As I had suspected, the next day was a long and boring one, both from the standpoint of the photography and because this model’s idea of conversation was. . . well, best not go there.
And the day had started out so well, when I once again got there just as the subway driver was about to pull out.
“Bad habit,” the driver warned. “Get here earlier before you miss one.”
Like there wouldn’t be another one in a few minutes. “I love to live on the edge.”
“Huh. You’re in the right city for it.”
“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
“Now you’re overdoing it.”
“Not me, Shakespeare.”
And that pretty much ended the conversation before I could tell the rebuttal joke to the famous “Men are like streetcars” speech from some Suthin’ play: “Women are like subways: you pay to get on, and the whole ride you live in fear!”
Luckily I’d managed to snag a seat near the center before the car filled up. Heat blazed in the front while the people in the back shivered; jammed nose to elbow, clinging to metal poles, commuters stared glumly at graffiti-covered walls. And no one was brave–or stupid–enough to start a conversation. So I took out my pocket chess and started a new game, though reminding myself not to get so caught up this time; last time I’d tried it here, I’d gone three stops past my intended before I’d realized it.
All the more reason to checkmate the electronic bastard as soon as possible. . . and if that included pressing buttons to give myself a rook advantage, so be it.
And that had been the highlight of the morning, though it did get better later, when for some reason Lea showed up, even though she wasn’t scheduled to be shot again. Not that I minded, since she was both a lot more fun and finer to look at than the current model. . . or all of them.
She even had me going at one point when she fluttered her lashes all lovey-dovey and asked where I was going to take her on our honeymoon, then quickly changed it to lunch, even adding, “Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to pay for it. We can go Dutch.”
“You want to go to Amsterdam?”
Giggle. “Actually, yes, but not this weekend. We can just drive somewhere.”
I was about to tell her New York usta be called New Amsterdam, but found something better to discuss. “People drive around here?”
“Sure. I have a cousin who lives in a little town about twenty miles from the city. She lets me keep my car there.”
“I guess I can be persuaded. . .”
“I’m so happy you trust me.”
“You’re barely getting around to that?”
“No, I mean letting me drive. Nice to see you’re not hooked on driving like every other SoCal boy,” she grinned.
“Drivers have gotten worse in the past few years. Ever notice how much tire screeching there is nowadays? People don’t know how to brake, and they press the accelerator too hard when starting. Not big deals on their own, but indicative of low-quality skills. Nowadays you can be a perfect driver and still have less of a chance to survive than ten years ago.”
“And this isn’t a city to drive in anyways.”
“Someone joked about the four-way stops in El Ay. Here they’d be four-way wrecks.”
“Exactly! But it’s not just that. The city doesn’t want drivers here. They’d rather you pay for a taxi.”
“The politicians must get a cut. I haven’t noticed public transportation being a particularly fine experience.”
“Are you kidding?” she laughed. “Notwithstanding dirty buses, unsafe subways, and steadily rising fares, New York City is officially committed to public transportation.” She sounded like she was quoting. “Private autos are allowed, of course, but not encouraged. Doubters may examine the state of the streets or take a spin on an expressway.”
“More sinkholes than Florida.”
“Actually, those are mere potholes. They’ve just been growing for years. And forget about the parking!”
“You did that wrong.”
“It’s actually FUHGEDDABOUTIT!”
“Nice!” She looked quite impressed. Then, pushing the issue, she tried, “I expected you to talk about how great El Ay is.”
“Everyone knows how great El Ay is. We don’t have to toot our own horn.”
“Not when I’ll be tooting it for you!” she crowed, then gulped as I grinned. “Well, not yet, anyway. Or would you prefer me to talk about my hometown?”
“As long as you do it mumbling incoherently, you can recite Moby Dick for all I care.”
“Wow, a literary reference that’s still a sexual joke! You’re hot today!”
My fingers tarantula’ed down. “Only one furnace around here. . .”
She gasped. “Oh, someone’s tossing a whole bunch of coal!”
“How old fashioned. You’re a nuke, baby.”
“Careful when I explode, then,” she just managed to sigh. . .
It was about half an hour later when we managed to continue the conversation.
“I hate New York. It’s one of my least favorite places, and that includes central Africa.”
“Truthfully, I don’t like New York either,” she demurred. “In case I haven’t told you yet, I’m from Chicago. But I think that, if you have the chance, and you weren’t lucky enough to be born in New York, you should spend at least a year of your life in the city.”
“Because living in New York teaches you to be streetwise; you may not always know where to go, but you soon learn where not to go, in New York, and for that matter, everywhere else.”
