Alejandra

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After leaving the lab, Alejandra rode her bike to the studio and sweated out an hour’s session of bikram yoga. The studio was packed on this Saturday morning. When it was over, she wiped the perspiration from her face and neck with a towel and put her black, horn-rimmed glasses back on. She checked out the community bulletin board and said her goodbyes before taking off.

Alejandra was a tall woman, 5’10” in height, and had a thick, muscular build. Her hair was black and short and her skin complexion was brown. On this muggy morning, she was dressed in a faded REI shirt, tight blue shorts, and Birkenstocks. Her big butt cheeks bulged out of the shorts and she had to pull them down occasionally. The back of her shirt was soaked in sweat and stuck to her back.

After strapping on her helmet, she got on her bike and sped off. Her rolled up yoga matt stuck out of her backpack. When she rode past a fire engine, the guys on board smiled at her. She finally arrived at her apartment in Albany Hill minutes later, overlooking the cities of El Cerrito and Albany.

Once she was inside, she stripped naked and jumped into the shower. When she was finished, she dried herself with a towel and walked around her place nude. It was warm and she had all the windows open. Sitting at her laptop, she checked her email and drank some water. A few people expressed interest in buying the guitar she had advertised on Craigslist. The most polite and friendly, not to mention most persistent person, worked nearby. He gave a pretty hefty offer for the instrument and so she decided to call him.

“Hi, may I speak to Joel?” she asked, pushing her glasses up her nose.

“Speaking,” a young man said.

“Hello, my name’s Alejandra. You emailed me a couple of times about wanting to buy the acoustic guitar.”

“Oh, yeah. Sounds like a fantastic instrument.”

“You’re still interested I take it?” She hooked her big toe around the leg of a chair.

“Heck yeah!” he said, laughing. “I’ve been looking for something like that for a while. When I saw your ad I thought it was too good to be true.”

“Yes, this particular model’s pretty rare. So, it looks like you work in my neck of the woods. When would you like to meet up?”

“Uhh, how about tomorrow afternoon?”

“Sure, that’s fine.”

* * *

She walked down the hill with the guitar case in her hand, arriving at a shop called the Fish Bowl moments later. A bell chimed when she entered. Standing in the doorway, she looked around at the numerous tanks full of fish. Some were very colorful and pretty, others were tiny and swam fast. She was still looking in awe when a slender man with neatly trimmed blonde hair approached her.

“Alejandra?” he said, grinning.

“You must be Joel.”

They shook hands firmly.

“Nice store,” she commented.

“Thanks. I thought the same thing a couple of years ago. That’s why I decided to buy it when the last owner declared retirement.”

“Good investment,” she said, chuckling. “Well, here it is.” She laid the instrument on the counter, opening the case.

He took it out gently and examined it. “Wow, what a beauty!” After a moment he said, “You said you’d take a check, right?”

“Yes.”

Joel scribbled out a check, handing it to her. “Are you Filipina?”

“Good guess. I’m also half Brazilian.”

“Oh, that’s a sexy combination,” he said, smiling flirtatiously. “My last girlfriend was Filipina.”

She returned a grin. “I see.”

“Can you speak Tagalog and Portuguese?”

“Yes, but not fluently, nor can I write or read either language.”

“But you could survive in each country probably, right? Carry a halfway decent conversation?”

Alejandra nodded. “Yes.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be nosy, but where were you born? And where did you grow up?”

“I was born in Manila and spent part of my childhood there and in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. I moved to the U.S. when I was fifteen.”

He closed the guitar case, nodding. “Interesting.” He chuckled. “Here’s my nosy personality again: so have you lived in America?”

She pushed her glasses up her nose, her bare foot slipping out of her one Birkenstock. It rested on top of the shoe. “Well, my family and I first settled in New York because I had relatives there. There’s also a big Brazilian population there. Then, after that, we became nomads for a while and lived in Atlanta for a while, then Tennessee, Maryland, South Carolina, and Missouri.”

Joel gave her a puzzled look.

She laughed. “Yeah, I know, it’s weird. My father traveled a lot for his job, and dragged us all over the place. Let me tell ya, it was pretty frustrating to have to go to so many different high schools! Once I started making really cool friends, I had to leave and meet a whole new set of people. And on and on.”

“Ahh, man, that sucks! You don’t have an accent, either.”

“Yeah, I think it thinned out from living here so long.”

“So how’d you end up in beautiful Albany, California?”

