Shot of Words 4
She nearly tripped walking down the stairs, but his stare traveled behind her, focused on the red dirt that settled in the ring. She kept walking, through the noise and reek of popcorn butter.
Outside housed the hottest spring she could remember; she tried to sneak a glance at her underarms, but stopped at her wrinkled shoulders and followed the dents on her upper arms, down to the flab that jiggled with the slightest move. Age finally showed on her skin, and every day, it was a surprise. She was beautiful, slender and strong, hair and legs stroked with gold, but her skin, her skin… she looked up at the girl working the booth, offering small smiles at customers with each push of the beer gun, bigger smiles with each tip in the jar. Her hair was dark, full, her lashes long and black, her lips pink without a hint of gloss.
She got her drinks and walked away in a rush, keeping her head down, eyes on the tip of her boots as she moved through the crowd. Her favorite jeans felt tighter, belt buckle pressing against the soft of her stomach. She climbed up back to him, and in silence they sat and sipped the thinning layer of foam in their beer. This happened every year, the two of them here surrounded by strangers and the regulars, men with their wives of twenty years, children excited for mutton busting and naps that followed grand swabs of cotton candy.
They’d been here for the first time decades before, eager and nervous about spending an afternoon together, holding hands as they sat and drank for hours, talked for hours with the rodeo racket around them forgotten. Today she drank and sweat alone next to her husband, his legs cramped in the space between seats. He’s so handsome, her husband, fierce eyes under furrowed brows that match the black of his hair, the dark of his beard, with slight grays that greet him during his morning shave. He’s so handsome, her husband, calloused hands that grip the glass and near her hand with caution—when once he would’ve grasped it tight as a rope, as tight as his own.
He’s so handsome, my husband, who once would have reached over and squeezed my knee, flirted with the freckles that trace my legs.
But we’re here again, we’re here together, and there is comfort in the stench of funnel cake grease, hope in the laughter that travels around us, lost in the music of gallops and squealing children at the sight of a bull. At least that is what I believe every spring when we drive here and sit together in a space that forces us to touch.
There is a moment when we go off to the side of the ring, where the music booms louder, and he pulls me close and sways, sways, sways me against him, no words between us. The moment I live for the rest of the year.
There is a corner right off the side of the ring, where couples dance to the man who sings of cheap whisky and pink Texas skies; old couples and young couples, girls in boots and short skirts who flirt with their men, and hold on to their hands, hold on to this afternoon, hold on until the upcoming spring and the next.