My own voice comes out thick. “How’d you sleep?”
“Good, I think,” he says. “You?”
“Good. How’s your back?”
“Let me see.” Slowly, he pushes himself up, turning to slide his long legs over the side of the bed. He cautiously stands. “A lot better.”
He has an enormous erection and seems to notice at the same time I do. He folds his hands in front of himself and looks around the apartment squinting. “There’s no way it was this hot when we fell asleep.”
He’s probably right, but I have no real recollection of how hot it was last night.
I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to process the heat.
Today cannot go the way of yesterday.
No more lounging around the apartment. No more sitting together on the bed. No more talking about Tinder. No more falling asleep together and half mounting him while unconscious.
Tomorrow, wedding festivities will begin for David and Tham (bachelor parties, rehearsal dinner, wedding). Today, Alex and I need to have enough uncomplicated, unconfusing fun that when we get home, he doesn’t need another two-year break from me.
“I’ll call Nikolai about the AC again,” I say. “But we should get moving. We’ve got a lot to do.”
Alex runs his hand up his forehead into his hair. “Do I have time to shower?”
My heart gives a sharp pulse, and just like that I’m imagining taking a shower with him.
“If you want,” I manage. “But you will be drenched in sweat again in seconds.”
He shrugs. “I don’t think I can make myself leave the apartment feeling this dirty.”
“You’ve been dirtier,” I joke, because I have misplaced my already faulty filter.
“Only in front of you,” he says, and rustles my hair as he walks past to the bathroom.
My legs feel like jelly under me as I stand there waiting for the shower to turn on. Only once it does do I feel capable of moving again, and my first stop is the thermostat.
Eighty-five miserable degrees in this apartment and the thermostat’s been set to seventy-nine since last night. So we can officially rule the air conditioner fully broken.
I walk onto the balcony and dial Nikolai, but he sends me to voicemail on the third ring. I leave another message, this one a little angrier, then follow up with an email and a text too before going inside to search for the lightest-weight piece of clothing I brought.
A gingham sundress that’s so baggy it hangs on me like a paper bag.
The water turns off, and Alex does not make the mistake of coming out in his towel this time. He emerges fully dressed, hair wicked back and water droplets still clinging (sensuously, I might add) to his forehead and neck.
“So,” he says. “What did you have in mind today?”
“Surprises,” I say. “Lots of them.” I try to dramatically fling the car keys to him. They fall to the floor two feet short. He looks down at where they lie.
“Wow,” he says. “Was that . . . one of the surprises?”
“Yes,” I say. “Yes, it was. But the others are better so pick those up and let’s hit it.”
His mouth twists. “I probably . . .”
“Oh, right! Your back!” I run over and retrieve the keys, handing them to him like a normal adult human might.
When we walk out onto the exterior hallway of the Desert Rose, Alex says, “At least it’s not just our apartment that feels like Satan’s anal glands.”
“Yes, it’s much better that the entire city be this ungodly hot,” I say.
“You’d think with all the rich people vacationing here they’d have money to just air-condition the whole place.”
“First stop: city council, to pitch that bomb-ass idea.”
“Have you considered building a dome, Councilwoman?” he says dryly as we plod down the steps.
“Hey, that one guy did it in that one Stephen King novel,” I say.
“I’ll probably leave that out of the pitch.”
“I have good ideas.” I try again to give him the puppy face as we’re crossing the parking lot, and he laughs and shoves my face away.
“You’re not good at that,” he says.
“Your severe reaction would suggest otherwise.”
“You legitimately look like you’re shitting.”
“That’s not my shitting face,” I say. “This is.” I strike a Marilyn Monroe pose, legs wide, one hand braced against my thigh, the other covering my open mouth.
“That’s nice,” he says. “You should put that on your blog.” Quickly, stealthily, he whips his phone out and snaps a picture.
“Maybe a toilet paper company will endorse you,” he suggests.
“That’s not bad,” I say. “I like the way you think.”
“I have good ideas,” he parrots, and unlocks the door for me, then circles to the driver’s seat as I get in and take a deep whiff of the perma-weed smell.
“Thank you for never making me drive,” I say as he gets in, hissing at the feel of the hot seat, and clicks his seat belt.
“Thank you for hating driving and allowing me to have some modicum of control over my life in this vast and unpredictable universe.”
I wink at him. “No prob.”
Weirdly, he seems more relaxed than he has this whole trip. Or maybe it’s just that I’m being more insistently normal and chatty, and this really was the key to a successful, old-school Poppy and Alex summer trip all along.