My El Paso Girl-bycosik|
It was that top she wore. She wasn't thin. She was pushing ample. She had curves that unsettled and provoked. She knew this, I imagined, and she dressed to disguise her figure. That was what started me. That top. I knew the theory of a ruffled front thanks to an ex-girlfriend and hours of forced makeover TV shows on Sunday afternoons: the ruffles hid breasts that would otherwise introduce themselves like a punch in the arm.
The TV was adamant on the point: don't show too many curves.
Stacey said: It makes you look cheap. It makes you look like a hussy.
Clinton said: You don't want to look cheap, do you?
The camera caught the poor girl who was the focus of the dismissal. She shook her head in horror. God no, anything but cheap.
Apparently my date saw the same show and did her best to obey. She camouflaged. She wore ruffles. She didn't want to look cheap. I tended to disagree on all fronts. My date's top - I observed silently - only made the curves more tempting. By attempting to hide, she only drew me closer. I saw the hussy within, as had become my power.
I had a weird idea - that was how our type of nerdish-craziness started. I knew there was something wonderful waiting for us, but I just couldn't see it yet. That was why my hand was on her leg. I was claiming her.
There was a plan circulating. It was moving in and out of my vision. For now, all I could see was my current fixation - her boobs, her tits... her zeppelins. I couldn't help myself. Even sitting next to her my mind was working double speed, trying to imagine the treasure hidden beneath that white ruffled thing of a blouse. I knew I was reducing her to an adolescent fantasy, but her breasts were wonderful - just driving me crazy. Behind that wispy fabric she existed in a dimension way beyond her bra size - whatever that was - I really didn't care.
I wanted to share my secret with her. I wanted my cloudy idea to come clear, so I could lean over and whisper my question in her ear. I wanted to read the answer in her face. I wanted her to say 'yes' with her eyes, if not her words.
The drinks were making me woozy. That was part of my problem. It was a swanky place and the lights were turned down. We shared a table in the semi-darkness in the corner of the bar. The whole scene made me feel like I could get away with more than I should. I felt hip, I felt cool. I felt like a guy in a Bacardi ad, despite my un-hip shirt and my un-cool haircut from a discount chain. My hand flirted with her leg. I felt her thigh. I squeezed deliberately. I was carelessly forward.
She was talking about poetry – it was her first and last love. She was on about her favorite literature class; her favorite poets. She told me how the professor read lines of verse to the class and brought the poems alive. She obsessed William Carlos Williams. 'The Yachts' gave her shivers when the word 'failing' repeated. I stirred my drink and emptied yet another Rum and Coke as the next round appeared.
She was less than beautiful, but she had a chest to die for. The two sides to her collided in my head and made her a mystery to me. She talked and I listened. Her voice never wavered as my hand ran further along her leg. I pressed my palm against her. There was nothing innocent in my touch.
I wanted to feel her body. (If pornography has taught us anything, it is that girls don't have to be beautiful to trigger that urge.) I wanted to feel the inside of her thigh cupped in my hand. And so I did it. I half-groped her, despite my better instincts. I listen to her voice - it betrayed nothing - neither discomfort nor encouragement. The effects of my alcohol-infused charm were perhaps less than I imagined.
I listened as much to the tone of her voice as to the words she was saying. I re-evaluated. I couldn't tell if she was desperate for sex or afraid of it. She talked about Sylvia Plath as if poems had once saved her life. I listened. How does someone get so involved with words on a page? I worked my slight knowledge of literature to keep up – didn't Plath have an affair with that one guy? - but my mind kept returning to that little question I had.
It was only two hours into our first official date and already I was ready to throw it all away with a few words and some ill-advised personal contact. I was smarter than that, but I was losing restraint with every passing minute.
The date was a fix-up. She was supposed to be a distraction, a way for me to spend some time when I came back home to visit for a few weeks.
My friend said: You and Sarah should hangout. Why don't you grab a few drinks? Why don't you take her to Charlie Brown's? She's a great conversationalist.
I thought: Oh, god... A great conversationalist. That can't be good.
He read my mind fast. He said: It's okay. She can talk about anything. But she's cute, too...
Then he added, as if giving himself an escape route: She's a bit plump and curvy... But cute.
