Fiction: Me and the Emperor’s Daughter

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I have just leaned back…

Me and Her are lying in a saggy little bed, smoking the last of a joint, some new strain that makes us very high, fast. A swirling cloud of smoke streams from her lips up into the room. It’s Sunday morning. The window’s open but it’s hot, the air still and hot in the room. We lie naked sweating on top of the covers.

I’m in the wet spot, the modern Don Juan, a gentleman.

We just had sex, Sundaymorningsex in the middle of June. The birds outside are happy the sun is back, they can’t stop singing about it in the tree out there. Her and I are still giddy, laughing. She has one leg up bent and my hand follows the curves of it down along her shin and calf to her bony ankle, her foot, toes painted. It smells like weedsmoke and sexsmoke and a whole woman and three-fifths man. We’re daydreaming about the rest of our day…

We’re in the car. We’re at a drive-thru café, this little white dog with blue eyes on Her lap leaning out the car window, tongue lapping up the sunlight. The cute girl in the drive-thru window says, “Cute dog!” The girl behind her looks and smiles, agreeing. The one girl is blonde and the other one has brown hair and black-framed glasses. Everybody working there is a cute girl, all the customers are cute girls, firm and toned, delicate and soft, different kinds. They crane their necks and nod and smile at the dog waiting for its little paper cup of whipped cream. The coffee smells alive.

Doing a hundred-ten down the freeway, down the foothills into the valley, left lane wide open forever, the Beamer racing under the sun like a black sunbeam. Sunroof open, music blasting Biggie, Rick James, Mr. Dynamite. The blue sky looks fake, the mountains lined up back there like wrinkly old gold-diggers sunbathing out on the lawn.

Paradise, the Strip, Vegas Boulevard, a cougar still out at eight-something in the morning, elbows on her knees, lips and legs slightly separated. Desert houses all around, desert all around, sizzling gold.

Palm trees. Swimming pools.

All the cute girls, birds-of-paradise.

I grip Her thigh. She smiles at me behind these big sunglasses, at the mountains and sky.

At Sunset Park with our little white dog with honey eyes and the tail bent. There’s a big pond in the middle, a big island in the middle of the pond with ducks and geese. Goose Island I call it when I’m thinking of home, and beer. There’s these fat colorful fish floating in the pond and geese skim along the water, little white clouds with webbed feet paddling, sending graceful ripples back, gentle little rockets across the water. We walk around the big pond shining with the sun and blue. The dog smiles at the geese, the geese smile at our little dog, smile at us, we smile back.

“It’s beautiful here.”

“It’s always beautiful here.”

Smiling.

“The ducks look happy.”

“The fucks better be.”

A cute girl approaches with her dog. Then another cute girl with her dog. Then another, and another–we’re surrounded. “Cute dog!” they say, and “You guys make a cute couple!” with pretty teeth and lips. All the people at the park are cute girls, I should say, some of them with dogs, some of them jogging, some of them riding bicycles, some rollerblading, sweating, some playing volleyball, or eating ice cream cones, some with naked legs spread out in the grass, reading good books. Blondes, brunettes, gingers, purple hair, long hair, short hair, ponytails, pigtails, braids, cornrows, afropuff, you name it–except bald girls. And all with good skin and small wrists.

Their dogs are all the kinds that dogs come in. Mutts even.

The girls pet our little dog happy to be pet; he doesn’t take anyone’s finger off or nothing. We watch the dogs playing running leaping in the sun and rolling around down in the grass. Our dog loves the grass. I bust out these two fat-ass joints, Skywalker OG and AlaskaThunderFuck, pass them around, one going one way, the other the other, a beautiful little Circle of Death with all these cute girls, and we all get really high watching the dogs and the grass and the pond and the ducks and geese and fish and birds, trees, big sky, laughing.

We’re at the automatic carwash, in the car, just Her and me. It’s one of these carwashes with trippy colorful lights like a spaceship. We’re smoking another joint, watching the lights and soap suds, listening to music. The music tells the story of the lights and the soap suds: a love story, with a happy bang at the end. “So cute,” She says. I grip the back of Her neck and kiss Her lips of papaya and dirty dreams. She swallows me deep right there to music with lights under the carwash.

Then we’re sitting at a restaurant.

The French bistro we discovered last weekend, beside this little lake. In Summerlin: an oasis, for rich people. We’re out back in the enclosed patio area again, little table for two, facing the lake. The French doors half open so the breeze comes in off the lake. The lake is choppy, the water kicking, palm trees dancing. Houses all around the lake, with white boats. I imagine what it’s like living there: like Florida in 1993. No geese or ducks but still a decent little lake, probably real long fish in it too.

