Damien hadn't realized how pissed he was until he turned the page of the magazine so fiercely that he tore it out. He had just told Leslie for the fourth time to get a move on and she had just pled, for the fourth time, for "two more secs."
First, her mother called and she wouldn't let Damien leave without her. Then she absolutely had to have a shower—even though they were going on a bike ride. Next, it was the dishes (which Damien understood as a signal that he should have done them while Leslie had been doing all the other stuff); and now another phone call, this time one of her girls (irritated italics his), facing some kind of crisis, likely involving some un-evolved lug (melodramatic italics hers).
"So unlike you, Sweetie," Leslie would say, stroking his hair and kissing his neck, though he couldn't always see how they were all that much different, other than those guys happened to hook up with the girls with problems, when he had had the—luck?—of getting snagged by their know-it-all advice dispenser.
The day was passing. As he sat there the blue sky was fading to gray. He began to count to 10, but there were only five mascaras in the chart in his hand, so he stopped there.
"Les! Come on. It's getting to the point where there's no point, here." Then he said at a lower decibel, but one she could still hear, "I could have fucking been there and back by now." He had tried not to go there, to the fuck point, as she called it, but goddammit, she drove him, she really did.
Leslie had a number of favorite sayings she fed her girlfriends and one of the latest was, "You tell me 'fuck you,' and guess what? There's no way you're going to." She'd never used it on him, because he didn't yell at her or swear at her like "those Neanderthals" some of her friends dated. Damien couldn’t understand why any woman would waste spit on a guy who told her to fuck off, and he himself didn't even care enough to expend any energy discussing it with Leslie or anyone else. He also didn't understand why, after dating two or three of these guys, the girls didn't get the picture or why Leslie didn't put it to them in those terms: Wake the fuck up. Move on.
Leafing through the magazine, he saw where she got a lot of the bunk she told her girls. He also saw where she picked up her sex techniques. He skimmed the gold, bold-face headlines of a how-to article, noting that Leslie had used two of the five on him already. One, which involved a sex toy and his asshole, he was glad she hadn't and honestly couldn't imagine her doing anyway. Something about it disappointed him, maybe seeing his pleasure reduced to predictable, textbook terms and being conflated, if only by association, with those other guys.
Leslie was still saying goodbye to her caller when she came out into the living room. She winked at him while she listened, nodding, and then finally signed off. She flipped the clamshell phone shut, tossed it onto the sofa, and sauntered over to him.
"Honey, I'm sorry for putting Sheila first. You've been so patient. That was not fair to you. You have every right to be mad at me." Then she dropped into his lap.
This is the part that he absolutely hates: Her arms draped around his shoulders, her forehead pressed to his so that he could smell her clean skin, the fleshy part of her ass pressing into his crotch; he wanted to heave himself out of the chair, carry her to the couch, and make her sweaty and rumpled and slack. She knew this. And she knew he knew she knew this, because she met each slight gesture of irritation, of resistance—the tight line of his lips, the grip of his hands on the chair arms, the tensing of his thighs—with a sigh, a slight left-right nuzzle of her nose on his, and a nearly imperceptible undulation that teased an involuntary nod from his dick. No matter what he'd say or do, she'd already won. She stood up abruptly and said, "Let's go."
Damien sat for a second, bewildered, aware of every part of him she had touched because her sudden departure left the places cold. And that was that. Nothing more to say. He tossed the magazine aside, stood up, followed.
The bikes were already downstairs, because he'd carried them down while Leslie was on the phone the first time and locked them to a street sign. The plan had been to ride over to his place in the Mission, have breakfast, and spend the day over there where the weather would be better than it was in the Western Addition. But as he'd sat there fuming he had watched the storm clouds form over the ocean and start floating east, and by the time they left the apartment the big, wide blue was well on its way to shrinking to just a stripe over the bay.
As soon as he had the bikes unhitched Leslie jumped on hers and squealed, "Come on! We can beat it!" Damien sighed. He looked into the dingy cotton hanging above him, watched the wind whip at a linden tree, and he realized why Leslie couldn't talk real sense into her friends: She had none herself. Whatever it was that drew him to her, it was sheer luck that she wasn't with one of those assholes her friends were crying about. He may as well be a dick; she was prepared to make the most of whatever life dealt her. All she needed was the right catchy phrases and a grab bag full of checklists and helpful hints.
He pushed off, looked over his shoulder and rolled out into the street. He started slowly, let her gain ground on him. Once he began pumping his legs, he forgot about the morning, the waiting, the magazine, the rain. He dropped it all, stopped being pissed, stopped thinking too much about where he was going or what time it was, just coasted the slope of McAllister toward downtown, picking up speed along the last block.
She crossed Divisadero just ahead of the light, and he sailed after, reaching the other side as the yellow went red. He watched her ass tilt left and right with each thrust of her legs. He knew what she would smell like when they reached his place: salty and flowery and her hands would smell metallic. They wouldn't have time to make Boogaloos for brunch now. They'd end up having a shower or a bath and eating whatever they could find in his cupboards and fridge. This irritated him, because he'd really wanted to eat a good meal. She took a right at Pierce and then a left on Fulton, riding the hill down toward City Hall but veering right onto Webster, which is where Damien caught up and passed her. She wasn't used to riding hills, and he took advantage, propelled by something darker and heavier than the sky.
Damien was compelled to put as much distance as he could between them, give physical dimension to their difference. She started laughing—she didn't get it. She yelled at him to go, cheered him on, as if he were racing someone else. He didn't turn around, but he knew she'd pulled to the side, was catching her breath, collecting her thoughts.
Damien heard the rain before he felt it and it blurred his vision before it chilled his skin. It angered him to have been right, to have been caught in it, when they could have missed it all an hour ago—he could have, anyway, if he'd just left when he'd wanted to, hadn't waited around. The rain dripped through his helmet and streamed down his face, blinded him. He pedaled faster, harder, beating the hell out of that hill and when he reached the top, he kept pedaling down the other side. He couldn’t see the bumps and cracks in the road, but he knew that the Mission was still bright, and when he crossed Market Street and hooked a right onto Valencia, he pushed it even harder. He kept his head down, stopped for no lights, no pedestrians, ignored the cars, he kept pedaling as hard as he could, kept pedaling when he should have turned off the road, he pedaled past his own street, kept pedaling with a cramp in his leg, with his lungs on fire, he kept pedaling with absolutely no desire to stop.