Legs or breasts, he asked me.
And I said, you mean like dark meat or white?
No, he said, what I mean is, are you a dude who digs the strong thighs, solid calves? Or a full set of titties? Every guy, he said, every guy is one or the other.
And I said, neither. Really, have to pick something, guess I’m an ass man. Yeah, I like a nice round ass.
No good, he said. Can’t count it. We’re all ass men. The ass, that’s what leg guys and breast guys agree on. Either the climax of the thighs or another set of round, meaty bumps. Both ways, it’s a point of compromise.
So I thought. And after a beat or two, okay, mark me down for boobs. But a great butt can get me into trouble.
* * *
Along with many of the best ass kickings, this one was dealt in a piece of shit dive. Where the mugs were chipped and not a damn person had any ice in their drink. Where the exposed brick wasn’t a bit trendy. Where vomit pocked the gravel parking lot. Between shots of well whiskey and pints of draft beer, I was working on a broad. Oh, and she had an ass like two kegs of Pabst.
What I sat through was an hour and a half of bitching. First about her husband, to whom she was on-and-off separated. Then kids, three of them, all sounding like little jerk offs. Finally, her boss and coworkers, everyone taking advantage. Her making them rich. And throughout I followed. Every worthless anecdote, registered despite being so shitty my eyes kept trying to touch my nose.
That was it. Finished waxing pathetic and up she stood. Off to shoot pool with some prick in a denim shirt. And denim vest. And jeans. For shit’s sake. And I held it down at the bar awhile. Another shot. Another pint. Another shot. Then watching her bend over the green felt, ass in the air like two hills waiting on a yodeler. I walked right over. Smacked her hard on the rear. And made a b-line for the parking lot.
But before I could think about dodging puke, I was off the ground. Not going anywhere. My eyes saw red then my upper body cracked then I’m screaming. Right here, I was kicking my feet, eight inches from the floor. The bouncer, a pony-tailed Tongan or some such, he had me by the collarbone. Raised to eye-level. Fuck’s the matter with you, he said. Ahhhhhhhhhh, I said.
Dropped and I landed hard. My shoulder was jutting at a fucked angle, the collar bone disconnected and almost stabbing through the tent of flesh. Why shouldn’t I fuck you up, he said. Ahhhhhhhhhh, I persuaded. Then the heel of his boot was up. Then down. I slept pretty solid for a pretty long time.
* * *
What he asked me was, flowers or chocolates? So I shrugged and didn’t say a thing. Flowers or chocolates, again, you know dude, like for a chick. Like for Valentine’s Day.
So I said, both, I guess. Cover all bases.
He clucked his tongue. He said, for the sake of argument dude, pick one. Are you a flowers guy? Are you a chocolates guy?
I went with chocolates. This, I said, because if I had to receive one. That’s what I’d prefer.
Very selfish rationale, he said. And wrong. Correct answer: flowers.
Didn’t know I could be wrong. I told him as much.
Listen, flowers are the perfect gift. So beautiful for a couple days and dead. Then, buy her more. On and on without end. A perfect gift for the woman who has lots. And the woman who has little.
Chocolates, I say, they come and go too. Perishable too.
Totally not the same. Chocolates grow tiresome. No, what’s palatable to the eye endures far longer than what’s palatable to the…well the palate.
* * *
Dark wood, the color of coffee without milk. Whittled, chip by chip, into human shapes. One, a man, sombrero pulled low, accordion on his lap. The other, a man, head back laughing, holding a drink with a thin wire straw. Both, on the bottom, green felt. Bookends, handcrafted and pretty damn fine.
Placed in a bag with scrunched, pink tissue. The handles tied tight by ribbons. Scotched taped to the side, a construction paper heart and written in Sharpie: Happy Valentine’s Day Babe.
When presented she started to tear. Blinked it out and said, so heavy. I can’t imagine…
And then the heart was torn off. The ribbon snapped. The tissue paper flung by wads. The bag itself ripped in two. Left behind in the mess, in the wrecked cocoon of wrapping: two carved, lacquered, pretty damned exceptional bookends. Really, the only bookends she would ever need. The finest bookends she could ever hope for.
Oh, she said. Aren’t those interesting. Beautiful.