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Happy Romance Western

The June evening was sticky and fragrant, carrying laughter, music and the smell of charred corn and spiced meat through the air. Booths lined the street and the square with art, jewelry and knickknacks. Families with exhausted looking parents crowded around vendors of face-painting and kettle corn to wait their turn. Above us, the Jersey Lily balcony held beer-drinking patrons who overlooked the Main Street across from the ancient courthouse. Every so often the high pitched laughter of a table propping up several tipsy women in rhinestone bejeweled jeans would rise and then fall in contribution to the rolling wave of the street fair. I knew my hair was huge and my makeup was smudged after a humid afternoon of carnival rides and booth venders but I didn’t care. The cover band was playing 80s songs and I was dancing on air. 

First dates are always complicated affairs in movies, fraught with unrealistic scenarios. I had changed my outfit at least 10 times to accommodate all of the imagined possibilities crashing through my head earlier that day. But I new as soon as I saw the dark monsoon clouds in the distance that nothing would matter more than the humidity and possible deluge later on, so i gave up on fashion and stuck to my usual costume that consisted of a tank top, shorts, and my favorite pair of flip flops. When he arrived I saw with great satisfaction that he matched me well, and I relaxed knowing that the boy waiting to whisk me away tonight was the same person that slung beer and coffee with me 5 days a week while yelling sassy comments to his adoring regulars sitting at the bar. Even though he’d come around the corner of Busser Ally earlier that day to find me hissing every bad word I could think of after a plump and ruddy woman with orange-blonde hair had sent back her second batch of sweet potato fries, I still felt pretty confident not being covered in syrup and food as I opened the front door to meet him. Amazing how a shower and a change of clothes can make a woman feel reborn. 

The band ended a truncated version of some song the cackling ladies at the table had gotten really excited about, and the singer had launched into another intro. A slower tempo floated through the air and the boy was suddenly grabbing my hand and pulling me close. I looked around in panic to see who was whispering… there was always someone watching in this small town. Somehow there was little safety in this, and the longer I lived here the more I realized that my longing for anonymity was closely linked to my desire for freedom. I scanned the crowd hastily. The eyes upon us were only those of strangers for once. I relaxed and wondered why I even cared. 

“I like you.” He said. More panic flew to my head; my many years of chick flicks had not prepared me for an easy and direct conversation like this. There was supposed to be some kind of battle or enemy. Something complicated was supposed to rush in to ruin everything, only to be proven wrong in the end. But it wasn’t like that at all. He smelled good and he smiled big and he laughed often. My need to complicate the situation into a 9-Season NBC dramedy was quickly being overtaken by my desire to be happy. Could this be so easy?

”I like you a lot.” He tried again. “I have fun when I’m with you. You’re funny and cool… and beautiful.” He faltered, unsure of what girls found acceptable as far as men, feelings and where the acceptable boundary involving the combination of the two were concerned. He seemed almost scared. It was the sweetest thing. 

The sticky air swelled with a sudden breeze and the smell of rain flew through the desert street. The constant hum of cicadas in the trees began to elevate until the chirping was so loud that car alarms went off down the block and the band went slightly off time. Every thought in my head became silent; there was no room for a running monologue when all of my senses were maxed out. And it was then - when my thoughts were held hostage and my inner voice was drowned out - that I knew my true reaction to him. It was easy and it was quiet. 

“I like you too.” I said it close to his ear in case the chirping cicadas and the plunky guitar solo and the screeching tipsy women confused my words. “I’m having the best time with you tonight.” I felt his body become tense, and then I felt my feet leave the street as he swung me around in the middle of Main and Cortez. My thoughts were quiet, but my heart was loud. My hand in his was hot and sweaty, but he held me close and I didn’t care. The wind came up again like the ghost of a soul who had ridden through this town one-hundred years ago. My feet scraped the ground once more and he brought his face down to kiss me tenderly. The beauty of a man of few words is the healing power he can have on a woman with many.

Somewhere far over the granite mountains the stars fought to poke through. The old town looked on as it had for many years, through fires, gun fights, technology, the fashion of fine ladies and the passion of men of industry. The smell of water fought the dry baked pavement. We stood still in time while the desert danced. The band was coming to an end of the song and the singer was nervously explaining that they would return after a short break while trying to hold down the set list in front of him with one foot. My hair was everywhere and his arms were holding me steady. 

The black sky opened and it rained.

June 10, 2024 02:27

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1 comment

Mary Bendickson
12:49 Jun 18, 2024

Made the night come alive.


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