“My family büyük meme porno and I moved out here ’cause we had relatives in the Bay Area, too. My parents wanted to be close to them. Plus, it’s such a nice place to live, so multicultural, diverse, environmentally conscious, and liberal, you know?”

“Tell me about it. Well, listen, Alejandra, I won’t hold you up any longer.” They shook hands again. “Thanks again for the guitar.”

“You’re very welcome. Glad to know it went to someone who will really appreciate it.”

“Right on. Say, wanna have lunch sometime?”

She worked out at the gym the next day, concentrating especially on her butt, thighs, and calves. They were huge and muscular now, not to mention her arms and wide back. Wearing a tank top, tight purple shorts, and ankle sweat bands, she walked barefoot to the stretching area and did some stretches. A couple of guys walked by her, grinning.

When she was done at the gym, she pedaled her bike to a local music shop in Berkeley and bought a guitar tuner and a harmonica. Back at her apartment, she played the harmonica for a while. She played walking barefoot around her place, or sitting on the sofa. Then she tuned her guitar and played and sang a few folk tunes, and later did several classic rock songs.

She took a break and surfed the Internet a little bit. She canceled her membership to an online dating website. After clicking a few buttons using her mouse it was a done deal. It had been an interesting experience and she met some nice guys through it but decided to take a break. She grabbed the harmonica and started playing it again as she scrolled down an article. Suddenly, the phone rang and she picked it up.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Alex, it’s Terry.”

“Hey, how’s it going? I was just gonna call you. So we’re still on for the Radiohead concert?”

“Yep. Are you excited?”

“Definitely. In fact, I’m wearing their shirt as we’re speaking.”

“Cool.”

“I’ll order the tickets later.”

“Okay, thanks. So what else is new?”

Alejandra told her she just canceled her online dating membership.

“Did you have any luck?”

“No. . .I mean, I went on some really fun dates and met some really cool men, but didn’t feel any chemistry with any of them.”

“Dating’s tough.”

“I didn’t join with the intention of meeting someone right away. I wanted to take it slow and easy, get to know people first, you know? Just looking for friends, basically. In fact, I still keep in touch with a couple of guys. We’re movie and hiking pals, I guess you could say. ‘Cause it’s no fun watching a movie at a theater by yourself, you know?”

“Totally.”

“Or going on a hike alone. Sometimes we go to the Farmer’s Market together and have even played board games at a café.”

“Cool. I like the idea of friends, too. Seems more appealing right now.”

Alejandra told her about Joel. “I sold him one of my guitars. We’re gonna have lunch and go to an open mic.”

“You’re both going to sing and play guitars together?”

“Yeah. Should be fun.”

“You like him?”

“He’s not really my type but I thought it would be nice to have another musician friend.”

“Seems like you already have a lot of those, Alex.”

“True, but it doesn’t hurt to have more, you know? It’s good to network.”

“Is he good looking?”

“He’s okay. Kinda skinny, and shorter than me.”

“For a big woman, you don’t mind shorter and smaller guys, do you?”

“Doesn’t really bother me. Looks aren’t everything.”

“Nice that you’re so open minded. Well, I gotta get going. Let me know when you get those tickets.”

The following Monday, Alejandra worked overtime at the lab. As she studied Petri dishes under a microscope her cell phone started vibrating on her desk. She tried to ignore the sound and concentrate but finally pulled herself away from the microscope. After picking up the phone she looked at the number on the screen.

“Hey, Joel,” she said.

“Hi. Did I catch you at an okay time?”

“Yeah, yeah, no problem.” She looked at the Petri dishes.

“Cool. Hey, so we’re still on for lunch and the open mic?”

“Yes.”

“Cool. Hey, I’ve been playing your guitar a lot. Totally rocks!!!”

She smiled, looking at the dishes again. “Glad you like it.”

“It’s totally sweet. The sound it produces is fantastic. Thanks again.”

“Oh, you’re welcome.”

“Say, are you sure you don’t want any free fish? I can give you anything you like. Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

“No, I’m good, thanks. . .well, I’d better be going.”

“Sure, sure. Hey, wanna grab a beer and play pool later at Club Mallard?”

“That sounds fun but I’ve got a lot of things to wrap up at work. Maybe another time.”

“Okay. Well, I’ll see you later in the week then.”

“Bye.”

