Three Day Weekend 01: Saturdaybyalexblister©
"Danny, hey," Kevin called as I walked onto the grassy expanse of his back yard from the small orchard separating our lots. He was talking to a slim dark-haired girl in her mid-twenties, her large eyes framed by chunky rectangular glasses. A tight pink tee-shirt hugged her body, clinging to her curves, and her artfully frayed denim skirt revealed just enough of her legs to be distracting.
There were a dozen people scattered about the yard, grad students and professors standing in groups making small talk. The afternoon was pleasant, warm but not uncomfortable, and the flat blue sky above was unmarred by even a the wispiest of clouds. Insects and birds buzzed and hummed in the distance providing an organic soundtrack to the last weekend of summer.
"Danny, this is Mia Sobieski. Mia, this is Danny Lawson," Kevin announced as I approached, introducing me to the jet-haired girl. Though he was dozen years my senior at forty-two, Kevin's baby face made him look no older than most of his students.
"Nice to meet you, Mia," I replied, taking her offered hand in mine.
"You too, Danny." She was cute more than beautiful, with freckles powdered across her cheeks and button nose like a splash of cinnamon.
"I need to run inside and see if Kim needs any help. Can you keep Mia company for a minute? She moved to town literally yesterday and doesn't know anybody here but me."
"Sure," I shrugged.
"He's a nice guy, I promise he won't bite," he reassured Mia with a smile as he walked away.
"Do you have some kind of a reputation a biter?" she asked wryly, arching an eyebrow with mock suspicion.
"Not that I'm aware of. I've been known to fling poo on occasion, but only when provoked."
Mia let out a chuckle and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose with her pinky finger.
"You moved here yesterday?" It was a struggled to not glance down at the way the thin fabric of her shirt outlined her small breasts.
"Yeah, I packed everything I owned into my car in the morning and stayed in a hotel by campus last night. My plan is to spend the weekend apartment hunting."
"Where did you go for undergrad?"
"Madison, graduated in '05. Kevin recruited me for his program back then but I decided I needed a break."
"I don't know how those people do it that hammer straight through for ten years. My brain would burn up."
"That's where I was, I needed a recharge. But then you start to get comfortable, you know? It started getting to the point where I was enjoying having an actual income, and I knew if I didn't go back soon it would be too late."
"Yeah," I agreed. "You hit a certain point in life where being able to afford real food makes it hard to go back to Ramen."
A butterfly flitted in between us and landed on Mia's shoulder. It's wings fanned slowly up and down for a moment as if it were trying to catch its breath. A faint smile touched at the corner's of Mia's mouth as she watched flit from her shoulder into a gust of wind and take flight, disappearing into the nearby apple trees.
"Am I going to have you for any classes this semester?" she asked, turning back to me as she tucked a loose strand of hair behind one ear. I noticed she wore neither a wedding band nor engagement ring.
"Me? No, sorry, I'm not on the faculty."
"Oh, I thought you worked at the U."
"No. Well, yes. Not really, but sort of."
"That's a lot of answers," she replied with a laugh, wrinkling her nose in the most charming way. Her girl-next-door good looks and easy demeanor were completely disarming. The fact that she wasn't trying to be sexy was sexy as hell.
"I'm a lecturer in the English department part-time," I explained. "Technically I work there, but I'm not really considered on staff. I'm here because I'm Kevin's neighbor, not because I'm in your department." I pointed to the row of trees at the back of the yard, boughs bent painfully to the earth under the weight of clusters of ripe apples. "My place is through there."
"What classes are you teaching?"
"Just a 100-level screenwriting course."
"Danny used to be a screenwriter in LA," Kevin announced as he rejoined us. "He actually sold a sci-fi screenplay to Spielberg's production company a few years back. 'Pitiful Gaze' something, wasn't it?"
"'A Gaze Blank and Pitiless'."
"From the Yeats poem?"
"Yeah," I nodded, surprised that she knew the reference.
"English minor," she explained. "I figured if I couldn't find a job with a Psych degree it made sense to have a minor that made me even less employable."
"Good strategy," I agreed with a smile.
"Great title. Can't say I've seen it, though." She flashed me a smile in apology.
"No, it's okay, there's no way you could have, it never got made. It's tied up in development hell and probably won't ever see the light of day."
"You sold it, though. That's more than most writers can say."
