He seems genuinely happy to be here, though, sipping his cocktail, while I lazily trace the beads of condensation down the outside of my tulip glass. Leaning back in his chair with his arms folded behind his head, he breathes a big sigh.

“Now I’m relaxed.”

“Me, too,” I echo his feelings. “I love this place—the breeze coming off the water, the smell of the salt air….”

My voice trails off as I gaze dreamily over the long wooden pier illuminated by strands of dazzling lights.

“Smells like pee,” he grins, snatching my romantic notions out from under me.

Lifting my face to accept his light for another cigarette, I anticipate the whole of a relationship in just one bite. Envisioning that all will be revealed on this night—how he longs for my touch as much as I yearn for his. I send currents of energy across the table but it might as well be an ocean between us. My messages go missing in the fog…like muted signals from a distant vessel.

I can’t help feeling self-satisfied, though. I accomplished my goal. Scoring a date with this elusive man and here we are, if only to prove to myself that this is real. That our connection that night, however brief, holds possibilities for a future together.

“Thank you for coming out with me tonight, ” I say. ” I love this place. It feels like Key West”.

My fork delicately arranges my pigeon peas in tidy formations around the edge of my plate. I am too nervous to eat and besides I want to look my skinniest later, in his room.

“I enjoy your company”, he says.

Blackened grouper with peas and rice. He eats a lot. Bread and butter, salad…mucho gusto. I sit quietly gazing across the water. Sipping my drink, drinking in the night. Enjoying the moment. With him.

I remember it was Skully, the part-time entertainment booking agent and full-time coke dealer who first introduced me to this restaurant. I remember how he seemed so grand and affluent. Such a lucky turn that he chose me to be his companion, if only for a little while.

How the night began with the drive north, a white styrofoam cooler in the back seat stocked with chilled bottles of Kendall Jackson. How he ordered up, starting with two plates of Oysters Rockefeller. How good natured and generous he was with the service help…calling for a second bottle of wine with the meal.

How we got pulled over by the highway patrol on the way home.  How I slipped my wine glass between the seat and the floorboard, but it clinked down the pavement when the officer asked me to open my door. And how it didn’t matter that we both got fined for violating the open container law.

“Just the cost of doing business,” Skully chuckled, restarting his gold Eldorado with the tinted windows, and we were on our way again.

How we fucked in his over-sized wood four poster bed at his little bungalow on 28th Street at four in the morning and how I was too drunk to remember recklessly peeling off the condom somewhere between the beginning and the end. And the itchy clusters of lice in my pubic hair the next day. But that was years ago. I am different now.

To be continued…