Sunday, 6:30 PM, The Wyndham Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles, CA.
Jackson had completed his run to stop by an old friend from home’s room, drop off the car wax posters full of cheesecake bikini girls he’d collected at the Custom Auto Accessories convention and returned to the Wyndham lobby where he parked himself against a thick, round concrete support column. She’d said she’d meet him in the lobby to “further discuss” a comment he’d made in the elevator about those rolled-up posters when she’d asked what they were. Whoever she was she was stupid fine and seemed to be a lot on the smart, hot-girl bitchy side, so he’d hung around. Just in case she’d meant it. A hand snaked through behind his elbow.
“The word was bimbo?” She kept the elbow, slid around in front of him.
“That… Yeah. Mayyyy-be I–”
“Mayyyy-be you what? Lost your head? Lost your manners? Lost your excuse?” She was about five-two, short anyway, heels wrecked his height guesstimator, professionally turned out, thoroughly pissed off and not consciously aware of trying to crush his left forearm with her right hand.
“Bimbos I mean. That was…”
“Uncalled for? It certainly was. You know they’re bimbos how? Is there some test we should know about? You pick up some vibe you can verbalize for me? A lady looks good in a bikini, bingo, she’s a bimbo? What?!?”
“No, no. Look, ‘bimbo poster’ is a type of, of…It’s a merchandising and marketing genre. That’s what I meant. How I meant it, I mean.”
“What does that make the ladies in the poster, then? Part–time bimbos? And ‘genre?’ That was a deep reach semantic smokescreen, Jackson.” She flipped his ID badge he’d forgotten to remove. “What a cop-out artist you are. Every one of the ladies in those bimbo posters of yours is a bimbo by extension in every other part of their lives because assholes like you say things like that without even thinking. It’s part of an entire vocabulary of subliminal abuse. Are they all magically not bimbos when they step out of the poster? Is that how your little ‘genre’ pigeonhole works? If you met them at the gas station, they’re just some cute, hopefully screwable chicks from Riverside in short shorts, not bimbos? Bulllll-shit, buddy. It’s the poster’s fault, not yours, that they’re branded as airhead whores simply by their appearance on a twenty-four by thirty-six-inch man drool advertisement? For what? Glittery paint? Magic oil?”
“Wax. And that’s pretty Aristotelian to go from one poster to all women in posters…” He unpinned the badge and sailed it between a pair of conventioneers into a tall, thin stainless trash can. “Okay. Fuck it. Here it is. Wax. Hot, melty wax and those girls? Your ‘ladies’? It’s locker room business, alright? The butt-floss bikinis and hot wax. There’s twenty, thirty minutes’ worth of guy speculation and bullshit in that.”
“Oh, more insight, please.” She ramped up the squeeze. “Do share.”
“Wax the beav, chicken skin, is there aftershave for pussy, making faces pulling imaginary nip hair wax strips, all that kind of shit.”
Her eyes got huge. “I cannot be-lieve,” she lifted her chin, looked at the three-story high ceiling of the Wyndham lobby. “I simply cannot believe you actually said that. To me. You know who I am, right? And you said that? God almighty…”
“All I know about you is that your name is Cynthia Olmartin, and I got that off your badge in the elevator. And you asked. If you really want to thrash this out, we can get it on because I had this discussion more than a couple of times when I was sixteen. Before we start, though, I know I shouldn’t have used bimbo in a conversation with a female marketing rep, or whatever you are.”
“Hold it. You don’t recognize me?”
“Never seen me before?” She pouted, stagey, for effect.
“The Penthouse pout was good, but still a no.”
“Do you read Penthouse?”
“Nobody reads those rags.”
“That wasn’t an answer.”
“When I was twelve, thirteen. Before I discovered I liked girls who were breathing better than in a magazine on the floor of the bathroom.”
“Okay.” She studied his face, relaxed hers. “You were saying?”
“I was apologizing for bimbo, but now, well, fuck that. I should have said it, and all the rest because that’s man-mind business I just gave you. I could have kissed your ass, said I was sorry but that’d been bullshit. A spade’s a spade and a bimbo poster is a bimbo poster and y’all do that shit to yourselves.”