"Danny," Kevin interjected, "before I forget, Kim wants to know if you still have those bags of ice in your freezer in the garage from the Fourth?"
"I think so, yeah."
"Soon as I can get free you mind if we go get it? I forgot to pick any up last night."
"I can help him," Mia offered. "Stay and do your host thing. I could use a walk anyway."
"Okay, just dump it in the cooler on the patio. I appreciate it," he thanked us, turning to walk towards some new arrivals.
"I need a minute," Mia confessed as Kevin walked out of earshot. "I'm terrible with names and I've already forgotten who half these people are."
We set off through the worn path between the apple trees, the sounds of backyard conversations fading and the heady autumn smell of apples filling our nostrils.
"Nice place," Mia remarked when we stepped out onto the groomed tableau of my backyard.
The house was a low-slung bungalow sheltered beneath the arms of half a dozen gnarled oak trees. Small trees and bushes grew up in an untamed mass on the edge of the grass on each side of the house, effectively blocking off sight of the neighbors. It gave the feeling of a cottage in a clearing in the wilderness.
"So this is the house that 'A Gaze Blank and Pitiless' built?"
"Well, not built. Paid for certainly," I replied with a laugh, surprised she remembered the title.
"Give me a quick tour? Like I said, I need a few minutes before I head back and deal with all of that."
I led her across the lawn. There was a noticeable drop in temperature as we stepped into the air-conditioned kitchen. I could feel the gooseflesh prickle on my arms as my body adjusted to the change and in my peripheral vision I could see the hard nubs of Mia's nipples denting the pink cotton of her shirt. She either didn't notice or didn't care as she made no move to cover her breasts.
"Nice," she exclaimed as she trailed her fingers across cool surface of the countertop.
"Thanks. It was nice to actually have my own place after LA. I spent my first five years there in this flophouse in San Fernando above a porn studio. Place had cockroaches the size of Chihuahuas. You talked about packing all your belongings up in your car and moving overnight? Same thing I did when I went to LA."
"So how did you wind up in Minneapolis?"
"I'm from here originally, I got my bachelors from the U, so it's always been home. Well, a lot more than LA anyway."
"Why'd you leave?"
"LA? Cost of living sucked, the town sucked, the industry people sucked. I got tired of grinding it out. When I sold 'Gaze' I figured it was the equivalent of betting your retirement on a single hand of blackjack and hitting 21. Why keep playing at that point? I cashed out my chips and walked away from the table before I could do something stupid. It made me enough to buy this place outright, and between teaching a couple of classes I make ends meet enough to not have to worry while I work on my novel."
I led her into the living room. It was sparsely furnished, with two leather chairs pinning each end of a rug to the floor in the center of the room. The walls were lined with custom oak shelves filled to bursting with books of every shape and size. It resembled a library more than a living room. A low table sat in between the chairs, piled high with books currently in the process of reading or rereading, and Mia walked across the floor to examine them.
"You're reading 'Infinite Jest'? I love David Foster Wallace, 'A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again' and 'Brief Interviews with Hideous Men' are fantastic, but I've just never been able to crack 'Jest' for some reason."
"I still struggle with it," I agreed. "Nobody writes prose like he did, though."
"Okay, 'The Glass Bead Game' and 'Paper Lion'? That's a strange combination. 'Gravity's Rainbow' and 'Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life'? How many people in this world who know Thomas Pynchon also know Bryan Lee O'Malley?"
"Two at least, apparently."
"Well I think it's cute as hell that you're reading 'Scott Pilgrim'."
"That was a compliment."
"Well then thanks," I replied sincerely.
"You're welcome. I suppose we better head back before Kevin thinks you've gone on some kind of biting spree."
As we walked back to the kitchen I couldn't help but stare at her smooth, flawless legs and the way the snug denim of her skirt hugged her rear.
The ice was still in bags in my garage freezer, though most of the cubes had bonded together into a solid, misshapen lump. I handed Mia one and took the other two, and before long we were back at Kevin's.
Over the course of the afternoon I found myself making excuses to break away from whatever conversation I was in and seek out Mia. She seemed to do the same; occasionally Kevin would introduce her to a colleague, but she would invariable drift back over to me within a few minutes and resume our conversation.
"Can I get you a beer or anything?" she asked after disentangling herself from an introduction to a balding professor with a face like a sad turtle.
"Sure, something dark or red."
