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short talk on cowboys
by seven liu

Recently I realized that cowboys are my weakness. By cowboys I mean, men who focus on the journey more than the destination, who view people as pit stops, who are “hard to love and even harder to hold.” Who always expects a porchlight humming and a good woman waiting on him when he pulls up the driveway, drunk and dizzy with moonlight. Belt buckles and crushed lonestar lights, twin boots sitting in the bathtub, caked with grit and mud - the only promise he’ll be home that night. A man who will drive you anywhere, not because he loves driving you, but because he loves to drive. I always depend on this kind of man, the kind of man who desires the act of desire more than he desires you. A man with an aimlessness to him, who makes you feel special because just for a moment his intensity is aimed at you; a deer rejoicing in the shine of his headlights. But in reality, you’re just a motel or a truck stop shower marking the great highway of his life; just a place to park his truck for the night. A man contained by his own limitlessness, by the roughness of his own hands. A man who asks for nothing, who you give everything to anyway. 


Why am I, and so many others, drawn to this kind of man? Why, despite our better judgment, do we place our bets on him? Is it because we want, so desperately, to believe that we, against all odds, can hold him? That we are the exception, the final destination? 

The cowboy is mindless and hungry, his laughter is larger than the wind, and inside he contains an impossible and enormous world known only to himself. A world of red dirt and the fine knicks of razors, of the white torment hail brings against his windshield, of snakeskin and the bells that clink around a cow’s rubbery neck. The cowboy is a hunter, he will mount your face on his wall, he will keep a box of memorabilia, hair ties and receipts, from all the lives he’s lived before. You must remember that one day his life with you will be contained only there, stilled in amber, in this tiny mausoleum. Because the cowboy is always alone, even in your company. The cowboy knows only the song of the road. The cowboy wears the desert for eyes - it’s no wonder he is blind to you. 

Inside me, there is still an impossible image - my body browned by sun, flanked by beer cans, cross legged on some heat-seared porch. Beside me, there’s a man like a tamed wilderness. Who always comes home too-late but never bails completely. Whose happiness is not found under the blood-lights of a dive bar, or in the whitecapped prairie of Montana, or the hilly terrain of Oregon. A man who never heads West, whose 4am embrace never heaves open.

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