Zuzu orders two. It is 6:15 already. And the sweet potato shoestring fries. She likes the colors, she likes the sweet and salt tastes on her tongue. She wishes her friend would get here already, instead of leaving her on this crowded patio bar at happy hour, surrounded by people in groups, work groups, mostly, but also social groups. Social groups. She rolls her eyes at herself and swishes the tangerine juice at the back of her mouth, where it stimulates a little flood of salivary excitement.
“Good,” she says out loud, then looks around to see if anyone noticed. No one did. The volume on the patio is increasing steadily, exponentially, as the end of happy hour approaches. The men in the lawyer suits have their ties loosened or removed and they roar like elephants, heads back, trunks exposed. They must be funny, she thinks and puts a sweet potato fry in her mouth.
“Mmmm,” she says, and wipes her lips. The ladies in the floral dresses at the next table over are handing gift bags to the head of the table, a red headed woman wearing a pale blue sleeveless dress. They are all laughing.
“They are all laughing,” she says. The waitress, walking by, sees her mouth move and leans over.
“Can I get you another?” She waves her finger at Zuzu’s glass.
Zuzu nods her head sympathetically, not really meaning yes, just acknowledging her presence. The ginger gives this martini such a nice zip, she thinks.
“Nice zip,” she says to the men at the table with their big laughs. They wave their glasses at her. Her cell phone, sitting in her purse at her feet, begins to vibrate, but the ginger is more zippy than the phone, and she misses her friend’s call.
When the man with the best figure and the zippiest smile gives her a ride home later, she talks him into stopping at the Sunflower, where she buys Chunky Monkey ice cream, a frozen soy dessert called White Creation, and some butter and eggs. They eat ice cream and soy cream and drink whiskey and fall in a sugary haze into bed, where their relative receptivity is fair but not stellar, as Zuzu has found to be true often enough with stranger sex.
In the morning, she finds ice cream dribbled on the 500 piece puzzle she’s been working on every Friday night for the last six months, and the man with the zippy smile is in the kitchen, making coffee and humming a song that might be comforting in someone she knows well, but is irritating to Zuzu, who prefers to be left alone in the mornings, as well as most evenings and some afternoons.
“Some afternoons,” she says out loud, wiping White Creations off of her puzzle, an English garden that is heavy on lilacs and trellises.
“Coffee?” says zippy man, sticking his head out the kitchen door.
She takes the coffee from him and gets out her cell phone, picking up her message from Angela, an apology, an explanation. She doesn’t listen to it all the way through.