I smiled. I knew 'plump and curvy' was why he wasn't interested. It was code.
He thought: she's fat. That was both the beginning and end of his thoughts about her.
He was trained to think that, and he was a good student. He obeyed. It was his custom to follow the rules. Non-sexual bodies were preferred in his world. Girls that could stand-in for thirteen year old boys -never mind the homosexual overtones - were the girls of choice. If not, he would be sitting right where I was.
If she were thin – skinny - he would be working on his own indiscreet question. She was the right kind of girl for him in every other way: Brains, glasses, no make-up, and the ordinary Ivy League plainness – until she smiled. Then there was a glow about her. But for him, one glance at that over-full hourglass shape killed it.
That was the difference three years made.
After college, he went to Dartmouth for graduate school. I went to work in a garage on fringes of El Paso, Texas. I wrenched cars and sulked around a wasted landscape. I trashed my Political Science degree in months flat. My brain changed.
I picked up road kill rattlesnakes and gave them to my neighbor who used the skins to make boots. I dated housewives separated from their husbands of seven years and single girls looking for an 'okay' first marriage. I took them to Tex-Mex restaurants with split vinyl seats and Mariachi bands on Saturday nights. He spent years in classrooms and made nice with ex- prep school cuties and discussed current events over pizza. He dated girls that went helicopter skiing in Canada.
My girls didn't know helicopter skiing existed outside of the movies. They plastered Dallas Cowboys stickers on the screen doors to their trailers. I dated girls that shopped for discount prescriptions across the border. They wore too-tight-tops and hooker-heels without comment. The local stores did not carry shirts with ruffles. Curves and tummies and butts and boobs coexisted and multiplied in size. Glittery fingernail polish mingled amongst middle aged housewives.
The social conventions were different. Hot-Latina fashions filtered up from Mexico and mixed with Texas big-hair style. The predictable El Paso train wrecks featured moms in sexy/cheap clothes meant for their daughters. I fixated on the girls that were lustily built. They were everywhere. They tried to pull off the reformed tramp look to mixed results. The funny thing was that it never seemed to make them look cheap – just more Texan.
I lost my inhibitions fast. I forgot helicopter skiing was even invented. Time moved fast once a girl liked you. There was no Jane Austen demureness or hesitation. If a girl thought you were cute, she didn't pass you a note or ask her friends what you thought. If she wanted to know something, she asked you. One of my first dates taught me this... She whispered to me while we made out in my car: "Do you want to cum in my mouth or between my tits?"
(I chose her mouth for expediency, after my astonishment turned into a crazy urgency.)
My friend never got the memo that said women could be both reckless and respectable. He never figured out that some women were made for sex. They lusted. They showed it in their clothes and their shoes. When their minds wandered, sex was where they wandered to...
It ran just beneath their surface. It meant that if they wanted you in a certain way, they weren't ashamed to let you know. They could be your sex-starved dream girl on Saturday night, and in the morning put on their nametag and go work the checkout line at the City Market without regrets. Life had a few pleasures and listening to a Mariachi band play Guantanamera was not one of them.
They leaned over to your ear and whispered their question while you made out – high school style – in the car. They let the words fall off their tongue and into your mind. Only later, after it was too late and you were lying alone in your bed thinking back on the night did you get the composure to craft a witty reply: "How about you let me cum in your mouth tonight, and between your tits tomorrow?"
El Paso and the wasted remains outside of town began to leave their mark on me. The months and then years went by and I grew into my environment, just like any good animal; I adapted and conformed. I let the too-tight-tops and strappy-heels lead me wherever they wanted. I happily followed my red hot checkout girls.
One evening I found myself wandering along a dirt road on the way to the border. My hands still smelled of engine degreaser after a day on the job, and the chemical smell mixed with the dust and the brilliant air of the desert. Life was good. My mind was flowing over the landscape, and somehow drifting to sex. Specifically, my now favorite whispered question, which unbelievably, I had been asked a second time by a different girl.
I was thinking up another witty and dumb response should I ever be asked a third time. My answer to the between the tits / in the mouth conundrum now went thus: "Sweetie, let me see if I can cum on both at the same time." I smiled knowing that I was the only one who really cared what I said, or found myself funny. It was what you did, that mattered.
