What had he done? Ohhh the memory, what did he do! Her name was Deidre, Mrs. Deidre Carriba and she was the butcher’s wife. He could still feel her breath, as she stroked the back of his neck with her fingers. Her hands brushed aside his weak attempt at resistance, and her lips parted in a wry smile, scornful of his cowardice. “You know what you came for” she said and came closer. “Yes, “he said quietly with the perturbed look of a young man answering his own question with another question. “Well, come inside, the air is on.” She took his hand and Theo entered the tiny living room, mindful to leave his shoes by the door, just as his momma had taught him.
Even without shoes, in a married man’s house he felt his bravado return. Theo knew that her husband was at Flannigan’s and would probably spend the night in his car, too drunk to drive home. Mr. Carriba, the neighborhood butcher, was known for three things – his pastrami, his selection of house-made Italian sausages and his ability to drink. Yes he would be all right, Javier was quite friendly with Deidre, so what was he worried about.
When Theo thought about Deidre, he thought about the time he stole chocolate cookies from this bakery he used to work at after school. He remembered how he had stuffed them into his pockets, still fresh and gooey from the cooling rack. He remembered how warm and comforting they had felt against his thigh as he sneaked out back to eat them. His little secret, tucked away forever, in his tummy.
Hadn’t he been dreaming about this moment for weeks? It was almost a ritual, Monday through Saturday, Deidre would close the butcher shop and walk the block to Larry’s diner and her husband would head to the bar. It was a running joke for Javier and Carlos the dishwasher. “So Theo, when you going to get your cajones fixed?” Carlos would ask. “You know Mrs. Carriba has been looking at your butt every time she comes in here. Just say the word, I’ll slide you right in bro.” “Like peanut butter jelly time” Javier would chime in. Theo would laugh and shrug his shoulders, but secretly he fantasized about her long black hair and cappuccino complexion.
“Why don’t you lie down and let me take your clothes off sugar,” she purred at him. He didn’t answer, but lay down in a trance, eyes half closed, sweating, not from the heat, but from nervous anticipation. He tried hard to ignore the smell of sweat, sin and used bed sheets. This was an old apartment complex, though small and clean the walls were so thin you could smell the neighbors “arroz con pollo.” Why did he take the bet with Javier? He knew why. He wanted to be a man, just like them.
That’s why he didn’t look into her eyes when she leaned over and kissed his lips. For a brief moment he lay there mesmerized, unsure if he had remembered to kiss her back, afraid to resist as she pulled his trousers down and tossed them on the floor.
Is this what it’s supposed to be like? Theo knew he was supposed to sleep with Deidre. He had imagined their love making oblivious to the cars passing outside. Their cries would crescendo, howling like an angry wind through the trees, voicing its disapproval, rattling garbage pans, muting their screams, soundproofing their ecstasy. He had bared his soul to her. So why did he feel like an empty jar. Was he just another plaything, or were her moans the intimate whisper of a lover to another lover?
They lay there, spent, wrapped in surreal peace. Theo listened to her breathing softly by his side. He watched her chest swell and at its peak pulsate and quiver as if still remembering what they had shared. Theo stood up and as he did, he saw the candles illume her face. Soft lights brushed gently against her cheek, flickering across her lips, sliding down her forehead, halted by the faint quiver of her nostrils.
It’s funny how the hidden features of a lover are revealed when lust’s light is extinguished. Maybe he had been afraid to look more closely, shy because of his own inexperience. Now, he saw the calluses on her feet, the kind that only bitter experience and a hard life can bring. Sighing to himself, Theo got dressed quietly and left her snoring softly in the bed, he did not look back. Dawn was turning to day and the morning sun exposed his face, a boy no longer, a changeling, his innocence fading as he walked slowly down the street for home.