were a few pickups and SUV’s, most with empty boat trailers. They crunched to a stop in the shade of a tall birch. Esme scooted over a fairly large expanse of two-toned vinyl car seat to get to the passenger door. She must have been unconsciously edging toward the goddess of speed during their drive. Well it was good she was at least partially conscious and in control of her actions, or else she would have positioned herself baby-carrier style in the woman’s lap around Milepost 78.
When she stepped out, the air was warm and smelled sweetly of sagebrush. The river ran with a subdued rush and she couldn’t hear any traffic. A slight wind played with her hair, and even though it was too short to get in her eyes, she brushed it back. She looked over toward Jada, who had gotten out of the car and was stretching, her hands clasped high over her head and her back arching.
Esme scolded herself primly for having such immediately intimate thoughts. Get to know her first, would you? She’s probably in her 30’s, right? You’re 32. There’s things to know about each other. OK, what you need to know first is: does she have any return feelings. That would be good to know.
“Hungry?” Jada asked.
“Oh, well, yes, pretty hungry. I just had the tea and biscotti this morning.”
“Oh, jeez , Esme, you’re kidding!” This said as she opened the trunk, leaned in and pulled out a big cooler, followed by a quilt patterned with about a dozen bright neon colors.
“I’ll take that.” Esme grabbed the blanket. Jada picked up the cooler easily and they headed down the short path to the river bank.
They sat on the doubled-up blanket,
eating the last of their grocery store deli picnic. Potato
salad, grilled mushrooms, cold barbecued chicken wings and
spare ribs, washed downs with cans of cream soda and Diet
Jada was leaning back, propped up on her arms, looking at the river, the bank opposite and the sky above it. Then she turned to look at her companion, who was still trying to use the roll of paper towels to get barbecue sauce off all the places it had gotten to.
Jada cleared her throat. “I told you, right? I’m glad you answered my ad?”
Esme looked at her quickly, trying to predict what was coming next, then caught herself. Let it go, Es. “You told me. I’m glad.”
“Yeah well,” Jada sat upright and folded her arms. “I was wondering when I wrote it, you know, what the hell was I doing.”
“You were?” I was wondering that when I answered it.”
Jada raised her eyebrow in a question.
“But I’m glad, I’m glad,” Esme hurried to reassure her.
Jada nodded, but kept her arms across her chest and looked straight ahead again.
“Yeah,” head didn’t turn.
“One thing I don’t understand about your ad, ‘attention to detail’. I mean, I think I have that, but I’m not sure exactly, or at all really, what that means.”
Jada stayed silent for awhile. Esme wondered if she’d done a woops, but good grief, she’d advertised it.
“I feel a little guilty about that,” Jada finally answered.
“You feel guilty? What does it mean you could feel guilty about?”
“Because I’m sort of slamming someone else.”
“Ooohhh.” Esme immediately did a conclusion jump: old girlfriend.
“My ex-girlfriend, she…”
Ah-hah! Esme congratulated herself.
“…she was a way nice person. She was!”
“OK, Jada, it’s OK. I know how it goes.”
“Well, I know it wasn’t everything, but she really liked me and I liked her. She was very interested in me and when she moved in, she said she liked all the things I liked, particularly racing, but it turned out she couldn’t have liked it that much because she didn’t know anything about it. When Dale Earnhardt died, she asked me who Dale Erdhut was.”
“ Then when she saw Junior’s name on a race I was watching, she asked if he’d gotten better. “
“I guess she wasn’t thinking.”
“I guess she wasn’t. Jada, that’s kind of more than attention to detail, she wasn’t telling you the truth.”
“But she was doing it because she liked me.”
“OK, I can see that, but how can you have real anything when it starts with make-believe?”
Jada nodded. “I know you can’t. We didn’t. I had to ask her to leave. “
“Because of that.”
“Because of more like that.”
“So you were looking for someone who could talk the walk, so to speak.”
