Read Part I Here:


Things were strenuous at work, but I had a lightness about me that was paying off at the office.  When Johnny texted me on the Tuesday after the weekend, it was 5:30, quitting time, and a senior colleague had just asked me to stay late to write a contract.  Johnny texted to ask me about my plans for the evening at the precise second it became apparent that I was going to be stuck in the office for an additional two to three hours.  “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to do,” the colleague said, before grabbing his briefcase and heading out to the gym.  I believe everything in life is about timing, so I actually accepted this development with some degree of wry amusement.  Things would work out, as they were meant to.


Rewind:  I had seen Johnny once since I gave him my number, stopping by the Elbow with Horndog for a quick drink before heading to a barbeque in the neighborhood.  Horndog knew about my infatuation, but was keeping it quiet for me, a little secret from the rest of the pack.  Johnny brought a round out to us in the watery sunlight and played a private smile just for me.  I closed my eyes and drank in the anticipation.  One of the guys, watching Johnny retreat to the bar, suddenly commented.  “I like Johnny,” he said.  “But sometimes I just want to punch him in the face and say – ‘how dare you be so good-looking?’”  He seemed startled by his own statement, though it was without rancor.  We all laughed and eventually moved on to the barbeque.  The evening turned into a long night, and when the taxi took me home, I watched the stars and thought about Johnny.


Play:  I called Johnny from the office and it turned out that his brother was in town from Colombia.  They were two hours away from the city after a day trip, so he would not be able to see me until 9:30 anyway.  I finished the contract and was on my way back to my rented flat by 8:00, nervous about a meeting, stomach twisting.  I had eaten nothing, banging out my work with a mad energy, and was trying to get to bed by 11:00 every night – I wanted to impress the Urbanopolis office with my talents, in the hopes of being offered a permanent position in the city.  Why, I’m not certain, except that the misery of the city was a more glamorous one and like anyone, I have my pride.


Through a series of text messages, we agreed to meet at 7:30 the next night for dinner, better for both of us.  I joked about my Spanish-speaking abilities and attempted a few phrases.  He was charming and indulgent.  Arrangements were made for us to meet at the subway station in my neighborhood the following evening.


T to J:  Cena mañana, entonces?  I can practice mi español terrible.  I know you cannot wait to hear me destroy everything beautiful about your language.


J to T:  Si!  Cena mañana, I’m sure your Spanish is great.  You are going to have to show me tomorrow – have a good night and a great day at work, que descances!


I cleaned the flat that night.  I bought wine, red and pink.  I plucked my eyebrows and conditioned my hair.  Standing under the hot shower, razor in hand, I decided not to shave my legs or my bikini line.  It would keep me in order the next night, and somehow override the fact that I had thought of little else but him in my bed for the past few days.  I laid out lacey red panties and a matching bra, swapped them for a nude bra and flowered cotton panties that I would never let him to see unless very, very drunk, and then switched them again.  The battle between pure intentions and sheer lust rages on, but it’s never been much of a fight.


Wednesday, I left the office a little late and rushed home to prepare.  I had been giddy with excitement all day – when was the last time I had a real date?  When was the last time I’d had something to get ready for like this, with my stomach fluttering and my eyes flicking to the clock every few minutes, almost savoring the agony?  I’d called Horndog for advice over outfits, a useless enterprise.  He suggested my blue plaid miniskirt and knee-high leather boots, and though I believed the look quite fetching on a drunken Saturday night, it seemed a bit…  slutty for a Wednesday First Date.  I remembered that Horndog likes the whorish look and hung up on his cries of “shorter and tighter is the key!”  This was a precision attack, not a full-on assault.  My best jeans and a soft red sweater that showed some cleavage would do, as the air had turned cold again unexpectedly.  I knew the curve of my ass was a weapon in those jeans and my heels would elongate my legs.  Subtle but sexy felt right.


I made the bed and cast a critical eye over the apartment – not that he would see it.  But it is best to be prepared.  While I frantically dried my hair, Johnny texted that he was running a little late, with a detailed and apologetic explanation.  I was so pleased by his consideration, as well as the fact that it meshed perfectly with my typical 15-minutes-behind-schedule.  After a restrained five additional minutes in front of the mirror, I grabbed my purse and was off to meet him.  I smoked a cigarette on the way, hoping he liked the mixed aroma of tobacco and Chanel as much as I do.  Shit.  I meant to smell clean and perfumed when he kissed me in greeting but it was too late now, and the way my nerves were jangling, a smoke was in order.  I would just try not to chain-smoke after dinner.  Try, try, try.


The wind whipped my hair into a stormcloud on the way to the station.  Another losing battle.  I hoped it would look more romantic than insane.  I waited a few minutes for him, discreetly pulling a mirror and brush from my bag to repair the damage, and focused on appearing relaxed and collected, although I was hit by waves of excitement each time a man walked up the stairs.  I finally just turned my back and when electricity crept up my spine I turned, and he was there.  He wore faded jeans and a blue and white striped shirt, open at the neck.  He was breathtaking.  And then he smiled.


The effect was the same as when I first saw him: anguish, tremors, and heart-stopping joy.  I murmured hello and kissed his cheeks while my knees buckled.  This could not continue.  He is not even a man, I reminded myself.  He is a guy.  And I needed to pull myself together before I said or did something stupid enough to betray myself.


So we walked around the neighborhood.  I had nothing in particular in mind for dinner, and we would walk until something enticed us indoors.  In fact, food was unthinkable for me, but I knew we would have drinks and I would need to line my stomach in preparation, although it had floated into the region of my throat.  Johnny had been to the area before and had sushi, he said, and he’d like to take me there.  I wanted oysters and white wine and buttered bread, but it was more than I could afford.


