Blue, red, purple, white -- the lights of the Masquerade flashed, again, again, over and over. Hired dancers turned up on the display pillars; a couple of hundred die-hards moved on the floor; and crowds of other people milled about the perimeter of the dance floor-pit, socializing at the bar and tables, trying to hear each other over the techno backbeat, glittering under the disco ball and strobe lights.
Eva and I were in the center of the floor. My hands were on her hips, now off, now on again, and we were both covered in sweat. I looked at her.
I stopped dancing. Right there, in the middle of the floor. And she stopped too.
"Eva..." I said. She couldn't hear me, of course, but she could see me.
I put my right hand on her neck; my left on her waist; she wrapped her arms around my back as I pulled her sweaty, slick body towards mine. I kissed her: first our lips touched; we almost hesitated. My hand moved from her neck to the back of her head; and we kissed, Eva pressing her mouth to mine as her nails dug into my back just a little. Her mouth was sweet from the Gatorade she had had a little earlier and both of our chests heaved from the dancing we had just been doing. I could feel the vinyl of our pants sticking together.
We separated after a few seconds. She was still and looked at me. I wasn't sure what would happen next. She smiled -- grinned, quickly -- and started dancing again.
"What are you waiting for?" she yelled over the noise, spinning to the music. A few minutes later she climbed up to the top of one of the pillars, which one of the hired dancers had just climbed down from. She had touched my arm when she left but didn't say anything and a few moments later I was left watching as she glittered from the top of the pedestal. I couldn't tell if she was watching me; probably, she couldn't even see me since bright spotlights shone on her as she danced. She was alone up there, shining, glittering, and turning as the music blasted her from every direction.
That night was a Thursday -- techno night at the Masquerade. Two months since I had last been to the club and two months since I had last seen Eva. I had parked three blocks away from Seventh Avenue, but even before I got out of my car I could hear the bass and the backbeat of Ybor City. I took my time double-checking to make sure that I had hidden my CDs under the car seat: Eva wouldn’t be at the Masquerade until after midnight, it was only 11:45 or so, and I wanted to get there after her.
The Masquerade was a few blocks away, its blue neon sign perched higher than any other in that little section of Tampa. Take your time, I told myself: so I listened to a street musician playing steel drums for a few minutes. I bought a funnel cake which I couldn't bring myself to eat and ended up feeding to a flock of seagulls.
Finally, after I had stalled long enough, I paid my cover and went in to the club.
I hadn't called ahead to tell Eva to look for me but she noticed me anyway. She was drinking Gatorade in the club's lounge when she saw me; she raised her eyebrows and waved me over. Her whitish blonde hair was already damp from the dancing she had been doing.
"Hi," she said.
"Big night?" I asked. "You look like you've been at it pretty hard."
"No more than usual. At least you've finally gotten your lazy ass down here."
I stared at her. "You got your tongue pierced!" I said. "When?"
"Ummm... 'bout two months ago, at the Blue Devil."
"Did it hurt?"
"Nah. Well -- a little, but nothing I couldn't live with. Basically I was sitting there, and they pierced it, and I said, 'Ow, fuck,' and it was over."
"Gotcha." We weren't dating but she was attractive and I thought of her going down on her boyfriend with her tongue piercing. So I was a little jealous. "I got a tattoo last month," I said.
"Oh, cool! Where? What of?"
"Blue Devil -- "
"Not where did you get it, where is it?"
"Huh? Oh, it's on my shoulder blade. Here, look." I pulled my shirt over a little so she could see the tattoo -- the Chinese character that represented strength.
"Neato. Are you going to dance with me tonight?" She gave me a sly look form the corner of her eyes and batted her eyelashes just a touch. She grinned.
"Hey, why else would I have put these stupid things on?" I said, pointing to the vinyl pants I was wearing. We worked our way to the floor and started to dance; I left soon after, when she left me there, alone on the floor, as she spun high above.
When I first met Davey she saw me at a bad time -- I had the flu and hadn't showered in four days, but there I was in Eckerd's, trying to find some more medicine. I had been staring at the cold and flu remedies without moving for a full minute or so, just staring, not even looking at the labels, when I noticed her giving me strange looks out of the corner of her eye all the way from the vitamin section. She had shortish black hair and was wearing an expensive-looking black suit. I shook my head a little and muttered something to myself, "Perry, come on, get a grip," and tried to force myself to read the labels again.
A second later she walked up and tapped me on the shoulder.
"Do you need some help?"
"Oh -- um," and I think I gave her the sort of look that a sixteen-year old boy gives to a nineteen-year old girl who's just said something flirtatious to him. Kind of like Dopey in Snow White. But then, I think my unwashed hair and the gamey-smelling corduroys that I had been wearing for a week and a half kept my appeal to a minimum. Dopey may have been homely, but at least he didn't smell bad.
She looked at me, raising her eyebrows and expecting a response.
"I, eh --" I shook my head -- "guess I've kind of been out of it. I've got the flu and I ran out of medicine, but I don't remember what kind I had. Vicks of some form or another."
She skimmed over the labels.
"Here, take this one," she said, smiling, handing me a boxed bottle. Her eyes were blue and she had a little pen mark at the right side of her mouth. "Hope you feel better."
"Thanks," I said as she went back to the vitamin section. Nice legs.
I went to get some ginger ale. I ended up at the checkout counter just before she did.
"Thanks again for helping me out," I said, collecting my change.
"No problem." She paused and tilted her head to the side. "You look familiar. But I don't think I've ever met you."
"I'm a columnist for The Times," I offered, as she paid for her vitamins.
"That's it -- music editor, right? You've got that little picture each week."
"Yeah, um, I'm Perry Brummer."
"Davey Moore," she said, as we shook hands. She had a firm handshake.
We started walking out together. "How'd you know?" I asked her.
"How'd I know what?"
"That I'm the music editor."
"Oh -- I'm an attorney, I work for MacKee & Wilkes. I handle Dogma Clubs Management so I pay attention to industry news."
"Dogma Clubs," I said. "Don't they manage half of Clearwater Beach?"
"Nah," she said. We had reached her car, a silver Miata, and stopped. "You're thinking Beach Entertainment Management. Dogma owns half of Ybor and half of Orlando."
I let out a laugh. "The half that Disney doesn't own."
She laughed, too. "Yeah, that." She started to get into her car.
"Well -- it was nice meeting you. Hey --" I paused; I looked at the pavement and then at her, feeling a little dizzy -- "Do you want to go get lunch sometime?"
"Sure," she said. She was carrying a DayTimer and pulled out a business card. "Email works for me. Drop me a note and we can set up a time." She smiled. "See you later, Perry."
I emailed her a few days later from work; I had taped her card up on the cubicle wall that surrounded my desk. "To dmoore at mckee-dot-com," I muttered to myself as I typed in her address. "Davey --" my message said. "Well, now that I've stopped downing the Vicks -- formula 44M, which I'm never going to forget again -- do you want to grab lunch some time this week? My schedule's pretty flexible, so name a time. My number here is 397-4286 if you need to call."
I sent the message and instantly wished I hadn't. I shouldn't have said my schedule was so flexible, I thought. I'll look like I don't have anything to do with myself. I debated sending her another email that said I was busy on Thursday after all and possibly on Wednesday, too. But then I decided that I just wanted to see more of her and I didn't really care whether she thought I was a loser or not.
She emailed me back that day and we decided to go to Java Street on Thursday at one o'clock. I spent some extra time messing with my hair on Thursday morning and I fidgeted all day at my desk -- the only work I could do was CD reviews and I spent longer than ususal reading through my mail. Finally, at twelve forty-five I left my desk and walked the two blocks over to Java Street.
I ordered coffee at ten after.
I ordered a sandwich at half-past.
I ordered a dessert at a quarter till two.
At two o'clock I paid my bill and walked back to the Times building, my head down. I checked my email; there was no message from her. The light on my phone told me that I didn't have any voice mail.
Davey called me the next morning.
"Perry Brummer," I said, picking up the phone.
"Perry? Hi, it's Davey."
"Oh, hi." Well, I thought, at least she was calling me.
"I am so sorry about yesterday. I feel terrible. I just got held over at a deposition for this case I'm working on and by the time I was done it was too late."
