November 1, 2002
He was surely not from Manhattan
by Nanette Rayman
never did like him. Cowboys always had shit on their boots and I should have remembered the smell.
But cowboys were my choice of men. I like men. In Manhattan it's very hard to find a man. I mean a man, not a human with a beard who treats women like something discovered under his shoe. Not those men who are angry at beautiful women. Angry. Who don't even want to touch me or kiss me, who don't want to smell the rose shampoo I use, or brush up against me or even put their hand on my shoulder. Who only want to sneer. Those are the Manhattan men.
That's why I like cowboys. Their boots are earthy, yet they love women.
There was Mike. He sat on the bar tool next to me and took off his hat, and he smiled at me. He ordered another Grasshopper for me, without asking, without wanting to know, What is that?
He was surely not from Manhattan.
It was so hot.
Still so hot, even after the thunder and the sky turning purple and orange and gray.
So hot. Still so hot. He said it. Said it was like when he was boy and he dug a hole in the red clay and slept right there, in the earth. 'So hot. Right before the rain, before sheets and days and pellets of rain. And the ground turned to mud and smelled of shit. And the mosquitoes, they find you. Can't blame 'em though. They just want to live.'
His biceps seemed skittery under their smooth flesh. He reminded me of an old boyfriend I had years ago, a rough urban cowboy who took me to a lake where we smoked and kissed and sucked on blades of grass. I haven't seen a man like that in... how long?
I saw the glow of his cigarette moving in this dark bar, hand to mouth.
I felt the cool green liquid slither down my throat. Foam on my mouth.
'Can I kiss that off?'
'You can kiss off.' His laughter. Like one of his horses.
'Why are you in New York?'
'To meet a woman like you.'
Oh God, oh God. It was so hot.
I didn't like him. But I wanted him.
I wasn't going to agree to it. And then I did. He seemed to know this.
He didn't turn on the light, didn't speak. He saw what was happening, what would happen. This apartment, boxes unpacked, this bedroom in summer; steam and the sodium light of street lamps leaking in through the open shutters.
'I'll be right back.'
Minutes later he returned with red and purple bunches of flowers, over ripe, too sweet. He lay down beside me, lit a cigarette and put it in my mouth. I breathed in down to my knees. The hair on his arm brushed mine.
The heat was close. He rolled toward me, touched my mouth with his. He traced a line down my face, pushed my hair back. I wanted him to speak. To say something. He was taking the straps of my sundress down, murmuring strange sounds I couldn't understand.
And then he was up and lighting another cigarette. Smoking it down to the filter. I asked him, 'What's wrong?'
He said, 'Nothing.'
And I was crying, beating his chest with my fists, ripping to pieces a purple flower. Petals on the bed.
Limp against him. 'Why? Is there something wrong with me?
'Why? You don't think I'm beautiful?'
He said nothing. He brought me grape juice and toast slathered with grape jam. His fingers touched my face. He said, 'I don't know what happened.'
He hugged me hard, called a taxi, shoved two twenties in my hand.
'I'll call you.'
He never did.
I never did like him.
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