Monday, May 11, 2009

Chapter 9

The next morning it was pouring. I’d never seen Los Angeles like this before. As I sat up in bed, I flicked the radio on. “The weather in five minutes.” Dragging my limp body from the bedclothes, I swayed into the bathroom. By the time I had brushed my teeth, the weather report was on. Pouring today. Pouring tomorrow. Apparently, it was weather from the rust bucket Northwest. Fie on them and a pox. As hung over as I was, I still had to go to work. I was supposed to go to the granite and marble yards that day for another client and I’d been putting it off until now which made it late. “Yards” meant “outdoors”. Did I still own an umbrella? I hoped I’d find the perfect granite quickly. I dressed weather appropriate: all-black Lucy yoga pants, a light weight, knit, V-neck sweater with high-calf, black boots and my black “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” slick, reefer coat. Searching through my closet, I found an old Gorton’s fisherman’s vinyl rain hat - in black. Left over from my aunt’s things, I guess. I didn’t dare look
at myself before I left the house.

For an hour I sat in traffic heading towards Burbank. I passed the Krispy Kreme donut emporium, daydreamed for coffee relief, but denied myself as I wanted to get all my errands done as quickly and dryly as possible. Although… I could stay dry in the donut shop ‘til the rained passed. That was seductive, but I resisted. I would need a nap this afternoon for sure. One perk of self-employment was flexibility. I had called myself in sick a few times. The world hadn’t collapsed. I was more insulted when people hadn’t noticed that I hadn’t been at the office. Not even reliable Doorman Joe mentioned my absences half the time. I guess he saw me running in and out so much that he figured I was with a client. Today would have been one of those days if I could've helped it. I just wanted to hide under my duvet and cat nap til dinnertime.

As I passed the used car lots, I thought of Guy. Oh, crap. I forgot to call him back. Flipping open my phone and scrolling through the received calls, I found his number. While it was ringing, I begged, Please don’t be there, please don’t be there. It will be less painful.

His voice mail picked up. “Hey, Guy, it’s Lois Pushkin. I checked my date book and I’m actually going to a design awards banquet that night, so I’m afraid we’ll have to do it another time.” Lie, lie, lie. “I’ll see you ‘round at the Formosa. Why don’t you call Harshy and set up ‘after work’ drinks? Thanks. I’ll talk to you soon.”

Harshy was going to kill me. She thought Guy was the biggest dorkus in town. Well, Harshy had said that she would be there for me, and I did need some mental support to juggle all of those emotional elephants.

At the marble yard, the owner, Reno, greeted me at the door, took my umbrella and fisherman’s hat (he looked amused by the hat) and offered me hot, black coffee.

“Good morning, Ms. Pushkin. Helluva day to be out. What can I help you with?”

“I need to review some slabs,” I said.

Reno looked at me good and hard, “But it’s raining!”

“I know, but I’ve put this client off long enough, and we’re just going to have to bite the bullet and do it, OK?” I pleaded. Working on Faraday’s project had cut into my other clients’ design time. I couldn’t let them fall through the cracks; they were still my bread and butter, no matter how small.

Reno took my coffee and gave me back my umbrella and hat and said, smiling, “You go out and have a look. Stick this duct tape on the slabs you like and I’ll have Roman chip you off samples.”

“You’re not coming out with me?”

“No,” Reno replied, laughing. “Not in this weather. I get all my work done in the sunshine. If you need help, Roman or Matt are in the yard loading in new slabs. Just shout out to them if you need slabs moved.”

“Thanks a mil, Reno,” I snorted as I stepped into the yard. I headed over to the colors I already knew and began making my way down the isle. Black Absolute, Uba Tuba, Galaxy, Russian Blue, Jerusalem stone and, oh, a new color. I tried to make out the label, but couldn’t.
Looking around, I spotted a man over in the next aisle struggling with a pallet. Making my way over to him, I tapped him on the shoulder.

“Excuse me. Could you help me with this label? I can’t read the writing.”

He turned around. It was Paul.


“What?” he asked, holding his hand to his ear. The yard was next to the highway which made normal conversation practically impossible. Thank God for me.

“Nothing. I sneezed,” I said, making my voice louder.

He gave a look that said bullshit , “What are you doing here?” The traffic noise with the rain was making it even harder to hear. He stepped closer to me, looking down his nose into my eyes. Rain was getting in the way of my vision. I could feel the rainwater channeling off of my fisherman’s hat down the back of my coat. I leveled my eyes at his waist. He smelled good. Gay men usually did. And married men did, too, because of their wives.

