Olivia is my best friend, so when she told me she’d met a great guy I was happy for her. She told me his name was Jackson and that sex with him was wicked. He really knew his stuff, she said, when it came to pleasing a woman.
I hadn’t been with a man since it ended with Simon four months ago and I was hurting. Olivia never went more than a day, it seemed, without a man. For Olivia, getting a man was as hard as lying on the beach, with her hot-house, fragile-as-a-waif, bed-head-blonde-blinking-blue-eyed vulnerability. Men are suckers for it. I have to work a like a raptor to find someone to love.
She wanted me to meet him and I was all for that, so we had lunch on Saturday, the three of us, at the Alley Gator in Santa Monica. The day was sultry but inside the Gator it was cool and dark, with sweet smelling wood shavings covering the red brick floor and zydeco playing loud and sweet. We cracked peanuts and wrestled buckets of boiled shrimp out of their shells, our chins glistening with butter. We slurped fat raw oysters fierce with horseradish and hollered, “Fire in the nose!” with streaming eyes and full mouths. We drank Green Lizards made with 151 and Green Chartreuse that turned our tongues as green as grass and we laughed and scratched and had a blast.
I’m big boned, built and strung mellow like a cello, and I handle liquor easy. Olivia doesn’t weigh a hundred pounds in cowboy boots, and the Lizards hit her hard. We had all three of our cars there so Jackson drove her car and I followed them in mine, back to her apartment. When we got there she threw up a mess of shellfish steeped in bile and liquor and it nearly made me puke, but Jackson, Jackson held her head and stroked her hair while the stuff splattered him, then washed her face with a hot washcloth, saying, okay, okay baby, okay. We got her into bed, pulled off her boots and put a waste bucket next to her in case she threw up again, and then I brought him back to the Alley Gator so he could get his car, but we decided to have another drink. The restaurant was quiet now, and we sat in the bar on stools.
I felt like I was falling for him and saw no way of stopping it. His handsome face was all planes and shadows, his voice low and mesmerizing. He was tall, lanky, with wavy dark hair that he sleeked back into a ponytail and eyes the deep dark green of seaweed. He was as luscious as Thanksgiving dinner and I was starved.
“Olivia’s crazy about you,” I told him.
He smiled, swirled his ice around.
“She’s a lucky girl, Olivia,” I said. “She says you’re something else in bed.” His mouth was wide with full-blown lips and I ached for them so bad I couldn’t keep from leaning forward to work them some with mine. He didn’t return the action but he didn’t back off either. I teased my emerald tongue between his white, square teeth, probing, but he kept his tongue as still and flat as a lawn.
“We’ve had a lot to drink,” he said, breaking away. “Maybe we should go.” He stood up and threw some money down and I stood up too. I put my mouth to his ear, grazing the downy hairs with my lips. “We could have some fun,” I said. “We could keep it to ourselves.” I slid my hand down the front of his jeans and felt him big and stony, and I burbled out a laugh.
“You’re—lovely,” he said. Lovely. He lifted my hand off his crotch and nailed me with seaweed eyes. “But I really, really like Olivia.”
“You passed,” I said quickly. “The test. I’m glad. I’d hate for Olivia to get hurt. She’s fragile. Unstable. Too many guys have messed with her.” I placed my palms on his chest and felt the firm, round mounds of his pecs; my thumbs skimmed the stiff tips of his nipples through the thin, soft hanky linen of his shirt, and I closed my eyes, woozy, a hard, aching clench inside my groin.
He smiled and squeezed my hand, and then he turned and left me standing there, burning with humiliation and wet with lust.
That night I imagined his face pressed deep between my thighs while I touched myself, stiffening on the bed again and again until I passed out on the damp, sour sheets.
Next morning Olivia called, all embarrassed about getting drunk and vomiting. She said Jackson had come over later, bringing the miracle of menudo for her hangover, and I said, menudo, like, the boy band?
No, she said, some kind of soup that works miracles for hangovers; he wouldn’t say what’s in it but he had to go to East LA to get it. She said he’d fed it to her, spoon by spoon, and then made love to her for hours. He was wicked horny, she said. She had too many orgasms to count, she said. The menudo really fixed her stomach, she said, except, she could hardly walk today from all the fucking.
“Is he a doll or what?”
I didn’t say a word.
“What’s the matter Zoë, you didn’t like him? He liked you.”
“Tell me,” she said. “Oh Christ, he didn’t?—”
“He came on to you?”
I sighed, long and breathy, into the phone.
“Fuck,” she said. “I should’ve known he was too good to be true.”
“He said he’d deny it if I told you, the snake.”
“Be glad you found out before he ran you over like a toad.”
We hung up and I got up and staggered to the bathroom. I love Olivia, but sometimes, sometimes—
When I looked in the mirror I saw my tongue was still as green as a bottle.