She likes to drink white wine spritzers. Normally she’ll have 2 and I’ll give her a 3rd for free because she tips so damn well. The other day she had 5 but that was only because she was wrapped up in a conversation with the hot mother/son pair sitting next to her. Man, that son was grrrrrr. Not only was he gorgeous with wonderful taste in alcohol, he ordered a Macallen 18 neat which was probably just a few years younger than him but I don’t know because I didn’t card him, but he was also a gentleman with manners. The type of manners that extend as far as smiling every time he spoke. His Mom was just as lovely. Linda adored them. Her and I are similar in that we both like shiny stuff.
That was actually the first time I had seen her in a while because she’s been recovering from liposuction. It was a gift to herself for her 55th birthday. She’s been in a funk for the last year since her husband suddenly died of cancer and needed a little something to boost her spirits. When she walked in she lifted her arms above her head and twirled.
“Look at you girl!” I said while applauding from behind the bar. I watched as her shoulder length, Texas blonde hair stayed full even after she stopped twirling. She settled in and as I set the glass of wine on the napkin in front her she leaned in dramatically.
“They almost killed me,” she whispered.
“What!” I said.
“Yeap. The doctors perscribed me medication that was too strong. I guess I shouldn’t have taken so much. When the neighbors came by to check on me they said that I was purple and called an ambulance. The paramedics took good care of me, though. Oh, and one of them… Hmph. He was handsome. I delivered a bouquet of flowers to him the next day for being so,” she said while taking a sip of her wine, “well, you know, helpful.”
Linda is one of my favorite regulars. She’s the type who’d make me break my rule of “Not Hanging Out With Regulars.” I’m picky when it comes to that. There’s this one regular who has been trying to be my friend outside of work for the longest time. He’s an ex-pastor from Georgia who came out of the closet late in life and is bitter about it. I understand where he’s coming from but know that hanging out with him would be a downer and at this point in my life (where there’s already been enough dark) I need to surround myself with shiny things like Linda. But we won’t be hanging out anytime soon because she’s heading to Cabo San Lucas for the next three months to wear a swimsuit.
So, just a quick note about the date. We met at a cool restaurant/bar on Melrose called Bugatta. It’s supposed to be the new gay hot spot on Tuesday nights so we went on a Friday. By the time I arrived he was already sitting in a booth on the patio. As I walked towards him I thought, “Fuck, he’s handsome,” and my stomach turned. I greeted him with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. The conversation was fun and smooth and comfortable, excpet for one part:
Him: Take the last egg roll.
Me: Nah, I’m good. I normally don’t have an appetite on dates.
Me: I get too nervous.
Him: You shouldn’t be.
Him: (points to the rash on my hand) Oh cute, you’ve got freckles.
Me: (smiles, shrugs, takes another sip of Makers)…
Other than that, I’d say everything went well. I’m crossing my spotted fingers we go out again. Ya veremos.
I joined a gym yesterday. I had to, kickball just isn’t cutting it.
Speaking of kickball, I’ve got a crush on one of my teammates. It’s not Nick, the married 32 year-old architect who fills out his silver soccer shorts so well that last week I forgot to run to 3rd because I was too busy watching him run to 1st. It’s not Devin, the 29 year-old Kobe Bryant look-a-like that’s so handsome I keep finding ways to give him High-5’s (like when the stadium lights flickered on shortly after dusk). Nope, not them… Her name is Ronda.
She’s in her late 30’s and mysterious. There’s one thing in particular that attracts me to her— the way she applies lipstick. She paints way out of the lines, like there’s lipstick on the tip of her nose and ball of her chin. I looked closely to see if she was just overcompensating for thin lips but no, she had normal sized lips. When it comes to lipstick, I’m always attracted to people who paint way out of the lines.
Standing in line at Ross in Westwood to purchase some new socks. A lovely Persian woman is yelling at her son who supposedly took her cell phone to school today. She just threw everything on the floor and stormed out yelling, “I’m not buying anything!” Her boys called out after her but she kept walking.
“Ummm,” I said while shoveling a fork full of fries and sirloin into my mouth. I wasn’t expecting relationship questions. “No… Wait! What am I saying? Yes. Yes, I have.” She sensed my awkwardness.
“So… Are you straight?” she asked.
I felt the heat of the aji verde sauce wash over my face. This quesiton always makes me nervous, regardless of the situation, but more so now becasue I had assumed that he had told her about me and our situation.
“She doesn’t know?” I asked.
“She know,” he said. Then why was she asking? Was it to be polite? Or was it to make me squirm?
“I’m gay,” I said.
Maintaining eye contact with me she reached over and put her hand on Mario’s leg, such a soft gesture that spoke volumes. Without thinking he put down his fork and placed his hand on top of hers. I respected her power, something Latinas have a lot of when it comes to relationships. They’re aware their man might wonder and flirt with others, but it’s that one girl, the mother of their children, who’ll always have their balls heart, not some gringo sitting across the table. She made it very clear where things stood.