“We do what? Ourselves? ‘Y’all’ demand that ‘shit’. ‘Y’all’ pay us to be prettier than we are, spray-tanned where the sun doesn’t shine and made up like ‘butt floss’ circus clowns.”
“Sisters selling out sisters. That’s down to y’all.”
“Sisters… Selling out?” She faltered as if he’d hit her, glared. “‘Y’all?’ God. What is that, Texas? No, you’re no redneck. It’s not gooey enough for ‘Jaw-juh.’ This is L.A. You’ve worked on it, I know you have.” She checked the ceiling again, sighed. “That was much too big and unexpected to digest all at once. Usually, by now, I’ve… Never mind. I give for a minute. Would you like a margarita? I would. Large. No, huge. And frozen.”
“Yeah, I would. But…” Jackson nodded across the thinning mob at the lobby bar, ten or twelve bodies deep and forty wide, almost all male custom auto parts and accessory buyers and sellers. “No way.”
“I know this one.” She released the death grip on his arm and as she walked through the crowded lobby towards the way more crowded bar she morphed from well-dressed angry feminist to perfect social seductress. She got a light, sinuous rhythm from her shoulders to her hips all the way through to her feet. Her arms got into it like a hula dancer in slow motion, hands brushing shoulders, her hair swinging lightly when she turned her head and smiled as she parted the testosterone sea. At first, surprised by the light touch, men looked down to check out the female package who’d brushed their shoulders. Expensive, ubiquitous California “sun” streaked hair, yellow leather blazer, silk blouse, gray leather skirt and light yellow heels. They stepped all over the men around them to let her pass, untouched, straight to the bar. The same happened in reverse. She offered them a nod of acknowledgment, a mouthed “thank you” as she passed with two exceptionally large frozen margaritas. Jackson logged the looks that followed her and landed on him.
“You’re still here. I was afraid I’d run you off.” She tossed her hair, smiled like Mona Lisa. “That didn’t take too long, did it?”
“You hoped you’d run me off. Gotta say you work girl business smoother and sexier than a late-night session with the Fifties incarnation of Miles Davis.”
“You will explain that to me as a very sophisticated compliment when we finish our bimbo conversation. One of these is for you.” She held a margarita out for him, touched her drink with her lips, closed her eyes. “Mmm. Salvation,” her eyes fluttered open, “I’m on the concierge floor. You?”
“Second floor of the Jackson Arms in Long Beach. I’m semi-local.”
“So am I, but I have to be here every day for the show and the hotel is part of my contract. My floor has a private lobby that’s cozy and quiet with a view of the Hollywood Hills where we might possibly talk this out without raising our voices.” She glanced over her shoulder towards the bar. “Or be ogled.” She worked the little hair shake and demure, Mona Lisa smile again. “Coming? You might have to be a chivalrous chauvinist and push the ‘UP’ button for us. Can ‘y’all’ handle that?”
“I gots me all kindsa manners, ma’am.” He took her drink and napkin, pushed the button with his elbow, kept up the theatrical drawl. “I read me a book ‘bout ‘em, once-tuh ‘pon a time. Right edge-you-cayshunal.”
“Don’t start lying. More than one book, and more than once, I ‘gawr-own-tee.’” She stirred her drink he was holding, pulled the thin, plastic bar straw, cleaned frozen margarita off it with her lips. “Tell me, do you need to return to the Jackson Arms at any particular time this evening?”
“When I get there, that’s where I’ll be.”
“Wonderful. If you would be willing to stay, say, at least until after the sun is down for the Hollywood Hills light show? I’ll have the concierge order us some nibbles before I let her know she’s free to leave.”
“Your tab and your floor kinda makes it your sunset.” He looked up at the elevator numbers dropping, shot her a quick smile with his eyebrows. “I’m partial to those greasy little hotel eggrolls, but it’s ‘y’all’s’ call on the ‘nibbles.’”
She moved closer, tossed her hair that smelled like an angel’s rose garden and took his arm when the elevator dinged, recreated the forearm crush. “Were ‘y’all’ born full of shit, or do ‘y’all’ practice?”