Jada nodded again, enthusiastically. “That’s it!” She waggled her finger at Esme. “You have a way with words, you know.”
“Um, thanks.” Esme thought to herself that what she often had was a way of getting words tangled up and backed into a log jam. “You mean ‘talk the walk’?”
“Yeah, that’s a good one.”
“Jive the drive?”
Jada smiled, an eyes lit, sunbright smile.
Esme tried again. “Speak the speed?”
Esme melted. They smiled at each other.
“What were you looking for?” Jada asked.
Esme remembered her stone monuments and decided she better start out honest.
“I was looking for someone.”
Jada waited for the rest. “who…?”
“That was it. I was looking for someone.” Esme ran her hand through her hair and looked down at her lap.
Jada looked at her, the smile turned into something more vulnerable. Her eyes opened a little wider. Esme looked back at her. The dark-haired woman turned on the blanket and was quickly on her knees, crawling toward her. Esme began to feel pretty vulnerable herself as Jada crawled up to her, that beautiful face just a few inches away.
Jada had such an open, wondering look on her face. Esme tilted her head, leaned forward and gently kissed her, pressing her lips softly against Jada’s. She could feel the other woman move toward her slightly, then they both pulled back. Each was smiling. For however long, “someone” had been found.
They were nearing the western outskirts
of Yakima by around midafternoon. They were just to the
south of the airport when Jada gestured toward it with her
head. “There’s where I work.”
Esme stared at the airport. Mostly because she was surprised they had found so much to talk about without the “what do you do?” question. How was that even possible? Well, no time like the present.
“What do you do?”
“Just the smaller ones.”
“Wow, Jada. I mean, wow, that’s impressive!”
“I don’t think so. I mean it’d be one thing if I didn’t like to do it, but I love it.”
“I would think it would be kind of stressful, you know, how a lot depends on you doing a good job.”
They had passed the airport now. Jada turned toward downtown. “I think I like it more because of that, because I can do something good, that maybe somebody else couldn’t do. I always go on the first flight after I work on a plane.”
Esme slapped her thigh with enthusiasm. “That’s great! That’s great. Accountability. I love it.”
Jada looked bemused. “It’s just the right thing to do, Esme.”
Esme looked at her seriously. “I still love it, Jada.”
As they came closer to a 5-way stoplight, the light turned orange. Jada smoothly brought the car to a stop, surprising her speed-mongering date.
“You stop for orange?”
Jada shrugged, “Why not? It’s calmer. You know, if I find myself racin’ ‘em, I know my head’s not where I want it to be.” They sat silently as another row of cars that was not them got to proceed through the light.
“So Esme, what do you do?” The blue eyes looked into her eyes. Esme was inclined to tell her what she would love to do, but she did not have that courage, not yet.
“I work for Canyon Distributors. We distribute fruit and wine. We used to just distribute fruit, but you know how it’s gone.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard. What do you do?”
“Well, I don’t do anything life and death critical, that’s for sure. I’m the Distribution Liaison. They just came up with that title. I’m kind of a go-between for suppliers, sellers, marketing.
“Sounds like you have a lot of responsibility.”
“Sometimes. It doesn’t seem like so much because it just came with how the job went.” Esme wanted this conversation to turn away from her work life, of all things, and back to Jada, because they were getting close to the Starbucks where they had agreed she would be dropped off. The agreement made in the spirit of “let’s be cautious”. Now that caution seemed misplaced and burdensome. She was starting to feel trapped by her own shyness. Why couldn’t she just say what she wanted?
Jada slowed the car down as they neared the Starbucks. “So what’re you up to the rest of the day?”
Esme’s heart started to feel like the jumping jackrabbit of hope. “I just was going to do a few errands.”
Jada pulled the Lincoln over. She didn’t stop the engine, but did put in Park. “Errands?”