“That’s hardly a reason,” I scoffed. “Places like that all over. Even in Chicago. Even in San Diego, or Phoenix, or Dallas or anywhere.”
“But people from there aren’t very streetwise.”
“Here’s the dif. In those cities I named, and a lot more, it happens in certain parts of the cities. But it holds for ALL of New York. Which proves my point.”
“Proves mine too,” she smirked. “Here you can’t just stay in the good areas, because there aren’t any. You’re forced to learn.”
Not knowing why we were bothering with such a topic, I gave her my best fake smile and told her, “You’re the best Lea ever!”
“I should be more flattered by that than I actually am,” she mused. “Maybe because the only other one I’ve heard of was in Star Wars.”
“If you ever decide to move to El Ay, you can stay with me for a whole month!”
“Oh boy! Who needs the lottery?”
“That sarcasm means you’re going to have to cook the whole month.”
“But you’ve seen what a good shopper I am!”
“Too expensive. Besides, if you’re out shopping all day, you won’t be able to find a place of your own. I did say only one month.”
“Silly, I wasn’t planning to move. It was just a vacation idea.”
“Ah. Looks like my ego got ahead of me. So now I’ll have to do something to make you reconsider your reason. . .”
“You really want me living with you, then?” Again she did the fluttering eyelashes thing, so I gave up right then and there.
After lunch we heard the subway driver announce “Happy holidays!” over the P.A.
“Does that seem as weird to you?” I asked Lea.
Shrug. “First time for everything, I guess. You haven’t told me if you like my outfit.”
I’d snagged a seat, but for some reason she stayed up and was now swaying around a pole, seemingly unconsciously. “Having seen you nude, I don’t see how any clothes can improve on Nature.”
“You’re just saying that,” she replied placidly.
“I mean it. With your body, you could be a stripper/comedienne.”
She frowned doubtfully, but still managed to look cute. “Sounds like two different crowds.”
“Not around here.”
“Don’t start that again.” She tossed me her purse and did a swing around the pole. Luckily there weren’t many people around to complain, though the male half wouldn’t have argued as their eyes bugged out.
“This reminds me of a train I was on, I think in Vancouver. There was a sign that said, ‘Ladies, the poles are here for your protection. No dancing!’”
“Ha! Love it. I’ve heard great things about Vancouver, but that might be the best.” Lacking any more inspiration, she came back to where I was sitting, but I directed her further on. “Bad throw. Your purse is somewhere over there. Did you know that it’s against the law in this state to throw a ball at someone’s head for fun?”
She frantically searched for her purse, then was relieved enough, on finding it intact, to say, “Even a snowball? Damn!”
“Don’t worry, you can still throw it out of maliciousness.”
I watched from the safety of the escalator as she took the stairs like she was running through tires on a football practice field. It was both a funny sight as well as an erotic one, for one moment she seemed all elbows and the next you saw all her curvy glory. . .
Since she’d been self-powering, she got to the top first, and was puffing and reading a flier when I finally arrived. “Check this out. I thought this was the city that never sleeps.”
I checked. The piece of paper told me of a new venture opening up on some floor of the Empire State Building, specifically for naps.
“Naps? What is this, pre-school?”
Resisting saying I sounded like a Noo Yawkah, she giggled, “Perhaps they’re trying to market the siesta.”
She held my hand to lead me while enabling me to read: High above the bustling streets, honking taxicabs and crowded sidewalks, we offer just what you need: a 20-minute nap. Stressed-out customers arrive in a quiet, darkened room filled with futuristic chairs, or “napping pods,” where they can pay $14 for their snooze.
“’Power’ nap?” I snorted. “That is the most overused word in marketing today. And pods? Fifties sci-fi movie!”
White noise machines block out whispered conversation at the front desk. Sleepers stretch out in the reclining seats, which resemble plush dentists’ chairs, with blankets covering their legs and music piped into headphones.
“No way you can sleep in a dentist’s chair, unless they give you knockout gas.”
After 20 minutes, the sleeping pod wakes up the customer with a combination of vibrations and light. Nappers are encouraged to sleep just 20 minutes because a longer session tends to leave them more groggy than refreshed. “It’s the closest thing to your bed,” one satisfied customer said. “It’s either this, or the top of a table in a coffee shop with your head down.”
“You buy that?” she grinned.
Shrug. “Sell it as a trend and everyone will flock to it. When I feel sleepy today, and I know I will because you kept me up all night, let’s go into my office and have sex. Won’t cost you anything.”
She sighed. “I’ve always dreamed of having a boss like you!”