“I used to date a girl,” she said with her reformed chola confidence. “I only kissed her, though.” And just like that all the uncomfortable air between us evaporated. As did my crush on Mario…
I was supposed to meet Mario, his wife Julieta, their new baby, Mario’s friend Felix, and Felix’s girlfriend at the Peruvian restaurant at 5:30 (we pushed lunch back because Mario was hungover when I called him at 2 to confirm). Unlike last time when I went with intentions of giving him a B.J. in the back seat of his Audi, I was a little more realistic this time and went with hopes of learning a few new words in Spanish, you know, to step up my vocab.
I arrived 15 minutes late, so I was the first person there. I decided to wait outside because the idea of being the only gringo sitting alone at a 6-top and nobody showing up made me feel really uncomfortable it was a gorgeous afternoon. After about 10 minutes of baking in the sun, I saw Mario and Julieta strolling down the street, sans baby. He looked dark and was dressed in a blue Abercrombie polo with black pants and matching shoes. She, on the other hand, was lighter. She was wearing a soft pink, spaghetti strap dress with ruffles that showcased her tiny frame, skinny legs, and assortment of tattoos. Her toffee colored stilettos matched her hair that was pulled into a pony tail and dangling over her left shoulder. The only thing they had in common were matching hickies on their necks.
“Where’s Felix?” I asked Mario.
I looked at my non-existent watch and said, “Sleeping? It’s 5 o’clock p.m.”
“He’s sleeping,” he snapped back. “Let’s go eat,” he said and then put his hand on his wife’s back and led her. I was ahead of them and opened the door. She walked in first and then he said, “Las damas primero,” and signaled for me to go next. Isn’t that precious, I learned how to say ladies first in Spanish.
“Muy amable,” I said and then followed his wife. She walked right for the corner table surrounded by mirrors. I sat across from her and he sat to the right of her.
“So are we speaking in English or Spanish?” I asked.
“I’m coo wit whatever,” she said while putting her pink Coach clutch on the table. Unlike Mario, who still uses “no” instead of “don’t,” she was fluent in English. Born in L.A., she moved to Ecuador when she was 7 and then back to the U.S. when she was a teen.
“So what’s that mean?” I asked pointing to the 3 dots tattooed in the form of a triangle at the base of her thumb.
“Oh, that’s when I lived a crazy life,” she said timidly. She was a reformed chola.
“And that one?” I said pointing to the name Derrick tattooed on her forearm.
“That’s my son’s name,” she said smiling. “Derrick Emilio.”
“How cute,” I said. “Derrick Emilio Rodriguez.” I knew Mario’s last name from seeing it every week on the schedule.
“No. He doesn’t have his last name,” she said. “It’s my baby. He’s got my last name. Derrick Emilio Sanchez. I don’t want him,” she said while nodding towards Mario, “ever tryin’ to take it or somethin’.” Why would he ever try to take the baby? He let out a sigh, rolled his eyes, then folded his hands over his head and rubbed his hair. I stared at his arms for a minute but stopped when he caught me. I looked back at her.
“So where is Derrick? I thought he was coming?” I asked.
“He’s with his Auntie,” she said.
“Do you have pictures of him on your phone?” I asked.
“I think I do,” she said while reaching in her purse. You think you do? I figured any new mom would have only pictures of her newborn on her phone. Maybe they’re all on Auntie’s phone? She scrolled for a while and ended up showing me two pictures. The first was a far away shot of Mario holding the baby with half his head framed out.
“Look at him tryin’ to act like a Daddy,” she said while giggling and jabbing him in the belly with her elbow. This whole parenting thing seemed like a joke to them. He smiled and put his arm around her.
Mario held out his flip phone to show me a picture.
“Look! My baby,” he said quietly so that the other line cooks wouldn’t hear.
I was slicing bread so I quickly glanced over because I value all my fingers. It was a picture of him with his wife, whom I just found out about a week earlier. He always made it sound like she was his on-again/off-again girlfriend, but he told me that they’ve been married for 2 years now. When I asked him why he got married so young he replied, “I was an idiot. I want to divorce.” So here he is showing me a picture of his wife, or baby as he calls her, as though I’m supposed to be interested.
“Good for you,” I said and then looked back at the loaf of bread.
“No! Look,” he said while pointing to the tiny white pixels of something in her arms. “It’s my baby, foo.” His wife was holding their newborn baby boy.
That’s when I set down the knife.
“You have a baby?” I asked. A big smile washed over his face and he started bouncing back and forth. He did that when he was nervous, like when the other guys razz him whenever I’m over at the broiler station talking to him.
He let out a chuckle that quickly got drowned out by the sound of sizzling oil as he dunked a basket of battered cod. One of the things that has always attracted me to Mario was his secretiveness and unwillingness to open up. Now that he’s revealed two major things, things that should make me stop talking to him on anything more than a friend level, I find myself more intrigued than ever.