“Yeah, I need to go to the mall and pick up a couple of things.” Then she cringed to herself. Oh god, Esme, you scintillator you, that’ll whip up the excitement.
“Hey!” Jada did sound excited. “Let me take you. We’ve got time, don’t we?”
Esme let out a long breath of relief and grinned. Oh yes, they did have time. Thank the physical universe, they did have that. “I would love that. I…wanted to ask but…that would be wonderful.”
Jada pulled the car back into traffic and they drove past the Starbucks without pausing. She kept the Lincoln at the speed limit. They had time.
“You mean you have never, Jada?
“No reason to.”
“But everyone…don’t you have a computer? What about Solitaire?”
“I do have a computer, but I just never played any of the games.”
They had finished their mindless, enjoyable tour of the main mall and Esme had steered them over to the Game Stop in the Plaza. “Come on Jada, I want to show you something then.
Jada shrugged. “Sure.”
They went in the pleasantly cool store. It was quite full of its target customers, 16-30-year-old males. And one by one their eyes fixated on Jada. Esme might have felt slighted, but what she felt was kinship and, truth be told, a little bit of machoesse pride. Well boys, I’m mighty sorry, but this filly is kickin’ up her heels in my pasture.
“Okay, Esme, now what do we do?”
Esme’s common sense gave her a wakeup knock on the head. “Um, let’s see if the Xbox is available.”
They easily found the glowing, elaborate Xbox sign, where the demo player being used by a small dark-haired boy, who looked to be about nine years old. Darn it, Esme thought, I was counting on hormonal chivalry to get us a cut in line. She was about to give up the quest when the store manager came up to them, girded in a full armor of hormonal chivalry.
“Ladies, would you like to give the XBox a try today?”
Esme gestured to the boy. “We can wait, thanks.”
The manager would have none of it. He reached down and just took the controller from the boy, who looked up at him without anger, then turned to make his way toward the Nintendo Wii.
“You just have to take it, he’s been on it an hour.” He handed the controller to Esme, who was closer, but was staring at Jada. “Was there a particular game that you wanted to try?”
Jada looked down at her bemused green-eyed companion. “Was there?”
“Midtown Madness 3. Do you have one open?”
“No, but we just got it back in. We need to have one open. I’ll go get it.”
Esme smiled at Jada who looked like she still didn’t think this was very high on the list of a good use of their time.
[15 minutes later]
“Jada, Jada! Look out! Oh man!”
“Did I hit him?”
“Okay, I’m going to go through here.”
“What are you doing? Jada that’s a restaurant! Oh mercy.”
Jada spun the plastic steering with a vengeance. “Wait a minute there’s a shortcut back here. Oh man, the bridge, the bridge, the bridge, I can just make it! Damn, I sunk again.”
“You should stop trying for the bridge, you sink every time.”
“Yeah, but I’m going to make it sometime. That’ll be great.” Jada put down the controller. “Ready to go?”
“Well…but…sure, I guess. I thought you were having fun.”
“Oh, I was. That was great!”
“Maybe you’ll get an Xbox someday, then?”
Jada looked at the display. “I don’t think so. We can just come back here and play it if I feel like it.”
We. Esme took in the meaning of the word happily. “Well, I’m glad you had fun.”
Jada put her arm around Esme’s shoulders, leaned down and whispered in her ear. “I’m having a lot of fun.”
Esme felt like her insides had turned into honey. She nodded her head and turned her green eyes to look shyly back at her smiling companion. “I’m glad, Jada. I am having a wonderful day.”
Jada straightened up. “Okay, let’s go then. Day’s not over.”
Esme looked out the window. There was still a couple hours before sundown. They had time. “Where do you want to go?”
“Have you ever been to the Speedway?”
Esme shook her head no. For some reason she had felt more embarrassed about going there by herself than if she’d gone to sex shop. In the back of her mind she had imagined that all that power in one place might have heated her up to where she would be out of control. And if she went with Jada? That might not just be a ridiculous overblown fantasy. She might do something out of control…and she hoped that is exactly what would happen.
