Afterwards I was never quite sure how he got in.
I mean, I know how he got in, but I never saw him enter. I was alone, and then suddenly I was not, and he there at my elbow. Too close, too swiftly, like an spook. He seemed to change location without need of walking. Not there, then there. Close and almost overlapping, but strangely at a distance.
He had a definite physique, in fact I noticed because it seemed made of hard sinew, and that was clear despite the long sleeves and collar buttoned up tight. But I had a strange sensation of water or vapor as he stood near, and something else I couldn’t put my finger on; something that fogged my mind and called to mind a Peter Green song, Green Manalishi. Absurd. This guy was a cowboy.
He had the graceful stride and seat of a horseman, and a very slight bowlegged stance. He wasn’t wearing boots, and why would he be? He wasn’t on a horse, just shopping, just looking. I could tell at a glance anyway. The man had it in his blood, not his boots. He would not be scraped off easy, if he had a mind not to be.
In a million years I could not tell you what his face looked like, yet I would know him again, without knowing why. I think I’ve known of him all my life and this moment was just proof of it. He knew me too, although he never admitted it. Just kept playing that tune in my head, and talking, talking, until I wasn’t sure what he was saying.
There was one moment where I was clear, and it only came because I realized that what he’d said was a plea. Words, lists, delivered so matter-of-factly, nonchalantly even, with a Devil May Care tone, which is what waved the red flag.
He was working me! Intoning a code so subtly ingrained on me in another life, one I’d long left behind, but one he had certainly not forgotten. He’d been only waiting, biding time. And the time was now.
I jerked my head back towards his voice and saw a shimmer. The dark glasses had never come off, obscuring information I needed to stay present and in myself. They met his cheekbones and never moved or shifted but seemed part of his face. The longer I looked, the more they seemed the face itself, until I realized there was no face at all. I sucked in my breath, mouthing a scream.
Suddenly the focus snapped and he was just a cowboy again. What had I been thinking? He was talking again, using actual human words, and even laughed once. I shook away the cold I felt, then realized that no, I was actually hot, my skin prickly from the heat. I thought of the desert, and of fire. I saw him lick his lip, curling it. He was so very polite, but I imagined a fang there.
For just a moment he had made me feel sorry for him, had moved me to tears with his litany of woes. He’d almost made me touch him in some blind need to comfort, to ease the agonized hunger, the need he brought. Need that would never be filled, no matter who touched him.
I closed my eyes, telling myself my own name, remembering.
“Goddamn, are you listening?”
“No” I thought, opening them. And he was gone. I never saw him leave. And I know it’s funny, but I heard his spurs across the room.