I Have Twelve Miles Left On The Electric Car
“Tell me about the worst date you’ve been on.” I ask him.
“Well, on the third date, at some point in the night, I found out she still had a boyfriend.”
“She? Girl? Bisexual? YOU’RE BISEXUAL?”
Marlon is two months away from graduating. That week, he flew to Sacramento to interview for a post-grad internship at a prominent 501(c)3 involved in social justice issues for the Latino community. It was exactly what he wanted to do; get out of LA and return to his community.
“To be honest, it’s is my first time trying this out. I want to be open-minded this year, try new things. I’ve never gone out with a guy.”
“Oh boy, I’m like the Amerigo Vespucci of gays.”
“Looking more at the connection aspect than gender spectrum.”
“Excuse me! I get nothing for a joke about Amerigo Vespucci‽”
“L-oh-L. That was a good one.”
“Are you kidding me? No. Too little. Definitely too late.”
It’s 8PM when I pull up at the USC dorms. He’s already waiting outside. I want to give him the Door Test from A Bronx Tale, but aside from the fact that I hadn’t come to a complete stop before his hand was on the door, keyless entry has made this particular assessment nearly impossible. I get out of the car, walk over to him, give him a hug, and open his door. I guess I’ll never know whether he would have passed or failed that particular judgement.
He smells good. It’s one of my things, 90% of my attraction to a guy is based on how he smells. To this day, I wear my ex-boyfriend’s brand of deodorant (perhaps that’s not the healthiest thing to do). But this guy smells really good. I wipe a little water from my face after we hug. He’s just out of the shower.
“Where to?” he asks.
“I wast thinking we would hit the Observatory. They have a planetarium show that starts in forty-five minutes. Then there’s The Alcove, just down the street. After that, we can just play it by ear.”
“Awesome. Cool car, by the way.”
“It’s my roommate’s. Electric Fiat. I love it. I’m considering getting one.”
We drive up Vermont with sixty miles of range. I should have taken the freeway.
❖ ❖ ❖
“I don’t really get road rage. I’m more like a disappointed father.”
“What do you mean?”
“’Oh come on son, we taught you better than that.’ or ‘I’m not upset, I’m just expect more from you.’ Like that. I don’t shout, I lecture.”
“’I’m so glad you’re adopted. I could never have produced a son that drives like you.’ Like that?”
“Wow. No. Oh my gosh, you’re terrible at this.”
“So how do you charge it?”
“We have a plug at home. And we know all the public chargers near our regular spots. But it’s almost never driven more than 100 miles in a day, so it’s not a problem to plug in at night and have a full ‘tank’ when you wake up.”
“Cool. So we have fifty-five miles left?”
We pull into a parking spot at Griffith at 8:40 pm. The show starts at 8:45. We double-time through crowds of people, across the lawn, straight to the ticket counter that had already closed. The show sold out an hour ago. I can’t believe this many people in L.A. care this much about astronomy on a Saturday night.
“Okay, more time to walk around. Talk. I’ll show you my favorite part of the building.” I guide him down the stairs, and take a left at the bottom. There’s already a guy and a girl standing in my spot. He holds her close and by the waist. She holds her hand to her mouth and giggles. “Dammit, he stole my move.”
“Come here. Stand right here.” We stand on a circular tile in the floor, centered between two curved walls.
“I don’t know… whoah! That’s so weird.”
“It’s resonance. Acoustic resonance. The sound is bouncing off the walls and back to you at the same frequency. And then it bounces again off the opposite wall, like a really small, really fast echo.” I don’t know if any of that’s true, but it sounds about right and it makes me look smart. Anyway, he bought it and I’m in the circle with him. I sing, “cause a little bit of Summer’s what the whole year’s all a-bout.”
The girl’s voice behind me says, “Hey, you sound good.”
I look at the guy next to her. He sees my hand on Marlon’s waist and winks. I stole his move.
❖ ❖ ❖
“Garrett! I saw you behind the bar, working, I didn’t want to let too much time pass before I said hello.”