"Oh, it's okay," I said. What else is there to say?
"So, I wanted to say that I was sorry, and I wanted to ask if you wanted to go to a show with me this Saturday."
"Hey, don't worry about it. Which show?"
"Unwritten Law. They're a surfer-punk band from California. Though I guess you knew that."
"Yeah, actually, we had someone review their new album a couple of weeks ago. I listened to it when it came in and it's pretty good."
"So do you want to go? I get a lot of free tickets from Dogma... if you don't like punk, we could go to a jazz club over in Ybor or something."
"Oh, no, that's okay," I said. "Unwritten Law is great. Where are they playing?"
"State Theatre. I forget who's opening but the show starts at eight."
"Sounds good," I said. "Do you want to grab something to eat beforehand?"
She laughed. "I'm surprised you trust me after what happened yesterday. But sure -- we could go to The Garden if you like Mediterranean food."
"Yeah, sounds great," I said. "So I'll meet you at the restaurant at seven?"
"Yup, that works. I'll have a reserved table under my name."
When I got to the restaurant she was already there, drinking a beer and wearing a miniskirt and a red t-shirt that had "Sid Lives" emblazoned across the front. Of course I noticed that the shirt was tight across her chest.
"Prada and Gucci by day, punk rocker by night," I said to her, grinning.
She wrinkled her nose at me and smiled. "Well, do you expect me to go to court with blue hair and dog collars?"
"Only if it would win your case for you," I returned. "Victory matters, right?"
She tilted her head to the side. "It is of the utmost importance. But there are some things that matter more."
"Oh?" I raised my eyebrows in a gesture of mock surprise. "Like what?"
"You know," she said. "Little things like the truth. But you don't get to play with the unadaulterated truth as a litigator so I have to get my fix elsewhere."
"And where do you get it?"
The corners of her mouth turned up into an impish smile: "From the newspapers, of course."
"We aim to please," I returned.
After we had eaten we walked the few blocks to the State Theatre. Davey bought us beers once we had gotten in. "Want to go to the balcony?" she asked, looking me up and down. "You don't seem like the body-surfing type."
"Yeah, you've got me pegged," I said. "Balcony's great."
We started upstairs.
"Actually," I said as we climbed, "I'm mostly into techno."
"Really?" She glanced back at me.
"Well, more so than the punk scene." We had reached the balcony and found a table overlooking the floor and stage. I nodded at the pandemonium below us. "I'm getting too old for all of this."
She laughed. "I probably am too," she said, "but I'm going to be immature about it for as long as I can."
The show was good that night from what I can remember -- which wasn't much. We couldn't talk too easily but I could watch her out of the corner of my eye.
I caught her looking at me a couple of times.
Eva went to the Masquerade almost every Thursday for techno night. She had been going for two and a half years, she told me the first time we met, ever since she moved to Tampa. Tanker, Masquerade's owner, always begged her to climb to the top of one of the dancing pillars that flanked the floor, where the other dancers would imitate her. I never saw her pay cover.
I noticed her the first night I was there. She was wearing black latex pants and a shiny orange shirt. Her hair was a pale blonde, almost white from the bleach that she used, and her dark plucked eyebrows arched over her rather narrow eyes.
We had a mutual friend, Andy, who introduced us. We couldn't talk in the club, of course, but afterwards the four of us -- Eva, me, Andy, and Louise, another of Eva's friends -- went out and got tea at one of Ybor City's coffeehouses.
That first moment when we left the club and stepped out into the irritatingly humid Tampa night was jolting. I was seeing her under the dozens of French-quarter street lamps instead the blinking, flickering lights of the club. She shimmered and glistened under the yellow-white lights; the plastic of her pants and the silver glitter in her hair blended perfectly with the pavement and the neon signs.
The street wasn't deserted; it rarely is in Ybor City; but the rambling crowds that saunter up and down the middle of the street in the earlier night were gone, replaced by the small streams of people leaving the clubs that line Seventh Avenue. A few stray party-goers -- like us -- landed in the coffeehouses and restaurants that stay open all night. Which one did we go to? Jeff's Desserts, Geoffry's, JavaHaus -- they were all the same. The floors are a light blonde wood, looking like teak but really just pine. The counters are a dull black laminate. Each place has the same selection of gourmet bottled waters lining the walls, tiny round tables that groups could cozy up around, post-modernist art on the walls, the same upscale brands of coffee.
