A week later and David believed he was free of her.

The remainder of The Quarry dinner was conducted with the same staccato, quirky dialogue, David doing his best to retreat, withdraw, discourage Dani, and tear at uncharred pieces of chicken. The meal dragged on, and Dani caught the hint; she slowed down, but never stopped. The bill leveled him. Afterward, Dani seemed to expect some kiss, so he pecked her cheek, watched her bound around the corner then, still starving, ate a plate of manicotti and lasagna at the pasta buffet.

He didn't call. Neither did she. In class he ignored her - it was easier for the class only met twice a week. Through the first class he glanced over twice to find Dani ignoring him as well; by the second, however, she shot him disgust. David actually expected her to be waiting outside the door that day stalking him, but she'd bolted out of the building instead. The next morning she called.

"So I guess you're out," she said.

"I'm touched you looked me up."

"Fuck you."

"We had one date."

"I disgust you."

"Jesus," David said. "God."

"Of course I do," Dani said.

"That was the point, wasn't it?"

"For that debacle last weekend I'll pay half."

"You're serious."

"I came back around that corner. I wanted to join you at the buffet. I wish I had."

"Ploy," David said.

"I really do like you," Dani said.

"Tell me some truths," David said. "Absolute truths. The truth is a requisite for you to ever hang with me again."

"Tell me one first."

"I have already."

"Tell me the one I want to hear."


"You have a jones for me," Dani said.

"Yes," David said.

"For the color of my skin."


"I told you I'd been with guys like you before."

"Yeah," David said. "Now truth." He stalked the silence on the end of the other line.

"Truth," Dani said. "I smoke all the time. For me there's cigarettes, and everything else. I'm always on time. I eat too much. I have a secret wish to stop driving before I'm out of my twenties. I hate Kerouac. But you knew that."

"More," David said.

"I cry in the afternoons. If I had any tolerance for pain, I'd probably cut myself over what happened to that coach. And I really do like you, even after two dates. And, yes, we've had two."

"A lie," David said.

"Two meals, two dates."

"The coach."

"We had the affair."

"Bridget Fonda's car flipped last week."

"And he lives in Michigan."

"And I'll bet he's never been felched."

"I've only heard the term."

"We're through," David said. "I'm out."

"The wife never heard us on the phone," Dani said. "She found a letter, no, a card, from me to him. He and I were intimate twice. Twice. I'm a big prude. I'm like every other girl. He felt bad for me and I hung on. The absolute truth, David. Absolute, requisite truth."

"You're hanging on again."

"David, please."

"Naw," David said. "Checkmate. You win."

"Checkmate is you coming over to my apartment and kissing me full on the lips," Dani said. "This bullshit is stalemate."

"Fair enough. Draw."

"Just a date then. Only that. An action movie. Whatever. But don't just -" Dani made the sound of a balloon petering out.

"You don't have what I want."

"The hell I don't."

"You're not sane."

"Stalkers like sane?"

"I'm hanging up."

"Don't!" Dani said. David held for a second. He could hear Dani breathe, low and controlled. Softly, she said, "You'll call back."

David thumb beeped the phone off and he tossed it onto his bed. He brought his hands to his face, rubbed it, and segued to the bathroom, where he peed, brushed his teeth and changed his t-shirt. His head was split into camps on her. She would not call back. He imagined her, on her own bed at that minute, reclining against the bed board, pulling on a cigarette, exhaling at a comfortable pace, wiggling her toes, into the game. Your move.

He needed time. A weekend. David knew the wider the expanse between this moment and her next call, or her next look of disgust in class, the better logic would entrench itself against the neurotic wiles of this glorious brown-skinned bitch, the more fear would set in, the more caution would serve as shelter to her smoke-filled wind.

Eat the creature of impulse, David told himself. Defuse the moment. He tried to imagine Dani's 300-level course, the reprogramming and deprogramming, his groggy, defeated head, her body, her two brown moons, a weapon of mass seduction so complete, so immovable that he could spend months in the abyss. He saw classes ditched, dollars blown, tears wasted, masculinity emasculated, that male pragmatism getting thrashed and spun away by the scent of her closet.

In his mind he thrust out a hand to clench his desire. He meant to squeeze her down into more manageable pieces, to separate her smile from her eyes, her laugh from her cigarette.

But his grip was loose and clammy. She crawled out intact, a wounded soul, a deep river with a false front to weed out the timid. He could not hold her; she asked him to come, she stroked his cheek, and, wordlessly, she stripped naked and climbed into his arms, smiling full, traveling to his ear, to nibble. He brought his hand to her face, stroked it, and as he went to kiss her full on the lips, he checked again his clammy hand and saw, still visible and scrawled in blue felt-tip marker, a phone number. She wrapped her legs around him and ran her tongue over his lips. He grabbed her bottom to better balance himself and began to kiss her neck, while Dani returned back to his ear. "Told ya," she whispered.