Men Who’ve Looked At Me (Vignettes)

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XV.

The man in the car closest to us when we drove on the wrong side of the freeway in Los Angeles. Everything turned slow, felt like a movie. Five lanes of headlights pointing towards our car. He was illuminated in red. I looked the same. The lights, the hard-stomached terror, and wild eyes–before we turned off the road.

XVI.

In the gutted tram in the Shortland yard and then a block away with our backs pressed into the wet grass of a stranger’s clipped lawn. We looked at non-existent stars. I looked at how you looked at me.

Later, down the street, when I knew you’d kiss me. Prophetic moments, strange teenage power.

XVIII.

C in his bedroom, mimicking the song we had playing. The room felt too big. Bad gin, big tremors. We compared our handwriting. I was always waiting for something then, and usually I got it. I did. There were jolts of prediction, but also the recognition that I couldn’t cause everything. He said, “Close your eyes. I have to tell you a secret.”

XIX.

On the lawn at a party in an outer suburb. I’d never been drunk before. He looked through me. A sloppy smile. He played nice. I had a peach colored dress and a limp hand inside his shirt. K threw a drink on us and he went away. I didn’t understand why she did that until I got older.

XX.

An old boss, in his office. He had an insincere upward glance. “No one likes you because you’re too shy. You’re difficult to talk to.”

XXI.

On a late night in Mexico, still sweating after ten. Food truck, LED glow. An American man with a face that looked like all the others. He wore a blue shirt. A beautiful woman stood beside him. I tried to order but couldn’t make out the words. He came and spoke for me in perfect, fast Spanish. He watched me eat for a minute. My mouth turned purple from the heat.

XXII.

It was an easy slow afternoon with a light wind, on a Silver Lake meadow. G, next to me, slept in haze of sun. A man in a low lawn chair was watching me while I read. My dress hiked up. You could see my white underwear. Still, I didn’t pull the hem down.

XXIII.

You in the stairwell, with a cough that had been going on for months. You were sick almost that whole year. “I think it’s because I quit smoking,” you said. “I need a cigarette to dry me out.”

XXIV.

M in the morning, J in the morning, B in the morning–all separate times. All looking at me. This is a repeated behavior: Me with my eyes closed and my mouth still, hoping to be kissed. (Have we all pretended to be asleep to know how loved we really are?)