BY AMY ROSSI
I’m only going to let you down.
He said this before he even had a second drink. I was walking toward the jukebox, and I didn’t even realize he was talking to me. But when I turned back toward the sound of his voice – deep, with a Texan edge – he was looking right at me.
At me. Through me. Into me.
I continued to the jukebox, deliberate in my pace, wondering if he would understand the message in E7, J4, B19.
I could feel his eyes on me as I walked back to my stool and my watery whiskey. I kept my eyes on the bottom of the glass and counted. I got all the way up to one hundred and eighty-seven by the time I heard his boots hit the floor. “You like to rock?” he asked.
I turned toward him. His hair was long and blond, and if the faded jeans and white tee shirt were supposed to show how little of a shit he gave, his parted and feathered bangs told a different story. I liked it though, and I liked his neck, football player-thick, wider than his jaw. His neck was like being under the bleachers. “Sure,” I said.
He held out his hand, raising me off the stool before I even knew what I was doing. We were the only two people in the bar, it being about two in the afternoon, but the dark of the wood made it seem like it could be midnight. The bartender pretended not to look as we danced across the floor, the fast song melting in the slow one, and him so close I could feel the buttons on his jeans.
The last note faded. He looked at me and I nodded. I followed him out into the lobby and up the five faded orange carpet stairs and down the hallway into room nineteen, which had the same mottled bedspread as I did in room twenty-six.
“Tell me something about you,” he said.
I turned my back to him and piled up my hair. “Well,” I said as he ran the zipper down my back, “I think I’m cute.” He laughed. I turned around, and my dress fell to the floor. “I know I’m sexy.”
There wasn’t any laughter that time.
After, just when we’d barely caught our breath, he announced he had to go. I didn’t bother trying to cover up as I gathered my clothes. I had nothing to hide. “It’s not like that,” he said.
“I’m here on business.”
“You’ve seen the ads for the wrestling event at the arena tonight?”
He smiled, flexing his biceps as he hitched up his jeans. “Well, that’s me. And my buddy Marty, too - we’re a team.”
It seemed just uncomplicated enough to be the truth.
He walked around the bed and took my face in his hands. “If I leave you a ticket at will call, will you come? I want you to see me.”
“I’ll be there.”
It was a short walk from room nineteen to room twenty-six. It seemed for a moment that it would have made more sense if someone was waiting for me in there, if there was some other life I was going back to, but no, it was just an ugly green bedspread and a tan suitcase.
He didn’t leave me a ticket. Actually, that’s a lie: I didn’t even check. I just told myself he didn’t because it was easier that way, because I listen, you know, and he couldn’t let me down, couldn’t get to my heart to break it, if I didn’t let him.