Months have passed and I’ve bought a hat. A Stetson most precisely. It doesn’t fit and this is because the man who sold me the magenta monstrosity insisted we speak as friends might. I didn’t know how and if I were to venture a guess I’d say the man, excited and excited again by the perception that a relatively masculine man buying a crazily pinkish cowboy’s hat had entered his ten-gallon millinery, had assumed, by the time I was signing the receipt, a state of bathetic disappointment.
I didn’t tell him what the hat was for—which I’ll explain soon—but upon reflection I should’ve. His questions about my “boyfriend” went without response. Meaning, I stood before him, literally (though imperceptibly) shaking in my proverbial (viz. not-literal) boots (though, if I’d needed some actual boots he had them for sale, he told me near the end of our financial and social [?] transaction) with a petrified countenance that must’ve been examined as mannerless.
I was scared.
Then I was scared to tell the man, so amorous of his implicit insistence that he was helping a cause he conceivably, considering the history of cowboy culture in Southern California, should’ve been diametrically opposed to, that while I supported the cause he was inferring to also support, I didn’t have a boyfriend. That the hat was for a costume party and its color I hadn’t chosen.
Well, I’d weighed in. I’d opined. I’d caved quickly and my friend beat me in a skirmish she didn’t realize she’d entered. Then again, the worst of it, at the time, was that I’d have to go through something like I did with this pro boys-having-boyfriends-type cowboy man. While I don’t have an inkling of a hint at even a base knowledge of what it is to spot a gay (what I’m referring to here is the “gaydar” I’ve heard so much about) I don’t think he was. But like I said, it’s nearly 100 percent possible he, the cowboy, had himself a boyfriend.
After pulling the garrulously friezed hat from the tight confines of the purple hatbox that the cowboy had tenderly tended to, I stretched my arm wide and away holding the hat between my thumb and index finger as though it were a serviette whose history I was uncertain of.
“It suits the occasion,” she said. “I’m glad I recommended the millinery.”
“But it isn’t a millinery only. The man also sells boots. And not to pick an itchy nor contentious bone, but I espied a glass case chock-full of bolo ties before I broke out onto the sunsplashed asphalt, which I think reflected the sun’s rays enough that you can see a sunburn here, at the bridge of my nose.”
“Yes, I see it.”
“Thanks for looking at my face. I know it’s a tragedy.”
Of course, as has been made so obvious, this is a conversation yet to occur.
Though it’s true about the bolo ties and that I’ve been invited by my friend to, as her “date,” attend a “Wild Wild West” party and I wish I had far more than italicizations and quotes to set this title’s meaning that further apart from my understanding of it.
Her apartment is decorated as expected but with elements so hostile to that previously wondered about rustically framed mirror, rustically framed Schiele prints, rustically formidable dining room table that the anomalous horror film collection (and here I mean thousands of DVDs from recent gory titles alphabetized to include the classics: the Dr. Mabuse series for instance and everything I know Bela Lugosi ever did), the Kenny Loggins poster bespoken so intriguingly to include the shadowy profiles of Cruise and McGillis against a stark, dangerous bomber.
I, unless I die, will report back and likely by then I’ll have lost this friend the way I lose all friends: by trying to be too much like myself.
It’s these many years later.
Talk. We still do.
“You continue to remind me of Steely Dan—”
“Yes I know the song you mean.”
“The day of the expanding man.”
“You expand sometimes.”
“That I do.”
“I have a crimson tide.’”
“I love to suck it from you.”
“Have you considered what I said?”
“That you recall my younger days. Of Frasier, of The Cosby Show, of ranch dressing, yes, Hidden Valley, and stone fireplace made of stones found in rivers, yes, and a Corona heat so drenched as you are like a solid rain, yes, and that you have made me see myself and not kill myself, not at all, and yes, for years, and I guess these years make forever and, yes, do you recall that costume party I attended with all your friends? Yes, the one with Piper and Nora and your Ex you had to introduce me to, because then, yes, he was a friend, and he still is and, yes—”
“Yes, you fool. Of course I remember.”
This is how a story might go. But, for now, I’m wearing a pink cowboy hat and leaning into the future with a severe hatred of poetry and a bloodlust for simple times spent on couches eating popcorn and ignoring movies, kissing my friend on her mouth made of flesh and sugar and strength.
Patrick Benjamin is a writer living near Los Angeles. He lives with his sister and grandmother.