“I want to cover you in hot sauce.” Her voice is lower than normal as she whispers across the table. I’m currently staring cross-eyed at my finger, covered in refried beans and a few specks of Taco-Bell-maybe-beef, the faintest hint of my purple nail polish peeking through the carnage.
“What?” My index finger makes its way into my mouth and propriety flies out the window. The greasy digit pushes past my lips and look at her, eyebrows furrowed. I pull the shiny finger back out into the conditioned air. “You wanna do what?”
“I said, I want to cover you in hot sauce. I want to take all of your clothes off and lay you out on this table and cover you in hot sauce and eat you like a burrito.”
This isn’t how I had anticipated our third date going. Although, I hadn’t anticipated ending up in a Taco Bell on the third date either, but the Wendy’s on Main Street was closed because of some kitchen fire and the Chick-fil-a was upholding its religious duty of torturing the public every Sunday. We went to see a movie and then for a walk in the park. Found a deserted area behind a tree to fool around a bit. Got a little high on an early birthday present from her coworker at the Apple Store, the innocuous plastic baggie promising bliss. Found the energy to fool around some more but eventually our tingling limbs refused to cooperate. Tried to avoid talking about our first-third date and failed miserably. There were so many dates after that before it all went to shit. I didn’t see her for a year because she ran away to Idaho. Then she came back and we went on our second-first date and our second-second date and now our second-third date.
But talking about that was killing our buzz, so we decided we were hungry. The kind of hunger only a Seven-Layer Burrito and a Crunchwrap Supreme can satisfy. Cheese stuffed mouths can’t talk about the past.
Her eyes are dilated and her bottom lip is trapped between her teeth and I know in that instant, without a shadow of a doubt, that she didn’t have sex in the time we were apart. Her attempts at seduction have always been adorably horrible, and she obviously hasn’t had any practice since she left me. I tilt my head to the side, one dangling earring brushes the side of my neck. The idea of her touching my neck, that is a turn on. The way she is biting her lip, that is a turn on. Her sucking on my finger like I just did (preferably without the refried beans), that is a turn on.
Laying naked and covered in hot sauce, however, must be one of the circles of hell. Dante probably just skipped over it because it was too much to fathom. Had she said cheese sauce, or even sour cream, I might have gone for it. I probably would have sprinkled tomatoes on her breasts and shredded lettuce on that dip near her hips I love so much and reciprocated with all of Baja Blast-fueled energy my body could muster at 11:30 p.m.
But hot sauce? On the scabbed skin of my knee where I bumped into the wall at work two days ago? On the cuts on my hands from where my kitten dug her unholy claws into my unsuspecting flesh at 2 a.m.? On the scratches the tree bark had left on my bare back an hour ago? On her lips and fingers which would eventually be trying to push and wiggle and work their way into the furthest reaches of my body?
The phantom burn of it passes through my body.
I give her a smile, take another sip of my drink, and try to figure out what it says about her that she thinks this is a good idea. Her teeth release her bottom lip and her tongue pokes out for a moment. Her fingers play with a packet of hot sauce. It’s caption is “I bet you wanna squeeze me, don’t ya?” Someone at corporate must have been feeling flirty.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea, honey.” I can’t help but laugh a little.
“Why the hell not?” The anger behind her voice is surprising and not surprising at all. The smile leaves my face, and I feel something more dangerous than anger take its place. The mask of indifference I wore for the last six months of our first relationship slips so easily into place.
“Because it would hurt. It would fucking hurt to put hot sauce all over my body. It’s a stupid idea that borders on torture. Whatever happened to chocolate sauce or something like normal people?”
“It would be fun though!” She hasn’t heard anything I’ve said. Of course she hasn’t. She never did. Amazing how a packet of hot sauce, one she is still twirling around her fingers, can push everything ugly straight into the spotlight.
“Didn’t you hear me? It would hurt, it would sting. Hot sauce is hot, babe.”
“You wanna be with me, don’t ya? Don’t you love me anymore?”
The question slaps me across the face and the only reaction I can think of is to eat my Crunchwrap Supreme as aggressively as possible. I can’t be indifferent in a Taco Bell. The fluorescent lights strip me of my desire to hide even the ugliest of feelings. But I shouldn’t be angry here either. This is a sacred place. We never fought in Taco Bell the first time around. We had a massive blow out in the Cook-Out near her apartment, one that ended with my favorite hoodie being covered in Cheerwine-Coke goo. Once we broke up for ten minutes in a Burger King parking lot on a road trip to Savannah. But never Taco Bell. Taco Bell was Switzerland, No Man’s Land, a place to think outside the bun and see our relationship from a better, tastier perspective.
And here she was, ruining it. But maybe she wasn’t. Maybe she was exactly the same. Because covering me in hot sauce feels a lot like pushing me away and pulling me close over and over for months on end. It feels like soda stains on my favorite hoodie and work parties without a date and the empty side of the bed. It feels a lot like her wandering eyes gliding over the curves of other women as her sharp tongue calls me crazy. It feels like “I love you, but you must not love me.”
It stings like hell, and it feels like “You wanna be with me, don’t ya?”
Mary Anne Bordonaro is a creative writing teacher, writer, and traveler from South Carolina. She graduated in 2018 with a B.A. in English/Creative Writing. Since then, she has taught ESL, Literature, and Creative Writing in France and American Samoa (where, unfortunately, there are no Taco Bells). She has been published in Heavy Feather Review, The Roddey-McMillan Record, Journeys of Girls, and she has stories forthcoming in BULL Magazine and Back Patio Press.