You Are Not As Bad As You Think
by Patrick Hunt
You will later figure out what her name means in English, and then you will tell her this one day, and you (just you) will laugh and tell her that it is funny, the way her name translates – you will even draw a picture – and she will laugh too, but she won't really get it.
Also one time, you were watching one of them put her jeans back on and they were so tight that she had to hop and tug at them a little, like they do in jeans commercials, and you wanted to tell her how sexy you thought she looked at that moment, but you knew she wouldn't have known what you meant and there was no round about way to explain it.
You have to learn the lesson time and time again that it's probably not a good idea getting involved with them.
The first of them you kissed, she darted her tongue in and out of your mouth rapidly, like she was tasting something with the tip of her tongue over and over and over again and you were under the impression (until the next one came along) that they all kissed like this. When you told your friend about this, he made a joke about lizards.
Because of them, you have learned that in real life (as opposed to, like, detergent commercials), when you come home after seeing them, or after they leave, there will not be evidence of their makeup on your collar, a lip print or something. No, it will be in the most unlikeliest of places – a smear of foundation across the chest of your shirt, on the knee of your pants, a dab of something fuchsia on your forearm. They all wear so much makeup.
When it happens in the winter though, it's kind of fun because you both have so many layers of clothes on that it takes forever to get undressed and sometimes arms and legs and heads and feet and hands get tangled and ensnared – a pant leg is suddenly a Venus fly trap; one of you is suddenly an escapist – and this sometimes makes you laugh, and she'll think it is because of her and quickly cover up and look hurt, wounded. But you'll laugh again and say it's nothing, there is no reason, don't worry. After, one of you will be missing a sock or a bra. It will be discovered in the arm of a shirt or the leg of a longjohn.
You are forever in fear of one of their boyfriends or husbands or brothers or fathers finding you and murdering you. Just last week, as you were walking through the market, some man spit on your face and
on your coat as he walked by, for no apparent reason, and you wanted to pick up a bottle that was laying on the ground and break it over his head and then use the jagged shards to stab him in the face over and over and over again and you wanted to see him suffer, and then die, and you are so angry so much of the time here that sometimes it worries you. But you didn't. When he spit on you. You just stood there. And the reason for this was because you almost wondered if he was the boyfriend or husband or brother of one of them and that this was just the beginning of his campaign to destroy you. Later maybe he would show up at your home with some friends and fuck you up bad. Because actually one time you had been with one who had a husband, and it happened so quickly -- she was so suddenly in front of you on her knees -- that you weren't thinking and you didn't stop it. But afterward, you got very scared and worried. You saw her later and you sat her down on a concrete bench and you asked her about it, you told her what you were thinking, that you were scared and worried, and she dismissed you, reassured you in a funny way, as if she had seen how to do it on a TV show or movie and was waiting for the opportunity to use it. She waved her hand at you and said Oh, no problem.
When one of your friends tells you he has met one, and that things happened, and that it was amazing, and that was why he was late today, you will smile and say No big deal and be happy for him. But actually you will not be happy for him. Because you are unhappy. At this moment you will be jealous and spiteful and look for opportunities in the near future to slight him. You will look at him and catalogue all his faults and think about all the things you are better at than him and have imaginary arguments and debates with him that you win, resoundingly. You will hate this about yourself. It is something you tell yourself you need to work on. But at this moment you will smile when he tells you about the girl and you will say something sleazy and guy-ish and then ask for all the details.
You will find the strangest things about them endearing: the dark hair above their lips they don't take care of; the boots they wear; their shyness; their overly-manicured nails; how some of them cut their hair really really short; how they all seem to want to wipe the sweat from your face and chest afterward, like you're some child sick with cholera or consumption. They lean over you and it's a vigorous wiping, with the entire hand. Like, you couldn't get out from beneath it if you even wanted to.
One was older. Significantly. Some might say inappropriately. The friend who was with you when it happened and who was made to sleep outside for a few hours because you were in there with her, he would say your name slowly the next morning followed by what was obviously a set of ellipses as you both sat on the little step outside of your little cabin drinking coffee, watching her and her friends carry their weekend bags out of their cabin and to their cars, away forever. But you still stand by that evening and even though she smelled medicinal or something, and even though her laugh sounded like a car starting slowly in the cold and even though her smooth, cold and lotioned cheeks reminded you briefly of your own mom right before she (your mother) went to bed, you still stand by that evening and would do it again because she was beautiful, and she was older, and you liked the way she said your name in that singing way. And because she had curly hair, and you love curly hair.