So the four of us snuggled up around one of the tables. Eva looked so much different there, under the warm yellow lights. The makeup and vinyl clothes which had been so slick under the blink of the club lights now looked painted and plastic, utterly mismatched with the cute coffeehouse.
She was ignoring me, staring off into the space over my shoulder. I hadn't been saying much as Andy and Louise chattered away -- but I said, when I noticed her inattention, "Planning your next make-up scheme?"
Her eyes flipped to mine. They took a second to really focus.
"No, an algorithm."
"Oh." I looked down into my coffee. "You program?"
"What do you mean, 'what for?'"
"What sorts of programs? What company?"
"I do a lot of database management and program customization for PlasmaTherm. And I do some freelance Java hacking." She grinned. "It keeps me in PVC and body glitter."
I grinned back and she glanced over to Andy and Louise. I followed her gaze.
Andy and Louise were deeply involved in their own discussions of Louise's impending breakup with her boyfriend and I could tell that Andy, despite his sympathetic, friendly suggestions, was about ready to spring one for her. Louise, in her part, was leaning forward towards him, glancing up to look in his eyes and then looking back into her latte, sometimes sighing a little and every so often touching his arm.
Eva pushed her tea aside and leaned towards me just a bit, one elbow resting on the table as she spoke. "Pretty blatant, isn't it?" she whispered, an eyebrow raised. "He wants her, bad."
I smiled at this. "Want another tea, or some dessert or anything?" I asked.
We talked with Andy and Louise until almost six that morning.
Davey and I continued to date. We'd sometimes go to the Masquerade -- she met Eva there one night and liked her -- or to shows. But most of the time Davey and I would just hang out at her apartment or mine and talk. We could sit up for hours on end, covering every subject under the sun, drinking coffee like college students and I never got tired of her company.
After eight months I asked her to move in with me, into my apartment on Thirty-Second and First Street North. We were at Bar Zero in St. Pete, waiting for a Ramones concert to start in the courtyard outside.
"Davey," I said, touching her on the knee as we sat at the bar drinking Guinesses. She swivelled around to face me.
I took a deep breath. "I think we should, um --" I paused for a moment and picked up a toothpick to play with -- "well, I think we should move in together. I mean, eight months -- that's a long time." I glanced up at her and snapped the toothpick in two.
"Perry," she said slowly. "I don't know. I like my apartment and I like my space."
"I know," I said. I leaned close to her and kissed her on the neck. Her skin smelled spicy and warm from the body oil she used. "But my apartment is big enough that you could have a study. And we could even rent out that empty studio in the attic if you wanted to, so you could have more space. What do you think?" I traced my fingers up her leg a little.
"I think you're drunk, Perry," she said, pushing my hand away. "Watch it. We're in public and you're acting like a high schooler."
I wasn't drunk though, and I told her that I had only had two beers.
She sighed. I was starting to get scared.
"Davey," I said, reaching for her hand. "I don't -- I'm not sure how to say this. I just -- I want to wake up to you every morning."
She relaxed and smiled a little. "Awww, how sweet," she said as she rolled her eyes. "Perry, it's not you. I just need to think about whether I'm ready to move in with someone."
"Davey, I want to do your laundry," I said, making my eyes as big and pitiful as I could. "I want to cook you breakfast every morning. I want to water the plants."
At this she burst out laughing -- she never bought plants because she always ended up killing them and I knew it -- and ate a maraschino cherry from the bar.
"Let me think about it," Davey told me, and two weeks later she said okay.
Eva was never very good about returning my phone calls or email but I didn't mind too much. That was just the way she was. She'd email when she felt like it, she'd pick up the phone when she got around to it, and once in a while she'd get the urge to meet up, hang out, and laugh at the skateboarders who tripped over their gigantic pants legs in the Ybor City nights.