Putting down the phone, she returned to the microscope and carefully examined another batch of dishes. She picked up a pen and made çinli porno some notations on a clipboard. Then she studied some more dishes and jotted down some more notes. The lab was pretty quiet now. It was just her and a couple of other coworkers that were left.

She wore a white lab coat over a sleeveless tan blouse, tight cargo pants, and flip flops. Pushing her black horn-rimmed glasses up her nose, she sat down at a computer and entered some data.

A black man with a shaved head approached her, grinning. “Ahh, the sexy scientist is still here, working tirelessly,” he said.

Without taking her eyes off the screen, she said, “What are you still doing here, Dan?”

“Oh, just finishing up some reports. Never enough hours in the day, let me tell ya.”

“Tell me about it.” She typed in some figures. “So how’s little Dan doing?”

“Good. You know, he asked about you the other day. Asked when Auntie Alex can play Frisbee with him again and take him out for an ice cream.”

She chuckled. “He’s so sweet. Say hello to him and Sarah for me.”

“I will. See you tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

She spent another forty five minutes at the lab before calling it a day. By then the skies were dark and starry as she biked home. When she got back to her place, she stripped down to her thong and did a mini-work out in her living room. It was another humid night and she had all her windows open. She lived on the fourth level and occasionally looked out the window at the city lights below. There were a few other apartment buildings and houses facing her unit but she never saw anybody in the windows. For some reason, walking around naked didn’t really bother her.

After putting on her ankle sweat bands, she continued with a series of squats and lunges on her large Oriental rug. Then she did some push ups, sit ups, crunches, and finished off with some arm, thigh, and calf exercises. She walked over to a stationary bicycle machine facing one of the windows, put a towel on the seat, and adjusted the settings for hill climber mode. She sat down, put her bare feet in the stirrups, and began pedaling. Alejandra read the latest New Yorker as she exercised. Rivers of sweat trickled down her wide brown back. When she was done with the issue, she tossed it on the floor and grabbed an issue of The Economist. Looking out the window for a moment, she thought she saw someone looking at her. Taking another glance, she noticed a group of young men checking her out. They were smoking cigarettes and drinking beer at the corner. She went back to her magazine. When she was done with that, she reached over and snatched a copy of The Utne Reader. Soon, she came to another steep hill and pedaled hard using her massive, muscular thighs and calves. After drying the perspiration from her face, neck, and hair with a towel she put her glasses back on. The next twenty five minutes were all about climbing a series of tough hills. She finished the routine with Rolling Stone and then threw it on the pile of other magazines. Getting off the bicycle, she wiped the sweat from her face and body and headed for the shower.

For the rest of the night Alejandra sat and meditated a little before watching some television.

A few days later, she had lunch with Joel at an Ethiopian restaurant. Afterwards, they attended the open mic at a café in Oakland. To start things off, she played her harmonica solo on stage, and then was joined by him. They played their guitars and sang, doing a small set comprised of folk and rock covers, as well as original songs. After tuning her guitar they finished the set with the Rolling Stones’s “Ruby Tuesday.”

The audience cheered and applauded.

Joel smiled at her, putting his guitar back in its case. “That was fun.”

“Yeah, it was.”

They stayed and watched the rest of the musicians perform. Alejandra bought a CD from a fellow artist. “When is your album coming out?” the man asked.

She started blushing and chuckled. “Oh, I don’t know.”

“You guys sounded great. You should put a CD together.”

“Maybe,” Joel replied optimistically.

After exchanging contact information with some of the musicians, they left. Joel drove them back to his fish store in Albany. “Want a lift to your place?”

“No, this fine. Thanks for the ride and thanks for doing the open mic.” She grabbed her guitar case from the back of his SUV. He gave her a hug and tried to kiss her but she turned her face away. When he tried again, she pushed him away a little.

“I’m sorry, Joel. . .I’d just like to be friends,” she said quietly, her big brown eyes looking directly into his blue eyes.

Their arms were still around each other, their faces inches from one another. “I’m crazy about you, Alejandra. . .from the first day I met you I knew there was something special and unique about you. There’s this unexplainable magnetism and electricity about you. I was hoping you’d feel the same way about me. And the fact that you’re drop dead gorgeous and Filipina and Brazilian. You’re my değişik porno type. I’ve always had a thing for Asian and Latin women.”

“I’m really flattered, Joel, I really am. You’re a really sweet, nice guy. A great musician, too. But I’m not interested in a relationship. I see you as a friend, nothing more.”