“Ivan! I haven’t seen you in forever! How are you?”
“I’m well. Yeah. I think the last time I saw you was here about a year ago. This is Marlon.” They shake hands and Garrett offers us our first round. Marlon orders an Old Fashioned. I ask for a ginger beer.
“You’re not drinking?”
“No, it interacts with my antibiotics.” Pause. “I’m kidding! I gave up drinking this year of my life. September though, I’ll be having a nice, medium ribeye, and a Johnny Walker Blue.”
Garrett intervenes, “There are better whiskies.”
“Yeah, I know, but I’m a label whore.”
It goes like this for a while. A long while. Garrett keeps refilling our drinks and he only charges me for every other round. I tell Marlon that he looks better than his pictures. He returns the compliment.
“This isn’t weird for you, being out with a guy for the first time?”
“No. What’s weird is that I feel like I’ve known you a really long time. I feel like I’m catching up with an old friend.”
He laughs and I really like it because he means it. He laughs like we’re in grade school.
At some point, we both notice the time and it doesn’t feel like it’s been four hours since I picked him up in front of the dorms and he did/didn’t pass the Door Test. In my head I make a joke about Schrödinger’s Door Test, but it’s not a very good joke so I don’t say it out loud.
“What does your day look like tomorrow?” I ask.
“Nothing that can’t be delayed.”
“The kitchen here is closed. Fred 62s is a great diner a block from here. Open 24/7. Shall we?”
❖ ❖ ❖
He pays for dinner while I’m in the bathroom.
The waiter is gay, and looks happy about our so-clearly-a-first-date. “Sorry honey, he beat you to it.” he says with a smile.
(Oh, and he helped himself to food from my plate when I offered. Marlon, not the waiter. Like it was the most natural thing to do, like we’ve shared food before. I like that.)
It’s just after 1am now. We stand outside of the restaurant. I expect that he’ll stretch and yawn or start his next sentence with, “Well, I guess…” but he does neither. Instead he says, “Where to next?”
We’ve got thirty miles left on the car. Just a few miles East down Sunset, past the street that goes up to Dodger Stadium, there’s an overlook at the top of a hill full of apartments and small houses. It’s one of my favorite views of the city. We back into an empty driveway and take it in. We watch the stream of cars on the highway. We watch a helicopter land on a building and then take off again.
“What are you thinking?” he asks.
“Nothing — — — You really want to know?”
“I was thinking I’d really like to kiss you right now. But I also want to respect where you’re at. I don’t want to make anything happen that you’re not ready for. You know?”
“Maybe instead you’ll let me hold your hand.”
❖ ❖ ❖
“I have twelve miles left on the electric car. We can definitely get to where I want to go next, but we absolutely cannot get back. There’s a charger near there, but it’ll take a little while to juice up before we can leave. It’s up to you.”
“Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
We hold hands most of the drive down the 10, except when we’re both dancing to the radio. There’s that laugh again. Shit, I’m in trouble.
His hand is on my lap as we turn off PCH. I point into a dark football field, “That’s where I went to high school. Paly. I used to wake up at 5 in the morning and take a bus from East L. — Listen, if you keep grazing my balls like that we’re going to have a problem.”
We stop at the end of Mt. Holyoke, as close as we can get to the park and the edge of the bluff. Five miles remaining. It’s nearly 2am. A few other people are walking around in the darkness, sitting on the barricades that face the ocean.
“I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be here.” I say to him. I notice he’s shivering. “Want my sweater?” I don’t wait for a reply. He looks good in it.
We throw a leg over the short fence meant to keep people from falling and just stand there a moment, Santa Monica on our left, Malibu on our right. I try my absolute very best to look warm, despite being in a t-shirt. I tell myself, “at least it’s a thick t-shirt.” And out of necessity, I pull him in close, warm my hands between him and the sweater, and kiss him.
He smiles and puts on a gruff-dad tone, “Come on son, we taught you better than that.”
“Wait. What? You know you’re basically saying you made out with your father.” Still, he smells so good. “You really are terrible at this.”