“If you had asked, I would have said, ‘Yes’,” was all the final message from her said.
It had never crossed his mind that she would have ever considered joining him on his business trip to Puerto Rico.
Now, as he was draining another Medalla watching the sunset in a divey little shack at the end of Puente Frances pier in Mayaguez, he tried to think if there had been any clue that such an offer would have been accepted. He had mentioned that the trip was coming up the last time they had seen each other, but given how that had ended, it didn’t make think that she would have been the +1 on his Presidents Circle awards trip.
It wasn’t bad, exactly, just not promising. After decades of missed connections and bad timing, they had found themselves both single for the first time since they had met right after college, and although sparks had flown, it was mutually agreed that they shouldn’t continue.
Well, maybe not so mutually. He had gone along with her suggestion that they not follow through on the sexual tension between them, if only in hope of having another chance. Thinking about it, he laughed at his stereotypical male “optimism.”
“Una mas, por favor,” he told the waitress as he raised the empty can.
He looked at his phone again. Damned intermittent wireless coverage. He could no longer retrieve his messages, as he was out of signal range.
He picked at the crab mofongo in front of him, the deliciousness of the buttery crab losing out to his thoughts in occupying the front of his mind. The beer arrived at this table, and he looked up long enough to smile at the waitress, who was actually beautiful. She had a look that appeared to be a mix of Latin and Asian, with tan olive skin, dark hair and those wonderful almond-shaped brown eyes.
He knew better. Even when he wasn’t old enough to be the waitresses’ father, he knew better than to try a line on women in the service industry. What hadn’t they heard? What hadn’t they been offered? No, he had always distinguished himself, and occasionally gotten lucky by being the one who made fun of some guy who tried what in their head must have sounded like a convincing argument or offer.
There was the waitress in Boston, who took him home after he browbeat a drunken frat boy who could not hold his liquor or his tongue. The bartender in the hotel in Seattle, who fed him drinks all night and then fed him her body. And others.
The “no game” game was his trademark. But it only worked for him because it was honest. He was terrible at small talk, or opening lines, but could engage people in deep conversation once the ice had been broken. Handsome enough, he was blessed with expressive eyes that verified the words he spoke. He could look at a woman, and both his lips and his eyes would make her feel special, gorgeous, sexy, desired. He could do that because in that moment, that is exactly what he had thought of each of them.
It was what had happened the last time he had seen Claire.
A passing helicopter interrupted his thoughts, and brought him back to decidedly not staring that the waitress. It just made him depressed. Enough that he asked for the check, paid, and left.
Giving his taxi driver the name of the resort where he was staying at, he settled back in his seat, the beer and the anxiety getting the better of him.
Upon arriving at the hotel in Rincon, he walked out to the beach, lit a cigarette and strayed back into wondering if there was any sign, any sign at all. He considered himself perceptive, so it was bothering him that he might have missed a sign. In reality, he was clueless. For all the delusional readings of interest in the most minute movement, look or word from a woman, he was terrible at reading subtle hints that a woman liked him or wanted him. It had been the case since high school, when after spending the entire summer after senior year with one of his classmates, she had to bluntly tell him how she had felt, after a summer’s worth of hints had gone undetected. The night they had spend together was only intensified by the fact that in the morning they were leaving for colleges on opposite sides of the country.
Finally able to get the internet again, he looked at their old texts to see if he had missed something. Scrolling through, he saw it! When he was setting up their dinner together, he had mentioned that the following two weeks would be bad as he would be out of town for work. When he mentioned Puerto Rico, she had replied, “I have some vacation time to burn.”
He looked at the time stamp, trying desperately to think what he was doing when he saw that distracted him from its meaning. He reply, that had been sent hours later, had been, “I’ll let you know if it’s a nice place,” and told her the name of the resort where he was staying.
This evening, all he had managed to send her by way of a response, before his signal died, was “Had I known you would have said, ‘Yes,’ I would have asked!” His sarcastic side had wanted to reply, something about how traveling for work had made him accustomed to not having sex in hotel rooms, but that he was usually alone. Maybe losing signal saved him from sharing that side of himself, which she never found engaging.
He would have. Their kiss two weeks ago had driven him mad with desire. He still wasn’t sure what had made her stop when they had managed to get back to his apartment and had left a trail of clothing and bags from the front door all the way upstairs to his bedroom.
In the middle of him planting a kiss over her panties, she whispered his name, and told him “Stop” with her eyes. Those gorgeous hazel eyes. Greener in the sunlight, or when crying had made them bloodshot. As much as he had lost himself in them over the years, that night they were the instrument she used to cut their connection. He knew her well enough to know that she wasn’t being coy. Already in their thirties, they were too old for the pseudo-virgin games of post-collegiate girls.
Given that she was already wet, her brain had fought her body’s desire to consummate. He had not even asked why. It took all of his strength to respect her wishes, and didn’t have any left to analyze or rebut. She had left, in the middle of the night, and they had not spoken since. Not until he had posted the view from the restaurant on his blog page.
It was now late enough to walk through the lobby with little worry of running into his colleagues, all three hundred of them. He liked them enough, but for him, Puerto Rico was a place he went to unwind, and a a week-long conference, with sixteen-hour days of being on, was not relaxing. So he had taken the opportunity of the free evening before the official start to go somewhere local, quiet, away from salespeople drinking overpriced drinks at the hotel, growing increasingly louder as the alcohol convinced them of their superior intelligence and sense of humor.
He went upstairs to his room, carefully selected the outfit that most said, “I don’t care too much about how I look,” ironed the pants, hung up the linen jacket and turned in for the night.
The first day of the conference passed rather quietly, with no word from Claire.
The morning of the second day, an accented voice saying “Room service!” followed three loud knocks on his door. What fucking room service? He never ate breakfast, and he knew he damned well had not ordered any. Pulling on a pair of shorts, since he slept naked, he opened the door in a huff. He was greeted by a kindly woman, who had a bowl of strawberries, and two glasses with some clear drink in them.
“Buen dia, senora,” he managed in his best Puerto Rican Spanish.
“Good morning, sir,” she replied. “May I come in?”
He ushered her into the room, and told her that he had not ordered any room service.
“I know, sir. Your wife did.”
“My wife?! I think you might have the wrong room…” he was saying when someone else knocked on the door.
“What the fuck?” he thought as he walked to the door, which although not locked as the security latch was keeping it open, was closed enough so that he could not see who it was.
“Good morning, sweetie,” she said as she kissed him. “Muchas gracias, senora,” she said to the delivery woman, whom she tipped and escorted out the door.
Turning back towards him, she looked him up and down, and practically purred, “Did you know that there is a three AM flight out of JFK to here every day?”
“What are you doing here?” he asked before he could stop himself.
“I got your text. I couldn’t schedule vacation, so I am going to be sick for the next three days. As a matter of fact, so are you, because we are not leaving this room.”
He brain was trying to grasp what was happening, how he could blow off all of the meetings, and how amazing she looked in that blue wraparound shirt.
His intense staring at her cleavage was not lost on her. She turned to her side to untie the bow that kept the shirt closed, and pulled the tie open, as she stepped towards him. A sheer, lavender bra was all that remained covering her top, and in seconds, as their mouths clamped against each other, and their hands began to roam, the matching panties were exposed, as the jeans that were previously covering them ended up a heap around her ankles.
If they had any tenderness inside of them it was lost in their passion. She did not hesitate at all in putting her hand down the front of his shorts for a second before sending them downwards to meet her pants.
They fell on the bed awkwardly as he lost his balance tripping over their bottoms while trying to carry her backwards the bed.
He tried to say something, and she filled his mouth with her tongue.
“No questions,” she admonished as she leaned back up, if admonishing included straddling him and guiding him inside of her.
That was the deal she made him. As long as he didn’t ask any version of “Why,” she would stay, in the room with him. He was happy to go along with it.
Emerging on the third evening for some air, they walked down to the beach, and planted themselves on one of the cabana beds the resort had along the water. They talked about anything but what this meant. And he knew that sooner or later, an explanation would be needed. He was content for the time being to not talk about what they were doing, except in dirty, instructional tones. They went in the water, and felt their freedom and each other under the surface of the water.
As the sun finally set, sending the surfers north of them back to land to wait for another day and another set of waves, they decided that the fading light was not cover enough for what they wanted to do next, even though he was almost inside of her already. By this point, they were almost tired of the pleasure, but built-up as it had been for them, she didn’t need much of a signal to get off from atop him, and offer her hand to help him out of the water.
Back in the room, he was brushing his teeth when he heard her yelp, as if in pain.
“You, OK?” he asked?
“Yeah, something stabbed me in the foot,” she responded, puzzled. She picked up the rectangular piece of plastic and turned it over. It was a name tag, with a pin. She read it out loud.
“Isabel. Mayaguez Bar & Grill. Puente Frances.”
He went back to the bathroom, and turned on the shower. Claire was gone by the time he got out.