Evangelica was such a beautiful name, even if she shortened it to “Eva”. Why, it was an even prettier name than Elizabeth, which Leep had always thought to be the prettiest name in the world.
They met for the first time at a cafe called “Benny’s Reubens and More” which they agreed to after a lengthy back-and-forth about restaurants ranging from Famous Chef to take-away. They met at 5:30 pm, and the place was virtually empty; a compact environment of hard surfaces, with a laminated tile floor and polished, country-style oakwood chairs.
So even though the picture in her profile on Plenty of Fish in the Sea was blurry and contained more than one woman, and did not specify which was Evangelina, Leep was able to spot her at a table near a tall plastic (“faux”) plant, cleaning her nails with a fork. To her credit, she stopped immediately when Leep arrived and introduced himself.
He had given himself plastic (“faux”) courage earlier by imbibing two bottles of chilled Gambrinus Plzen.
“My first husband called me ‘Angel’,” said Eva, then she directed her attention to the menu, which gave Leep the opportunity to examine her face.
The profile photo had given no clue that a cascade of dark freckles romped across her cheeks and nose, and in some places they joined together in a great flock, like migrating birds. Leep was enchanted.
Leep was sure their conversation sounded, to the server who lurked in the shadows, like alien beings trying to communicate, since Eva’s voice was in a high register, and his own was very low. Like a cow communicating with a blue tit. Eva did most of the talking. She’d said she was outgoing, which was convenient for Leep, since he was not.
All he could really think about was the end of the date, when he believed he had a strong chance of ending up in her bed and thus ending a very long drought which spanned from his first sexual experience at age 18 and a half, to the present. He had this opinion because Evangelica had indicated she was “open-minded” and “not old-fashioned” and “experienced”. Debbie told him that meant she was a bit of a slut, until her mother told her to shush. Her mother was right. “Slut” was a harsh word, the wrong word.
Don’t blow it, he told himself, over and over. It wasn’t so much that he was attracted to Eva in particular, despite her freckles, as much as he wanted some solid experience so he would not look like the inept noob that he felt he was at the moment, to a woman he truly did want to please.
During their dinner of warm bowls of borscht and slabs of white bread, she was duly attentive but clearly unimpressed at Leep’s claims that he was both a mill worker and an almost-published author. She talked a lot about her “collections”— her spoons, her vintage magazines, her knit baby clothes, her enamelled pill boxes. “Not Franklin Mint, either,” she assured Leep, who had no idea what Franklin Mint was. She mentioned her first husband frequently, but made no references to the second one. She owned her own house. Would Leep like to see it?
You bet he would. Though he did not say that out loud. He was ready. He’d exfoliated and clipped and snipped and gelled and moisturized and deodorized and did all the things an article the old edition of GQ at the barber shop had recommended.
He followed her car in his, and she parked in front of a green stuccoed-bungalow, squat and square, with light trapped behind thin curtains at the wide front window.
She was a collector, all right. “Pardon the mess,” she said with a giggle as she opened the front door and revealed the start of a passageway— a winding narrow path between columns of boxes, shopping bags, and newspapers stacked to the ceiling. This path led to the kitchen, which was similarly stuffed with boxes, garbage bags, empty plant pots, and one magazine tower that spilled onto the kitchen table. “Ice Fishers’ Digest,” said Eva. “My first husband was a subscriber.”
Leep suddenly noticed there was another human being in the claustrophobic, dimly-lit space. Seated at the formica kitchen table was a teenage girl, in striped flannel pyjamas, eating a bowl of cereal with milk. She didn’t raise her head or say hello— it was the crunching of the Fruit Loops that caught Leep’s attention.
“Oh!” said Eva. “This is my daughter, Paulette. Also from my first husband.” Paulette rose, put her empty bowl in the sink, which was crowded with dirty dishes, cutlery, and two plastic cutting boards, and padded silently out of the room.
“Teenagers,” said Eva with a sigh.
There were more issues of Ice Fisher’s Digest in the bedroom, and Leep noticed one was the recent Summer International Issue. So she continued the subscription? There were other magazines, too. And newspapers that went as far back as the last US presidential inauguration. Amazon.com boxes. Plastic bags full of mystery contents. There were even unopened Franklin Mint boxes— was Evangelica entirely honest with Leep? There was not a square inch of surface unoccupied, save for the path to the bed, the bed itself, and narrower path from the bed to the small, ensuite bathroom.
Their first attempt was about as clumsy and ineffectual and swift as Leep had expected and dreaded, but Evangelica seemed unperturbed. Later on, a second attempt had a more pleasant result, and as Eva cuddled up to Leep’s exfoliated and moisturized torso, she whispered, “I want to have your babies.”
This seemed sudden. Leep remembered he had an early morning appointment and got his clothes on and left, after awkwardly planting a kiss on her forehead as he’d seen Ryan Gosling (or was it John Hamm?) do in a movie.
He navigated through the passageways, noticing a powerful, dominant odour for the first time. Cat litter? Cheese? Buttermilk?
It didn’t matter. Leep got into his car and turned on the ignition. He sighed heavily, but with contentment. Leep had got laid.