I was hungry late last night… craving the oxtails from Madame Matisse’s on Sunset near Lucille but they were closed. I called anyway; sometimes she’ll cook after hours for me – I once got her out of a tough jam.
I squeezed an old lime into a cold Tecate and waited for Madame’s delivery. My window was open to the warm L.A. air, thick with nicotine light and the soft thudding of angels’ wings. It had taken me awhile to get used to them once I knew they were there but now – even when they fly so close their feathers brush my hair – I just forget about them, like I do with prayer. I gave up God when I was seventeen, not long after my sister Aggie got lost. I told Him straight up to “Go fuck with someone else.” I’m thirty-eight now and I’ve gotten used to nothing work out. But when my doorbell rang and I opened it, hungry for that meat… there stood a whole other treat.
Leaning in my doorway like a dark lanky dream was a man I’d first seen a week ago in Domingo’s bar on Cesar Chavez near Pleasant Street. It hadn’t been open in years but when I saw it’s burnt out neon sign sputtering “ingo’s”, I’d parked outside. Bad memories I had of the dump kind of crept up the back of my neck and eased me in. I sat at the nearly empty bar and ordered.
The bartender slid me a warm Corona. I took a swig then noticed, in the shadow at the end of the bar, was the lanky dream. Good god he was gorgeous, in a Day-Lewis way, with a little more hunk but less soul. He was drinking a San Miguel. I raised my beer.
“I bet you said please.”
“I always do.” He nodded but never looked at me. I noticed he had paper bag on the bar, spotted with grease and sporting a familiar stamp: “Lupita’s Tamales”. I moved a seat closer.
“Her chili-cheese are pretty good.” I mentioned. “But her sauce could use a little more cumin.”
That got his attention. He looked at me. But before I could make a move, the bartender shot him a glance; she must’ve had some kind of hold on him because he got up to leave. But he brushed past me with a promise in his eyes and a prowler’s way of walking that could easily hypnotize any faded two-bit dreamer from Paradise to Blythe and baby, that was me.
Now here he was at my front door with a crooked smile and a take-out carton of Prawns in Oyster Cream. Still, I blocked the door.
“How’d you find me?”
“You’re in the book.” he answered.
I laughed, “You don’t even know my name.”
“I know you like cumin”, he said as he pulled a copy of the local freebie rag ‘The Hollywood Pulse’ out of his back pocket; it was open to one of my food reviews.
“And you like duck simmered in Remy and you eat your tamales whole. And anyone who’d drive three hundred miles for a salsa verde” he flattered me, “Is someone I’d like to know.”
“How far would you go?” I asked him, letting a smile slip out.
“All the way.” he smiled back and stuck out his hand. “Hi. I’m Panama Jones”.
I took his hand and pulled him in… him and his oyster cream. And later I shared my oxtails from Madame Matisse.
My name is Rhea Porter. I eat.