Growing up, ma spoke less than pa, who did say, “Books, including the bible, are a goddamn waste of time.” Ours was a working farm filled with milk cows, manure stains, and living room silence. School had no practicality, and besides, the bus didn’t travel as far out as we lived. Instead, we taught each other how to handpick garden foods which ma sliced and diced into Tupperware bowls for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s something to be said about learning by example: not that anyone did.
Like teats of an udder, my siblings hung around until the milk under ma’s belly dried up. I stayed the longest, mostly to bury pa. Wasn’t two weeks after his passing, I practically gave away the farm to greedy neighbors who didn’t offer one condolence or ask where I was going. Strong thumbs, big feet, and all the cash I could gather, I set off to make another path my home. Light as I was, I’d never felt heavier. Kind people were strange enough to offer me rides, some talking about Pentecost, others about never taking chances, a few humming along to the radio or the wind. Night after night, I slept fists curled. Day after day, I looked for a sweet spot to land.
A month of brick laying in Coeur d’Alene, beard trailing down my chin, I followed some of the boys to The Raw Ranch for cheap beers, tits, and ass. Song after song, leggy women in nothing but youthful flesh swung around a shiny gold pole top to bottom. I smiled and whistled along, but took no part in sniffer’s row. Little I knew about women, I knew better than to be up in their business.
She walked out from behind the black curtain wearing a ponytail, eye glasses, and the reddest high heels I’d ever seen. They called her Priscilla, but I knew her god-given name. Ma’s nose and boney figure, dad’s teeth and dark skin, she was half them in every way. Scratching the hair underneath my hat, I felt heart sick like in the movies. In the bathroom, I didn’t think I could actually cry.
“You looking for a dance,” she said. Green eyes so full of similar emptiness, I couldn’t help but accept the invitation.
“You don’t seem very into this.” She ground her pink flesh into my filthy smelling clothes, hands working down my chest, hips, knees, her breath tickling all sides of my neck. I sat there, limp, wishing I knew something better to say than hmm. I handed over the twenty dollar bill and made my way to the bathroom. In the parking lot, I smoked and watched the stars. I went back inside but she didn’t dance again. I looked around but she never popped out.
“You got the hottest chic in there,” one the boys said stumbling to the car. “I hope you understand what you had back there.”
The next night, after another ill-fitting dance, I surrendered twenty-five dollars and said, “Hi.”
published 2 May 2012