“Do you think that could change?” he asked optimistically. “If we got to know each other over time that you might be attracted to me later on?”

“I don’t know. It’s hard to say.”

He let her go, a defeated look on his face.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly.

He didn’t look at her. “You don’t have to apologize. Well, I guess I’ll see you later then.”

“Yes. Thanks again for the ride,” she said, and left.

Over the next several weeks she was extremely busy at the lab, often working overtime. She still worked out at the gym after work. On a Friday evening, she stayed late and worked on some experiments revolving around corn and tomatoes. After running numerous tests, she analyzed the data before entering them into the computer. She was sitting at the terminal when her cell phone vibrated on her desk again. She tried to block out the sound, typing calmly. Her mind was so absorbed in her work that she didn’t hear the chime the phone made, indicating there was a text message.

Realizing that it might be important, she forced herself to get up and pick up her cell. The message read: ‘Hi Alejandra. Long time no see (or hear)! Wanna do another open mic? Plus, I wanna try your lumpia.’

She hadn’t heard from Joel in a while and figured he got the picture and moved on to someone else. But the fact that he contacted her was a good sign. Maybe he was willing to be friends after all. She missed playing music. Work really prevented her from pursuing it. Perhaps this was the excuse she needed to get back into it. But would Joel try to kiss her again? She hoped not.

She didn’t reply right away. Instead, she returned to the computer and finished inputting the data. Her coworker, Dan, walked over. “Still here, huh, sexy scientist?” he asked.

“Yep. What time is it?”

“Time to go, my dear. It’s a ghost town here. Ever notice that you’re always the last to leave now?”

She grinned at him. “Not enough hours in the day.”

“You’re still going to the gym after this?”

“Yep.”

He shook his head. “You’re amazing. Wish I had your energy.”

“I just wanna get these tests and reports done and sent to the board. When that’s over, I’ll relax.”

“Aren’t you looking forward to our backpacking trip?”

She stopped typing, making a face. “Oh, thanks for reminding me! I gotta grab some supplies from REI. Is your brother coming?”

“No, he has to work. But he still wants to date you.”

She chuckled.

“I’m serious. Keeps asking, ‘Is Alejandra single?’

She laughed. “Can he play any musical instruments?”

“I think he played drums in high school.”

“I’ve always wanted to play percussion.”

“Well, maybe you guys can play together.”

Alejandra laughed again.

“Well, listen, dear, I’m gonna take off.” Dan shrugged into his jacket. “As the cliché goes, ‘Don’t work too hard.'”

She sighed. “I’m almost done.” After he left, she stuck around for another twenty minutes before taking off her white lab coat. Then she strapped on her bag, locked up the lab, and biked to the gym.

The bikram yoga session ended in the morning. Alejandra left the studio and rode her bicycle to REI to buy some things. Standing in line waiting for a cashier, a male voice behind her said, “Hey, stranger.”

She turned around, smiling in surprise. “Hi, Peter!” She gave him a warm hug. He was an athletic looking Asian man a few inches shorter than her with black hair, a sharp, solid chin, and a five o’clock shadow.

“How’ve you been? You never returned my calls.”

“Sorry. Work swallowed me up for a while and then I went backpacking in South America for a month. That was fun, I’ll show you pictures sometime.” He pointed down at his muddy hiking boots. “And I just came back from a small hike up in the Oakland Hills. What’s new with you?”

“Same old, same old. Work and more work. Aside from that, I’ve been playing music, attended an open mic here and there, spending time with my family, working out.”

Peter raised his eyebrows at her thick, muscular frame. “You look good! I’m impressed.”

“Thanks. I like staying active and exercising, you know? Work has prevented me from going on hikes and camping but I’m finally going to go backpacking with some coworkers this week.” She smiled. “Hey, wanna come along?”

He returned a grin. “Where are you guys going?”

“Yosemite.”

“That sounds fun.” He rubbed his sharp chin in thought. “I’m a pretty spontaneous kind of guy and you got me hooked. . .okay, I’m in!”

“Great.” Soon, it was her turn at the register. When they were both done, they left and she unlocked her bike from the rack outside.

“Want to grab a cup of coffee or something?” he asked.

“I’d love to but I’ve got a ton of errands to do. Sorry. Next time.”

“Are you free tonight?”

She thought a moment and said, “You know what, I think I am. I’m going to attend a babyshower later but that shouldn’t be too long. What did you have in mind?”

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