Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Zack and I had a fight sometime last night, and I couldn't get it out of my system. He fell asleep after like it was nothing, always can. Not me. When I get restless like that, there's only one thing I can do to work through it.


----


The Benefactor


She asks, and I tell her I’m only in town for a few days, on a job.

"Where are your manners today, Cowboy?" She says as I watch her sitting on the side of the bed, reaching back to zip up her dress. Her large hanging breasts disappear into the brilliant red fabric. "Aren’t you going to ask me if I’m in town on business or pleasure?"

"I thought your business was pleasure." I say. Nothing from her, not a glance, not a smile. I’d thought it at least worth a chuckle, but then, laughter isn’t cheap from a girl like this. In truth, I had been wondering what she was doing there tonight; it wasn’t the bar or even the town we normally met in, when we met. A chance encounter, tonight, but it was lucky for me. Something had been missing the past few days, itching at me, and when I saw her sitting at the bar, looking just the way I’d first seen her years ago, I knew what it was.

She looks up, interrupting my train of thought; sees what I’m thinking instantly and gives me that half-smile that’s all you ever get out of her. "I’m glad you found me tonight, Cowboy. You were just what I needed."

I suppose that’s what makes a good hooker, knowing what he wants to hear.

"That mean your not going to take my money, then?" I say, reaching for my wallet behind me on the dresser that I’m leaning on, across from her so I can watch her every careful move.

"No, sweetie, I’ll take it. I always do." She gets up and saunters over to me, and I fan her payment out in front of her like a bad poker hand. She takes it from me quickly, in a darting motion, and stuffs it in her purse, indelicately. It’s sad, now that I can afford to, I always pay her too much for her to push it slowly into her cleavage like she used to. I wish to hell they’d invent some bigger bills. "But I’ll say this...I’m gonna spend this here money on something I want, not something I need. Something for me."

"You make sure of that." I tell her. "That’s what kind of money it is, that’s what I spent it on." I’m trying so goddamn hard to be funny or charming or something, but it’s lost on her, or it would look that way if I didn’t know her face so well. She’s a woman of subtlety, a woman who knows enough not to get all hysterical about things. You should only really laugh if the joke is funny. You should only really cry if the love is true.

Probably, I’ll never see her laugh again, but I’ve had dreams about it, the way I saw it that first night. I didn’t even know at first who she was then, what she was, we were just sharing a drink, and I was drinking her in. She smiled then, pouted then, was a girl to the woman now before me, but still beautiful, always beautiful. She’s leaning over the vanity now, applying her lipstick just so. Probably, she was the kind of girl who never believed she was pretty at all, but smart enough to know that she could get her way if she learned how to fake it. If I could make her realize how she looks to me now, I just might see her cry.

But I’ll never see her cry.

She’s mussing the curly locks of her hair, studying the lines on her face in the mirror’s dirty glass. She’s counting the years and managing the minutes, making deals with herself about the future, the things she’ll have, the way she’ll have them. She was lying about the money, I think, because I can see her doing the math of how far it will get her. She’s deciding when to quit.

I hope she never does.

"Don’t look so worried, Cowboy. I’m not heading west or anything. Just in town visiting friends." She walks back over to me and searches my eyes, all systematic, all fake, but I fall for it; I always do.

"Then I’ll see you back home, some time?"

To this, a chuckle, except this time, I wasn’t trying to be funny. "You have a home, Cowboy?"

"Do you?" I counter, feeling slighted.

She cranes her head and looks off in the distance, in thought. "I’ve got a place to stay tonight, and a liquor store on the way there. And I’ve got money to buy the finest drink they’ve got to offer, thanks to you, and the time to sip it slowly, and think about my benefactor. " She’s smiling just a hair more than usual, perhaps, but I’m telling myself it’s all just an act, must be an act, otherwise I’d break down and give her everything I had. Her eyes look straight at me then, and
she finishes: "Yeah, I guess I have a home, tonight."

It’s crazy the way she makes me feel. A romantic would swear by it, but I’m not a romantic. We see each other every couple of months, her and I. She’s the only one I’ve ever seen more than once, and I'm finally getting to think it's more than a coincidence. It’s not like the way it sounds, but she’s the only woman I’ve ever loved.

"I thought you were lying about the money." I tell her to her back, just before she reaches for the door. "About spending it on something for you."

"No, sweetheart. I wouldn’t lie to you. I never lie to anyone who knew me before I started turning tricks."

I’m instantly confused: I didn’t know her before. That first night I saw her, she was sitting at a bar, nursing a drink. She’d looked over at me and smiled a little, that was all it took. A soft sell, that’s what it was. I took her over to a private table and we talked. She didn’t say anything about what she did or was, but it didn’t take long to figure it out. She laughed at my jokes and listened to me babble, and I wanted her so badly, knew it was too good to be true. I started to suspect, but I didn’t mind: me being what I was, I couldn’t have hoped for anything better. When she took my hand and began to lead me out of the place, I knew for certain. Didn’t matter. It’d been wonderful, more than I could have hoped for. A surge of synergy, a connection so real, it had to be fake. No woman could ever make love to a man like me that way, not without a price. She was just a brilliant and beautiful actress, and when the curtains closed I threw my rose like everyone before me. I remember getting up and going to my wallet, getting the two C-notes I had on me and handing them to her without a word. I would have given more if I’d had it, she hadn’t asked for any special amount. She hadn’t asked for any of it: a real professional, she’d been.

I remembered the way she took it, and looked at me. She gave me one of her subtle looks that I hadn’t yet grown to understand. My confusion must have shown because she finally smiled to relax me...no, it was different. She gave me that half-smile, for the very first time. I remember how slowly she folded the bills and pushed them down between her breasts, how young she was then. What wasn’t I remembering?

She must be thinking about someone else. I’m about to mention her mistake, but she gives me a look that quiets me.

Damn.

"You didn’t answer me cowboy: do you have a home?"

For a moment, I can’t answer. I pick up my wallet again, and tap it against my free hand, pointedly. "I’ve got a job." She shakes her head, and I ask. "What’s wrong with that?"

"Ain’t nothing wrong with it, darlin’. You know how I feel about a man with a job."

Her hand is on the door knob and she’s about to make her exit line, that’s maybe what I love the most about her. It’s always something that gets to me. She pushes open the door and is a smoky silhouette against the fake, flickering city light as she says it:

"Hard work and hard time will get you a lot of places, Cowboy. You just better make damn well sure first that they're where you want to go."

The door closes.


Cowboy. She calls me Cowboy.

---


On with it.

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