I spotted something to the side of the road and slowed my car to see if the tangled mess under an agave plant was a discarded radiator hose or – hopefully - a dead rattler. I wanted to recycle it into a pair of boots, just like Anthony would. That was when I knew things were changing for me. Maybe next time I met a girl I really liked, I would ask my own questions – not craft a dumb response.
Next time, I might be the one leaning over and whispering in an unsuspecting ear.
My hands were caressing her legs. She didn't seem to mind, she didn't seem to care one way or the other. It was all about something else –poetry - for the moment.
"I never really 'got' Sylvia Plath until years after that class." She was looking at me now, reading me for my intentions. She was talking serious, and all I could muster was an expression of woozy lust – how do I get you into bed? I kept my mouth shut and averted my eyes.
"There was this picture I found of her in a biography. She's on the beach in a swimsuit – a little 1950's style bikini - smiling up at the camera. She's a great looking girl laughing out loud... she's beautiful."
I tried to get the picture in my head. I nodded my head and mumbled in assent.
"When I saw that picture, I could never understand why she killed herself. I always imagined her as dowdy and plain; maybe a person who had a brilliant inner life, but wasn't much on the outside. That's how she made sense to me. And then I saw that picture. She was sexy. Hot, even... "
I raised my glass to her. "A hot poetess. That's a combination you don't see everyday."
She was still thinking. More to herself than me she asked, "I wonder if anyone ever actually told her that?"
I put down my glass after emptying it. "You mean, said: 'Sylvia, you are one hot, gorgeous, beautiful chica, with curves that won't quit'? Surely some guy must have..."
My date was the quiet one now, averting her eyes, mumbling a 'perhaps', stirring her drink.
There was that mystery to her, once again. I took my hands away from her legs. I placed my fingers under her chin and raised her head to look in her eyes. "I think you're beautiful."
She tried to find the honesty in my face. I wasn't sure if it showed. "I think you're stunning." I meant to say 'gorgeous' but stunning just fell out.
She kept her eyes on me an uncomfortably long time. She grabbed my hand and held it for a moment, squeezing it with thanks and kindness. She pushed her glasses further up on her nose. "Thank you," she said. I worried she thought I was talking in a condescending tone.
It would be impossible now, for me to ask my little question. There would be no leaning over, no whispering in her ear, no posing my selfish, potentially objectifying remark. She was plain – aside from that smile, aside from that bosom. My 'beautiful' remark felt manipulative. She needed a friend more than anything. Maybe a lover at some point to adore her, but I imagined there was more going on inside her than I could figure out.
She had opened some part of herself. And if I opened that little part of myself, which was dying to get out, she would look at me in disgust: Another guy, with one thing on his mind. The only thing he cares about are my huge tits. My question would suddenly be more than inappropriate.
We talked. Somehow, I became interesting now that I knew there was nowhere to go with her but 'friends'. Still, I kept my hand on her leg. It was now a semi-unconscious gesture; some part of the male ego that refuses to give up hard-won ground in the quest for a girl.
She asked me about El Paso. I told her stories, omitting the gory details and concentrating on the personalities. I exaggerated sometimes, just to get her to smile.
She asked me what the girls were like on dates down there: "What do you think, would I fit in?"
Now I was the one smiling.
She read my face perfectly. "What? What's so funny about that?"
"They don't sell ruffled shirts at the El Paso mall, for one thing. We'd have to outfit you a little differently - 'If you got it, flaunt it' - that's the attitude." I made her self-conscious. It was a stupid comment. The Rum and Cokes were to blame. My eyes stayed fixed on her face, but she knew I knew.
"I can't wear tight tops. I show too much. Too many curves. Too big of curves."
"I know. You don't want to look cheap. It attracts the wrong kind of attention."
"Believe me, you'd be buying ruffled front shirts if you were me."
"If I were a girl, I'd be down by docks, waiting for the fleet to come in." I quoted Seinfeld, but neglected to tell her. She laughed anyway.
