I’d rather not be lacing up for a ten-K run right now. It’s cold and wet out, it’s almost wine o’clock, and Bikini’s lying on the couch, staring as if she expects me to join her. I could run tomorrow when the forecast calls for sun and clouds. However, if I don’t go, this will end up being a completely uneventful Saturday for me.
Runs aren’t typically the main event of my weekends. I’ll have a life again when Basil returns from his internship in Montreal. Another month to go. Knowing that keeps my spirits up. Before we met three years ago, a night out meant hanging out at people’s places to drink and smoke weed. Basil’s the adventurous one, and he’s shown me a whole other world of art galleries, interactive theater, live music, warehouse parties, and cabarets. Even crack dens. (Okay, it only happened once, when I had walked into the wrong house thinking we were to meet there—and it wasn’t obvious it was that kind of place until after a couple of hours.)
I stroke the black brassiere-shaped patch across Bikini’s plush, white chest. “Mommy will be back soon, okay, baby girl?” My slender tuxedo purrs loudly as she stretches her body the length of half the couch. She gives me a lazy look, then goes to sleep on her back, her paws in the air. I kiss her on the head and finally leave.
Every time I run the seawall, I’m gobsmacked by all the eye candy. So far today, I’ve seen Buck Bronzer, Ripped Reggie, and Six-Pack Syd—all regulars. You don’t see many Bahamian-Filipino women running around these parts, so I’m sure they recognize me too. If any of them have a nickname for me, it’ll be something sexy, like “Moana.”
Today, the seawall has fewer joggers and cyclists. It’s fall, and with school in session, the park is less busy. It also drizzled for hours earlier, and the dark clouds are coming in fast from behind the mountains. Thunder rumbles in the far distance: a warning for heavy rain to come. I take bigger strides as I approach the homestretch.
I see Darius Dimples coming round the bend and heading toward me at a good pace. He’s wearing a loose tank, but I already know what work of art lies beneath the scanty fabric. He sometimes runs shirtless.
He smiles, all dimples. “Hey!” he pants.
I give him a quick salute. “Hiya!”
A dopey grin takes over my face after he passes me: my typical reaction any time one of these guys greets me. Always followed by a pang of guilt.
Basil and I are engaged, but somehow that doesn’t prevent me from noticing all this manly beauty around me. I’m not sure if it’s a symptom of being thirty with a ticking biological clock, or that it’s a bad thing to notice other men. I think about the women who went in droves to see Magic Mike in the theaters, sneaking in thermoses of spiked drinks inside their large handbags to get loose and rowdy with their co-conspirator girlfriends. They couldn’t have all been single. Is it normal to look at others when you’re in love? What do couples do after they’ve been together for ten years or more? Do they have an “understanding”? It must be liberating to reach a point in your relationship when checking out others is no longer a threat. That’s trust. Or indifference.
I’m jealous, but not level ten jealous—the paranoid kind that makes you imagine worst-case scenarios and insist they happened. That’s Basil. I’m a level five. If I saw someone hit on him, I’d start off at level nine, then talk myself down to a five. I can hear him right now. How would you feel if I went out jogging and said “hi” to Sexy Lexy and Foxy Roxy? Is it healthy for a couple to go out and talk to hot strangers? He wouldn’t be wrong, but it’s not like that with me.
I haven’t always swooned over men like this. I look like crap when I go out running, so I’d rather not see these guys at all. My problem is, I’ve been lonely. I haven’t seen Basil for two months. I don’t hear a whole lot from him either as he’s busy. So a polite “hello” from a hottie is enough to make me giddy.
Lightning flashes low in the sky; four seconds later, thunder. The storm is getting closer. I run faster. Up ahead, a rotund Latino family is taking up most of the path with no regard for the opposite lane.
As I pass them, the teenagers on the end get into a tussle. The boy shoves his sister, and she, laughing hysterically, bumps into me like a ton of bricks.
I sidestep onto the curb and lose my footing. I scream as I fall and pancake onto the concrete. My chin hits the ground, sending angry vibrations throughout my skull. With the wind knocked out of me, my arms and legs flail involuntarily as I gasp for air.
A flurry of frantic Spanish from above. Then, a man’s deep voice. “Miss, are you okay?”
I emit a grunt. The concrete is blurry, but I can see out of one eye my other contact lens on the ground. As I reach for it, a giant running shoe steps on it. Fuck. It’s my last pair of contacts.
“It’s okay, I got you.”
Hands on my shoulders turn me onto my back. I gasp again upon seeing the contact crusher. I shut the blurry eye to get a better look. It’s Fireman Freddy. It’s been a while since I last saw him.
I try to say “hi,” but a throaty moan comes out instead. Along with a goofy smile.
The look of grave concern on his perfect face, along with the horrified shrieks coming out of the family of lane hogs, erase my smile in an instant. I try to touch my face, but Freddy warns me not to with a shake of the head. “You don’t wanna do that. You should clean that wound first.”
I panic. “Wound?” I wheeze.
“Are you okay to get up?”
I try to lift myself to stand, but my hands flinch from the pain. My palms are scraped raw. If my hands are this bad, I can’t imagine what my chin must be like. It’s throbbing, and I can smell blood. He puts my arm around him and hoists me up. When I stand, my ankle buckles.
At this point, the girl is in hysterics and the parents are making a big show of castigating the teenagers with shouts and finger jabs.
I raise my free hand, in papal fashion, to pardon them. “It’s okay. I should have gone on the grass.” Or asked them to move. But really, on a narrow two-lane path, the civil thing to do is walk in pairs rather than six people across, but whatever.
Scary lightning and crackling thunder. Again. “It’s going to rain,” says Freddy. “Let’s get you to the washrooms by the pool, okay?”
I nod, not liking the suggestion. It’ll take forever to get there, a hundred meters away.
“Are you okay to ride piggyback?” he asks.
“I can do piggyback.” When I say it, it sounds as if I’ve agreed to a sex position.
Freddy squats, and I climb onto his back. I can’t help but smile as I wave bye to the lane hogs. They wave back, confused by my glee.
The fireman’s all sweaty. His run’s been interrupted, and now he has me, a fleshy deadweight, on his back. His muscular, glistening, shirtless back. He really is a fireman—I smell smoke in his hair. Or maybe it’s weed.
I lean in closer and take in his natural musk. “Thank you for helping me.”
“Absolutely no problem. Hope the damage isn’t too bad.”
We’ve arrived at the washrooms. Before putting me down, he says, “I could go in there and help, but I don’t want to scare anyone.”
Scare? Women would enviously wet themselves if they saw this hunk tending to my wounds. I would love to milk the opportunity, but not after he’s carried me, a hundred-forty-five-pound mess, such a distance.“
I’ll be fine on my own,” I say.
Carefully, he lets me down. I test out my ankle on the ground. I put weight on it and take a few steps. It aches viciously, but I tell him I can walk.
“Are you sure? Can I call someone to pick you up?”
A jolt of guilt. That someone would have been Basil. I shake my head. “I live close by. Don’t worry about it. Thanks again for the help.”
I hold out my hand to him. He cringes at the sight of my bloody palm and shakes me by the wrist. I realize I’m fixating on his massive bicep. I force my gaze up to his light green eyes. And his golden curls. Thunder again. A warning from above telling me to wrap it up before I do something stupid.
“I’ll see you around.” He turns to resume his run.
When he’s far enough, I call out, “See ya around, Fireman Freddy.”