Tantra, he says, is the path to spiritual growth. He smiles, an ivory scattering, and leans over the table. Patchouli wafts her way. She draws back, but he insists that if she is willing to open up to him, he can make her squirt. So much for enlightenment.
Tell me. What do you like?
He licks his lips. A silver ball clings to the pale sliver of his tongue. That, at least, could be interesting.
Ehm, I like gelato.
The Zen spirituality drops from his face, betraying an annoyed twist of the lips. He tries again.
No, I mean what are you into.
This time she simply shrugs and tells him she has no real preferences, no private extravagances to share with him.
At goodbye she offers her cheek, but he swoops down and bites her neck.
Thank you, she says, polite as ever.
Was the biting personal, or merely instinctive? Would he do this to any easy prey? Irregular pink marks left by his crooked teeth suggest the latter, as does the growl in her ear and his gripping hands on her arm. He says he wants to take her back to his place and tear her to pieces.
He says namaste before he spits in his palm to lube her up. No tongue, no metallic pleasure. With him panting on top of her, she eyes the Hanzi calligraphy scrolls, Japanese swords, and incense burners in his apartment.
She has to get out of this Asian gift shop, fast.
Out on the street, she shivers. Before, she enjoyed the denim curve of her ass but now the rain makes the material cling to her skin, still tacky from his spit and cum. The summer is a distant memory. when the city was being swallowed by the sun. When skin and brick radiated fever in opulent measures and gelato was a daily treat.
The first spoon in her mouth, the next melting between her legs. The icy cold against the heat of arousal, shocking her clit into shivers and waves, then gliding lavishly down every crevice. Tiny pistachio chunks chafing teasingly whilst she circles her fingers over folds coated in the thick mass, sliding in and out of herself. Coiling to the drum of her heart through slow rolling breath. Her body contracting and expanding around the core of her pussy.
She turns towards Massimo gelato.
There she runs into him.
Quoc, she says.
Just a few feet away, he barely affords her any sign of recognition; a cruel decision in a city this small.
The treacherous warmth of her voice hangs between them. Did she forget how he left her three months ago?
Lick it, she had instructed him.
Quoc refused, even though she had thoughtfully selected vanilla that evening to avoid appearing too kinky. Chocolate, she reasoned, he would not want to see on her body. Red fruits, strawberry or raspberry, were also ruled out. Too close to blood. Nuts, her favourite, seemed too advanced for his first try.
Everything had gone smoothly up to that point. He too had a respectable, boring job. His black wardrobe matched hers, and he also relished an obsession over food; the only sin he permitted himself. They bonded over parents who had never mastered the harsh local language, felt at home in the alien culture and cultivated crushing expectations of their children. Clearly, they shared the same background. With Quoc, she sucked on stewed bones and heads of shrimp, enjoying their fat, slippery contents without shame, even though he left his alone, neatly lining them up on the rim of his plate. She neglected the fact that his parents had fled from Vietnam because of the war. Hers had simply bought a plane ticket from Hong Kong.
During the two months they had been together, they had sex almost every day. His body was hairless and smooth, yielding to her touch. In it, she read acceptance, and so she revealed her taste for gelato. On their last night together, she stripped off her underwear, piled on the treat between her thighs and called Quoc into the bedroom.
Confused, Quoc asked whether she was trying to be funny.
Do you think it is wasteful?
Not waiting for a reply, she scrambled up. The mound of gelato slid. Her sticky fingers wiping off the cool cream, scooping as much of it as she could into her mouth, even though it had started to melt. Streams oozed off her, soiling the sheets.
Look, it is not wasted. I will eat it.
But it was too late. Quoc had avoided her eyes and said he needed to go to the bathroom. It was the last time she saw him.
Only a day earlier, after alternating animal positions in bed, she had confessed that he was the first person she dated that, well, looked like them. She scrolled past profiles with the too familiar complexions, pitch black hair, slanting eyes. Swiping left, rejecting not only the person in the picture, but also herself.
But you, you are so normal, she said, repositioning herself to be sodomised.
Dating, she thought, is just an elaborate scavenger hunt for shiny subjects in which to find reflection.
Now here he is, placing his hand on his date’s shoulder, a pale girl dressed in a yellow raincoat, the precise shade of her hair, who is eying her with curiosity. She is luminous, a bright lemon.
Oh hi, Quoc says.
Behind him the waitress at the counter moves to hand him a polystyrene box, the largest size.
Your vanilla, sir.