by Randy Money
Sometimes I like to think I only missed laying Layla by half a beat.
The first time I saw her I was with some buddies, spending our once-a-month Friday night at a neighborhood hangout. All of them enjoyed their night without the wife and kids, except Chuck and me. Neither of us was married. Sometimes they'd kid him about it and Chuck would shrug and say he hadn't met anyone worth the hassle. I'd chuckle. He had a different story gabbing at work, a story about the thrill of the hunt, the joy of capture and conquest. Me, they didn't bother; they knew I was too busy.
The place was less than half-full, mostly with local guys. Our group was huddled at the end of the bar near the exit, bitching about the Yanks and Steinbrenner, who were losing on the tube.
That's when she came in, her entrance like someone stomping the accelerator of lust, injecting high-octane hormones.
I know what the others said they saw first, butlaugh at me if you wantwhat I noticed were her eyes, partly because they seemed familiar, but mostly because they were darker and more liquid than maple syrup, and bigger and more vulnerable than eggs. I immediately wanted to hug her, give her a teddy bear and offer to protect her from the world. But my Galahad instinct died faster than an '87 Yugo when I caught sight of her most distinguishing feature. Vacuum packed in a brown and white knit dress were a humongous set of headlights, knockers, gazongas, jugs, bazooms, bodacious ta-tas, melonshell, watermelons since cantaloupes and casabas alike could hide behind either boob.
I know that's crude. I've seen women's magazines that say boobs aren't important, and they wouldn't have been if she'd resembled a Buick, but she'd have been Grade-A Prime at a quarter the cup-size, so her boobs were an added featurelike a sundae with extra-large scoopsand they acted like turbo-chargers on males already pumping hormones. But then the exhilaration that filled the room when she filled the doorway suddenly stopped, all those male engines flooded, sputtered and petered out.
After she left, we talked about her resemblance to Mona Moorne, our favorite double-D-cup Queen of T&A flicks, we decided Layla's chest needed its own zip code and probably two, and one guy described her as an hourglass docking a couple of blimps. When we finished laughing we were quiet a moment, maybe daydreaming about hooters high and huge saluting like dual invitations to a wet dream. And maybe that's why it changed.
Right after her entrance, when I noticed I hadn't breathed for an hour, I sucked up air, pried my eyes away and saw more men with crossed legs than I've seen outside a strip joint. But in a strip joint no guy sweats like he's pushing his junker at noon through the Sahara. You expect even busty strippers to try looking sexy in hope of tips, but no one expected Layla, she wasn't putting in any effort and we were suddenly teenagers who know they'll never hold more than a fold-out of Miss July. With a normal build a dozen of us would have bought her drinks and flirted, even if we'd assumed she was a hooker and maybe especially; but she rummaged through her purse unaware of the violence her plush, luxury build was performing on our insides and that unnerved all of us.
Just as I thought to step forward, Chuck moved. That's the half beat I mentioned. He swaggered up to her and said, "Hi. I'm Chuck. Buy you a drink?" Not original, but effective when you're 6'2" with curly black hair, classic Greek features, broad shoulders, baritone voice. Next to him a little wiry guy like me is invisible.
"Hi. I'm Joe," I chirruped from behind him. "I'd like to buy you a drink, too."
She looked up slowly, chewing gum without missing a beat, and scanned the bar. When she finally looked at us the silence grew deeper than a held breath. She looked at me first, then she looked at Chuck, then she looked at Chuck some more, then a little fire lit behind her big sad browns and she smiled with delight. I couldn't figure it. A woman like her must get lots of attention, and she still wasn't immune to Chuck. I was impressed as hell.
"My name's Layla," she said, unleashing a soft deep drawl that reverberated through my chest and into my groin. Chuck didn't speak for a second, and I figured he felt it, too.
"I'd love a drink." She smiled again, this one a touch shy, a touch kittenish. "And could either of you gentlemen loan me a quarter? My car broke down."
"Better than that," I said. "I have a tow truck. Where do you live?"
"A couple of blocks from here." She kept looking at Chuck and I figured I'd just volunteered for a backache and no reward. But I was used to that. As our one, true high school football hero, a scrambling quarterback on a team of overweight linemen and slow receivers like me, Chuck had been in high demand. One girl had followed him home every day of senior year and couldn't stop giggling if he noticed her, and another was afflicted with Chuck-radarone time I was talking to her when she jumped and spun a complete one-eighty: Chuck had just rounded a corner behind her.
"What would you like to drink?" Chuck asked.
"Chablis'd be nice," Layla answered.
"A Bud'll do me," I said.
Chuck tried to shove me aside as he turned to the bar, but I knew his moveswe'd drank our way through lots of bars filled with women who gaped at him like I'd gaped at Laylaso I ducked and escorted Layla to a table.