By the time Eva and I had known each other for about two years we had probably only gone out nine or ten times. It was a mid-December afternoon when we met to have a late lunch at an outdoor café on Central Avenue, the street that passes for a downtown in St. Petersburg, and it had to have been the first time in a year and a half that we had done something besides clubbing. I was nervous about seeing her. It had been a long time, almost four months, since I had last been to the Masquerade.
The past three times we had seen each other I had deliberately neglected to mention that Davey and I were living together. It was hard for me to imagine Eva and I dating: her phone calls were unusual enough and the thought of a Sunday morning breakfast at her place was foreign to me. But still, I thought, there's always the possibility.
"Want some more tabouli?" I asked her, after we had both finished most of our meals.
"Nah, thanks. I'm fine." She paused, and continued: "You remember Louise, right? She's dating Andy."
"Louise is pregnant." Eva picked at the gold tablecloth a little, a nervous habit she had whenever she was near table linens of any sort. Her grin was gone.
"From Andy? You're kidding."
"Nope. She's -- she was pregnant, I mean. She had an abortion. Andy doesn't know." We were in a courtyard with trees; a breeze from Tampa Bay rustled the leaves enough to let a couple of rays of sun shine on her hair. It almost sparkled.
"Wow. That would really embitter me if I were him and I found out."
"She didn't think she had a choice -- about either, getting the abortion or telling him."
"Why couldn't she tell him? It's not like he'd beat her up, or even try to make her keep it."
"Well -- you remember how they started out, right? He was kind of her protector, her big brother, her friend. And she just didn't think she could bring something so -- so, I dunno, so serious into their relationship."
"So serious? That's insane. It's his child, too."
"Of course it is. He wouldn't have wanted to keep it anyway, though. And she just didn't want to put that over their heads, I think -- you know how something like that can just completely change the nature of a relationship. It's just taking it a step beyond, a step further, and I don't think she wanted it that way." She shivered a little bit; winters are warm along the gulf coast of Florida, but it was still cool and she was wearing a short-sleeved dress. She had a little lace top on underneath the dress, which was a sort of sundress made out of a soft, silky-looking material. It was pastel and floral, things she always claimed she hated. But it was a nice change since I was so used to seeing her in plastic and glitter.
"He'll be damn pissed if he ever finds out, though."
"I know. But she's taking that chance."
"Just because she wants to keep the relationship the same?" I asked.
"Guess so," she answered matter-of-factly.
I digested this for a moment.
“Sounds like denial,” I said. “Louise just wants everything to stay the same, so she’s suppressing this huge incident.”
Eva shrugged. “Yeah, I guess it’s wrong, ‘cause that’s something I think he should have known about, but I can see why she did it.”
I stirred my iced tea. "Hey," I said, changing the subject. "Did I tell you about the party next weekend at Tanya's?"
We went on and finished our lunch.
It was a month or two later when Tampa passed its anti-rave ordinance. The Masquerade deliberately violated the ordinance along with several other Ybor clubs by staying open past the three a.m. deadline. The Masquerade is run by Dogma Clubs, so when Tampa slapped the Masquerade with a thirty-thousand dollar fine Davey was the one who had to challenge the ordinance in court and straight on up through the appeals process.
So I basically didn't see Davey for months. She would go to work early and stay late and she practically went straight to sleep as soon as she got home at night. I had a two-to-eleven shift at The Times five days a week, so I was lucky if I saw her for an hour or two a day.
Davey was busy and stressed; I was miserable. She'd snap at me for leaving the toilet seat up, for turning the lights on when she was sleeping -- and for a host of other problems that she said she'd never have if she were still living alone.
So one Thursday after work I drove over to Ybor instead of trekking home to Davey, pacing in her study and poring over law books.
And that's when Eva and I kissed.
I called Eva the next night, after I had washed the spikes out of my hair and taken off my boots and climbed back in front of my computer terminal at the Times building. No one else was around except for the copy clerks, who stalked by every half hour or so to make sure that I wasn't causing any work for them.
"Hi." What did my voice sound like? I wondered.
"Hey, Perry. What's up?"
"Not much... hey, do you want to go get coffee or something tonight?"
"I can't. I have work to do." She sounded like she always did.
"Oh... Rough. I'll talk to you later then."
"Going to Masquerade next Thursday?"
