The Cowboy

I have a faded memory, the kind that is like an old photograph from the 70s. It has that vintage feel, a bit of a haze to it, even and even a little blurred. Unfortunately, this isn’t a happy memory.

When I was six years old, I had my first sleepover at my friend Miranda’s home. I liked escaping the menacing grips of my bully of an older sister and found solace at Miranda’s. Best of all, she had a basement where we would dance around in our pajamas and nibble on Cheetos. Her mother was very lenient on the rules and her two older siblings were largely absent from the home, so we had the run of the place. She only lived three blocks away and I was all too willing to escape the confines of the hawk-like eyes of my sister who wanted any reason to tattle on me to throw me under the bus. I didn’t mind sharing a room with her, but she seemed to loathe my existence. Having a break was always a good idea.

One night, her mother went out on a date and her older brother, Todd, was tasked with watching us. He made sure we were fed, put on a movie for us to watch in the basement, then went up to his room to listen to Rush, Bob Seger, and Black Sabbath while he lit a joint to escape his own misery. Miranda and I passed out downstairs, junk food drunk from mainlining pizza and purple Shasta. In the middle of the night, I crept up the stairs to use the bathroom. I could hear George Jones crooning, “He Stopped Loving Her” on the main level. At home, I try to be quiet like a ninja so as to not disturb the adults. I carefully stepped over the pair of cowboy boots near the stairs. I tiptoed down the hall past muffled noise from Todd’s room. I noticed the light had dimmed, so I knew he had removed the towel from the door’s edge that he’d placed earlier to keep the smoke in. I could hear muffled sounds further down the hall, but paid no mind. However, when I turned to close the bathroom door, I saw the bare behind of a man through a half open door across the hall. He was behind Miranda’s mother, whose shoulder exposed a satin strap that clung loosely as he mounted her. Wide eyes, I tried to close the door quietly, when he turned and his stare caught mine. He didn’t turn away. Her mother didn’t notice.

I felt embarrassed, confused, and curious..