“What? Me? What am I doing here? I thought you were a yard employee. I didn’t know it was you. I’m looking for granite for another client,” I answered. I turned my back to him and went to look for the yard employee. I couldn’t handle this today. Not after last night. Right back into the frying pan.

“Wait a minute.”

I felt his hand on my shoulder. Must he always touch me? Do I project accessibility? Thank God today I was wearing grubbies and looked like shit. I definitely couldn’t handle this touchy-feely today. I whirled around to face him, very agitated, “What?”

“Are you OK about yesterday? I didn’t tell you that story to hurt your feelings. It just all came out wrong,” he asked, concern in his baby blues. Stupid married or gay man, quit that!
I studied his face for sincerity. God, I had really worried him. I hadn’t meant to. It was just a job and we had to work together because of Faraday. Why should I care what Paul said or thought?

“I’m sorry. I was feeling like an idiot after you told me everything and dealing with my subsequent deflated ego in the process.”

Paul smiled. “I’m sorry about all that. I’ve never been very articulate around good looking women who scream in foyers at pissy, little, gay men.”

And how red am I just now? I just looked at my shoes. Yep, right where I left them. And covered in wet muck. Did he just say I was good looking? A long pause. Paul stepped toward me and boldly, never mind inappropriately, lifted my chin up with his fingers, forcing me to focus my eyes on him. Why am I letting this happen?

Are we OK now? I mean, we do have to work together and all. I can’t stand passive-aggressive tension.”

I sighed, appropriateness going to hell. I, too, hated passive-aggressive crap. I had years of therapy under my belt all because of the Queen of Hot and Cold: my mother. Paul definitely wasn’t my mother. And, he was easy on the eyes, even if he was in a committed relationship with a wife or gay billionaire. “Yes, we’re fine. I’m sorry. I’ll be better tomorrow when we’re back at the estate.” My eye caught the figure of a yard employee going past our aisle. I excused myself and started in his direction.

“Wait!” Paul called out again.

I waved my hand and kept walking toward the employee. Whatever more Paul wanted would have to wait. I wanted my sample and I wanted to get out of the rain as soon as possible. I was getting cold. Suddenly Paul was at my side, trying to grab my wrist. Startled, I turned and stepped back, flailing out of balance. He stepped forward, caught my back with his arm and pulled me into a shelter space between stacks of pallets. We stood there, breathing at each other. Well, actually I was breathing into his chest. God, did he smell good. I breathed him in again. I could see chest hair curling out of his white t-shirt. That instantly drove me nuts. I tried to keep my breathing even. It was an effort. I looked up to see him looking down at me, the water running off his nose and lips onto mine. I reached up and kissed his top lip. He was surprised and pulled back, watching me. I stood and waited. What the fuck had I done?

“I guess we’re on the same wavelength? I couldn’t let you leave…” he couldn’t finish his thought. Paul just kept staring and breathing, his breath even more jagged than mine.

“The fisherman’s hat really got you hot?” I asked. What was he saying?

“Hmmm? Oh, that? No. You’re so hot. You just don’t care what people think of you. You’re always purely in the present; emotionally raw, vulnerable, and selfishly honest. There’s, like, always a meteor shower going on around you and one has to watch their flight path if they want to get to your planet,” Paul explained. “Ever since the foyer incident, I can’t stop thinking about you. And when you’re around the estate, I spend my time trying to think about how I can make you stay longer. You’re messing up my construction schedules. My other clients are starting to complain.”

“Hmmm, OK,” I said as I kissed his bottom lip this time. A meteor shower? Now that was a line I had never heard before. I liked it. Made me sound dangerous and cool. Don’t know about the vulnerability part. Didn’t want to have that as part of my psyche after all the years of shrinks.

“Hey, I don’t even know you yet,” he protested.

I pulled away and held him at arm’s length or at least as much as I could in the small space we were squeezed into. Paul stared at me, saying nothing. I made to leave again. Before I could take a step out, his lips were on mine, sweet, cool, and hard. His tongue flicked at my teeth and danced with my tongue. He went in deep and ate me up. I was drowning in this rain of passion, but didn’t want to be saved. He pulled away to look at me. I took his lower lip with my teeth and held it there. His eyes met mine and I held his securely. Paul pulled me very close again, almost too close, and I got another heady breath of his scent. God, he smelled good and nostalgic and all that my memory ever retained and wanted me to have for happiness. I continued to drown. He was warm and very hard in all the key areas. I had let go of his lip. He ran his tongue across it, made sure it was still there.

