“He wrote a letter of apology to Father Gerald and jumped through every hoop the old bastard gave him for penance. That’s why Drew can quote the Bible—word for word—because Gerald made him copy it, down to the last punctuation mark, every day after school. Anyway, by the time his punishment was lifted, Drew was convinced Catholicism was just a racket and that God doesn’t give a shit about any of us.”
Dee tilts her head and regards me thoughtfully. Then she asks, “But you don’t believe that?”
“No, I don’t. I asked Sister Beatrice if what Father Gerald had said was true. That if we had had more faith, would God have answered our prayers.”
“What did she say?” Dee asks.
In my best Irish accent, I reply, “She said, ‘Matthew, m’boy, the Lord answers every prayer . . . but sometimes, the answer is no.’â”
Dee thinks that over for a moment. Then she says, “Well . . . that kind of sucks.”
I grin. “That’s what I said too.”
Then I wonder aloud, “What about you? Did you grow up religious?”
“Yeah, you could say that. My mother’s always been a spiritual grazer. A taste of Mormonism here, a scrap of Protestant there, but nothing ever stuck. She was interested in Kabala way before Madonna made it all the rage. These days she’s into Buddhism—worked out well for Tina Turner.”
It’s late afternoon by the time we walk back to my bike. I put the folded blanket and camera in the hard-top compartment. And the scent of fresh chili dogs from the sidewalk cart reaches my nose, making my stomach growl. I take out my wallet and ask Dee, “You want one?”
She looks at the hot dog like it’s a loaded gun. “Ah . . . no. I prefer to live past the age of fifty, thanks.”
I order mine with extra chili, then respond, “The sidewalk hot dog is New York.” The same could be said for a slice of pizza.
“The sidewalk hot dog is a heart attack in a bun. Do you know how many nitrates are in that?”
“That’s what makes it taste so good. You know, for someone who claims to be all ‘carpe diem,’ you’ve got a lot of hang-ups.”
She caves. “Okay, fine . . .” She tells the vendor, “One please.”
“You want chili?” I ask.
“Sure. Go big or go home, right?”
I smile. “I like the way you think.”
We stand next to my bike eating our dogs. When Dee is done with hers, a dab of sauce lingers on her chin. Instead of telling her, I take care of it with my mouth.
“Mmm . . .” I smack my lips. “Tastes even better on you.”
She laughs. It’s a great sound.
Our last stop of the day is the farmers’ market in Brooklyn. She was limited by what could fit in the Ducati’s pack, but Dee said having me around for the trip was worth the second trek she’d have to make later in the week. I help her carry the groceries into her apartment, and I’m about to ask her out to dinner when she wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me full on the mouth.
Dinner can f**king wait.
I drop the bags on the floor and go right for her ass. Gripping and kneading, her black pants a thin but annoying barrier. Her hands bury in my hair while I lift her and wrap her legs around my waist, giving my rigid c**k the contact it craves. I suck on her bottom lip as her hands massage my shoulders, relaxing warmth spreading from her fingertips. I scrape my teeth along her jaw and swing us around, pressing Dee’s back against the refrigerator. She moans as our hips rub and grind.
We’re both panting hard as I nibble on her neck. Then she moans, “Matthew . . . Matthew, I need . . .”
My lips move against her hot skin. “God, me too . . .”
“I’m . . .”
The next thing I know, Dee pulls out of my grasp and shoves me on my ass in her haste to run down the hall. I lay on the floor, breathing heavy, trying to process what the hell just happened—when the unmistakable sound of upchucking emanates from the bathroom.
Bet you weren’t expecting that, huh? Makes two of us.
My stomach rolls as I walk down the hall—the sounds of Dee’s sickness making me really f**king queasy. I brace a hand on the doorframe. “Are you all right?”
She sits in front of the toilet, a tissue covering her lips, her eyes closed.
“Do I sound all right, genius?”
She moans . . . in the not-awesome kind of way. “You and your stupid chili dogs. I think they were bad.”
Like any accused man, I launch a defense. “They weren’t bad. If they were bad, I’d . . .” And I can’t even finish the sentence. Because heat closes in on my face, and my stomach twists around on itself, and I’m diving for the plastic wastepaper basket in the corner.
Which just makes Dee vomit more.
And I think of Lardass and the Barf-o-rama story from Stand by Me. And I’d probably laugh at the entire situation, if I didn’t feel so frigging awful.
Eventually, we crawl into the bed and lay next to each other—me stretched out, Dee in the fetal position.
“This is all your fault,” Dee whimpers.
“You’re right. You’re so right.”
“I hate you. No—I don’t mean that, I like you so much. I think I’m dying, Matthew.”
“You’re not dying. But I might be dying.”
Even though we’re naturally stronger than women, it’s common knowledge that men are ten times more affected by illness. Just ask your husband or your boyfriend.
Dee opens the drawer of her nightstand, jostling the bed as she pulls something out.
“What are you doing?” I groan. “Stop moving.” It’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever said that to a girl.
“I’m writing a note to Katie to have you f**king arrested for manslaughter if I die . . . and the hot dog man as an accomplice.”
“You’re a cold woman, Delores.”
“Better you learn that now,” Dee says, even as she moves closer to me. I rub soothing circles on her back until she rolls over and takes my hand in hers. And we stay like that until we both fall asleep.
It’s amazing how close you can feel to a person after you’ve suffered through the torture of food poisoning together for twenty-four hours. That kind of intimacy can take months—even years—to achieve. I now know Dee’s cum face—and her puke face.
We both call in sick Monday morning, both of us still feeling wrung out. We take separate showers and I borrow a pair of her cousin’s sweatpants. Normally I’d have issues with going commando in another guy’s drawers, but these were clean and folded in the back of Dee’s closet, so the time lapse from the last time Warren wore them makes them okay. Plus, the idea of putting on my clothes from last night feels nasty.