We were saying good night. I had driven her back home. I had refrained from asking my question all night. I had been a good guy, aside from the lecherous squeezing of her leg. I had grabbed a few quick glances, but otherwise my eyes had stayed in a safe zone around her face. I didn't want to ruin guys for her again. I guessed that had been done plenty of times before.
She probably thought I was a decent guy - despite the monologue running in my head. Maybe she thought there was potential for us. All I had to do was make it through the next few seconds without letting my insides spill all over, and she would go on thinking that.
"We should go on an El Paso date. What do you think?" I blurted it out, half as a joke, and half as a crazy idea she would never go for.
She smiled. It was like she was doing math in her head. She was figuring out the answer to a problem that really needed a calculator, but somehow she knew the answer.
"You mean a Mariachi Band? The Dr Pepper and the Combination Number Twenty Three with Tamales? The whole deal - I mean enchilada?"
"Absolutely. I'll even wear my big belt buckle that says 'Dodge' and find us a tattered seat and a wobbly table."
"No stickiness, though."
"Okay, I promise, no leftover Margaritas on the seat cushion."
"What about me? What do I wear?"
I laughed. "Too much eyeshadow. Big hair. And if you have them, earrings in the shape of Texas."
"Those, I doubt I can find. The makeup I can buy. I really never wear any. But how about the rest?"
"Are you serious?"
She nodded 'yes', but I doubted.
"Oh, you know. Too-tight. Emphasize the curves. Make Stacey and Clinton pee their pants. But you'd never wear that stuff. Even with the lights off and the doors closed. There's no way. You're miss ruffled shirt, remember?"
I was being an ass. I was provoking. I was challenging her past what was friendly. I backed off. "Let's just call it age-inappropriate clothing with a dash of cheap. Anything wrong, is probably right."
We set a Saturday night date. Just thinking about it was more fun than I had in years. When my mind settled, I wondered how she would take my comments.
I turned on my computer the next night and ran through pictures of Sylvia Plath on the web. I read some of her poems. I found the beach picture. She was right – Little Sylvia looked like a movie starlet. She was heartbreakingly beautiful.
The place was down-in-the-dumps- cool. The neon sign outside had a burned out letter; it was now 'Jose's asa'. The parking lot was barely half-full, even on a busy night. She was at the restaurant before I was. I could see her drinking a Margarita in the back as I stepped into the entrance; I was halfway across the room before I noticed her top. She had really done it. By the time I sat down the bulge in my pants was on its way to the 'obvious' setting.
"How do I look?"
"Oh-my-God." I tried to be cool. My Bacardi charm was nowhere to be found.
"I went to Walmart!" She laughed. I didn't even try to hide my eyes. It was a size-too-small top, several buttons undone, the fabric stretched and looked thin. Her over-sized tits pushed up between the cups of her bra.
"Polyester? And that pink color is so right. It matches your eyeshadow. Nic e touch."
We laughed, I stared indiscreetly, and we joked about her earrings, which were grossly oversized hoops that looked like they could also be used on a shower curtain rod.
I stood up; I showed her my 'Dodge' belt buckle. I didn't even try to hide my full-on, all hands on deck, erection. It was completely wrong restaurant behavior, but no one noticed, except for her.
"Wow," she said. I didn't ask if she was talking about my snakeskin belt.
"My seat isn't sticky," I said, sitting back down. "How about yours?"
"I'm afraid a Pina Colada gave its life on the lower cushion about three weeks ago."
"Sorry. I always knew this place would be just right."
We ate, we drank; I started to fall into my old behaviors. More than ever, I wanted to whisper in her ear. My assumptions about her kept moving and changing; there was a hussy in her, after all.
Now it was me asking about poetry. I wanted to know about Sylvia. I wanted to know the 'why'.
Instead, she told me about Mathew Arnold. She recited 'Dover Beach' from memory. A high school teacher made each student in her class memorize a poem, and she never forgot hers. She talked about his thoughts on 'social masks': there's the face we show the world, and the one we keep to ourselves. She said the favorite line from any of his poems had to do with "a beloved hand."
It was ridiculous. I still stared at her tits, but I listened too. I had an erection straight from the Gods of Valhalla thanks to the pendulous tits in front of me, but I couldn't let go of little Sylvia's picture on the beach.