Rule #2 for showbiz assistants: don’t bed a stranger instead of the man you love. 1,927 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
I walked into my apartment like a zombie.
I knelt on the floor of my bedroom. Stared at the wall. The SoCal summer sun sank outside my window. I watched shadows shift. Jake would not leave my mind or my body. He had taken over.
I had not managed the effort to switch on the light. Now shadows faded into darkness. My thoughts crashed. My power of denial faded. I absolutely loved him and I hated myself for it. I hated him for it, too.
“Why, why, why?” I asked the empty room.
I dropped my head into my hands. The moment solidified. I was head-over-heels in love with Jake Easton — a songwriter older than my father would be had he lived — and my resistance was circling the shower drain as I let the water run. I pulled myself up, out of paralysis, and dressed. I fetched my purse, walked to my car in a daze and drove the two blocks to The Brentwood, my local Regal Beagle.
The maître d’ greeted me as usual. “French fries tonight?”
“No, I’m going for the soup tonight. Trying to be good, you know.”
“You’re already good,” he said as if he were letting me in on a secret. It was consoling. I didn’t feel good.
The bartender flashed a familiar smile, “Sicily, dirty martini?”
“Undoubtedly.” I was hell-bent on drowning my confusion.
“The martini called me here tonight, not the fries. I have to wear a bikini next month in a play I’m rehearsing. What’s the soup?”
“Asparagus, and, man, oh, man, I’d love to see that play.”
I winked. “Thanks, Vincenzo.”
I settled in at the dark elegant bar with my soup and my dirty martini. My mind raced: the martini helped slow it down. My movements became slow for a change, too. The martini and the soup lasted a long time. I was lost in thoughts of Jake Easton. I craved his presence. His voice. His subtle touch.
“Another martini?” Vincenzo broke my reverie.
“Why not? And while I’m at it, may I please see a dessert menu? I’m craving chocolate.”
“There’s nothing wrong with dirty martinis and chocolate.”
“That’s how I see it, Vinnie.”
“In fact, may I select a chocolate dessert for you? It’s our special tonight, and I swear by it. I’d like to gift it to you. May I?”
“I’d love that. Maybe you could choose a good dessert wine for me while you’re at it. It seems the dirty of the martini might throw off the sweet of the chocolate.”
“I think that’s smart and I know the exact one. Coming right up: sheer decadence. Here’s a glass of water to cleanse your palette.”
I gulped the water, as if I could purify my obsession, but my thoughts shot back to Jake. Vinnie set the Warm Chocolate River Cake in front of me. I took a bite. The chocolate melted into my tongue. An electrifying sensation crawled over my body as goose bumps hardened my nipples. Jake loved chocolate, which made it more sensual. With each sip of succulent wine, with each nibble of chocolate, I became entranced by a heightened state of my senses. Thoughts of Jake mixed with such epicurean delicacies drove my hormones mad. I wanted to taste the chocolate with him. I wanted to feed a bite to him on a silver spoon and raise the wine to his lips to wash it down.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. He had been watching me from across the bar. He seemed to enjoy my show. When our eyes met I was in the middle of a savory bite. I may have been moaning. His stare jolted me. He appeared young and virile. He must have been around thirty-five. He was handsome. More than that, he reeked of self- assurance.
I polished off my last bite with a slight lick of my lips.
“Get over here,” he demanded, so I went.
Suddenly I was tight by his side and we were drinking a delightful Cabernet as if we had known each other for years. We fell into an erotic banter. His name was Chris. He was sexy and he knew it. I pegged him as a fellow actor the moment he opened his mouth. I was right. He couldn’t wait to tell me he had just booked another national commercial and scored a second callback for a day player role on some hot new series I had never heard of. For his day job he was a personal trainer who also taught a spin class in Santa Monica. I wanted a referral to his commercial agent.
He turned me on. The alcohol made me brave. I decided to share a bit of my poetry with this sexy stranger. I used a throaty timbre to seduce him with my words: “It’s called Hungry Ghost,” I drawled. “I want to reach out and grab my hunger and swallow it right.. down.. whole. Say, love, how long will it linger? This craving I can’t control. Desire is knocking, desire is knocking—at—my—door.”
It must have worked. Chris cut me off. “Kiss me,” he ordered and I figured, what the hell?
He kissed me long and slow, barely touched his mouth to mine. Then he gripped the back of my head and kissed me hard.
Jake would not leave my mind. He was in my mouth, in my throat, on my tongue. He watched me from behind my eyes. He consumed me with guilt, desire, rage and revenge.
A force outside of myself took over. It was unlike me to behave this way. I had never acted out like this with a complete stranger.
“You feel our chemistry,” Chris stated.
“There’s no way to deny it,” I panted.
