Men Who’ve Looked At Me (Vignettes)

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IV.

The man drawing portraits in Las Vegas. We’d walked past a lot of men on the strip, their eyes unfocused, snapping cards on flat hands, cards with women with full bodies, women with their whole bodies out. I’d looked at all the men with the cards–that fast ritual. But he was the first one to look at me.

V.

My first writing teacher with his small scarf and clipped hair, telling me my work wasn’t wrong.

VI.

G and me were sitting in the gutter in Merced. We were waiting for the train, drinking from tall cans. Sweat still on our skin from hiking in the peak of summer. The sun was gone but it was still light out, very blue in the evening. I had a sweet mouth, red in photographs. I was talking to my best girl, but stopped speaking when a car full of men slowly drove by. Their young faces and t-shirts. Someone’s arm was out the window. I thought about how your posture changes when you know you’re being watched.

VII.

You in the classroom, me having to leave to think about my body reacting to that. You were always cold.

VIII.

Amtrak bus deep in a California night, I could only make out shapes from outside. Shapes varied between shades of grey, blue, and almost-black. Before that, there was the whip of grass blurring the window. A man on-board with a gentle face, complete mask of tattoos, simple glasses, and a high-necked shirt. His clothes were pressed, such little skin to see. He looked at me as he came to sit in the back row.

IX.

Another high school boy, first in the bathtub. I pitched my head back to look at him while he spoke, so we could look at each other. I felt ugly with wet hair. Later–wearing a towel–when I blow-dried his hair, he said something like, “We don’t have to break up anymore. You’re so good to me.” I was collecting that wide-eyed open-mouthed look. Later, he looked over at me while he drove in his car. I had never held hands in a car before.

He changed his mind.

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