She returned a moment later with a ice-cold bottle of lager, moisture already beading on the glass, and a mug of lemonade that I suspected contained a fair amount of vodka. There were upwards of thirty people in the backyard now, nearly all with a drink in hand. They stood in small clusters of two or three, and the sounds of laughter and conversation filled the air along with the smoky smell of barbeque.
"Kevin does this every year on Memorial Day weekend?" she asked, taking a sip of the hard lemonade.
"Yeah, pretty much, as least as long as I've known him, kind of a goodbye to summer before classes start."
"Just how wild does this thing usually get? He's got like ten cases of beer in the garage."
"You'd be surprised. Someone will vomit in the bushes before this is over. They get pretty rowdy after the sun goes down. Never let anyone tell you academics can't drink."
She nodded, and wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. Even such a simple gesture seemed oddly sexy.
"Do you have a girlfriend or anything coming later?" Mia asked with what seemed to be intentional nonchalance.
"No girlfriend," I replied, shaking my head. "It's hard to date since I'm a registered sex offender."
"I thought I recognized you from that Chris Hanson show," she replied without missing a beat.
"Yeah, I get that a lot. No, no girlfriend or anything coming later. I've been pretty single lately. How about you, trying to maintain a long distance relationship with some heartbroken guy back in Madison?"
"Nada, nothing, zip." She seemed as pleased with my answer as I was with hers.
As people ate, they drank, and as they drank, they became more jovial. By the time the sun had begun to ease below the horizon the cookout had metamorphosed into a full-scale party.
I was sitting on the cool grass, knees in front of me, watching the bonfire Kevin started in his stone fire pit, and Mia was sitting next to me, legs tucked demurely beneath her, her hip pressed against mine. As dusk fell, I could see the twinkling of fireflies out in the orchard, flickering on and off like sparks from the fire.
"It's getting dark, and I didn't lock my door when we left earlier. If I'm going to stick around here later I'm going to go lock up," I announced, leaning close so she could hear me over the laughter and shrieks of the drunken revelry around us.
"Okay," she nodded as I stood, brushing off my knees. "You're coming back though, right?"
"Yeah, promise. I just don't like leaving my door unlocked."
"Sure," she nodded. "Actually, mind if go with you? I could go for a walk."
"Yeah, come on." I offered her my hand and helped her unsteadily to her feet. While I was far from drunk, I wasn't entirely sober, and my head swam as we walked away from the party through the sweet-smelling trees.
The spiked lemonade Mia had been sipping the last hour had apparently had an effect on her as well as we'd taken no more than a dozen steps before she stumbled over a root. I caught her arm to steady her.
"Thanks," she replied, wrapping her arm around mine as we continued. I could feel her small breast pressing into my bicep and smell the clean scent of her hair.
"Sit down with me, okay?" she asked suddenly as the light of the fire faded behind the trees. She released my arm dropped unsteadily to the ground beneath the sheltering limbs of an apple tree.
"Here. Come, sit. I just want to enjoy the quiet for a minute."
"Sure, okay," I replied, dropping to the grassy earth next to her. In between the twisted, boughs of the apple trees I could just make out the glow of the bonfire. The moon above was partially obscured by a lonely cloud, but the rest of the sky was clear and filled with twinkling stars, glitter sprayed across black velvet. I felt pleasantly buzzed, loose and fuzzy, not drunk but not sober
"It's peaceful here, like we aren't surrounded by a million people, like we're somewhere else."
"I spend a lot of time out here," I admitted, looking up at the night sky. Mia shifted, scooting closer to me, and before I realized what happened I found myself kissing her.
Her lips were soft and she tasted sugary and tart. Her tongue brushed eagerly against mine and I felt her breath catch in her throat.
"Danny, this isn't a good idea," she stammered after a moment, pulling away.
"I'm really sorry," I began, chastising myself silently for kissing her.
"No, no, I wanted you to, it's why I got you to sit down. I was flirting with you, I asked if I could walk with you. You didn't get mixed messages, you got exactly the messages I was sending."
"I thought I could just kiss you a little, that would be fine, but that's not fine, it's not okay to do to you."
"You what? I'm confused."
"Okay, um, fuck. Okay. I'm only telling you this because I'm half drunk, and because you're a really great guy, okay? Her glasses had slid down, and she pushed them up with her pinky.
"Okay," I replied slowly, not sure what she meant.