“I want you,” was all he said.

Shit, I wanted him too, but not in this rain. I heard Reno calling my name. I guessed that I’d been out there longer than he thought anyone should. Poor Reno, I’ll catch shit for this if he sees us. I wrenched myself away from Paul and maneuvered my high-heeled boots quickly, but deftly down the aisles in the direction of Reno’s voice. Please, PTB, don’t let me slip and fall.

“Ah, my lady, there you are. I thought you’d drowned or gotten trapped under a heavy object,” scolded Reno.

He didn’t know how close to the truth he was. “No, no, but I did find the granite I wanted. It didn’t have a legible label.” I pointed in the direction of the slabs I was at. “It’s near the Black Absolute.”

“Ah, yes. That is new. Good eye. I will have a sample for you in a minute,” said Reno. He went off to yell at his new yardman for abandoning clients in the rainy, wet yard. If anyone had seen Paul and me, they would’ve wondered who actually needed any help.

I waited in the shop, feeling pretty sure Paul wouldn’t come in anytime soon. I’m sure he would wait for his ‘lust’ to cool down. Cold rain is good for that purpose. A bit later, Reno came in with my slab sample and I headed back to my office to drop it off. Once there, I would also schedule an appointment with my client before heading home to my warm bed.

Back at my office, Harshy had already invaded. So much for my nap. She sat in my chair drinking coffee, risking catastrophe upon my desk. She waved a “hello” in my general direction as she was also on my phone, “No, no, no! I want it the way I told you and that’s it!” she yelled. “I haven’t worked this hard on this blitz for you to fuck it up!” She paused, listening. “Oh yeah? Well, I can walk, bucko!” she shouted and she slammed the phone down.

“How are you sweetie?” she asked pleasantly. I looked at her and then at the phone. “Oh that,” she said, “That’s my job – pppfff! Where have you been? I call, I leave messages, E-mails…”

“I talked to you two days ago. Get a life.”

“Oops.” She giggled. “I think I’ve been up for two days. I need to crash. I knew if I waited here long enough you’d come around and we could catch up about the progress of the guy and your new client.”

I looked at her and she did look like shit, “I ran into him at the marble yard today.”

“Your client?” asked Harshy, twirling her hair while twirling in my chair. It was making me dizzy.

I frowned at her. “No. The guy! We kissed.”

“What? Whoa, now wait, sister. What the hell? The guy kissed you? Why, you’re practically a virgin again.” Harshy waggled her eyebrows at me lewdly and spun around once more in my chair finally stopping to assume her best Madonna pose (the singer, not the mother of Jesus).

“Oh, fuck off, Harshy!” I shot her the finger. Even if she was right. I busied myself with cleaning out my bags and making messy piles of the junk on my desk. I could feel those large
brown eyes on me. I couldn’t see myself, but my face was getting warmer. Surrendering, I straightened up and looked her dead on, exposed.

“Oh, you must really like this guy to be talking to me like that,” beamed Harshy. Ignoring my hue or just treating herself to its rare occurance, she danced around the desk and stood in front of me. “Wow, girl, you are red. You really dig ‘em, doncha? Makes your toes curl? Did you kiss him back?”

I continued blushing so hard a passerby would’ve called the fire department by now. I fanned papers in front of my face. Was this what menopause was like? What’s that new thingy – perimenopause? Am I old enough for that? “Maybe. Let’s drop it. It’s nothing. It will be nothing after a few dates. I don’t have a chance in hell. I’m high maintenance and that’s so not sexy for guys like him,” I said. “Remember, he already gave me the freaky girl look the other day at the estate. It’s hopeless. After a few dates, I remind them either of their neurotic mothers or their favorite sister. Cool to hang out with, but too girl- next- door to have sex with much less thinking about a long term relationship. I’m not relationship material and I’m cool with the cat lady future.”

“Well, he must have an Electra complex, because he seems hot for you if he’s going to go after you in the rain in some dirty rock yard,” countered Harshy. “Well, if it doesn’t work out, at least you have Brian on the side.”

“Gross! Harshy, you bitch. I’m old enough to be his mother,” I yelled at her. That was a disconcerting idea. I felt dirty. Brian was a kid. I was no Stella wanting her groove back. Harshy was looking at me as though maybe I should want it back.

