The companion who paid deserved every small decency. That code was invented ages ago. That was the standard applied by apes and whales and presumably the inhabitants of the strangest, farthest worlds. One charity always bought another, which meant polite talk and a smile that couldn’t seem forced. And if the woman’s charity was pleasantly extravagant, Quentin would be amenable to most physical gestures. Unless of course his date was neurotic with persistent hints of crazy.
Crazy or not, Vinnie looked nice in that slinky silk dress, and it didn’t hurt that they were enjoying the best restaurant in town--a private club perched on the tallest building. Beef and Incan potatoes were on the menu, and more than half of a giant ice cream that she ordered for both of them. Quentin ate his fill and then some, and she joked just once about him nodding off at the wrong moment.
“What’s the wrong moment?”
“Before you’re home again, of course.”
Vinnie's mother was never mentioned, save at the end. The old lady’s name made the bill evaporate, and then Vinnie led her rented man down to her car, winking when she asked, “Still awake?”
“Good,” was such a useful word that she said it three more times. Then they were on the road, and maybe she was taking him back to his apartment.
They talked about college times.
They discussed two construction sites and the look of the moon.
Then they were halfway home--to both of their apartments--when she turned abruptly, pulling down a side street beside the city’s main cemetery. Quentin said nothing, even after she parked, killing every light and setting the brake against the very slight grade.
“Kiss me,” she said.
He said, “Maybe.”
She tried a laugh.
Into the darkness, Quentin asked, “What’s going on with you?”
“The new Vinnie,” he began.
“I told you. I realized men are nice.”
“Enough. Nice enough.”
She kissed him, an impossibly long tongue trying to reach his tonsils. And as soon as she realized that he wasn’t responding, she pulled back. Quentin assumed that she would hit him or yell or start up the car again, heading for home.
Instead, Vinnie lifted her body from the seat, and with a total absence of grace reached up under her dress, pulling her panties past her right ankle and then the left.
He said, “No.”
Bunching the underwear in her hands, she made a tiny sad sound.
“You still see her,” someone said.
Vinnie said it. Except the voice had an unfamiliar in tone and was vague in direction, as if it had floated in from the back seat.
“You mean Farah,” he said.
Quentin hoped it would hurt, hearing the name.
But no, Vinnie laughed. Suddenly, fiercely. Then the panties went over her shoulder, and she lifted the silk dress past her crotch and then past her waist, legs pulled apart with enough moonlight to show white thighs and pubic hair, and her left hand didn’t have to struggle to drag his fingers along the shaved thigh and against the sad wet vulva.
Two fingers in, out.
Then three fingers.
Vinnie said nothing, and if not for the moisture it was possible to believe that the act was utterly joyless. But then a gray moan emerged from her, and her entire body stiffened, hands clamping on his wrist as a choked little voice said, “Slower.”
Quentin tried to recover his fingers, but she yanked and said, “No. Leave it there.”
There was a cut on Quentin’s ring finger, unnoticed until now, until the acidic fluids began to gnaw at the imperfection.
Teeth gritted, he asked, “Are you comfortable?”
“Never,” she said.
They kissed again, tongues wrestling.
Then her hands gathered around his hand, and she said, “I’ll show you. What your wife likes more than anything.”
He didn’t understand. What Farah liked to do or have done to her?
Either way, Vinnie said, “The fist.”
“Put your fist inside me.”
Quentin shifted his weight, the angle of his arm and shoulder, trying to make his hand as narrow and kind as possible.
“No, no, no,” she said, exasperated.
Vinnie did the work, driving his clenched fingers against stubborn wet flesh, the body fighting every pressure until some balance of misery and surrender was achieved, and the vagina opened and opened and then closed again, closed around his soggy wrist, and his hand was spinning slowly inside a writhing, sobbing body, its wounded finger burning, that tiny misery forgotten against everything else.