“Is there something tonight?”
Out of control.
The June evening was warm, and as sundown
came closer, a breeze stirred up. Esme and Jada sat hip to
hip on one of the higher bleachers at the speedway, which
wasn’t very high. Many people there did know Jada and
smiled and said hello. Some of them even gave Esme a
friendly greeting, but some had that “oh it’s one Jada’s
those women”, looks of discomfort. That meant less than
nothing to Esme, as she sat happily in a city that had
seemed to have become a dreamland of possibilities and
They stayed through the last race. Four-cylinder cars on the short track. The last streak of orange had disappeared on the horizon over an hour ago. Overhead lights lit up the track and the small cars made their loops with high, buzzy whines. It was music to Esme. And, she thought resignedly, it was about to end.
She looked over at Jada who was leaning forward, her elbows propped on her knees, watching the same enthusiastic interest she’d had for the earlier races. After the checkered flag waved for a Honda Civic, she looked back over her shoulder at Esme. “He knew what he was doing.”
Esme nodded. “He didn’t let anybody get in his business.”
They had already agreed at the concession stand that Jada would drop Esme off at her house. They made their way out to the parking lot, and Jada, as she always tried to do, opened the passenger door for Esme who climbed in and immediately scooted to the middle of the front seat as Jada came back around. For one thing, there was no reason to pretend that wasn’t where she wanted to be, and another thing, she was cold. She’d only dressed for a June day, lightweight cotton slacks and a T-shirt, not a June night outside.
Jada slid behind the steering wheel, shut her door, and looked over at the proximity of her passenger. She didn’t start the car. Esme was puzzled for a moment, then the clue was received and she scooted over the remaining three inches, so she was person to person with the driver. Feeling so much of Jada against her was starting to make her feel unreal.
Jada looked at her, and she looked a little concerned. “You okay, Esme?”
“I’m okay, I just, I feel , I think I’d like to, for you to…”
Jada lifted her right arm and put it around Esme’s shoulders, and pulled her snugly in. The big track lights went out. “Oh, damn.” Jada said softly.
“I wanted to see those green eyes one more time.”
Esme had a split second of confusion, and then remembered with self-conscious clarity that she had green eyes.
“Jada, can you see good enough to kiss me?” Esme felt the air move and saw Jada’s shadow move toward her. She felt warm breath on her face, before she felt lips gently touch hers. She reached out and pulled Jada closer and the kiss became deeper. Then Jada pulled back and put her hand on Esme’s cheek.
“Let’s take you home.”
Esme nodded. She knew she was breathing fast and she didn’t feel like talking. She knew what she wanted to say, please take me with you, but she knew the right thing to do. Besides, the day couldn’t be any better than ideal. She leaned her head back against Jada’s arm.
“I’m not going till you put on your seat belt.”
“Oh, ok.” Esme fiddled around till she found the middle seatbelt and managed to make it stretch far enough to stay nestled against the driver.
“Then we’re going.”
Jada maneuvered the car out of the now empty parking lot, but stopped under a streetlight before she turned onto the street. She turned and looked down at Esme and smiled. “Just wanted to make sure you were smiling.”
“Oh, I’m smiling, Jada.”
“And now I can see those green eyes.”
“Oh sheesh, Jada.”
“I mean thanks.”
“Is tomorrow too soon?”
“Pick you up at your house?”
“I have errands.”
“I do, too.” Jada looked thoughtful. “I guess we could help each other.” She pulled the car out onto the street as Esme settled against her.
Esme watched for familiar landmarks as they drove through the nighttime streets to her house. She felt she needed something to ground her to the reality that had been her life one day ago. And tomorrow…she better find the most boring book in the house to get to sleep, because tomorrow she did want to be with Jada, and to help Jada. And she wanted to show Jada what “attention to detail” could mean. And she would.