"Oh, you're not?" She paused. "Well -- I guess -- see ya 'round."
When I got home a half hour later I could see that the light in Davey's study was still on and that the rest of the apartment was dark. I parked the car and waited for a moment. But I had to go in. Truth was important, Davey had always said.
I opened the door softly. I could hear her voice rising and falling as she went over her arguments in front of the mirror we had hung up in the study for her to practice in front of. I liked to watch her practice, just like I'd sometimes go to court to see her argue -- just to be there for her.
"...Your Honor, the ordinance violates the Florida Supreme Court's prohibition on prior restraint laws in the context of the freedom of association in a commercial or public setting. According to the case --" at this, she saw my reflection in the mirror as she paced; she turned towards me, still talking, and made eye contact, -- " State v. Meyers, in the absence of an explicitly stated and objective finding of probable cause of wrongdoing, the government may not grossly infringe on the rights of business owners to operate and manage their businesses as they see fit. And in Johanssen v. State, the court ruled that restrictions on operating hours grossly infringe on the rights of business owners to operate their businesses unless that operation violates other laws and rights."
She was so amazing when she was arguing that I felt even more guilty.
"Hi, Perry," she said, smiling. Her hair was long now, and she had it pulled back into a ponytail.
My face felt like lead. "Davey," I said. "I have something I need to tell you. Do you have time?"
She gave me a long, hard look, furrowing her brow.
"Well, yeah. Let me get a drink of water."
She brought her water into the living room where I was sitting. She sat on the couch next to me.
"What is it, Perry?" she asked. I turned toward her, I held her hand.
"I went to Masquerade last night, you know."
"Yes." She looked puzzled. "So?"
I took a deep breath. "Well, Eva was there."
"Isn't she always there?"
"Well, yeah. But that's not it."
"We -- Eva and I -- we were dancing last night. And I kissed her."
Davey pulled her hand back. "You kissed her?" she asked.
"Davey -- I'm -- I'm sorry. It's just that things have been so strained here lately, and --"
She cut me off. "You've been attracted to her for a long time, haven't you?"
I nodded again.
She stood up. Her jaw was tightened from her clenching her teeth; she was looking out the window. "Perry... look,” she said. “This isn't something I want to deal with right now. I have the case coming up. I know I'm shutting this out, but I can't work through this with you." She walked into the bedroom; I followed her.
"Here," she said, pulling some of my things out of the dresser. "I'd really prefer it if you just slept in the guest bedroom until we can get this straightened out."
"What do you think we should do?" I asked.
She turned towards me and she was scowling. "Look Perry," she said in a voice that was too low and too measured. "I can't make up your mind for you. If you decide that this thing you have for Eva is more important than what we've had for the past year and a half, then I really can't do anything about it. You're just going to have to decide what you want."
I couldn't argue with her -- I couldn't do anything to make it more difficult and awkward. So I took the proffered clothes and trudged up the spiral staircase to the little guest bedroom that had once been the building's attic.
A few weeks later, though, when I was still sleeping by myself and Davey wouldn’t talk to me beyond asking for the orange juice in the morning, Rolling Stone sent me a job offer to work out of their New York City office. I told Davey.
"That's incredible, Perry," she said, smiling -- a little bit sadly, I thought; and we talked about plans for the lease and moving out and dividing up the pots and pans. I asked her if she’d drive the U-Haul up to New York for me.
"Sure," she said.
"Thanks." I got her a plane ticket from LaGuardia back to Tampa International so she'd only be gone for a weekend.
And I realized that if I left things up to Eva I might not ever see her again. So I went back to the Masquerade.
Eva didn't see me when I walked in; she was too busy dancing on the floor with Brett, a mutual friend of ours. I got a drink and watched them for a while since there was no point in interrupting her.
Eva danced; Brett, who was wearing leather pants, glided his hands over her hips a little bit.
As I watched, I saw Brett put his hand on her cheek and she stopped dancing. He pulled her off the floor and they went over by one of the shadowed tables along the perimeter of the floor. Since I was along the railing, overlooking the sunken floor-pit, I had an almost unobstructed view of them. Brett leaned towards her and I tried not to watch, but my eyes returned to the two as they kissed: he leaned towards her and she intertwined her fingers with his. She closed her eyes, I could see. Brett touched his mouth to hers and they paused -- just so -- for a moment. And then he put his arm around her waist, pulled her close to him, and pressed his mouth against hers.
