Her birth name was Dilemma. No one called her that except for me. Everyone else called her “Lemma.” Dilemma told people she had no idea where her birth mother came up with the name. That wasn’t true, though, as I learned one late Friday night. We had separately exited our studio apartments to find a quiet place outside. The other two or three tenants preferred to sit in the patio area. I preferred being alone.
We were both sitting cross-legged on the plank porch, holding bottles of tequila and gin, swapping sips from each other’s bottles. We’d have splinters tomorrow. Tomorrow was a year away when I was with her. Dilemma occasionally pretended to spit into whichever bottle she was about to hand to me. I responded by licking around the rim of the bottle and laughing.
Over the last few weeks, we began to seek each other’s company in the evenings. Most of the time, we sat in silence. Some nights, Dilemma wanted to talk. She was well-educated, though she wouldn’t divulge any specifics. I knew she could speak two other languages and at times I suspected she might have a photographic memory.
Dilemma leaned towards me, a little unbalanced. She pretended to whisper as I leaned toward her. She then shouted, “My Dad told my Mom he’d kill her if she insisted on giving birth to me. That was the dilemma.”
I nodded, waiting for her to continue. Dilemma always had a follow-up or footnote. Sometimes she waited a week to connect details to something she mentioned.
“Needless to say, Dad woke up the next morning with a gun stuck in his crotch. Mom had it cocked, too, no pun intended. ‘You have until 9 a.m. to get out of this house and out of my life. If you don’t, well…’ and pushed the gun painfully into his boxers. He just nodded. That’s what my Aunt Dill told me, anyway. I like that story.” Dilemma nodded as if to punctuate it was my turn to say something. I made a mental note to ask about Aunt Dill later.
Just as I was about to utter something hilarious, Dilemma shouted, “Hey, I wasn’t done talking!”
“Okay, fire away,” I told her.
“I was going to say, it’s your turn to talk now.” She grinned.
“Did you know that your nickname Lemma means several different things? Like part of a plant, or a Greek word for ‘assumption?'” I nodded, to pass the conversation back to her.
“Well, you’re a stalker, aren’t you, Dane? Ha!” She took an excessively long drink of tequila.
“Are you making a play on the words ‘plant’ and ‘stalker?'” I asked her. “If you are, you can do better.” I laughed.
“No, better is for jerks. Can I ask you a favor? Would you lean over and kiss me? I know we’ve never kissed. That’s okay. Just get it over with.” She winked at me.
I should have known better. As I leaned in to peck her on the lips, she kissed me and wrapped her hand around my head, stuck her tongue between my lips, then surprised me by spewing a surprising amount of tequila in my mouth. She howled with laughter as I coughed and sputtered. As my eyes burned, Dilemma laughed harder.
As I regained my breath, I asked her, “What did you do that for?”
Dilemma leaned in and kissed me on the mouth.
“I wanted you to know that if you go forward with me, life is going to have a lot of tequila-in-the-mouth moments.” She smiled and took another drink. She winked again and asked me, “Do you trust me?”
I laughed, leaned over, and kissed her again. Whether there would be more tequila was anyone’s guess.
She certainly was a dilemma.