A cute waitress comes to the table smiling, big green eyes. All the servers are cute waitresses, and all the patrons are cute girls too, with small wrists–some of you know what I’m saying, the rest either won’t admit it or…–all smiling and laughing their real laughs and bouncing in their chairs. Our waitress brings me French press coffee, poached eggs smothered in hollandaise sauce, with the house potatoes, perfect perfect perfect. Très bien. And Her and I, we chat about life, about our cute little life together.

“Can you believe it?”

“Never in a million years.”

“Lucky.”

So lucky.”

“Life’s a trip.”

“Pass the Cholula!”

We kiss and chew and laugh and the waitress brings us mango mimosas mixed with good champagne and we toast, to us and this little French bistro by the lake or pond or whatever with paddleboats. We leave the waitress a fat tip.

On the way out I shake hands with the cute owner with round brown eyes, beautifully imperfect nose and pink lips. She smiles, kissing me on the cheek. “Come back soon, cutie!”

Then we catch a movie at the Palms…

But first I drive the Beamer up to the top of the parking garage, all the way up to the top and park so we get a perfect view of the Strip, end to end. Her and me, me and Her, She and I, Strip and sky.

We smoke another joint, then fuck in the backseat. We fuck like old times, when She would drive all the way up from Northlake to visit me at my ex Sarah’s apartment, and we’d bang in the backseat of Her cramped Nissan Sentra out in the parking lot in the middle of the night and fall asleep naked, soaked, windows foggy. And Sarah came out there and woke us up, found us, in the early morning, her little Korean hand slapping on the foggy glass. She wanted to kill me, kill us both, burn the car with me and Her naked in it. Ten years since then, Her and me. Ten good years of good luck and love.

We bang with the sunroof open and the radio bumping Crucial Conflict, R. Kelly, Jeremih–we’re from Chicago, always.

The Palms is packed with cute girls. Girls in sundresses and open-toe wedges, or tight-ass jeans with pumps, or just their bikinis. Girls playing the tables. Cute girls bringing cute girls cute drinks. Cute girls winning on the slot machines. Cute girls at the casino bar, smiles like flashes of inner thigh, dirty dreams and papaya. And in the middle of everything, Her and I walk arm in arm, smiling at all the cute girls.

We watch the new Tarantino movie, or Scorsese; they’re calling it a masterpiece; he says it’s his magnum opus. We ask for nachos with extra jalapeños and Sour Patch Kids for Her, buttered popcorn and Reese’s Pieces for me, and tall Blue Moons for the both of us, with big juicy orange wedges poor favor, macho grassy ass. We have the perfect seats, C10 and 11, right in the middle, nottooclose, nottoofar. Naturally, all the other seats are occupied by cute girls. And these leather seats go aaalll the waaayyy baaack…

The girl next to me smiles. “This looks like it’s gonna be good!”

“Yeah!” goes the girl next to my wife. “I love Tarantino”–or–“Scorsese.”

We laugh, we cry, our hearts race, we jump. At the end everybody stands up clapping, whistling. And Scorsese is there. And Tarantino. They’re both actually there, those fuckers, and one bows as the other waves. Roses are thrown, not by me. I get to shake their hands though.

“Bravo, gentlemen! You are masters.”

“Thank you, young man, thank you!” says one.

“Send me a script!” says the other.

When we get out of the movie it’s still only 11:30 in the morning somehow. The pool is warm and clean and ready when we get home. And my brother Alex is there lamping by that big beautiful pool, listening to the old Kanye. And Her cousin Dre’s already lounging on a watermelon floatie out on the crystal water.

I’m wearing big douchy sunglasses, grinning like a stray dog. “What’re you fuckers doing here?”

Dre’s wearing big douchy sunglasses, grinning like a gorilla. He goes, “I wanted to stop by, you’re gate was open, and I found this fucker here by the pool.”

My brother Alex is wearing these big douchy sunglasses, just there grinning.

“I’m working on my tan before I get a swim in,” says the broham. “It’s good cardio. Jump in, dickcheese!”

Magically I’m already in my trunks and sunscreened up, so I cannonball in. Underwater I feel like a baby in the womb. Or an astronaut.