I re-entered the club a half hour later. Eva and Brett were drinking bottled water by the bar; I waved at them and walked over, swallowing the lump in my throat.
"Hi, Perry," they said together.
"Hey, guys. Good night tonight?"
"Excellent," said Brett. "In fact, it's been so great that I need to go find Tanker and give him a big, fat hug."
I smiled. "Later, man," I said.
Eva pulled him towards her and they kissed. "'Bye, doll. See you later," she said.
She waved good-bye to him with a small gesture. He left; she looked after him as he walked away.
"You were here earlier," she said presently, looking at me.
"Huh? Oh -- yeah. I had to leave to get food." I paused. "I didn't know you were able to tell people apart in all the crowd."
"I can spot you anywhere," she said with that teasing look in her eyes. "Where's Davey?"
"Doing work. Dogma's in court about the anti-rave ordinance." I hesitated a moment too long for it to be a normal pause. "You're seeing Brett?"
"Yeah... we started dating three weeks ago."
"It's going well, I take it."
"Well enough," she said, leaning forward a little. I probably shouldn't have, but I couldn't help glancing down at where her shirt collar pulled away from her chest, exposing more of her cleavage than she deliberately showed. She grinned. "The sex is great."
I was uncomfortable talking about her and Brett, and more so about Brett's sexual skills. Brett came bounding back as I was about to change the subject.
"Ready to go?" he asked Eva, snaking his arm around her waist.
She gave a knowing smile. "Sure am," she said. "Perry, I'll catch you later. Email me."
They stopped and looked at me.
"Actually, Eva, I was wondering if you had time to talk for a few minutes."
Brett took the hint. "Eva, I'll catch you outside. Perry, good seeing you."
Eva and I walked into one of the lounges.
"So, Perry, what's up?"
"I'm leaving," I said with far too much finality in my voice.
"You're leaving?" She sounded puzzled at my melodrama.
"I got a job offer from Rolling Stone, in their New York office. I'm taking it."
I couldn't bring myself to ask her about our kiss or anything else.
"Davey's driving most of my stuff up and she's leaving the day before me," I said. "But I was wondering if you'd see me off -- you know, just stop by."
"Oh, sure! When are you leaving?"
"Um, the thirtieth, I think -- four weeks from Saturday."
"Okay, can do. What time?"
"Six a.m. Is that too early?"
"No, not at all." She grinned. "I just won't go to sleep the night before."
I looked at her, briefly making eye contact and breaking it almost instantly. "Thanks," I said. 'It means a lot to me."
She looked at me, smiling, placing her hand on my arm. My skin tingled a little bit where she touched me.
"Hey, Perry," she said, the din of the club echoing around us. "No problem. I'll be there."
Almost before I knew what was happening she was in my arms, hugging me. I didn't want to hold her too closely and feel her body press against mine, curving against my chest, but at the same time that's the very reason I pulled her closer. After the briefest of moments, she tightened her grip and loosened it, telling me that our hug was over.
Then we left; she walked away with Brett, and I walked back to my car alone.
Four weeks later -- Davey had moved out and into another apartment. My little green Neon was packed to the roof with stuff I hadn't been able to put in the U-Haul. Davey had left on Friday night with the truck since it was slower going and she needed the extra time.
It was seven in the morning on Saturday and Eva still wasn't there. The sunlight was just starting to make the day hot and humid. I drummed my fingers on the windowsill. I made up a lede for an article in my head. I looked as far up Thirty-Second Avenue as I could, peering through the palm trees and Spanish moss, to see if her ratty old Jeep was tearing down the red brick street. But it wasn't. So I left the apartment and gave the key to my landlord.
I paused by the car door and looked for Eva one last time and once more, she wasn't there. So I got on the road, crossing Tampa Bay -- its water glittering in the sunlight -- and turned on to I-4 just past downtown Tampa. I was playing a techno CD with its empty rhythm blasting around me as I drove past Exit 1, craning my neck for my last look at Ybor City.