Man Town
Barry Matthews

E very Friday we get drunk without men. The bartender at Galveston's twists the rims of glasses on a salted towel.

Maria lost her baby four months into her pregnancy and she was back at work two days later. No one asks her if she's feeling better. She drinks harder than anyone else does, surprising us with her lust. Sharon's boss at the stationary mill brought her a Victoria's Secret catalogue from home, and the pages of the magazine were stuck together. It had its own odor. Amy's boyfriend is sleeping with more than one of the hairdressers at the Revelations salon. He smells like astringent and hair spray. He's out all night and sleeps until noon, waiting for Amy to come home with cigarettes and food.

I tell the girls that I am in love with the bartender. He has hands that are larger than frying pans. His moustache is untamed shrubbery. When he smiles, all of the bottles behind the bar sparkle and sing. I feel lucky to have fallen for such a simple man.

It is the very edge of town--the furthest you can go without falling into the Mohawk and being swept all the way to Albany or beyond. Abandoned warehouses fall apart here, scatter themselves on the banks of the river. The night is as dark as oil or grease. It has rained for weeks and none of us remembers the sun.

Tonight, Maria pukes in the parking lot before we leave. She says something in Spanish, curses the universe, and touches that spot on her body where something might have lived.

First published: November 2000