Monday, July 22, 2013

14. Here comes my next project... what I found out later he said about me as Melinda and I walked through the doors of the Billy Goat Saloon. I wore a lip-gloss smile and my eyes twinkled blue, enhanced by the thin black that lined them. My hair was platinum blonde and shaped my face with it's signature stepped bob. A pretty pink blush highlighted the apples of my cheeks. I wore a long sleeved black Diesel tee that read Valiente in bronze and what looked like dripping wet paint across my back, which translates in English to brave. It was cut in a v neck, and had a wide collar that lay flat below my shoulders and against my chest...the style had made me think of Elvira. My sharp eyeliner coordinated perfectly, softened only by some subtle shimmer on the inside corners of my eyes. I had on my navy blue Hurley slacks that hung perfectly from my hips, and a tan and bronze studded leather belt from The Buckle. I wore pale blue and white Nike running shoes. It was a toned down outfit that might have been rave appropriate five years earlier. But, I was comfortable in it. I would have felt self conscious had I worn my boots, although they would have likely been my choice if we'd gone out in Durango.

Many years later, Gabe would compare my style to that of a Santa Fe cowgirl. Once I brought the boots out of course, and left the days of raves behind. Not to say that Santa Fe cowgirls aren't authentic, but it was his way of telling me that I looked more city than country. Since he grew up in the country, and knew girls that really worked with cows, he could spot a citified cowgirl from a mile away. I suppose I suspected this, which was why I didn't wear my boots that night to the Billy Goat. I had secretly wanted to be from the country. I wished I rode horses as a kid, and a major crush of mine from childhood was a boy named Monte who was in 4-H. He was in fifth grade when I was in third {that perfect two year difference}, and he rode my school bus. He always wore a really nice button or snap shirt,  with blue {or black} jeans, and a cowboy hat. But not a city cowboy hat, a real one. I suppose Monte was the reason that my mom bought me all the colorful western shirts and jeans she did when I was that age. I never felt right in them, though they were pretty. But, clothes can't teach you how to ride a horse, and boots can't teach you to dance, though both might certainly help.

The Billy Goat is a real country bar. It's about sixteen miles south of Durango in Gem Village, a tiny highway town; a far cry from the dance mix playing Wild Horse in Durango. The building looks like it would fit right into a John Wayne movie. Dark, weathered wood slats side the small building vertically. They market themselves as a "dive bar" because they've indeed won the award. The roof leaks, and the floors squeak; nothing in it is fancy, but it's kept up. It's warm, the jukebox works, there's a small stage and dance floor, pool tables, and a sturdy bar from which cold beer is served. It's a fun place to hang out for young and old alike. Locals are loyal and are the heart of the Billy Goat, but travelers can't help but stop in to check it out. Located smack dab in the middle of the country, it's nowhere I wanted to falsely claim that I could ride horses or dance, whether the frequenters could tell by my pointy boots or not.

It was my friend Karen's twenty-first birthday, and I was thrilled to finally have a reason to make the trip from Durango to the Billy Goat. Karen worked with Melinda and I at UPS, and she was country. She has sparkling dark eyes and hair, a contagious smile and sense of humor, and a take it or leave it attitude; a tiny thing, she knows what it means to work and I've always admired her for it. It fascinated me to hear her talk about her childhood in Bayfield, a small town, but bigger than Gem Village, and four more miles up the road. She offered horse back rides to me regularly, and I loved the idea. But, it just wasn't something that Patrick and I were going to do. Patrick and I rode mountain bikes for fun, and went off-road in trucks, blazers and jeeps. I didn't think that I could convince him to get on a horse, nor did I want to. It was something I just wished I already knew how to do; something I'd wished I grown up with. I always wondered where I'd be if I had.

Patrick did like to hunt though, and it was October. He was elk hunting which meant that I had the week to myself, and also meant that I was on my own to go to the Billy Goat for Karen's birthday. Melinda thought it sounded fun, too. We knew that a couple other people from work would be there as well, so we weren't feeling too terribly out of our Durango element. I'd mentioned to Gabe earlier in the week that I'd be there. I would have seen him while I was delivering, or maybe we'd had lunch, I'm not sure. But, I figured he might come out since I'd never been in his neck of the woods after delivery hours.

Melinda and I were laughing as we stepped into the dim, yet somehow bright bar from the dark. She stood inches above me with shoulder length straight brown hair. Her bangs fell across her forehead just above her eyebrows, and her right hand would often reach up to let her long fingers tousle them a little. She wore a small knitted purse with a thin strap across her chest. Her taste was simple and high quality. She is smart, an English major, and a voice of reason.  I looked from her, and to my right, instantly spotting the small table where our friends were sitting. Gabe had his back to us, but his face was visible with his head turned, and eyes on the door. He had on a black jacket and white hat. He was hunched over a little with his elbows and forearms on the table in front of him. Clayton, Karen's brother sat next to him on the left with his back to a wall, where on the other side, people could sit on bar stools at the counter the wall held up. The bar itself was actually in front of that, and closer to the door, near Melinda and I. Karen sat just around the corner of the table, and on Gabe's right. This is when the alleged comment would have been I was walking in, and Gabe was hunched between Clayton and Karen. Later, when Karen would tell me what he said, I'd sigh remembering the night's events.

I'd be glad that we were in a bar full of people as he held me close and swung me around the dance floor. I'd be glad that I sat and talked to Clayton for awhile at the bar, leaving Gabe to dance or talk to someone else. I'd be glad that I'd been surrounded by friends amongst all the unfamiliar feelings I was experiencing. I'd be glad for the dance to Mustang Sally with Clayton that provided even more distance. I'd be glad that I adamantly refused to leave with him. I'd be thankful and glad for Melinda's full lips pursing at me when it was time to go.

But, I'd remember it all. I'd remember my hand in his and how I fit against him. I'd remember smiling and laughing until I hurt. I'd remember my hair in my face, when he flipped me out of nowhere, as I landed on my feet. I'd remember the feeling of my eyelashes grazing his cheek when I turned my head, desperate to stay grounded on the dance floor. I'd remember the sound of his voice, "just come with me..."

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