I licked my lips before I inched The Big One into my mouth. When I wrapped my lips around it and bit down, a healthy stream of hot filling oozed out. It dripped down my chin and landed in my lap, burning me through my jeans. Goddammit, I thought, can’t anything go right today? The gas station burrito continued to unravel, no longer able to contain its beefy bean and cheese mixture, but I no longer cared. I kept chewing and swiped my face with a napkin, intent to enjoy what I could despite the crappy start to my day.
My phone had died overnight, so the alarm I’d set never had a chance to go off. Because of this, I’d overslept and missed an important client meeting as well as my usual yoga class, so not only was I not going to be hired for the freelance job, I was also stressed out because of it. The pink slip I’d watched sliding underneath my door had reminded me my rent was late, and without the prepayment for the freelance job, I was in danger of losing my apartment. I finished chewing and swallowed, pushing the now-compromised tortilla back into my mouth, devouring it like I hadn’t eaten in days. Which was only half-true: it had been a half-day since I’d last ingested anything of substance, since I didn’t count the two saltines I’d eaten for dinner the night before. I couldn’t even afford to be picky at this point.
I licked my fingers and set about wiping the still-steaming beef fallout that had seared its way through my lap. Once I’d collected the majority of the mess, I balled up the napkin and tossed it into the backseat. The light changed to green and I fiddled with the burrito wrapper. I took my time getting up to speed, knowing full well the next light would be red by the time I arrived. In my home town, this sequence of lights was one I went through several times a day. Six lights, each within two blocks of the next, all guaranteed to make you stop at every single one unless you hit the first one just right. I never have. Today was no exception.
I glanced over at the pickup truck to the right of me, chugging along at the same exact speed, slowing down at the exact same pace. The driver caught my eye. He smiled. Maybe this day is looking up after all. As we pulled up to the light and his window rolled down, he beckoned to me with his chin. I depressed the passenger-side control, placing silent bets on whether he would tell me I had an underinflated tire or whether he needed directions. It was neither.
“That must be one tasty burrito…” Despite his deep, sexy voice, his semi-crooked, semi-brilliant smile ticked me off, as did his raised eyebrow. More bothersome was the fact they were both attached to a roguishly handsome face. I heard Chandler Bing in my head asking if I could BE any more mortified.
I struggled to keep my cool, looked right at him, and smiled. Squinted my eyes as I popped the last of the burrito in my mouth. I made sure to chew a bit too exaggeratedly, moan a bit too loudly and lick my lips a bit too suggestively, all for his benefit. But the bit-too backfired. In my effort to over-dramatize my piggishness, I started choking. The dry heel of the tortilla stuck in my throat, because I’d literally bitten off more than I could chew. It took all my concentration not to gag. I didn’t need to look out my window to know he was laughing at me. Had my eyes not been tearing, I would have laughed myself. I crumpled up the wrapper and tossed it backwards to join the napkin in the back.
A honk behind me alerted me to the now-green light. I floored it and got up to speed quickly, swearing under my breath when I saw the looming red waiting for me at the third intersection. Wisely tapping the brakes, I tried in vain to change lanes. But Hottie Snarcastic was still next to me. Window still down. Me still mortified. I swiveled my head with measured precision, Exorcist-style, and leveled a stare into his deep blue eyes as both our cars jerked to a halt. He didn’t even flinch.
“Seriously, though, it looks positively delicious.” He winked at me. He fucking winked. Who winks at a random stranger choking on a burrito? Pervert. With yet another smirk forming on his face, he gazed down to his left hand as it lifted from his lap. I shuddered at what he’d bring into view. The light changed, and I pressed heavy on the accelerator to avoid finding out.
My fears were unfounded. At the fourth light, he twisted his wrist and presented me with an orange, half-eaten, ensconced in a napkin. Part of the peel dangled off, and he flicked it out the window. He saw my eyes widen and he winked. Again.
I’d had enough. I harbored a distinct dislike for sarcastic litterbugs who winked at strangers. “Have fun with your fruit, LitterBoy.” A puff of smoke drifted out the window as I turned my head forward and waited for the light to change. Great, he smokes too. So much for the day getting better. I’m being stalked by a creep.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him pivot away from me and cuss out his passenger, but since my window was on its final ascent, I wasn’t privy to his words. By the time he looked back to me, the light had changed. I depressed the gas pedal, weary of being mocked again for my fast food indiscretions by a creepy orange-eating, cussing smoker.
Even if he was Hottie McWinky. And still McStaring at me. Trying to tempt me with his orange as we proceeded, neck and neck. I mean, who the hell peels an orange in a car? Slowing down for the fifth light, I turned to see him sink his teeth into a wedge, juice bursting forth and covering his chin with the sticky liquid. It dripped onto his shirt. He laughed. I ducked my head so he wouldn’t catch my indiscriminate gawking.
He did anyway. I turned to see him smiling. His roll-the-window-down hand gesture amused me, so I did so, only to hear him say, “See, maybe you should switch to something a little more healthy. Not only is the wrapper biodegradable, but it’s not hot. Just sticky.” I smiled, almost slightly willing to maybe give him another chance to perhaps be charming.
Until his friend chimed in, “Dude, you’re such a douche… Go!” and off he sped, burning rubber as he peeled out and left me in his wake of cough-inducing exhaust. Internally, I chided myself for investing any efforts in conversation with a man whose truck bore the kind of tires that signified sub-masculinity in other areas of life. Not surprisingly, once the smoke cleared, I discerned a pair of molded rubber testicles hanging off the rear hitch. And that, my friends, is the vas deferens between a man I want and a man whose truck wears testicles…
I immediately wrote him off. No more chances. Some winky He-man who mocked my food choices, peeled oranges while driving, hung around equally assholian friends and drove trucks with over-compensatory tires was simply not my type. The sixth and final light hung like a harbinger of doom ahead of us. The long line of cars to my left guaranteed I couldn’t change lanes.