“Come home with me.”
Until that very moment, I would have declined the offer without hesitation.
“What about my car?” I protested, although I knew I would go with him. “I planned to leave it here and walk home. I’m too drunk to drive, but I’m not going with you without my car.”
“We’ll leave my car on the street. I’ll drive your car to my house.” He had all the answers. “But, be forewarned, I teach an early Saturday class. Don’t be offended when I kick you out of bed in the morning.”
“Perfect!” I slurred. “Let’s go.” I was ready to jump off that metaphorical cliff Jake had written about in an email.
On the way to Chris’s house, I had two desires: Jake Easton and sex.
Chris pulled my car into his driveway. I took his hand and clarified. “There’s only one reason I’m here with you.”
“Let’s go all the way.”
“Consider us there.”
His tiny house was dark. He never turned on a light, just lit a few candles and went straight to the HomePod. He turned it on low.
“Thelonious Monk. Straight, No Chaser.”
“Of course.” Jake loved Thelonious Monk. “That’s how we’re gonna take each other down.” What the fuck am I saying?
He reached out for me. I held up my hand in protest. First, he would get a show. I danced to the music and stripped my body of clothing, piece-by-piece, letting each fall to the floor at my feet.
“Good Lord,” Chris whistled.
“Pour me a drink,” I demanded. “And I don’t have to tell you I want it straight, no chaser.” I giggled at my not-so-clever-drunkenness.
Chris walked the few feet to his kitchen and complied without question. He poured us each a whiskey. I slammed it back and pranced toward what had to be his bedroom. I slid between his black satin sheets and closed my eyes. He climbed on top of me naked, heavy and strong. He ran his fingers through my hair and down the length of my body. Goosebumps trailed his touch. My nipples hardened. I was turned all the way on, although I was hardly present. My body vibrated with desire. My insides throbbed. I craved penetration as he brought his mouth to mine. I kissed him hard and pulled his body into me with all my strength. My muscles ached. I was starving for Jake, devouring a perfect stranger.
“There’s something about making love to a perfect body,” he whispered in my ear.
Making love? Whatever you want to call it, buddy. There’s one man I could make love to right now and it ain’t you.
“Get a condom,” I ordered. “Then have your way with me.”
We fucked until sunrise — hard, pounding, animalistic sex in every way imaginable. I felt so uninhibited with Chris I may as well have been alone, masturbating with my thoughts of Jake. Chris was a life-sized sex toy. He was a nice hot guy and all, but I couldn’t have cared less about him. It was freeing. I rode him fast and hard one more time to let a last orgasm scream out of me. Then we fell asleep. Jake had never left me, not even for a split second.
The next morning, mY body ached from head to toe as I tiptoed into my clothes and closed the door softy behind me. I drove home through blinding sunlight. The future played out in my hungover mind. Months later, I would run into Chris in the same spot at the same bar. “Come home with me,” he would say. “Not a chance,” I’d reply. “I got everything I needed from you. But thank you kindly for the offer.”
The trip to LAX on Sunday afternoon was painfully comedic. I picked Jake up at the auto rental office in Beverly Hills. He hopped in my car, chipper as could be.
“Hello, my dear,” he sang.
I inhaled. “Mmm, baby powder.” My heart thumped between my legs.
“That’s all I ever wear.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed.” Even my hedonistic night with Chris can’t curb my desire for this man. Damn.
“I’m not the cologne wearing type,” Jake said as he fastened his seatbelt and I pulled into traffic. “Actually, I was informed late last night that baby powder has been statistically proven to ignite ovulation in a woman. It’s a programmed reaction apparently. Who knew?”
“That’s nice.” Fuck you for being you.
The tension between us could cut through a knife. I swiveled my gaze toward him in slow motion, smiled like an insane clown and spit nonsense in order to fill awkward space.
“So, nice to see you, Jake,” I said suddenly with a sardonic edge. “How’re you doing?”
“Oh, I’m just swell,” he replied matching my tone.
I made a stupid lane change and threw my hands up. “Like I said, nice hiring skills, boss!”
He laughed. Then the car filled with the screaming silence of unspoken words and unfinished business.
I pulled to the curb at LAX. Jake plucked a bottle of baby powder from his backpack and sprinkled it all over himself. Tiny white particles danced about in the air conditioning. I waved my hand to push them away. “Would you mind not spreading that shit all over my car?”
“Oops, sorry,” he said and tossed the baby powder into my back seat and sprang out of the car. “Until we speak or write again.” Then he disappeared into the airport.
On the way home I cried out of guilt. I felt sick for having given myself to a stranger instead of the man I loved.
Then again, God only knows what Jake does when I’m not around and he’s drenched in baby powder.