This other one, when you had first met her at this outdoor concert, where you live, she was one of the tallest of them you had met and you thought she was a volleyball coach or something because she was wearing this track suit and her hair was slicked back tight like a synchronized swimmer. It was weird, but you liked it. Later when you two met up, she looked beautiful though, and was dressed like she just came from work and had this crazy blouse on with dozens of ruffles like someone had dropped wide white ribbons down her front. She was one of them that reminded you you were getting older – but in a good way, that you were pretty much one hundred percent an adult now – because it was one of the few times in your life you actually felt like you were not with a young woman, a girl, but a woman. An actual real woman. And being with an actual real woman makes you feel good, like you're doing something right with your life, that you're becoming the adult you're supposed to be. These ones are the ones that you like to watch hop and tug their tight jeans back on and check their face and fix their hair in the tiny mirror you have and ransack through their gigantic cluttered purse when their phone suddenly rings in that way that all women everywhere do when they need something from their purse immediately. The young one, that was fun, but she lacked something that would have kept you attracted to her beyond just her amazing body. So this one, the one you met at the outdoor concert, she moved away and when you met up in the city when you were there, you had to go to a hotel because there was nowhere else to go. This was exhilarating while you were doing it because it didn't feel real, it felt like you were doing something people only actually do in movies. The hotel was a little seedy and actually had a neon-lit sign hanging down the side that just read HOTEL in big block letters. Like a comic book, you thought. You two even pulled up in a cab. The situation quickly turned embarrassing and frustrating and frightening, however, because at the front desk they gave you a look like, a look like, We're not that kind of hotel, and you looked back at them and said, Well, that's okay because I'm not that kind of guest. But still the receptionist had to call the manager to check to see if it was okay if a foreigner and a national could get a room together and you got mad and told them that she wasn't a prostitute, you would never do that; that you live here and that you can understand everything she's saying. And that was the first time in you're life you had actually felt truly discriminated against. The other receptionist, who was sitting on the couch and was watching TV, he stood up and came to the counter and looked at you and you suddenly felt like what one of your friends termed the White Guy in Asia. Which those guys –they're usually German or Australian or British and old and seem to always have their big arms wrapped around a small uncomfortable woman with a small uncomfortable smile on her face – those guys are creeps and you are unequivocally not a creep. Not a creep, you wanted to clarify to the world, to anyone listening. You finally paid for the room and got frustrated and embarrassed all over again because you realized you had paid for the whole night, the expense not really a problem, but this tiny detail actually now making it impossible to argue against being a White Guy in Asia. But damnit you're not. And you hate this one for suddenly making you feel like this. Because there was an actual affection between you two. You two liked each other. You were both very happy to see each other. You held hands.
The room is nice (ish) but you still pulled back the sheets to check for alien pubic hairs and bugs you can't see. The walls are thin and you can hear the guests in their rooms and people stomping down the hall, which, it was a narrow hall, what you would imagine a hallway on a cruise ship would be like. You turned on the TV and were surprised to see your favorite show from America was on and you got excited and tried and tell her about it, but it's too involved, and anyway she didn't care and so she went into the bathroom. You'd seen this episode before, but couldn't understand what they were saying so you turn the TV off. There's a full length mirror on the outside of the closet door. You try to keep the lights on as she undressed, but she wanted them off. She was embarrassed. They always are.
You are deathly afraid of one of them getting pregnant. More than getting fucked up by a boyfriend or husband or father or brother. So you inspect the condom afterward every time. With a flashlight. Squeezing and probing to see if there are any punctures or rips, if any droplets had snuck out. You go do something else then come back ten minutes later to check again. Then again. Because you know for an absolute fact that if something happened and it wasn't taken care of, you would have to leave. Abruptly, and unexpectedly and with no explanation to anyone. You would lie to everyone about it for the rest of your life. You have talked with your friends about this, and you've gotten them to admit to the same thing, which makes you feel little less awful. It does occur to you that you are only thinking of yourself.
You can tell no difference between the ones who have kids and the ones who don’t.
You can tell no difference between the ones who have husbands and boyfriends and the ones who don’t.
They constantly snap their gum, constantly. You love it. You love it more than the boots they wear. Then the giant fur coats. The sometimes shorn hair. You love it more than how the one – the one whom you first saw hop and tug into her tight jeans – how she'll make you mad on purpose, then become suddenly coquettish and tell you she likes you when you are angry and then dance for you. When you sit next to them, and they do that, their gum snapping and popping and crackling in their mouth like a fire, you become almost hypnotized by it and never want it to stop and don't want to be anywhere else in the world but there.
