The year before I was old enough to drink, I spent my summer nights on the streets of Sedro-Woolley. It's a hick town with cigar store Indians and bears on every corner, a few sparse blocks of utilitarian downtown before it slips into a white trash residential wonderland, trailers and rusting semi cabs, "This family is supported by timber dollars" signs in every other window.

As we were sucking the last of the blood out of our relationship, all we had left together was trips out to get candy and movies. Sometimes he'd ride his six foot unicycle and the younger redneck kids would jeer at us as we rolled along. It wasn't far enough to the Handy Pantry to justify taking the motorcycle. We tried to do other things - went to garage sales, he taught me to weld in the backyard - but mostly we just fought, and when we weren't busy with that, we went out for candy. He was SweetTarts and Warheads and sour gummy worms. I was Twizzlers and York Peppermint Patties. Sometimes he got a popsicle, instead. Some nights we'd rent pornos, for kicks, and fall asleep halfway through. We stopped having sex months before it really went to hell.

On the nights when I was alone, walking around waiting for him to get off work, or trying not to wonder where he was and trying not to call and find out, I'd pass this bar. It was huge and made of logs - timber dollars - full of destitute cowboys with military hairstyles and prematurely inflated bellies hanging over carefully tended-to silver belt buckles. The town was too small to get catcalled, so I passed unmolested. But at that point I was wanting a real man and they looked to be it. I wondered how it would be to go home with a cowboy.

I finally went in two years later, with a different boyfriend. And he had the boots and the belt buckle, but he was no cowboy. And I was no redneck. When I lived in Sedro-Woolley, I was about six months from white stretch pants, about a year from welfare and the firstborn that comes when you've got no job to keep you busy. That had changed, I was back on the route to smart and stable, I didn't fit in anymore. The loggers and the cowboys just glared. We had a beer and left, the boyfriend thinking it was all amusing in his arrogant way. I wanted to shout back that I used to live here, so don't look at me like I haven't earned the right to Coors Light on tap. This is not slumming. Again that night, I wanted a beer gut and a crew cut.

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