And there I will be in my big Audrey H. hat with the wide brim and big black silk flower on the band.  I will look positively fabulous in my inconsolable grief.

 

This is the scenario playing out in my head when you interrupt my internal film with, “Hey, you’ve hardly touched our napoleon.  You’re not slowing down, are you?” 

 

And you dab a bit of custard filling from the corner of my lip and then lick your finger.

 

This is the best first date I have ever had in my life and I am going to burn in hell.  Slowly too.

 

We are on our third round of espressos and most of the way through a mousse au chocolat, which I now suspect is French for “chocolate sex,” and you are so funny and smart that I realize you must have friends.  You have friends who will also mourn your untimely death from the plague I have just given you seventeen times what with the passing back and forth of the fork and the cream-dabbing when you lean in before I have a chance to even react because who the hell leans in, right in the middle of a sentence and kisses the girl—

 

You do.

 

You kiss the girl softly, and for just the right amount of time, right in the middle of this very swank café with all the fancy edible art desserts and bow-tie clad waiters, all at 4:00 in the afternoon on a cloudy Tuesday. 

 

And so I feel really bad about letting this progress to what I know will be the best afternoon sex I’ve had in months or maybe ever.  Because there is no better sex than afternoon dessert sex.

 

You might think it’s Postman Always Rings Twice Kitchen Table Sex, or American Gigolo Shower Sex, or English Patient Right There On the Moroccan Tile Floor Sex.  But those versions are so urgent that it’s all flashing by before you even know what’s happening.  There’s no time to appreciate anything.

 

Whereas afternoon dessert sex is all about savoring.  And gentleness.  Nobody gets bruised.  No lamps get broken.  It’s slow and it builds and there are layers and layers.  And this is what I want with you right now more than anything. 

 

So I should get a medal for what I say next, which is: “I might have the mumps.”

 

There it is, on the table with the wreckage of our sweet feast.

 

From the way you don’t say anything at first, I’m sure it’s just about the processing—I mean, you put a quarter into the vending machine and made your selection and instead out pops a chicken.  By which I mean you had expectations – reasonable expectations – about what sort of a universe this was, and those expectations are not being met.  You are suddenly traveling in a foreign country where nobody speaks your language. 

 

I understand this.  It’s how I feel all the time when I’m not at the movies. 

 

Not like Audrey H., who always knows what to say or do.  She understands when it is time to lower her sunglasses or light up a cigarette or reach for another forkful of pastry and look divine rather than desperate, which is how I am feeling at this exact moment.  And I am trying so hard to channel my inner Audrey, trying to picture myself in a long silk sheath with my hair swept up in a chignon so that I’ll remember how to begin a sentence with, “Darling— ”

 

Which is when you do the most amazing thing.  You reach out and put your hand to my forehead, like you’re my mom and you’re checking my temperature.

 

“You’ve got a fever, you know.  No wonder you’re so hungry.”

 

And you don’t make a scene where the waiters get anxious as little demitasse cups go crashing against the pastry cases and accusations like “Typhoid Mary!” are shouted at the top of your lungs – the sort of scene where I’ll never be able to show my flushed face in this establishment or anywhere on this entire block of Lexington Avenue ever again.

 

No.  You take me home.   

 

You are my knight in shining gold foil.  My hero with a heart of chocolate.

 

Turns out your folks traveled a lot when you were a kid and you caught mumps in India when you were five.  And anyway, you tell me later over warm mugs of chicken soup – the kind with little pasta stars—the vaccine is only effective for 95% of the population.  The other 5% will get it if they’re ever exposed.  It’s just the way it goes.

 

“Did you know that?” you ask.  “You’re a member of a very small club.  So am I.”

 

It’s not for another few weeks that you suggest we form an even smaller club of our own.  An exclusive club.

 

And it isn’t too fast at all.  It’s slow.  And it builds.

 

It takes exactly the right amount of time.

 

 

 

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Frankie Drayus

Fiction

 

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