When it’s right, it’s right and you can feel it in the air, when your bodies brush together the sparks fly and the ozone cooks; she cannot take her eyes off you, you cannot take your eyes off her, and nobody has to say a thing. As the elevator rose lurching slowly two flights, I wanted to put my hands on her shoulders and turn her toward me and watch her face tilt up and her lips part, I knew it would happen that way, that she would come in against me and I would press her against the elevator wall, and the kiss would be so hot and filled with excitement that we could slide down to the floor unknowing and clutch each other melting into one soul.
Naturally, that’s not what happened.
I didn’t lay a glove on her in the elevator. We didn’t even talk, I just looked at all that honey-ginger hair and thought about the way it would feel against my skin. When the elevator door opened and I saw the maid’s cart parked in front of my open door I wasn’t even slightly phased, but touched Sonny with the tips of my fingers at the small of her back and she moved into the suite turning up to me and smiling. My knees almost buckled from the look in her eyes.
“Be done in a minute,” the maid called from the kitchen.
“That’s fine,” I called to her. To Sonny I said, “Let’s go out on the terrace,” and when we were outside feeling the sweet warm winds, she said, “Oh, this is so beautiful,” and I could have kissed her then, her face all lit up, but instead I said, “Let me get that weed,” and went in the bedroom and got my bag of marijuana out of the cigar box I usually keep it in. I was rummaging around in one of my unpacked suitcases when she came to the door and said, “What are you looking for papers? I have some down at my place.”
“Aha,” I said, and held up a package of papers and my little glass doorknob roach clip. She came over beside me and looked down at the long fronds of seedless weed. “That is so beautiful,” she said softly.
I could hear the maid preparing to leave. Only a few minutes more.
“Let me go in here,” she said, pointing to the bathroom. I was sitting on the bed, rolling a couple of joins on the glass top of the bedside table. By the time I finished rolling these and she got out of the bathroom the maid would be gone and we would be alone again. It made my fingers tremble so much I could hardly make them work, so the two joints were fat and messy. When I stood up my cock was bulging in my pants in an unmistakable fashion, and I laughed, because it didn’t matter at all, let it bulge, soon enough my pants would be gone and hers too, and we would be in this big white-covered bed fucking like lightning bugs. My heart was about to blow a hole in my chest I felt so good. I didn’t need or want any more marijuana, whiskey, anything; I just wanted that lovely sweet girl under me, on top of me, all over me.
Karoom, goes the toilet.
Click, snap, goes the front door.
Suddenly I knew she was going to come out of the bathroom naked, shimmering, ready for love. Here I was, still fully dressed, as if I hadn’t got the message, as if I was impervious to the electricity of acceptance all over the room, and I sat down on the bed again and had one of my shoes off and was pulling at the other when she came out.
“What are you doing?” she asked me.
Now, here was a place where I could have used some advice. Maybe what I should have said was, “Changing my socks,” or “Just want my feet to breathe a little.” Something diplomatic.
But what I said was, “Putting on my birthday suit.”
She laughed, and grabbed one of the joints, and went outside. I finished taking off my other shoe and both socks and went out there barefoot to see if there was any way, any way at all, I could get the magic back.
– Don Carpenter was born in Berkeley in 1932. Raised in Portland, he enlisted in the air force and returned to the Bay Area at the end of his service. He published 10 novels during his lifetime, including the classic crime novel Hard Rain Falling and A Couple of Comedians, from which this except is taken. Richard Brautigan was his close friend. Norman Mailer said he writes “like an angel.” Jonathan Lethem cites him as a major influence. He spent 12 years in and out of Hollywood writing for movies and television. After years of poor health, he committed suicide in Mill Valley in 1995.
Copyright © 2014 by Don Carpenter from The Hollywood Trilogy. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint.