Hide and Seek

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Do you remember when you were young and kissing felt like heaven? Just you and the boy you liked, alone somewhere, his hand in your hair, your lips together, the warm tentative touch of your tongues. You kissed until your lips were raw, until your cheeks were sore from smiling. Your eyes were closed, but the darkness there was vivid with imagery—you, him, in future places, kissing—and when you opened your eyes, so did he, or maybe he was watching you all along, and you smiled at each other before diving back into the kiss, wished time would cease so you could kiss like this forever.

Yeah, so that's happening right now.

On Danny's couch.

That awesome weathered leather one from Restoration Hardware.

They come up for air and Danny bites her nose softly and goes off to fetch something for them to drink. "Do you like Indian food?" he asks, opening a bottle of red.

She nods and he dials a number. Tandoori mushrooms, baingan bharta, coconut lamb curry, and onion kulcha. He doesn't ask her what she wants, but he orders what she likes. He hands her a glass and sits down at the opposite end of the couch. "How was work?" he says. "Tell me what you do."

She curls her legs beneath her body. "I sell youth and beauty to women who can afford to buy it."

He looks at her, intrigued.

"You wouldn't believe what women do to look good for men."

Danny smiles. "Try me."

"Bull semen hair conditioner. I sold three of those today. A hundred bucks for a 30-minute treatment. Makes your hair all shiny and silky."

Danny raises an eyebrow. "Who invented that, the bull?"

"That's what I said!" she laughs, but then she grows self-conscious. "I don't know. Most days I can talk myself into believing that I'm helping people. A woman's beauty is all tangled up with her self-esteem, so sometimes I help her untangle it, but sometimes I... anyway, I'm good at what I do. I'm just not sure that it's enough anymore. It has to do with the fact that I'm almost forty."

There, she said it. She refuses to hide.

"I know all about the forty freak-out," Danny says, unfazed. "So can you move into management?"

She stretches out her legs. "Funny you should mention it. My boss just told me that she's thinking of having me run the place. Which would be a major promotion, and I think I could run the place better than she can. I know the customers, I know the products, I designed a lot of the programs. On the surface, it all looks good, but..."

He waits for what's next.

She shakes her head. "The future's unknown. We'll see what happens. What about you?" she says. "I googled you. Tell me about Native Hand."

He smiles as he wraps his warm hand around her foot. "It's a global education program designed for school children living inside threatened ecology zones." He looks up to gauge her interest.

"Go on."

He rubs the sheen of her toenail polish. "The theory is that the younger generation inherits the harmful practices of their parents, but we can interrupt that through education and help them improve their own livelihoods while protecting their local environment. And we do it all online," he says, looking at her. "Your feet are like ice cubes."

She slips her foot up his t-shirt. "Give me an example."

He presses her feet against his stomach to warm them. "Take shark-finning. They kill tens of millions of sharks every year to make shark fin soup. The fins only add the texture, no taste, and shark meat is super high in Mercury, so it's actually bad for you. But in Chinese culture, shark fin soup is a symbol of prosperity and honor when you serve it to your guests. But the way they do it, they catch the sharks, bring them on board, slice off their fins, and then throw the shark back into the water, still alive, where it sinks to the bottom of the ocean, unable to swim, and dies. All for a bowl of soup that's meant to prove that you have honor. And with China's boom in prosperity, the demand is through the roof. So basically you have this ignorant and irresponsible practice happening at dangerously high rates, and they're going to fish all of the sharks out of the ocean. Which is sad, but what it really does is endanger the entire ecosystem of the ocean. Sharks are keystone species, which means that if you remove them, the whole system will collapse. Sharks eat other predators, so if you take the sharks away, the other predators flourish and wipe out their prey, on and on down the food web until everything is altered. For soup. With no health benefits, eaten all across China for no other reason than some rich prick from the Ming Dynasty decided that his regular dinner wasn't exotic enough. Shit like this makes me hate the human race so much. People think sharks are scary."

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