“New shoes,” Tina says, turning her feet this way and that, the cherry red leather glowing in the sunlight coming through her bedroom window.
“Very red,” I say. I am in her bed, the sheet gathered around my waist. “Like how much more red can they be?”
“The answer is none,” she says, putting a twist on the obligatory Spinal Tap joke. “None more red.”
“Are you going to put any other clothes on? Or just go out in nothing but shoes?”
“It’s San Francisco,” she says. “Rules don’t apply here.”
I’ve seen Tina undressed many times before in our history together, from seaside hotels to snowy forest tree lines, but there is something different about it these past few days. The familiar curves of her hips, the twist of her waist, the line of her jaw… she’s become a new land, vibrant and alive with possibility, and I feel as though I am exploring uncharted territory, finding my way inch by inch and moment to moment.
She goes to her closet and begins searching though it, the hangers rattling against one another like chimes. Under her breath, she starts to sing Elton John, a tiny dancer in her hand, and I do nothing but keep watching her. Soon she takes out a red T-shirt and black jeans, but rather than putting them on, she drops them on the floor by the bed, then kicks off her shoes and crawls back onto the mattress beside me, not getting under the sheet, but laying on top of it. She puts her head against my shoulder, and drapes one leg across mine.
“You need a haircut,” she says. “You’re starting to look like Nick Nolte’s mugshot.”
“Don’t say anything else,” I tell her. “You’re going to ruin the moment.”
“If we’re going to be seen in public together, you’re going to have to clean yourself up.”
“We’re always seen in public together. We see each other almost every day.”
“Yes, but now there’s sexy sexy involved. When there’s sexy sexy, you need a haircut.”
“I can’t believe you just said ‘sexy sexy.’”
She pinches my arm, hard enough to make me wince. “Don’t make fun of me if you want to keep having the sexy sexy.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” I say,
“Lies,” she says. “I’m hungry. I’d tell you to make me pancakes, but I don’t have any mix in the cabinet.”
“How hungry are you? I’ll take you out for breakfast, but you’re going to have to earn it.”
“Don’t try trading pancakes for sex. You already know you’ll take me to eat without me having to put out for it.”
“Might not,” I say. “This could be the one time I get demanding.”
She puts her lips against the spot where she had pinched me a moment before, kissing it better. “You’re cute when you’re being stupid.”
“I’m cute always. Not just then.”
She kisses my arm again. “Okay,” she says. “Just this once, I’ll trade for pancakes. Don’t let it go to your head.”
Later, when thoughts of breakfast have returned to find themselves transformed into thoughts of lunch instead, Tina says, “I was afraid you were going to walk away from me.”
I am tying my shoes, sitting on the edge of the bed. “What? What do you mean?”
She is on the floor, her back against the bedroom door, dressed this time in more than just her new red shoes. “Last week, after we had sushi. You were going to your car and you were getting smaller and smaller down the street while you walked, and I kept thinking about what if that was the last time we had together?” She shrugs. “I was being irrational. Probably ate some bad fish.”
“I wasn’t going anyplace,” I say. “Just home.”
“But I wanted you to come to my home,” she says. “I didn’t want you to end up going to anybody else’s.”
“There is nobody else,” I tell her.
“I know,” she says. “But I wanted to make sure it stayed that way.”
I stand up and go to her, holding out my hand. She takes it and I pull her to her feet. “So does this mean we’re dating?” I ask.
“Screw that,” she says. “We aren’t fifteen. We are fucking. There’s a difference.” She doesn’t let go of my hand, but puts it above her head as she turns as though we are dancing, then pulls my arm down across her chest as she presses her back against me. We stand quietly together, my cheek against her hair. She smells like a field of clover in summertime.
“Someday,” she says, “the ocean is going to rise up, and the only parts of this city that are going to be above water are the roofs. The streets will be canals, and you’ll be able to dive down to the cars and the buses and search for pirate treasure in the wreckage.” She raises my hand to her lips and kisses my fingers. “I needed to be sure you were going to be on my roof, Boone. That’s why.”
I shut my eyes and picture the sea enveloping the city, gulls lighting on the dead hanging wires of the electric Muni lines, whales spouting along Market Street, sea lions swimming through the open windows of the windmills at the edge of the Park, and Tina and I living on her roof in a house made of driftwood, an island in the center of it all, alone but together.
“Come on,” I say, turning her around to face me. Last week, she was simply beautiful. Today, she is absolutely radiant. “Let’s go get some pancakes.”
“We’d better hurry,” she says. “The tide is coming in.”
I certainly hope so, I think. I certainly do.