During the night at the hotel, there was a banging on the door. And this was the terrifying part and exactly the last thing you wanted to hear – you having a fear of waking up to knocking doors and ringing telephones anyway – because the last time you two had spent the night together, at your own home, two men had knocked furiously on the door and then when you didn't answer, broke it open and ran in and you were naked and you thought they were going to kill you or at least fuck you up bad. When they saw her they called her all sorts of names and told her, What, can't you find one of your own? You thought it cruel of God that on the very first night you had one of them in your home, two angry drunk men stormed your door and almost fucked you up bad. It was only much later that you had thought with a start – like you were walking on the sidewalk and just stopped – about how what if they had raped her? Raped her in front of you? They could have if they wanted to. You can think of no worse scenario in life. You want to kill those two men. Even now. Brutally. With a baseball bat, feeling the sensational whump when you swing into their stomach. You were almost positive she had to move because of that night, because of you. So you think, as you two check into the hotel, how funny would it be if that happened again? And then, in the middle of the night, you woke up to the furious knocking and you think, God oh god it is happening again. The door was thin and the hinges weak and you could tell by the way the sliver of light under the door was trembling that the knocking was ferocious and the door thin and hinges weak. You, once again, were useless and just lay there She was the one who sat up and asked Who is it and told them to go away and her hair was hanging in her face and she pushed it back and you could see her face has that same look of aggravation and exasperation that it had from that other time before when the men were berating her and she was sitting on your bed, covered up. Her mouth hung open and her eyebrows furrowed. And you liked it, and it reminded you how you like it when girls cry because you think that's when they look most beautiful. The person apologized and went away and she laid back down and you fell back asleep in each other's arms.
This other one, she owns a bar where you live. After a night together, she sent you a message on your phone that seemed to be written by trembling, heartsick fingers that she liked you and you got scared and reacted the same way you react whenever you get involved with someone and it becomes obvious to you that she likes you: you became claustrophobic and started thinking about all kinds of ways to avoid her, all kinds of ways to communicate to her politely and delicately but emphatically that this was as far as things were going. But you saw her again and realized she had the same thing in mind you did, and was not, in fact, trembling heartsick over you – of course not – as a matter of fact nowhere near that place. Because the exact same thing happened as the first time you guys met up: you popped into her bar on the way home from somewhere just to say Hi, and she insisted on feeding you, and then she suggested you two go out for a drink and so she left the place in the care of her brother, and off you two went into the freezing evening, putting on all those layers and outer layers that only hours later you would slowly peel off each other and toss onto your chair and onto the floor. You went from bar to bar until you found one where the heating worked, and you sat next to a radiator and had a few beers and she smoked some of your cigarettes and then you two danced and then you went back to your place. In the morning, again, you wished she would just hurry up and leave, and, finally, she did, but she hesitated outside your door, once again, and made you go out and check over and over again to make sure again, to double check to make sure, that no one was outside because you two really couldn't been seen together. Not because there was anyone else. Just because you were you. This entire routine will repeat five more times before you leave.
When you wake up
in the morning in the hotel, it's bright and sunny outside and you can hear
people in the street below honking and parking their cars and closing doors and
walking and talking and picking up where their day had left off before. She had
scrubbed her face of her makeup the night before, before you two had fallen
asleep, and they always look so much more beautiful without their makeup, you
think, their faces so much more bright and fresh and clean. Like, you can see
them better,.You pretty much want to leave right away because you don't want to
spend anymore time in this hotel room than you have to, because you're teeth
are unbrushed and your stomach is hollow and you're just a little hung-over,
enough that you hate that it's sunny and bright outside. She says she's going
to stay in bed until check out, and you actually like this idea for some
reason. It's not as if you two can leave together anyway. You are glad you had
the forethought the night before to have paid in cash. You remember you two had
stopped at a store on the way to the hotel last night and she had picked up a
toothbrush and toothpaste, another element of the evening that made it all seem
so grown-up. This is the most grown-up thing you have ever done in your life,
you officially decide. You kiss her forehead and grab your jacket and walk
through the narrow hallway and keep your eyes forward when you walk out of the
lobby and don't look at the receptionists from the night before who are
watching you leave.
Patrick Hunt was born in 1982, in St. Louis,
Missouri. He teaches English in
the capital of Zavkhan province, in the western region of Mongolia. You
can read his previous post on this blog here.