Tina and I sip sodas at Caprice, where Zondo and I spent an hour the day before. I’m here to tell her about the interview that followed the call that followed me reading the online ad for “a permanent part-time third girlfriend.”
“Well?” Tina says, expectant.
“Deep well. Dark.”
Just about anything can tumble in. Just about. Not enough room to hold the enormity of my fucked-up love life.
“We had fizzy drinks. He’s Spanish. Olive skin. Not green olive, more like black. He makes his own sangria. Blended raspberries and merlot. He loves to cook. For his two girlfriends.”
“Whoa!” she says. “Two? Are you --?”
“Three? Not yet. Not sure. Notwithstanding all that and falling like a body thrown off a cliff to gravity, I’m paralyzed in midair with indecisive anticipation.”
“That is fucked up,” Tina says.
“No way to know which way to go. Two plus one equals two too many. Does that make sense?”
“It adds up,” she says. “Who am I to opine on the mathematics of love?”
“One plus one is pretty much all you need to know. Or at least I thought it was.”
“And he wants you to join what is already joined? Take a number.”
I sip and stare past her eyes.
“Three, but is that all?” she says. “How’s that work? Evening with cocktails and after-dinner mints, for Tuesday, or, if you’re busy, the Wednesday after?”
“I’m not sure if we’re all in it together, or working shifts.”
I tell Tina I like him. He reads the same books. We enjoy swimming. He would rather watch the same movie at the same time, than stream in opposite corners. And what he cooks is sublime.
“How do you imagine this ending?” Tina asks.
“It hasn’t even started,” I say. “Tonight’s my first.”
When I arrive at Elizondo’s condo, he folds me into his arms, big smile, straight teeth. He compliments my dress, invites me in, shows me where to put my bag.
I sit on a stool across from him as he cooks, a glass of sangria in front of me. “So, where are your … or should I say our … I think I need new words. Bigger girl words.”
“Friends? They’re not here all the time. Never when you are.”
“What do you call it?”
“Plural works for me. It’s like dating, but not so random. You’re dating, right?”
“We’ve dated. I’m your dinner guest.”
“I’ve had female visitors,” Elizondo says.
When I use his full name, he says, “Call me Zondo. The others do.”
“So they’re not roommates?”
“They have their own places.”
“Do they have … friends?”
He smiles. “Not for me to know, but they’re like you. Popular?”
“I’m not seeing anyone else, if that’s what you mean.”
Dinner is lovely, garlic and tomato shrimp over couscous with broiled broccolini.
“So, do your friends have dedicated nights? A drawer of their own? Work hours, like day shift, night shift?”
“I ask, and they tell me if they would like to visit. It’s no big deal. You’ll get used to it.”
I try to smile, to show him I am game, will give it my best shot. It must have looked like a smirk, because he turns to the sink and begins rinsing plates. I take my glass to the sofa.
“Rain coming,” I yell over my shoulder, sharing what the weather woman said.
“We need it,” he says.
All I can think of is how I want to shower with him. That’s rain, isn’t it?
Afterwards, after we introduce ourselves to each other, a frappe of lips, hands, heat, hunger, exhaustion, we recover enough to stagger to the shower. I take the towel and dry his hair, torso, legs and between. He watches as I drape and daub the towel.
“How’s my interview going?” I say.
“That’s funny. Does it feel like a job?”
“More like a carousel. I’m the pink horse. Someone else is the one with the silver mane.”
“Blonde,” he says, meaning one of the ones not me.
Before the mirror, I finger fluff my hair.
“There’s a dryer,” he says. “Monica won’t mind.”
I let this sink in. He is in the other room as I finish my finger fluff. I hate dryers. Especially Monica’s.
Tina knew I was visiting. I expected her to call, and she did, and we agreed to meet for coffee. I don’t like to kiss and tell. I offered a qualitative appraisal.
“Eight point five,” I said. “Throw out the highs and lows -- the highs were pretty high, the low could use a little work -- and he’s a contender.”
“No way to know. I’ve never met one.”
“If it’s that good, how can you share?”
“Maybe it’s not that good with the others? Maybe it’s winner take all. Or we cycle through, one out, a new one in. Ask the judge.”
“You know what I mean. He looks at everybody. I don’t, but I’m competing with them. Aren’t I?”
When I arrive a week later, Zondo flips open the door and hurries toward the kitchen. I’m staring at a gorgeous dog. A golden retriever, I would guess. I love dogs. I bend down, caress its head, scratch its back, love it up a little.
It draws back its lips and growls.
As anyone should, I stand back.
Zondo walks up, looks at the snarling dog, says “Shhh, baby, shhh. It’s OK. She’s a friend.”
The dog calms down a bit. I look at Zondo and he at me.
“You’ve met Monica, I see,” he says.
I guess I have. Her hair looks great.
“Sorry. She’s not usually like this. I didn’t mean for her to be here when you arrived.”
“It’s OK. I love dogs. Whose is she?”
“Mine,” he says. “She has her own place. She hates to leave.”
He bends close to her face.
“It’s not your night, is it, Sweetie?”
Zondo looks at me. “She’s the clingy one.”
For thirty years, Stuart Watson lined bird cages for a living (he was a newspaper journalist, self-deprecating and sarcastic, in equal measure). He loves the writing, for just one outstanding example, of Joy Williams. Watson’s own work is (or will be) in The Maine Review, Two Hawks Quarterly, Revolution John, Montana Mouthful, Wretched Creations, Flash Boulevard, Bending Genres, Flash Fiction Magazine, Hippocampus (books), Danse Macabre, Red Planet Magazine, Yolk and Wanderlust Journal. He lives in Oregon with his lovely wife and their awesome dog. Twitter: @StuartWatson50