A half dozen O.G.s, IBUs, and hop addition times later, I thanked the homebrewers for their interest, and treated them all to a pint. Thats another plus for the owner, he allows me a reasonable number of comps.
Elena responded to the hand I offered with a faint smile that, if she pushed out her lips, could have changed instantly to a frown. Her hair was jet black, and complemented the natural darkness of her skin. Southern Italian or Greek ancestry, I thought. Shy until theyre behind closed doors, when they reveal the traits of a hungry lionness. Elenas hair was smooth and straight, cascading over her shoulders like a petroleum waterfall. Her eyes gazed out boldly from under dark eyebrows, with irises so black that I couldnt see where they ended and the pupils began.
"Why were you smiling?" she asked.
\"What do you mean?"
"In the brewhouse. Why were you smiling?" It was a good question, because Im usually smiling all the time when I brew, even when somethings going wrong in the brewhouse, and shed noticed.
"I didnt know you were watching," I replied evasively. Telling a woman that your smile is a reflection of all the yeast cake youre getting is a strategic blunder, especially during your first conversation.
"For quite some time," she said. "I love the way your body glistens with sweat, especially when showcased by copper."
"A pearl among swine," I said, scrambling to come up with a good response. I think that phrase is from The Bible and, okay, I admit that I have used it before, but this time it came off well and convinced me that our conversation was going somewhere.
"Whats your name?" she asked.
"Stan," I replied.
"Stan the Grand."
"I never had someone call me grand before."
"Oh I bet," she said. "What are you doing tonight? Want a date?" My mouth hung open like I was at the dentist, until she snapped it shut with, "Eight oclock, heres my address. Call me if youre gonna be late."
"Im never late," I managed to say, cursing myself for how uncool that sounded.
"Then youre a better person than I," she replied, and sauntered out the door. My eyes dropped to her mash tun again and right then I should have known that I was jumping into a relationship that would reach full boil quickly, and would get burned.
But Im getting ahead of myself. At eight oclock that evening I was at her door. Actually, it was quarter to eight, and I had brought the latest Brewers Bulletin. Five minutes of struggling through grain and hop prices and I knew my mind was elsewhere, so I left the car and walked to her apartment.
She answered my knock half-dressed, brushing her hair. "Youre early. Come in, Ill be right down," she said, then turned and cut off my second view of her naked breasts. This was too much, I thought. I mean, even in Europe where breasts arent as big a deal, they reserve their public baring to beaches and magazines.
As she walked away, Elena brushed her hair up, and my eyes lingered on the gentle slope where her back curved into the yawning hollow of her neck. Right where it hit the bottom of her skull plate, the hollow was lost in a forest of black hair. It was a forest I could get lost in, I thought, dwell on each hair, explore the scalp. She disappeared upstairs and I sat with a huge smile on my face. It was like walking into a brewpub late at night and finding a good bock on tap. Malty up front, a good bock meets you, full-bodied and friendly. Then the hops start acting out, countering the sweet malt and taking you irresistibly down the path toward a clean dry finish. There, in the finish, is the appeal of a bock. Its dry and crisp, and kicks you with enough force to send you back for another.
You probably think I sound a little overjoyed at my situation for a guy whos known so many women. Its just that I appreciate women with a relish my grandma called hormonal frenzy. Grandma says the frenzy starts during adolescence, when we receive an overdose of hormones, but is never fully satiated, which is why we have sex on the brain for the rest of our lives.
Three minutes later Elena was standing before me, jeans topped by a tie-dyed, gauze, button down shirt. Leather sandals cushioned her feet, completing a picture of grace and beauty.
Unable to avoid the topic any longer, I said, "That was the second time youve shown me your breasts."