“You are not,” laughed Harshy. “You’re just afraid you might have two guys who have the hots for you. Maybe this new one will put up with your Vin Diesel obsession as well?”

I stared at her as if she had two heads and were singing Celine Dione covers.

“All right, let’s forget about this hot topic for now and have lunch. Drive me home afterward? I’m needing to go to bed,” begged Harshy, schlepping her bag up and opening the office door.

“Fine. You’re buying lunch, though,” I demanded. “By the way, where is your car?”
“I left it at a bar, but I can’t remember which one,” Harshy laughed. “I actually called that Guy guy to help me track it down. Hone his investigative skills.”

We drove to PF Chang’s at the Beverly Center. This was one of Harshy’s favorite restaurants. She swore up and down that this was where all the young, new celebrities tried out their disguises before deciding which ones would work while they shopped on Rodeo Drive or ate at Prizzi’s with their agents. I thought it was more like a geeky role playing game she played soley with herself. I swear Harshy missed her calling as a member of the paparazzi. Harshy revealed that Britney Spears was rumoured to be there today, but I think she was really trying to trick me into going to the mall. Harshy had to deal with that little twit enough when Britney was first starting her career. I doubted she’d want to spy on her now.

I could see the gears working in her brain and heard the way she was talking to me. She thought I should get some ‘sex’ clothes, especially lingerie. Harshy was definitely itching for the mall.

“Remember you friend that lived down the alley from George Eads?” asked Harshy.

“The actor from the gross crime scene show?”

“Yeah, that was Angel,” I confirmed. “She had the two dogs.”

“Now if that girl had just walked her dogs down that alley in some hot clothes, I think she would’ve gotten George to do more than just scoop poop,” said Harshy.

I doubted that because I personally thought George was gay, but I did think Angel should’ve followed up on this guy. She was walking her dogs down the alley one evening after work as usual and spotted George coming out of the back of his house. She recognized him from the show, so she waved ‘hello’. Right when she did, one of her dogs took a crap smack in the middle of his driveway. George was getting ready to go somewhere and was packing up his SUV at that very moment. Angel was so embarrassed that she would’ve scooped up that crap with her bare hands and shoved it in her pockets. She told George she was sooo sorry and that she lived only a few houses a way and would come right back with a bag. Turned out, George was a consummate gentleman. He told her not to worry about it, that he had two Labs of his own and he would pick it up with one of his bags he had in his truck. Angel had been so embarrassed. George scooped up the poop into a Gelson’s plastic bag, and tossed it in his trash. He smiled and told her not to worry about it, it was nice to meet her, blah, blah, blah. She was too stunned to remember all he said. Then George got in his SUV and drove off. I think Angel would’ve stood in his driveway all night if a car hadn’t come cruisin’ through the alley and almost killed her. Angel never went back that route with her dogs. Man, I would’ve been there every night wearing clothes to kill and my doggies in diapers if I thought I had a chance.

“I’m not buying a ‘sex’ wardrobe, Harshy,” I declared. “He kissed me when I was wearing the Gorton’s fisherman hat and if he can see me in that relic and still like me, then what I own is going to do just fine.”

Finally, the hostess took us to our table and seated us in the center of the room amongst the happy crowd. All along the wall were empty booths. I seethed as I hated sitting in the middle of restaurants in little wood chairs. Harshy jerked me back into reality.

“What hat?” She hissed from behind her menu.

“An old hat from my aunt’s things. It was the only rain protection I could find this morning. Let’s order.”

“You were wearing duds of your crazy aunts in the rain out in the boonies of LA and he still kissed you?” Harshy was incredulous. “This guy is as cuckoo as you are.”

“The boots were hot,” I slipped in.

“Thank God for that, girl,” Harshy sighed. “I can still call you my friend.”

Suddenly Harshy put her head down and spoke in rapid, hushed tones, “Shit. There she is. I was just making that rumor shit up.”

I was about to turn my head when I was jerked back by my hair, “Don’t look. I don’t want that crazy bitch coming over here,” Harshy spittled into my face. Now she had pushed me over the edge. I pushed my chair out, stood up, and walked over to Ms. Spear’s table. She was seated alone in a booth in some crazy disguise that looked like Marisa Tomei’s character in “My cousin, Vinny”. I pulled out my business card and a pen.

“Could I have your autograph, please? My niece is a big fan.”

I could hear Harshy gnashing her menu behind me.

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