He could hear her chirping on her way to the bathroom inside. He settled himself in the upright chair on the second floor patio awash in moonlight and stretched his legs out, a tinnitus of insect song in his ears. The branches of the big Peruvian Pepper Tree hung perfectly still over the patio.
She walked back onto the terrace with the baggie and papers that he had purchased for her some days earlier and stashed in the drawer under the water jug, her heels clicking on the tiles.
I gon make some smoke . . . We had fun tonight, you and me. Yes?
We had big fun, baby.
You so funny when you dance, tio. Sometime Louisa do dancing like you. She bery funny, too, when she dance like you. Louisa say you old and crazy. I tell Louisa maybe you old and crazy, but you come with money. You not crazy like Armando. Armando come with no money and expect something happen with Louisa.
Talk a little more quietly, Rosa. Dickie is asleep underneath us.
She sat on the leg extension of the lounge chair and leaned into the task of rolling a joint, her elbows on her knees pulled together. Her black hair, highlighted by the moon, hung down on either side of her hands. Her long fingers fluttered as her ancestors’ fingers must have fluttered on the loom. She held the joint toward him when she was done. He waved it off.
Why you don do noting, tio? You pay me for all night. Den you don do noting.
You know the deal, Rosa. I don’t pay you for anything.
Jes. Jes. You make a gift of money to me. I make my gift to you later. Nobody pay nobody for noting.
That’s the deal, Rosa. I used to be a lawyer. I know about these things.
But my gift . . . my gift is no gift. I love to take my close.
To take off your clothes.
To take of my close. Jes. She giggled.
Yes, you do. I don’t think that I have ever met anybody who enjoys taking off her clothes more than you do, baby.
She laughed, took a deep drag, and dropped the joint on the tray on the side table. She rose, walked over, and straddled his legs with her back to him. She bent over and grabbed his right ankle lifting it.
What the hell are you doing now?
I gon help you with your boots.
She began wrestling with his boot.
Rosa, your ass is right in my face, sweetheart!
She dropped his leg, straightened, and looked back at him over her shoulder.
What’s the matter, tio? You don like my ass?
Your ass is spectacular. You know how I feel about your ass. But baby, when it is that close, it could make me blind.
She laughed and walked away, exaggerating her sway.
Your feet too big in your boots after you dance again?
Yeah. My feet are big again.
My grandmother’s feet get big after she is dancing, too.
Thanks a lot, Rosa. He chuckled.
You ready for your gift now, tio?
She walked to the retaining wall and turned, reaching up under her dress to pull her thong down over her hips. She put her hand on the top of the retaining wall to steady herself while she pulled it off the rest of the way, teetering on first one red pump and then the other with their grotesquely stacked soles. She leaned forward slightly and reached behind deftly pulling down the zipper of her black shift, a dress that he had purchased for her and asked her to wear instead of the neon, skin-tight, stretch affairs that she favored. The straps fell off her shoulders. She pushed the dress past her hips. It fell around her ankles. She stepped out of it, picked it up, and hung it over the top of the low wall.
She turned to him and raised her hands palms to the sky, one leg in front of the other, knee slightly bent—her best imitation of a model’s stance. Then she began to dance, slow salsa turns to some melody playing in her head, her elbows working at her side, her eyes on him. He smiled at her, his head cocked to the side resting on his hand.
After a minute she stopped abruptly and looked down. She bent over and jabbed at the side of her lower leg with her fingers.
Tio, I hate my . . . what is the word?
Those are your calves, baby. Your calves.
I hate my cabs. My cabs are too big.
Oh, Jesus. Your calves are perfect just like everything else.
She straightened, put her fists on her hips, and looked at him sternly.
I toll you before, tio, don say Jesus unless you praying.
I forgot. Sorry. That was a wonderful gift tonight, Rosalita. Sit down and relax. The fireworks are coming soon.
She walked to the lounge chair and stretched out on it. She worked the straps off the backs of her heels with her toes. The pumps clattered on the tile. She leaned to the side and picked up the joint and the Bic lighter from the table, oblivious now to her own nudity.
Tio, why you don do noting? You pay me . . . you make a gift of money to me for one night each month. Den you don do noting. You don even do yourself when I take of my close.
I’m a little old for that, kid.
She turned her head on the back of the lounge and squinted at him, the joint and the lighter held poised in front of her face.
Maybe you like boys? Dickie likes boys.
It wouldn’t make any difference if I did, baby. Dickie’s scars look exactly the same, near as I can tell.
She snorted and turned to fire the joint.
You’re young. I like the look of you naked in the night. That’s all. I’m not quite ready to forget what that looks like yet. It’s that simple.
She paused, completely still, and exhaled smoke that roiled and then hung in the air.
Why don you watch movies then?
He laughed loudly, then caught himself, thinking of Dickie asleep in his apartment downstairs. The laughter was her additional gift to him.
Shit. That’s a helluvan idea, Rosa! Why didn’t I think of that?
I don tell Louisa you don do noting. I tell Louisa you are a great lover.
He pulled a Faro from the pack in the breast pocket of his shirt and shifted to retrieve the small box of matches from his pants pocket. He pulled one out and struck it. A sulfury, sizzling piece flew off and arced onto the tiles. From the plaza across the way came the sound. Pfffffft. Pfffft. Pfffft. The sky exploded. He looked up, watching for an orange spider–what he had called it since he was a boy.
He turned to look at her as she stared at the sky. Her face transposed into a deep blue and fading. Her breasts suddenly blood red then melting away. Her belly splashed in green for a moment. Then her legs vermillion. He turned away again, and caught his breath. . . .
He came to himself later with a little jerk and tried to see the face of his watch by the moon. He looked over at her. Her arm hung limply beside the armrest of the lounge. Her head had fallen to the side and a drop of saliva on her shoulder sparkled softly.
He stood up and walked inside. He returned with a blanket, bent over her, and covered her. He pulled a strand of hair from the corner of her mouth. He sat back down. Then he crossed one leg over the other knee, bent over with a grunt, and began working the first boot off.