We talked as we strolled.  He had ambitions.  He had been in Urbanopolis for four years, far from home, and had ideas how his family business in Colombia could be expanded.  They exported lush, tropical flowers, and we stopped at a flower stand as he pointed out different buds and told me where they grew.  He could work in Urbanopolis for another two years after he finished his Master’s, and was sketching plans in his mind.  He asked me what I wanted from my own life, and I told him that I wanted to write, but that I was a realist.  “All I really want is to be happy and to be comfortable,” I said.  And while I would be happy to write, I would never be comfortable, because I needed the security of a steady income.  There are people who are driven to do what they love, he said.  And they do it without concern for their comfort, because it is what they are meant to do.  I felt a wash of sadness at that moment, but allowed it to fade.  The sky was still bright and I was with Johnny.  I ached to take his hand but it was early, and the evening stretched before us.


We walked to the sushi restaurant, and I laughed when I saw it.  An international chain, it was not what my romantic mind had expected.  He briefly looked injured, and I waved off my laugh and said it was good, I’d been before at home.  We walked down a dizzying marble staircase and were sat at a table with a merry group of Catalonians, in front of an open grill, sizzling with prime cuts of steak.


As the meat popped and fizzled before us, expertly attended to by a crisply-attired chef, we read the menu.  Johnny wanted to order a bottle of wine, but I demurred.  A glass of rosé for me and a glass of red for him; I preferred to save the real drinking for after dinner.  “The lobster looks delicious,” I whispered to him, selecting the most expensive item.  He swallowed.  “It does”.


“But,” I said, “I think one or two rolls would do well for me.  I couldn’t commit to anything like the lobster.”  Amused by his evident relief, we chose three rolls to share and placed our order with a dour waitress.  We were clearly not going to be her best tip of the evening.  We ate clumsily with our chopsticks, eavesdropping on the Catalonians, and talked about wine.  He had been on a few courses, and I told him about the greatest liquor store in the world, based in my hometown.  I recited everything I knew about Colombia, and confessed that I had done an internet search at work. 


The most famous Colombians were Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Shakira, and some racecar driver, I informed him.  “Juan Pablo Montoya,” he said.  Right, I said, that guy.  Also, Colombia is the number one exporter of plantains to the United States, and I liked plantains.  Additionally, Colombia has an impressively high literacy rate, is very ethnically diverse, and is one of the principal world exporters of pop-up books.


“When I say I am from Colombia, normally the only export that people know is cocaine,” he said.  I am different, I thought.  I know of your pop-up books and plantains.  And I will try very hard not to make any cocaine jokes.  Try, try, try,


When the bill came, I tried to pay.  I had asked him, after all.  We agreed to split it, a perfect 50/50.  The dour waitress was unimpressed with our tussling.  I walked carefully up the marble stairs, unsteady on my feet, but I didn’t think it was the wine.  Outside, the air was cool and the leaves were casting shadows as the light dimmed.  I knew where I was taking him next, a bar with an oddball but quiet clientele and comfortable benches on the streetside. 


He tried to cross the road at one point, and I reached out and pulled him back to safety as a car passed, his stomach firm and warm under my palm.  I thought he might take my hand but he didn’t, and we continued.  He asked me about embarrassing moments, and I shared one from the office that still made me flush.  He told me about being in Catholic boys’ school at home, and reading the liturgy in front of the entire school at age fourteen, and rambling because he didn’t know the words.  It gave him a lifelong fear of public speaking that he had only recently overcome.


This is good, I realized.  He is only human, and not some divine creature sent to torment me.  But in some ways, it was worse.  There was an affection growing in me, that wanted to comfort the fourteen year-old boy who was so humiliated he was ill, that wanted to throw my arms out and protect him from wayward vehicles, that wanted to whisper words of encouragement in his ear.  I lit a cigarette in defense.


We came to the bar and the strange French girl who worked there brought us water and wine.  She had broken glasses and none of the chicness normally attributed to French women, but an air of superiority that I found endearing rather than off-putting.  We sat on a wide bench outside and soaked up the finally dying light.  I was uncomfortably conscious of my mad hair, and sat him on my good side.  We talked for another hour and watched the people pass by.  At one point, we stood up almost nose-to-nose to compare heights.  He said he was 5’9” but was still a half inch taller than me in my heels.  I said he was 5’10”.  I thought he would kiss me then, but it passed and I gave him a gentle push and we sat down again.   


We talked about our names.  He asked my middle name, and when I told him, he said that my names did not match.  I was mildly insulted.  “What’s your last name, then?”  It seemed strange to me that I did not know already.  “Angel,” he said.  “Johnny Angel.”


I would not believe it until he showed me his driver’s license on my demand, and it was true.  It was too much, but it was true.  Another piece of my insides crumbled.  Surely fate was not this obvious.  I was embarrassed and relieved at his puzzlement.  It was just his name.  


After two glasses of wine apiece, we were apologetically ushered from the bar by the gentle, large-bellied owner.  It was 11:00 pm and I was soaring.  I could not believe that I had work the next day and would have done anything to extend the evening, which could stretch to infinity, if I wanted.  I felt peaceful about the hour, rather than anxious, my normal setting.  I lived just around the corner if he wanted another drink, I said.  I had some wine I thought he might like.


He agreed.


Coming next:  Part III, In Which It All Goes Wrong!  Yes, really.