[Excerpt #10 from forthcoming Chapter 5 (Los Angeles) of my memoir,White Noise, is included below.]
We would lie like that for hours, Donna and I, the two of us still comfortably entangled, talking. Mostly I listened, or daydreamed, the ashtray balanced on my stomach, while she talked. I enjoyed that. Leaf, the stray tabby I rescued, would burrow under the covers, purring, his tail twitching hypnotically. The days were lengthening now, and this was one of those moments in which everything seemed to fit ‑ Donna, myself, the cat between us. Outside the rush of Saturday afternoon traffic on Foothill Boulevard, children running and playing in the neighbor’s yard, even the whining and clawing of the animals caged in the clinic below. Sounds normally discordant were momentarily wedded by a nameless, elusive rhythm; a gentle rhythm, one I sought to retain. Everything dropped away in such moments, too. All the trappings of the past, the nearly ten years since graduation. Lean and hungry years they were, blind-driven, the whole slew of dead-ends and wrong-turns suddenly compressed into a single fallow season by the grace of the moment. Why? To what end? I didn’t know. I knew only that I had abandoned Florida and I was here, not there, here and now, curled up this very moment with Donna. . . purring.
“Uh-huh…?” I snuggled closer.
“Did you really follow me around the Mall that night before we met?”
I jerked back the sheet and lowered my head and began to nibble the inside of her thighs with exaggerated little slurping noises. “I was stalking you big time, Sweets, couldn’t help myself. Aren’t you glad I finally found a way to ‘bump’ into you?”
Donna giggled and squirmed and playfully pushed me away. “I’m not making love to a pervert!”
Leaf bolted from the bed and darted into the living room. Like his owner, Leaf was fond of his alone-time. Time to notice, time to ponder. A faint tingling, a barely perceptible shudder not unlike that of a predator catching first whiff of prey quickened my senses that Friday night in the Mall. I glanced furtively right and left, struggling to identify the source. A few feet in front of me I caught sight of a girl’s reflection in a store window and realized I must have unconsciously adjusted my rhythm to hers, step for step. Plain leather riding boots, faded brown jeans, matching corduroy jacket, face hidden behind long brown hair falling loosely over her shoulders. My stomach tightened. She moved easily, almost too easily, unnaturally so. Methodically, with the instinct of a tomcat, I began to weave in and out of the crowd and hone in on the girl ahead of me.
Her jeans ‑ they were too tight, outlining the alluring contours of her butt. Yet, that couldn’t be deliberate; her walk was not the saucy bounce of a street-gal, and a certain softness, a polite demureness, a subtle shade of innocence radiated from her.
As I closed the gap between us and mimicked her gait I felt in her movement a slight trace of hesitancy. She’s uncomfortable! For some reason she’s nervous, feels out of place.
The signs of self‑consciousness were minute but unmistakable, and I knew them well. The walk and posture a studied casualness alternating with slight awkwardness when one suddenly becomes aware of one’s body. The timed glances from side to side. The feigned interest in every thing, yet no thing. The pose of being preoccupied quickly contrasted with embarrassed indifference.
As we approached a cul-de-sac thick with the smell of buttered popcorn she hesitated, as if deciding which movie she wanted to see. I checked my wallet to make sure I had enough money and then stood behind her in the ticket line to a Burt Reynolds movie. My heart was a-flutter, telling me something in a language as old as the human race, and I was determined not to let self-doubt keep me from meeting someone special.
“That was my first time out by myself on a Friday night since Mike and I separated.” Donna said, interrupting my reverie.
“Lookin’ for a one-night stand?”
“No! But it’s awkward for a twenty-two year-old single mom with a three year-old daughter. You feel alone, exposed, just going to a movie by yourself is a big deal.
“Gallant of me, wouldn’t you say, sitting beside you in the dark?”
“I was afraid to use the armrest between us.”
“So was I, didn’t want to bump you.”
“Then you had the gall to ask me for my phone number!”
““Were you surprised I remembered it?”
“I figured you would write it down once you got back to your car, but to call me that same night, after midnight, just as I was getting home – that was special!”
“We talked for two hours and I’m not even a talker.”
“What DID surprise me was barely four hours later you meeting me at the stable at sunrise while I exercised Sundance.”
“It’s exciting to watch a pretty lady shovel horse shit…”
“That’s gonna be YOUR job from now on,” she said, rolling on top of me and pulling the sheet up over us like a tent.