Excerpts

Molly meets Michael

Molly surveyed the assembled crew for a kind compatriot who would lend her a butt. A
man, about fifty, was staring at her in her hospital gowns, one opened at the back and the other,
worn in lieu of a robe, opened at the front. His dark blonde hair was perfectly coiffed, with
silver at the sides that she swore he must have tinted. There were deep creases on the sides of his
face from squinting into the sun, she guessed, on his yacht. She stared back, but he was not
deterred. He’d already caressed her long thick hair with his eyes.
“Michael Dunn.” He held the cigarette in one hand and extended the other.
She thought it was an unusual thing to do. Like they were at a cocktail party in the
Valley or something.
“Molly.” She shook his hand.
“Yes, Molly, what?” He stubbed out his cigarette.
“Morris.” Something made her not want to say. Until now she had been anonymous
among the crowd of those who smoke, poorer, barely able to pay black market prices, but who
long ago gave up good nutrition for tobacco. She noticed the cut of his robe, hand-made and
tailored just for him. His nails were manicured.
“I just thought that if I told you my name, you’d tell me yours.” He smiled a soft smile
and she could tell Michael Dunn won most of life’s daily wars with a smile and with an absolute
minimum of expended energy.
“Morris. My name is Molly Morris,” she repeated.
She felt rewarded for having deferred to him, because he held out his warm hands and
held hers in both of his. It was only a second, but a second longer than casual.
“Almost sounds like the rap star.”
“My real name is Emma,” she stammered. Maybe, she reasoned, he came from more
money, more position, more everything tangible, and therefore he might be more in the world
that measured human worth, and she felt measured.
“And you’re from New York.” He brushed an imaginary speck from his robe, and she
wondered, did anyone really wear robes anymore? Maybe only rich, white Angelinos.
“And you’re from L.A., some hot-shot director.” She felt obliged to follow suit and cast
him as a type.
“Something like that. Did you hurt your hand?” He pointed to the heavy bandage.
“Something like that.” No more excursions, the day trip was over into who and what she
was.


Molly meets Javier

Friday night dates are only good when you already know the person, when it’s something
done among friends in Westwood or Santa Monica where you celebrated the advent of a
weekend. Instead it was an evening of tiresome conversation spent with a passionless but well-
meaning guy. And all it did for me, she thought, was set me up and leave me vulnerable to the
attentions of the first dark and handsome guy that came along.
And Javier was handsome, all that dark hair, the dark brown leather jacket and the very
white tee shirt, and the way he filled it out. She didn’t need to mention the way his jeans fit. She
admitted she liked living in the semi-barrio among the people there. It reminded her of home in
the Bronx, the mix of so many cultures up and down Fordham Road, the smells of tropical foods
on one floor of her mother’s apartment house, Middle Eastern on the next and all that eastern
European cuisine on her mother’s fourth floor.
Molly felt the need for a cigarette, something she and Javier had forsaken from her
pregnancy till this very minute. Yet the desire for a drag and a glass of wine or beer were strong.
She left the back porch for the kitchen where she poured herself a lemonade and thought again of
their first meeting.
That night she rode with Javier as Theresa suggested. They were both quiet, she looked
over at his profile from time to time. He would look toward her, the sun was setting and they
could see in the half-light. He didn’t smile. The cars ahead suddenly began to slow down, the
freeway accordion effect. It was happening too fast and Javier swerved to the left to avoid
hitting the car in front of him. There was the thick smell of burning rubber tires as a line of cars
all screeched to a dead stop. Javier instinctively put his arm out to prevent her from lurching
forward and bumped against her breast. A practical man, his face registered more concern for
her physical welfare than embarrassment. And she did something she would always remember;
she reached out and held his arm to her, saying, “I’m okay, Javier.” He took her hand for the
time they sat in the traffic near El Segundo just below LAX, and held it until the traffic began to
pick up and he had to shift gears.

* * *

Now, all these months later, over a year, Molly thought most about that. He loved her
that night, maybe before that night and for sure every night since. And what about her? Was her
ardor cooled? Did she still hunger for him? While she knew the answer to that question, she
couldn’t be as quick to call it love. She wandered around the quiet apartment, the place that
became home for her, for him, and for this wonderful little girl they shared. No, she decided, I
love him. And her mother? Somehow, for the moment, Esther didn’t matter.

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