Her allergies make her eyes water; the paint in my room is two months old. She is 35. She curls up her toes so I can't get a look at her feet. I am 33.
“I have slept with 19 men,” she says in her car outside Miss Coffee. “My first blow job – I blew into his penis.”
“I slept with 21 women,” I say.
“What do you want me to to say to that?” Katie asks.
My name pops up about 300 times when I google it. The Valley Inquirer called me “a force in deconstructionist portraiture.” The dog owners who drop off their overgrown Max, Ferocious, or Theodorable at Canine Castle have not read the Valley Inquirer.
Katie keeps a pet duck in her Echo Park garden house. We sit on the edge of her tub and she sings, 'You are so beautiful to me,' the Joe Cocker song. “Now you,” she says afterwards. I balk. “No, really,” she says.
“Okay.” I rack my brains and then mumble, “I put my hand upon your hip, as I dip, you dip, we dip.”
She picked me up at a gallery on Chung King Road.
“Are you the artist?” she said.
“You have no feeling for color. You can't draw either.” She paid for dinner afterwards.
Tonight she asks, “Have you heard what I said?” We're lying on my bed and her eyes are red as though she's crying. “Friends have told me so,” she continues. “Not with wings, of course, but with that same kind of light.”
Two teenagers are making out on the sofa. They kiss, speak to each other in Spanish. Fabiola, my 3rd grade student, sits at the table with me, hunched over a word search for 'winter.' She's never seen snow, a blizzard, or sleet. I tell her about snow storms in Buffalo, and the 'Zero Visibility' ice-cream. She says her friend who moved to L.A. from Colorado has seen hail the size of Chicken McNuggets, Fabiola's favorite food.
In Spanish, the boy asks, “Does he speak Spanish?”
“No,” I say, “but I'm not stupid.”
I don't know if he is Fabiola's brother. I've seen Fabiola's mother in the driveway, but she never leaves the back of the apartment. I haven't shaken her hand. Fabiola's stepfather keeps toy cars on the shelves in the living room, models of souped-up Hondas and Toyotas.
The boy grins now. This might be the living room or the dining room. I'm 42, a once promising college teacher. I’ve had three accidents in three months. I've tied the passenger door shut with rope. I drink cheap red wine, eight dollars a 1.5 liter bottle at California Market, no vintage. My wife's and my teeth are turning blue.
Fabiola asks if she can go to the restroom. She takes her time. The boy is squat and wears a white hat backward. He puts his hand in one pocket and extracts a condom in a red wrapper. The girl won't touch it.
Fabiola comes back and resumes her work on gloves, mittens and snow. It's January. Outside it's 80 degrees, and soon the boy and girl leave, and Fabiola is moving on to word clusters with animal names. In front of our table is a small altar for La Flaca, Santa Muerte. The Skinny One smiles, her bones clad in a red robe. A candle burns behind her, a matchbox sized Ford Mustang stands at her feet.