At Ian's Place - Part XIII, in which we feel horribly invaded.
“So, cool. Haven’t see you around in a while. How’ve you been?” Cosmo seemed perky, and kept looking at me while he wove his Lexus through the cars, scooters, donkeys, and chickens leaving LAX. Okay, it only felt like that.
If I‘d taken a car service, though, I could have buried my face in my phone and avoided small talk. Cosmo doesn’t small talk, which made this dialogue extra itchy.
“What’s on your mind, Cosmo?” I sighed.
“Can’t a guy be happy to see you? Okay.” He snapped his attention to the road. Whatever was on his mind was serious, and possibly awkward. “So I’m having a thing at my place on Saturday. You coming?”
“Sure, yeah. What are you thinking?”
“Excellent.” Cosmo's hands relaxed their grip on the steering wheel. “I have someone I want you to meet.”
Shit. Last time he had someone he wanted me to meet, it was Ian. Not that anything went wrong, but everything became decidedly more complicated than just an exchange of services. Cosmo was looking at me again -- apparently my face gave away my paranoia.
“No, no, not like that,” he continued. “There’s this writer I’m collaborating with. I want you to meet her.”
“Cosmo. Are you blushing?”
“Ha ha no.” He was speaking with incorrect punctuation, decidedly un-Cosmolike.
“That’s a verbal blush. Watch the road.”
“No, it’s not. We’re working on a project and I want her to meet you. You have your portfolio, right? I want her to see your work.” Cosmo eased onto the ramp. Traffic was surprisingly loose, which meant he could keep a steady speed of 25mph on the 405.
“Yeah, of course. Is this an illustration thing? What are you thinking?” I’d never realized before that it was so hard to get Cosmo to share his mind. I guess I’d never tried.
“I don’t know yet…just a gut feeling. I want her to see your work up close; maybe something will click for her. She completes my sentences well.”
“Ha ha no, not like that. It’s a great working relationship. Ian will be there.”
“Nice deflection.” I was impressed; Cosmo shut down my investigation of his business by castling his queen. What was he up to? What piece could I play? “I’m here to see Ian - you know this. He bought my airfare. We’re rec…they’re recording the song I wrote with Phil. I’m a consultant, like on my business card.”
“Yeah, but that’s business. This is a party.” Cosmo was smirking.
“Not a jam? Is he not playing?”
“Nah, I’m gonna DJ. All the musicians will have their hands free.”
“I’m not hooking up with Ian.” Cosmo kept his unnerving smirk in place. “You’re so unnerving! Did he say something?” I realized I was sitting up stiffly, and so was my voice. Cosmo laughed out loud.
“Would it be so bad? I mean, didn’t you—”
“Jesus, Cosmo. If you want details, I’ll write them out for you. Screw you. Tell me about this collaborator chick.” En passant, but poorly executed; I felt certain I’d sacrificed a pawn for nothing. I leaned back against the leather and waited for his comeback.
“No, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Duh. Spill it.”
“It’s not about the party.”
“Okay…” Cosmo’s vibe was making me squirm. I readjusted my seat belt; that didn’t help so I rifled through my purse, looking for anything.
“You know I’ve been reading your blog.”
“Well, no, but okay.”
“Yeah, I showed it to my partner. She likes it, too, which is one reason I want you to meet her.”
“So we’re back to her.” I didn’t really think so, though. I could feel Cosmo’s edge like a papercut.
“No, that’s not it. I’ve noticed a change in tenor throughout your posts.”
“Tenor, really?” I tried to make a laugh, wishing I could formulate a pun, but Cosmo’s never like this. I mean, never. He’s eloquent in reviews and sparse in conversation. I felt like I didn’t even know this guy. I wanted to joke about that, too, but looked out the window instead.
“Yeah, like there’s something missing…from you. You doing okay?”
“Fuck, Cosmo. I love your eloquence when it comes to book reviews but I don’t think I like it in person. Missing from me? What do you think’s missing?”
“Travel. The West Coast. Maybe not Los Angeles, per se, but…” He shifted lanes and sped up a bit. “Do you feel like you’ve been too long in one place?”
Wow. I suddenly felt grateful for all the years Cosmo never opened up. Now that he did, why was he opening up my can of worms? A creepy sense of relief slid down the back of my neck. I wanted so much to be outraged, but I had to admit it was a relief to be seen accurately. Relief? Edification.
“It’s occurred to me,” I finally said. Cosmo waited for me to go on, but I wasn’t giving up anything else. He took the Santa Monica Boulevard exit toward the coast. Hopefully he was headed to Café Dahab. “You want hummus? Let’s get some hummus. Baba Ghanoush. Go there.”
Cosmo smiled a little. “They closed. Your writing’s good, always, of course,” he ventured. “It’s just lacking the usual glow, wonderment, joie de vivre. I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s almost like you’re executing well-crafted writing by rote.”
This is the kind of thing only Cosmo could say, and say without me blowing up. My loose cannon was empty of anything to lob.
to be continued...Part XIV, in which we've run out of milk