I was stuck, forced to endure the longest red of the thoroughfare. I tried not to look over at him, despite his pleas for me to open my window again. I did, for no other reason than to tell him off. Being the asshole he was, he tried to beat me to the punch.
“Hey! C’mon, I’m sorry… Truly… I didn’t mean–“
I held up my hand to stop him. “No apology necessary. You and your douche-buddy there go have a nice sticky, biodegradable fun time in your I-have-an-infinitesimally-tiny-penis pickup.” I ignored him the rest of the red, although his friend started yelling at me and gracing me with obscene finger poses as Hottie McTeenyPeen Himself slapped his hands down.
It was time to move on. The light changed. My throat burned with the post-coughing fit burrito aftermath. Somehow I’d neglected to purchase a beverage at the gas station, so I patiently waited for the cars to clear before I pulled into the left turn lane for the upcoming 7-Eleven. Poking in my change bin, I found the exact required 99 cents for a Big Gulp. A Diet Coke with a splash of cherry was calling my name.
Unfortunately, so was Hottie McTeensyPeen. I didn’t realize he had followed me. His door slammed as he stalked toward me.
“Hey, Little Miss BurritoBreath, why do you call me such horrible names? I was just trying to be nice.” There he stood, hands balling into fists and stuffing deep into the pockets of his faded, perfectly tight jeans. His dark blond, shaggy but short hair was windblown from the ride and looking way too perfect as well. I hated him even more for seeing me at my worst. Ripped t-shirt, yoga pants, hair up in sloppy ponytail, mismatched socks, gouging myself on unhealthy and non-biodegradably packaged fast food. Why did he even care?
“Look, I don’t mean to be mean, but you’re not my type, okay?” Which was one big fat lie. Physically, he was totally my type, but driving a truck like that? Trying to drag race with me on a crowded street, smoking and cussing? Not my idea of a mature, stable male I wanted anything to do with. Especially on a day like today.
I turned to walk into the store, but I didn’t get far. He was in front of me in a flash, opening the door and waving me under his arm. Like a gentleman. And damn him, he smelled good. Like citrus and musk.
He bent in as I dipped under his elbow, his hand light on my shoulder. “The truck isn’t mine, it’s my friend’s, he’s just too wasted to drive. Sorry about his flipping you off. He can be an asshole. I can’t vouch for the size of his dick but he’s going through a really rough time right now.”
I softened, against my will and my better judgement. “How considerate of you. But I’m not interested in someone with a lead foot, who smokes and makes fun of my burrito-eating. I have my standards.” By the time we made it back to the fountain drink dispensers, I was sure I’d seen the last of him. And contrary to my standards, I was disappointed to find him missing from behind me. Oh well, I thought, he’s probably a douche in other ways. The way this day is going, it wouldn’t surprise me.
I dispensed my Diet Coke with a splash of cherry, tasted it to make sure it was perfect. Contemplated grabbing a Snickers on the way up to the register but vetoed the extra calories. Hottie McSorryPants stood off to the side, and with a flip of my stomach, I realized I was glad he was still there. The smile that spread across my face was unbidden but as soon as he noticed, he stepped forward.
“This will be all together,” he told the cashier, circling his hand over my drink and waving a twenty toward the register. His travel-sized package of WetOnes landed with a thud on the counter. “And a pack of Marlboro Lights.” When he saw me flinch, he leaned in and whispered, “For the douchebag in the truck outside.”
I swiveled to face him, about to say Thank you when he leaned in again. “Least I can do for making fun of your burrito. Also making up for my friend forcing my foot and choking you out with exhaust fumes.”
As the clerk handed him his change and the cigarettes, he backed away from me and turned, sailing one last glance over his shoulder.
“Thank you,” I said weakly, admitting to myself and silently to him, that all transgressions had been forgiven. I watched his lips curve into a thousand-watt smile, his head tip forward, and his hand raise up to push the door open.
I ducked underneath, slowly shuffling to my car. I could feel his warmth at my side as he slid his hand underneath the door handle to open it for me. We stood, our faces inches apart, our breaths coming a little too fast, my cherry mingling with his orange.
His head cocked as one side of his mouth twitched. “So… you wanna maybe go grab some lunch?”
My heart fluttered, but only for a beat. “You think a few winks and a Diet Coke will get you lunch, huh?”
The way his eyes lit up, you’d think I’d said yes. His head tilted back and he started laughing. “Jesus, you’re hard to please. Smoke bothered my eyes.” Those same eyes pinned me with a stare, “You didn’t answer my question,” and then demanded a response.
I slid into my car, the black vinyl seat burning the backs of my legs. Carefully placing the drink in the cup holder, I turned around, extended my neck toward him and smiled big.
“Thank you, but I already ate.”
The look he gave me wasn’t what I expected. Crestfallen, shocked, dismayed were not on his agenda. What I saw was incorrigible, determined, and confident. He shut my door. With his hand, he gestured for me to roll down the window. I started the car. Depressed the lever. By the time the window was down, he was leaning in.
His finger scarped the end of my nose, and a dried, red flake of bean stuck to his fingertip. “You missed a spot…” As I looked down, he flicked it to the ground. “Or were you saving that for later?” The hot blush of humiliation danced across my cheeks in less than a second. My mouth opened but before I could get a word out, he snapped his eyes to mine.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s biodegradable.” Before he turned to leave, he looked me straight in the eyes. And winked.