The slice of skin that emerges when the girl's shirt rides up from her pants is the shape of a marquis diamond. The plane is the color of a fawn, the same color as the leather bucket cupping Kylen's ass, and he feels like if he grabbed the wheel a little harder, pulled himself up out of the cockpit and leaned over the windshield he could lick it. But she will outrun him. She always does. She pedals down Montgomery and reaches Market while he sits one, then two, then hopeless, hopeless blocks behind, following, glimpsing, dreaming that slice of smooth.
Kylen does not see her every day, but he has seen her enough, watched her enough to know that this is not a girl with Champagne tastes or a Botox habit or a living room out of a catalog. She is not someone who discusses window treatments. She has not chosen a china pattern, determined "her" colors, or fretted over a gown. Kylen is sure.
What Kylen is not sure of is sitting next to him, seemingly staring at her nails but actually peeking sideways behind her sunglasses, seeing him as if for the first time, watching him watch the cyclist. She is wearing a two-carat solitaire on her left ring finger, which she is drumming, along with its brothers, on a bare thigh. The light changes and Kylen jams the gear shifter into first position and hits the gas.
Raquel mutters, more loudly than she intended, "Who are you kidding?"
Kylen may or may not hear and Raquel may or may not have meant him to. His head turns as if to speak to her but it stops at one o'clock, rests on a point just beyond the right front fender, where the cyclist is creeping along at his pace.
The light turns yellow and they are about to be stuck in the intersection.
"Go around—to the other lane. We're going to block traffic."
Raquel throws her hands up to her ears to deflect the horns she is sure will ring out against them. She only cares what other people think, and regardless of whether or not it is also true of himself, this riles Kylen. The cyclist does not care what other people think. She does not care if there are twenty cars ahead of her or eighty cars behind, parked or cruising, she just pedals on. She does not care if Kylen watches her shirt ride up; she does not care if Kylen neglects to notice her. The cyclist does not care what Kylen is thinking or how he feels. She does not want to know. And this excites him.
Kylen swerves left and then the line he just escaped surges on and he swoops back into it and he can't believe what he sees: There she is, as if waiting for him, one foot on the curb. She pulls a cellphone to her ear. Kylen slows as he approaches and another sports car, built in another part of Southern Germany, cuts in front of him.
"Sweetie, pay attention…"
Raquel's irritated tone spurs Kylen's indignation and he toots the horn and immediately looks to the right to see if she will turn toward him but her arms are crossed and she is staring at her handlebars.
And then, a miracle: Traffic stops.
Blocks away horns claxon in response to a surge of bikes ejaculating down Market Street. Kylen taps the steering wheel with the butt of his right hand while his left hides a grin. He can't believe his luck.
Raquel shifts in her seat.
"I told you if we didn't leave by 5:30 we would hit Critical Mass. Now we're going to be parked here for an hour." Her finger does a glissando across the shiny screen cupped in her hand and her phone wakes up.
Kylen squirms to make himself taller in his seat. The cyclist is inches away from his right front headlight and she still has not noticed him.
"Hi, Gerome, it's Raquel. My fiancé and I are stuck in traffic downtown…. Hopefully no more than 15 or 20 minutes….I know, I know. I really, really, really appreciate this…. OK. I understand. Thank you, Gerome."
Raquel taps the screen with a motion a fairy tale queen might use to make someone disappear.
"He can only wait until 6:30."
Kylen senses the need for a reply and offers a vaguely commiserate "OK…" What he really feels is a helpless panic that his fantasy is veering away from him. His cyclist is now peering into traffic, her phone still to her ear; she is scanning every vehicle but cannot see the gunmetal convertible that is right on her ass.
Kylen presses the heel of his hand into his crotch. He doesn't know how he's going to make it without a look from her. Please, just that. As long as he has that, he can accept this.
The cyclist is off the phone now and in one swift motion Kylen could not have anticipated—did not even think to imagine—lifts off her shirt. Underneath it she is wearing a tank top, the hem of which rides up so high that the diamond of skin doubles in size and becomes the shape of a flag rippling in a breeze.
Raquel watches Kylen watch her go. A long breath later the cars move. Raquel checks her watch as Kylen stares into the brake lights. She lifts a string-bean arm up to Kylen's shoulder, plays with the hair on his neck.
The car inches, inches, inches along and Kylen feels her rolling further and further away. Then there is a break and they make half a block in one tap of the gas. His heart turns over.
"What? It's opening up. We'll make it. Don't worry."
"Let's just forget the invitations. Gerome can meet us tomorrow, after we go to taste cakes."
The hurdles in this procession continually appear; Kylen thinks he sees the finish and three more jumps pop up for him to clear. Kylen cranes his neck, pulls on the wheel, prays for a glimpse, a flash. Raquel drops her hand into his lap. Traffic moves.
"Look. I don't mean to stress you out over all this. We can take a day off."
The light is red before Kylen even saw the yellow. He slams only one foot to the floor and the car stalls out. He is nose-to-ass with a minivan and occupying the intersection. Cross-traffic is paralyzed. Horns accuse him.
Kylen spits the words into his fist.