Brautigan

She knew you could see something in her. She could tell, even then, before she understood the significance of temptation.

They all stood around the green room between Annie, Get Your Gun scenes, James dressed as – what was he? No matter.  And she was a snake dancer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.  A little girl, wrapping herself with a creepy toy snake and luring unsuspecting men.

She and James talked about Kerouac – he saw her reading On the Road – and other writers. He understood something about not belonging, or maybe he didn’t. Maybe he just wanted, but knew better. He must have been ten, fifteen years older than she was, but he still appealed to her.  He would not have been the first one twice her age to hold her hand, or to kiss her. She would have let him, too, if he had stepped up to her and leaned toward her, or allowed his arm to rest too long against hers when they sat side by side. And she had the anticipation of something that she didn’t recognize yet, something held out in front of her like power, or gold.

But she watched as James instead indulged the attention seeking of another girl, two years older than her. The older girl’s needs were greater, or at least louder, than hers, and impossible to evade.

She felt jealousy, covetousness, unseemly desire, none of which she was allowed to show. To whom would she show it?

She wanted him to take her away, or touch her, or satisfy that craving inside her. To see her and name her: desirable, wanted, loved.

Instead, he brought her Brautigan. Revenge of the Lawn.

She kept the book for so many years it barely held together any more. She held onto it as a possibility, a hope that she might again find someone who could stand in the face of her power and not crumble and fall, and succumb.

It could be that these memories are childish infatuation stories, composed of ephemera and youth, but she still remembers with gratitude the one person who took nothing from her, and gave her Brautigan.

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