My wife comes out in a two-piece beneath Her see-through somethingsexy, looking like the Emperor’s daughter, carrying a tray with a huge pitcher of coconut rum mixed with mango nectar, four glasses with ice, touch of lime. Thighs like buttermilk pancakes, ass like bacon, tits glistening like monkeybread. We all inhale our drinks, pass fat-ass joints around, and drink and smoke and smoke and drink, pitcher and weed neverending.

My stepdaughter Lily skips outside waving a letter up in the air.

“Your story got accepted!”

“Another one?”

“That’s the second one this week!”

“What can I say?”

“It’s a gift.”

“Fuhreal.”

“Congratulations, bro!”

I climb out the pool to read the letter, but really just to chuck Lily in the pool. She comes up splashing laughing. We all splash and laugh in the sun and music. Even the little dog is playing in the water, paddling, grinning tongue out. Then we all raise our glasses.

“To you!”

“No, to you!”

“To us!”

“To life!”

“Can you believe it?”

“Like a dream.”

We swim till we’re really wrinkly, then get out. We lie out on the patio couches, big red umbrella over us, there’s ribs and fat juicy chicken wings and cold beer and mangazos and sweet cold wine and fat-ass sticky joints. And all my old friends are there suddenly, and we’re talking like nothing like old friends, about old times.

“‘Member Jacky’s crazy whore ass?!”

“‘Member Ms. O’Doherty’s shit stank breath?!”

“‘Member sledding at the hill and breaking dude’s leg?!”

“‘Member that whatever-it-was you chased into your room?!”

“‘Member that religious bitch with the tall ugly daughter that polished your knob by the baby swings?!”

“‘Member setting the boat on fire and eating squirrels at Sarah’s lakehouse?!”

“‘Member when Jaws sliced his thumb off at that garage party?!”

“Shamika was a down-ass bitch, man. Rest in peace!”

We talk and talk and watch the sun go down and the sky burn beautiful, mango, watermelon, rum. We tell so many stories, so many jokes. We laugh and hug and kiss each other on the cheeks, by the ears. Then there’s cute girls, and everybody pairs off scurrying bleary-eyed, giggling like nymphs and satyrs into separate dark corners all over the house inside and out. The house is a wet forest with fireflies and animal sounds, the moon swollen, stars twirling on their toes.

And me and Her back upstairs, back in our messy little droopy bed, two fireflies in a wet moonlit forest. We fuck real good too, like our very existence depends on the thing. The room is hot but a cool desert wind blows in through the open window. The desert is out there watching the moon, like the ocean watches the moon, like everything watches the moon — listening.

We’re on our backs breathing deep, skin soaked, the breeze feels real good on our bodies. We smoke a fat-ass joint, talking about nighttime things; She falls asleep playing with my ear. I watch Her sleep, desert watching moon.

Then I rise out of bed and to my desk. I write a little story about today, about how good it was, how I was in love the whole time with everything. I don’t even worry that it isn’t any good, I just write it all down, I have to, why not? There isn’t any conflict in this, no real narrative arc to speak of, but who gives a shit? Who says every good story has to have those things in them? Why do we only dream up nightmares? Why don’t we let ourselves dream happy for a little?

I write the story and it’s very late, past midnight. There’s an owl outside somewhere, a Desert Owl, going “Who? Who?” I wonder myself. I take a joint and glass of colddrink out back for one last good lookup at the stars. Something in me belongs to the night. I smile up at the stars shaking their heads.

Then I go back inside and lock up, say goodnight to the little white dog already sleeping, turn off all the lights, everybody gone, climb the carpeted stairs, up to our bedroom, mine and my wife’s, Hers and mine, She lies there on the bed legs sprawled, beautiful soft legs, beautiful strong face, Emperor’s daughter, smart, brave, lucky me.

I lean over, kiss her forehead.

She opens her sleepy eyes, gives me a sleepy kiss, brings me into bed next to her, like mountains pulling in the sun. Gravity and magnetism and every law of Nature, the ancient thing, me and Her. I close my eyes, falling asleep to music and random lines of poetry, instead of the normal soulache.

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Hector is the editor and publisher of Enclave. A Chicago writer now floating on the edge of Las Vegas, he is also the former deputy editor for Latino Rebels, as well as the former managing editor for Gozamos, a Latino art-activism site based in his home town. He has contributed to RedEye, a Chicago daily geared toward millennials, and La Respuesta, a New York-based site for the Puerto Rican Diaspora, plus a number of publications, including The Huffington Post. He studied history (for some reason) at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where his focus was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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