The Date (3/3)

May 4th, 2003

Ford woke the next day to a tingling sensation between his shoulder blades. He knew at once that it was Selena, tracing shapes and patterns with her fingertips.

She rose to her knees, and slapped Ford’s buttocks. “Right!” she said, “I’d love to hang around, but unlike you, I’ve got to work.”

Ford grunted. “I thought criminals get weekends off? Or aren’t they all so forgiving?”

“You’re sharp for first thing in the morning.”

“Amongst other things.”

Selena danced around the room, collecting her clothes and oddments. She looked very positive, full of life, vibrant. It was all for Ford. He had always fancied redheads, even plain ones, and it was as if Selena knew this about him, and used it to her advantage. The way she flaunted herself, leaving nothing to the imagination, it was all very endearing. He wondered if she had much of a history in the way of men. Was she always so confident?

Ford looked up at the ceiling and mused. He couldn’t lie to himself, he knew he found Selena a little bit intimidating. Probably because she had it all figured out.

Who knows? he thought. If things were to work out, maybe she’d stick around. Maybe she’d get to know me enough that she’d break me down into little pieces, and put them back together again. Like a thick, limited child, obsessively reconfiguring a diorama made of Lego.

“Before you go,” Ford said. “I need a word.”

Selena smirked. “But Daddy, I really need to get to class.”

“I’m serious.”

A comfortable silence broke the room.

Ford raised himself up. He cleared his throat, he spoke clearly. “Selena, I’ve had a wonderful time. I really like you. And as you said last night, I’m very open with you. I love that I’m able to do that. It’s incredible, really, that I’m able to do that, because I normally find it very hard to open up to women. And Jesus Christ, it’s only our second time together. Can you imagine that? I’m not sure what it’s been like for you, but for me, it’s pretty amazing.” He paused. “So, I’ve decided that this is as far as I can go.”

The comfortable silence broke, and the room itself seemed to come alive. What was this place? Just another nondescript bedroom, in a nondescript apartment in Reno. Selena had seen rooms like this many, many times over, both at work and in her day to day life. Rooms with big double beds, upended clutter on surfaces, and suntanned movie posters. Stacks of VHS. Televisions. The only different thing about this room was the man who laid before her.

This was a man with not much going on in his life.

At the same time, like a parallel highway coursing out into the Ruby Mountains, this was a man with an unexplained power. The kind of man who could take you into a hole, heavy with the scent of sweat, and show you a completely different world. The kind of man who could break your heart.

The Date (2/3)

May 3rd, 2003

A few hours later, Ford had taken his seat across from Selena. They had parked up in Midtown, and after a short walk, located a new Italian bistro advertising authentic flavours and original recipes. The prices seemed fair and it wasn’t too busy, either.

“You know,” Ford said, starting on his soda, “I never really wanted to teach kids. I’ve always found them to test my patience. In class, or even at recess, you don’t really get a chance to sit down and think. Some of my colleagues actually believe they’re teaching young adults, and true, some of the things the kids say can be funny, or witty, but never insightful. And even then, the odds of one of them pulling out some smart ass remark is a certainty when they outnumber me, 24 to 1.”

Selena smiled, and her eyes surveyed the room, but her attention remained focused on Ford. “I’m glad we could do this,” she said.

“Me too, but what do you mean?”

“I mean what I say.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I feel like I’ve known you for a lot longer. It’s hard to get a decent date in this area.”

Ford inclined his head to the ceiling fan, his arms stretched out over the table. “I need to get out, just, God knows how I’m going to do it.”

“You should really loosen up.”

“I’m trying.”

He noticed then a small insect scrambling up the sleeve of his shirt. He indicated the thing to Selena, before flicking it off like a well-practiced field goal.

Selena kept on smiling.

She smiles a lot, Ford thought, for a police officer. “A woman of the law,” he mumbled. “Selena. Tell me, how did you get into all that?”

“Into police work? It was my childhood dream.”

“Just like that?”

She nodded. “Yes, and it’s exactly what I asked for. I like following rules, I don’t mind the paperwork, and in some ways, it keeps me fit.”

“What else?”

“Well sometimes you get involved in disappearances, kidnappings, gunfights.”

“I bet only half of that is true.”

“We’ll see.”

Ford realised then just how different Selena was to himself. She probably knows, he thought. She probably knows already that this isn’t going to go anywhere. So she must be in it for the sex.

“How about you?” Selena said.

Ford cleared his throat. “Jesus, where to start?”

“Did you say you went to college?”

“Right. So after college, I became a substitute. Math and whatever else schools needed. Emphasis on the need, because it wasn’t exactly hard to get into. You have some young guy enjoying his freshman year in the real world, and he can look hungry for pretty much anything. Anyway, I had to earn a living, and I thought Penn was for me, so I tried out all the different schools.”

“OK. So you graduated and subbed for a while. What then?”

“I came out here just after 2000, to be back with my mom. She was dying, then. Me and my sis took on joint care.”

Selena stirred the straw in her beer. “What does your sister do?”

“She’s always been here, living and working. A few years older than me.”

“I mean, what does she do?”

“Oh, well, nothing much. I think she was unemployed a few years ago. But now she works for one of the big cellphone companies. I can’t remember which. SBC?”

“You honestly don’t know?”

Ford shrugged. “We don’t talk about work much.”

“I see. So your mother, then?”

“Yeah, when she died, I moved up to Reno. To settle down, or move on.”

A young waitress with a birthmark on her face brought their orders over. The food looked good enough to justify the wait. Pizza, well-stacked, with tanned, fluffy crusts. Potato wedges. An assortment of condiments. None of it particularly Italian.

Selena took precise bites around her first slice of pizza, before working a potato wedge into a big jar of ketchup.

She stopped to talk after finishing her soda. “Aren’t you open?”

“There’s nothing to hide,” Ford said. “I wouldn’t say I’ve had an interesting life.”

“True. What do you think of the world?”

“The world has no mysteries.”

They continued to eat. Some of the wedges were crispy, but an unfortunate selection hadn’t been cooked through, and slipped about in the mouth like wet pellets of soap.

“The world has no mysteries?” Selena said. “Well, I’ve got some examples.”

The Date (1/3)

May 3rd, 2003

That evening, on his drive home, Ford stopped off at the grocery store to pick up some essentials. He was due to meet Selena for a second date, and, if as he suspected, she was interested in going back to his apartment, he would need to stock up on toilet roll, wine, and food.

He walked the aisles as he always had after the first few weeks back at work, in something of a stupor, not really knowing where to begin or end.

The toilet roll came first.

Choosing the wine was difficult, until he found the only corked red with a suitably deep punt in the bottom of the bottle. Someone had once told him that deep punts are the mark of a good quality wine. Ford suspected this was pure conjecture, though it never encouraged him enough to go somewhere and look it up.

As for food, they would be eating out. But in case of breakfast, he grabbed a case of eggs, some bacon, orange juice and bread.