"Can I trust you to not say anything? Seriously, I need you to say yes, I need you to tell me I can trust you with this, even if you're pissed."
"Yeah, okay, yes, you can trust me."
"Shit, okay. Shit. Okay. Nobody knows this, not Kevin, not anyone else around here, nobody. And you can't say anything."
I was lost, completely and totally, so I didn't say anything. I just waited in the literal and figurative darkness.
"You're a nice guy Danny. I like you. I've been flirting with you, you've been flirting back with me and it's been fun. But this is going to get ugly if it goes any further, you're going to ask me out or something, I'm going to want to say yes, and it's going to go to hell."
"So you've got a boyfriend?"
"No, no, not that."
"You've got a girlfriend?"
"What are you saying?" I finally asked, exasperated.
"I've got a dick."
"You've got a what?" I asked, confused, my head spinning, and not just from the alcohol.
"Dick, penis, cock. I don't want to go into it, okay? No why or how, hormones, any of that, it doesn't matter. You're a nice guy, and it's not okay to lead you on any further."
"Bullshit, you're kidding, right? You're fucking with me. I tell you I'm a sex offender, you say you've got a dick."
"Do I sound like I'm kidding?"
I didn't respond for a moment. The grass was cool and moist on my bare calves as the air began to condense into dew.
"Are you mad?" she asked as someone back at the bonfire gave a shrieking laugh that rang between the trees.
"You're serious?" I asked, still not sure I believed her.
"I'm serious. Are you mad?
"No. Well . . . no. Maybe, I don't know."
"You can't tell anyone, nobody, not even Kevin, okay?"
We sat in silence again. I stared at Mia's pretty face illuminated in the soft light of the moon.
"You've got a penis?"
"I'm not really a sex offender."
"But you like guys?" I asked, unsure if the question even made sense.
"Yeah, of course. Dating isn't really doable most of the time though." Her tone was very pragmatic. She wasn't ashamed or embarrassed, just practical.
"I can see that, yeah. So you just don't date?"
"Not really, not much anyway, not lately. I mean, I've gone out with guys, but I usually kill things before they get physical, or the guy ends it because I won't get physical. The few guys I've told have freaked. The only guys that haven't freaked are ones I've met online that have a fetish for that kind of thing, and that's equally creepy."
"Are you . . . isn't there . . . surgical . . . options, procedures?"
"Yeah, but I'm not . . . I can't believe I'm telling you this . . . okay, I take hormones, have been for ten years. Normally they just wreck your body, kill your ability to get off. I'm lucky, it really hasn't done that to me, so the thought of doing something surgical that would end the ability to orgasm, I just can't do that."
"That makes sense."
"That makes sense?"
"Hell yeah, seriously, there's no way I'd do something that would keep me from being able to come ever again."
Another minute or so passed in silence before I spoke. I was trying to internalize exactly what she had said and what it meant.
"What if it didn't matter?" I asked finally.
"What didn't matter?"
"You, you're . . . situation."
"I don't know. Honestly, I don't know. It's never not mattered. It always matters. Why?"
"I don't know," I replied, thinking out loud. "I'm just . . . sitting here with you, even after what you told me, nothing is really different."
"What do you mean?"
"I've had a lot of fun today with you. You're smart, you're fun, you're sweet, you're pretty, you've got an amazing sense of humor, you're pretty, all of that."
"You said pretty twice," she noted, and even in the dim light I could see she was delighted by the compliment.
"Yeah, well, I meant it twice. Thing is, I'm not sure anything is different now than ten minutes ago though. Is it for you?"
"Well, what's different for me isn't what matters."
"Looking at you right now, I know something should be different, knowing what I know. Like OJ."
"OJ?" she responded, confused.
"Yeah, OJ, OJ Simpson, guy who killed his wife."
"I know who OJ Simpson is."
"Well, it's like OJ. Now, in hindsight, it's a lot tougher to laugh at his movies knowing he basically cut off his wife's head. Knowing that changes everything. The jokes in the movie haven't changed, but they're not funny now. You can't look at him in anything the same way. Everything is different."
"Did you just compare me to OJ Simpson?" she asked, arching an eyebrow at me.
"Yes. I mean no, no, not really, I mean just the situation. Like, knowing what I know about you now should change everything, like it does with OJ. Knowing about him changes everything, and it should do that with you. It doesn't though. I don't think it does anyway. I don't think it's changing anything for me."