Susanna and I sit like queens outside her restaurant on South Congress. She’s ordered us oysters, ham, and plates of tiny salted pickles that cost more than a pack of cigarettes. The windowsills are lined with baskets of cacti.
We’re different now. Grown, although acting like teenagers as we flirt with Paul, one of her waiters. Paul’s a coy Texas boy from Lubbock. Everyone around here, Susanna tells me, calls him Buddy after Buddy Holly. She hired him six weeks back. She says he knows his wine and how to charm the wives of all the fancy couples who frequent her restaurant.
Susanna winks at me while Paul gets us another bottle of champagne.
“You know those east coast wenches,” she says. “They can’t get over a cowboy smile.”
I wink back and remember how, fifteen years ago, Susanna was loud and thick-wasted. I made fun of her for all the words she mispronounced. But if I needed a dollar, Susanna had five. If I needed a drink, Susanna had Lone Stars and water bottles full of liquor. If I needed a ride, she had a black Toyota with weed in the console and a glove box stashed with condoms for safety. We used to joke about the condoms because we never used them. Instead, she’d drive her Toyota around Austin and we’d find roads shaded with live oaks to kiss one another under. It still excites me to remember first lying against her long stomach, how much difference there was to discover between our bodies—two shapes that, before Susanna, I’d assumed would be too similar to ever make sense as a set.
It’s eleven at night. Heel after heel clicks down South Congress. The women around us have skinny legs and handbags smooth as butter. Paul arrives to refill our champagne flutes and we toast to Susanna’s success. She bought this place out from an organic grocery store. Before that, the space was a bakery. Fifteen years ago, it was a metal shack that sold the best greasy hamburgers in town.
Now she leans back with her fingers woven together on the table.
“You’re a businesswoman,” I tell her. “A total boss.”
Susanna takes my hand and squeezes it three times.
I want to say a corny line—let’s get out of here or follow me—then grab the champagne and lead her down an alleyway out back to light cigarettes and pass the bottle. I want Susanna to drink it all before getting closer. I want her to say, “now this feels good.”
And then I want us to find some Lone Star. I want a plastic water bottle of liquor. I want to be sixteen and stoned in the back of Susanna’s Toyota. She’s left a handful of condoms in the glovebox for safety, knowing full well that’s not what we’re after at all.
“It feels good to have you here,” she says.
Colleen Mayo’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, The Sun Magazine, The Rumpus, Hobart, The Chattahoochee Review, and elsewhere. Colleen lives in Denton, Texas where she is a PhD student in Creative Writing at The University of North Texas.