You are laughing with her, enjoying the big drinks, exchanging compliments. She tells you that your suit is nice, and you say how much you like her hair. But you keep getting the feeling that she's being a wiseass, that she's getting a big kick out of you.
You ask her if she wants another drink.
"Sure," she says, but she insists on buying. "You bought the first three," she says. "It's my turn."
You'd bought the first four, in fact, but you don't see any sense in correcting her.
"I'll get this one," you say, and you tell her that it isn't coming out of your pocket. "I have an expense account."
Her eyes light up. "Oh," she says, all giggles. "Do you pad it?"
You give her your biggest smile, the one you use on new clients. "Of course," you say. "But it's tricky." You tell her then about the unspoken ceiling on expenses. You explain to her how you have to guess what that ceiling is, stay just below it and claim just above it. "The company is happy, and I stay home three nights a week counting my money."
Again she giggles. "So, you're out and about four nights a week?"
"Something like that."
Her eyes go for yours, and she says, "What a life you must have."
This is her fourth or fifth wiseass remark. You are starting to feel a little uncomfortable with her. You decide to ask her in a serious voice if she's putting you on.
She places her hand on yours and says, "I thought we were both putting each other on."
You have to laugh at that as you feel her hand squeeze yours. She leans forward and kisses you on the cheek and whispers, "Why don't we make this one the last one."
You drink up your drink fast -- so does she -- and make for the other end of the lounge. The elevator is open and empty. You get in holding hands. You press the button for your floor and the doors close. You put your arms around each other and kiss.
But not for long. The doors open at the next floor -- garage level -- and into the elevator steps an honest-to-God cowboy, with grimy dungarees, leather chaps, boots with spurs and a dusty black Stetson. He is carrying a saddle over his shoulder. He has a lump of chewing tobacco under his bottom lip.
He tips his hat to you both and presses the button for the twelfth floor. The elevator starts up again and you come out of the bowels of the hotel to get a big view of the Houston skyline, such as it is.
"Houston," you say, taking her by the waist and turning her to face the glass back of the elevator. "What a city. Today I saw an A-frame bait and tackle shop nextdoor to a seventy storey steel and glass skyscraper."
With that, the cowboy turns to you and says, "Excuse me, folks. I couldn't help but overhear." His voice is craggy but clear. He sounds like a smart man to you. "I can tell you that once upon a time there were no zoning laws in the city of Houston. You could put up any kind of building you wanted, anywhere you wanted."
You say, "That makes for a pretty uneven skyline."
The cowboy laughs and turns back around to face the elevator doors, whistling something. When the elevator stops at his floor, he turns to tip his hat. In the hallway he starts to whistle again.
Up in your room, she turns the TV on while you fix drinks. She doesn't make a fuss when your tell her that she'll have to switch gears to bourbon. "That's all I got up here," you say. "Nothing sweet."
"That's OK," she says. "Just add water and lots of ice."
She is sitting at the foot of the bed. She takes her shoes off, starts flipping through the channels on the dusty TV.
"Not much selection."
You tell her she can order something on pay per view, which she takes to mean porno.
"No," you say. "I wasn't suggesting…"
"Of course you weren't."
"Really. I don't watch the stuff."
You tell her you saw enough of it when you were in college. "Never really liked it."
"I want to say that I don't believe you for even a second."
"It's just all the same. Like Westerns."
She doesn't understand what you're trying to say.
"Every Western that Hollywood ever made is exactly the same. Every porno movie ever made is exactly the same."
Your voice, which had been quiet in the bar and which you had been trying to preserve for your presentation in the a.m., is rising.
"Can I order you a porno?"
She has the menu up on the screen. She scans through the titles, which she reads with fake giggles of pretend disgust.
"Have you ever heard of Wax Williams?"
Of course you have.
"I want to find one of his."
"You know a lot about porno movies?"
She considers the question. "I live alone," she says. "I spend a lot of time online."
You interrupt her to tell her that you, too, live alone, and to tell her that you spend a lot of time online. You want her to know that you have that in common, if nothing else.
"You live alone. You're online all the time. And you don't look at porno?"
"I might look at sites that have naked women, on occasion, but I don't go to sex sites."
"You're like a Playboy man?"
"I'm not a subscriber…anymore."
She laughs her laugh from the bar. "I love it when you try to be funny."
And, only half-looking at the TV but with both hands on the remote, she orders up her Wax Williams' movie, The Well-Hung Jury. She reads the synopsis aloud, "Wax Williams is foreman of a jury of his near-peers in this highly stylized porn noir classic. Defiant and deviant double-D D.A. is played by six-footer Rhonda Schwonda. The lovely Juliet Hecht plays the sublimely supine pubic defender."
You groan and start humping the television. Bourbon gives you energy.
"I won't make you watch it," she says, stepping closer to you than she has been all night. And she says something about only needing to see the first five minutes of a Wax Williams movie to be satisfied.
