He appeared at the foot of her stoop an hour late in a freshly pressed white button-down shirt. She had used the extra time to nap and had awoken feeling refreshed. He didn’t apologize and she noticed. But between her renewed energy and the curious pleasure that came from finding him exactly the way she’d remembered — if not a little taller — there was simply no room for resentment.
His car was big and sturdy like him, a black SUV with an armored quality. Despite its size it seemed to hover over lanes like a dancer. She stole glances of his profile and thought how odd it was to compare a sport utility vehicle to a ballerina.
At dinner he ordered for both of them. He rested his palm on her knee while the servers refilled their wine. He squeezed her thigh just before dessert. When he gestured for the check with one hand, he walked two fingers of the other along the hem of her skirt, which had ridden up close to her hips during the course of the meal.
During the drive back to her apartment he shifted gears and somewhere between first and third removed her slender lace panties. She never said a word, but chewed her lip and smiled into her shoulder whenever they stopped at a red light. She gasped when they hit a pothole, and when he slid effortlessly into a very tight spot downstairs, she told him, through a torrent of giggles that he was an expert parallel parker.
Once upstairs he moved about her kitchen as if he’d been there million times. He helped himself to a glass of water before asking if he might grab a quick shower, since he’d come straight from work. A smile spread across her face and broke wide.
Of course! She handed him the largest towel she had and told him to take his time.
She lit candles in her bedroom and dabbed rose oil behind at the base of her neck and behind her knees.
An hour later they lay side by side astonished at how easily “together” came.
Two hours later they disentangled. She looked at her watch and determined that he had better go. She watched him stride across the room to retrieve his clothes here and there. He already felt like a fixture. So much so that her goodnight kiss in the doorway stung slightly of banishment so she kissed him hard to alleviate some guilt.
He sent her a message to let her know he’d made it home and another one asking when her could take her out again.
She agreed to Saturday night and he said he would pick her up from work and they would go for sushi. The plan sounded nice and she appreciated his taking charge.
Once in the car they found a patch of traffic and began to talk, finally. They shared a similar background and were almost the same age, though he’d spent considerable time overseas.
She asked if he was following the primary elections. He laughed and told her none of it mattered but he knew exactly who he wasn’t voting for. She bristled and asked why. He wrapped his palm around the back of her neck, pulled her close and said let’s not talk about politics before dinner. He played with her hair and traced her jawline and lips with his free hand as they crept downtime at 10 miles an hour.
This time over dinner they kept their hands above the table and talked some more. He had studied economics and had run several small businesses. She let him in on her business plan, the basics at least. It was her first. He made some strong suggestions. She thanked him and asked if he had ever worked in that particular industry. He said that he had not, but that he knew what was he was doing.
Back home, she opened up a bottle red wine at his request. He massaged her shoulders and kissed her spine. Two hours later, their glasses still empty, they lay side-by-side and listened to the yelling and laughter of the young men who congregated on her corner.
“They’re never going anywhere, you know.”
He delivered this declaration about the yelling youths so matter-of-factly that she could swear she’d misheard him. “What?”
“They’re not like us. You and I have different DNA. Superior genes. You’ll see.”
“I see,” she said, reaching for her dress. “It’s probably time for you to go.”
His bafflement didn’t help. “What did I say?”
She walked him to the door. The time the banishing felt just fine.