Lola’s pad truly was tripped out. Not surprising, since she, herself, was a trip without luggage. In a warehouse district, tiny joint, studio-like apartment decked out in retro-activist aesthetic — posters of Angela Davis, H. Rap Brown, Malcolm X.
In all corners loomed some of the strangest sculpture he’d ever seen, concrete renderings of melted wax faces and figures. The place was black as night. Day-glo lit. Keith right away had experienced a ‘60s flashback.
She’d hustled him, Luis and Gerry in with a brusque, “Find something to sit on,” then, disappeared into the kitchen area. Made a whole lot of noise with the blender. Returned with a tray of tall Margueritas. She clearly planned to get everyone unquestionably drunk. Nobody objected.
Nor was anyone averse to a crooked cigarette or two. Which Lola began rolling on the kitchenette counter. Things then had almost went south. Her lady, Fel, staggered into the living room in a robe and p.j.’s wearing none-too-friendly a look. Like Lola, she was easy on the eyes, pretty, shapely, and thick as a brick. When those two women walked down a street, necks turned and more than a few men got smacked upside the head.
Fel had glared around like she wanted to smack someone herself and wasn’t real particular about who. Then she’d spotted Luis and melted: “Mi hermano.” Keith breathed a sigh of relief. You did not know catching hell until you caught it from Fel.
She had more ways of cussing someone out, in both Spanish and English, than anyone wanted to be cussed out in. And, having just been rousted from sleep, she was in exactly the mood to do some telling off. Fel had vanished back into the bedroom with Lola right behind, tossing over her shoulder, “Guys, help yourself.”
Keith couldn’t wait to see what kind of clothes they were changing into. Smiling to himself, he’d gone to find himself a drink. And think about Lesli.
After about a half-hour of sitting around holding down the sofa with Luis and Gerry, he’d been ready to leave. And about to deliver his apologies. When this apparition walked in. The spitting image of Eva Mendes, except wider in the hip and an inch or two taller.
One thing he had to say about his line of work: You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a model, dancer, actor, or some other lady whose profession it was to look drop-dead gorgeous. Behind her, a pair of couples had come in. The place began filling up. It had been, after all, a Friday evening, and folk had to have somewhere to go late at night. What hotter spot than here?
Lola, those days a highly sought percussionist, had no problem drawing party guests. When she picked up the telephone, folk had flocked at a moment’s notice.
Keith and Gerry had relaxed in a corner, looking for all the world like wallflowers, nursing their drinks. People watching, occasionally commenting. He’d found oddly fascinating the ones who, sheathed in professional, social-climbing armor, were in fact lonely, vulnerable as a peeled grape, pretending to be confident. Fooling themselves more than anyone else. Except, of course, their victims.
“Ready for a refill?” Gerry had asked and, without waiting, took their glasses over to the bar. Which couldn’t’ve been more on cue.
The apparition crossed the carpet toward Keith with a brisk, hip-swinging strut. About halfway, she’d given him a wolfish grin. I am, he thought, toast.
Then he’d thought again about Lesli. He’d found himself doing that a lot lately. Kind of scary. Sweet, but still scary. Women come and women go. “Scarifying,” he’d said aloud, to himself.
Hi!” she fairly exclaimed, thrusting out her hand. “Spend a lot of time talking to yourself?” The apparition stood maybe a foot away. And had a name — “I’m…” — but somehow he missed it.
A bit sluggish, both from having downed a few and being dumbstruck by her beauty, Keith had sat there stupidly trying to figure out how to respond. Habit inclined him to do one thing. Something about Lesli had him inclined to do something else.
He politely chatted and, when Gerry came back, spread it into a three-way conversation. At which point, the apparition grew irritated. “Doesn’t look like I brought back enough drinks,” Gerry said. She screwed her face into a knot, stood and glided away, making sure as many eyes as possible were on her. Gerry watched her go. “What the hell is her problem?”
“Beats me with a baseball bat,” Keith had blithely answered. Not feeling nearly self-assured. He had, however, known damned good and well what her problem was. Men throw themselves at gorgeous women, not vice versa. She probably couldn’t remember outside of Daddy telling her “No” the last time she couldn’t control a man at first sight. Much less when she made the first move.
He knew the type. He also knew he was beginning to get afraid. Type or no type, there was a time, not that long ago, when, whatever-the-hell-her-name-was would’ve got lucky just by walking up to him and breathing.
Not now. Not since Lesli.
Next week: Post-Lion King, Keith gets cozy with Lesli in L.A.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.
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