She takes her drink from you and sips a little from it. You look over her shoulder at the TV. She keeps talking, but you're only half listening to her. You take the glass of the bourbon out of her hand with the idea that you will kiss her, and you realize that she's introduced a new topic: reincarnation.
"To tell the truth," you say to her, dropping right into her first short pause. "I really don't believe we come back again. But I don't think the people who think so are necessarily wrong."
She takes her glass back and steps away from you, walking around the bed to other side of the room. She's holding her glass of bourbon with both hands. She asks you if you believe in God.
You nod your head, adjust the volume on the porno -- nothing's happening yet on screen. Wax Williams still has his pants on.
"And do you believe there's a devil?" She says this like she is a lawyer and you are on the witness stand, like she is cross examining you.
"Sure," you say, just to keep the conversation flowing.
She drinks what's left of her bourbon and comes toward you, unbuttoning her blouse. She's laughing. She says, "You and me."
She takes the drink out of your hand and unties your tie. You kiss again, both of you putting a little more body into it. You start going around and around the room together, biting and pulling at each other, losing your balance on purpose. You're banging against the walls and knocking her into the furniture, until finally you land on the bed.
Her breasts are airconditioner-cold under your hands. You kiss her belly. Your tongue goes in her navel. "I'm going down on you," you say. You start rooting and roiling with your tongue working. She's sweet and blond and you are in heaven.
Five minutes pass. Ten minutes pass. She's really getting into it, bucking up and down and letting out with these little sounds. Your tongue feels like a boxer's arm that's thrown too many punches, but you're still working, pausing only to come up for air or to tell her a dirty joke.
"Please," she says, tugging at your ears. "You have to stop." Gentleman that you are, you comply. You come up beside her and put your head next to hers on the pillow. Her cheeks are bright red and there's sweat on her forehead and upper lip.
"When was the last time someone went down on you like that."
"Never," she says, trying to sound sad and worn out. "Everybody always wants to do me ass backward."
She laughs then, but you don't. You ask her, "Do you?"
She nods and closes her eyes. She laughs again, and this time you laugh with her.
"Roll over," you say.
She rolls over and you start at it. It is difficult at first. But then it is the easiest thing.
She says, "The thing is, you either like it or you don't."
You say, "Do you like it?"
She says, "Yes."
"Hell," you say, surprised by your pleasure. "I like it too."
You finish before Wax Williams on the television, so you watch. The two women lawyers are sexually servicing the sequestered nine-man jury, all with cocks of ten inches or more. Wax Williams in a court-room ménage a trios. The criminal on trial is never seen from the front, nor is the judge. The judge is represented only by a gavel that is a teak phallic object. No witnesses respond to cross examination.
A few hours later you are at the desk in your robe, doing some last minute work on your presentation. She is asleep under the messy blankets.
She wakes up and says, "What are you doing over there?"
"Work," you say.
"Work," she says. The wiseass edge to her voice is gone completely. She is talking like a little girl. "Why don't you come back to bed with me."
"I can't," you say. "I have this work to do."
She sits up Indian style in the center of the bed. It's a pretty sight, but you tell her to get back under the covers before she catches cold.
"But I want to catch cold," she says, still using her little girl voice.
You ask her why she'd want to do that.
"Because I don't want to be warm," she says. "Because I want to be cold."
You don't say anything.
"Come back to bed with me," she says.
"No," you say. "I have to do this work."
Then she starts crying and talking crazy. She tells you that if you don't come back to bed with her, everything between you will be wrong. She tells you that work is one thing and the rest of life is something else. She tells you it's good to catch cold if you don't want to be warm. "Just please come back to bed," she says. "I'm saying please."
You leave the desk and go to her. You put your arms around her.
"Don't cry," you say.
But her crying won't stop. She sobs harder, shaking in your arms. You start to fill up because crying is contagious for you.
"Don't cry," you say.
And just when you think you can't keep back the tears any longer, just as you're about to lose it and start bawling like a baby, she stops with her crying and starts laughing.
You wake up in the morning and have your showers and a nice breakfast from room service. You eat together in silence, but it isn't at all awkward or uncomfortable.
You get your things together and leave the room for the elevator. The doors open and she steps in first. You press the button for the ground floor and start going down.
At the twelfth floor, the elevator stops. The doors open and standing there is the cowboy from the night before. Only now he's wearing a three-piece suit and carrying a briefcase instead of his saddle. He's got on a three hundred dollar necktie and a pair of very expensive-looking boots. He's wearing the same black Stetson, but he's dusted it off.
He steps in and tips his hat. He says, "Good morning," then he turns to face the elevator doors.
You feel her take a small step closer and reach for your hand. You give her hand a squeeze. You think about turning to look out at the Houston skyline in the daylight, but you don't. You try to think of something to say to either her or the cowboy, but nothing comes to mind. And though you can't say for sure what is going on inside her head, you have a pleasing feeling that she is thinking the same things as you. But you don't say anything and neither does she.