In this, the downscale end of the neighborhood, the men in the street call out to me. Always the same things, sometimes with the mechanical repetition of a talking doll, a little bored, expecting no answer: “You want a date, baby?” and “Can I get your number?” and “You look fine.” Others are singsong and earnest, “You look mad exotic,” one tells me, “Put those legs away,” another calls out, fingering his wedding ring, looking pained. They always ask, “You got a boyfriend?” and I always tell them yes, even now, now that not so long ago it became a lie.
Though I would not have imagined it possible, the chatter has become more insistent, fervent, and louder, now that my hair is red, red like a stop sign, like a crayon, like blood.
Today when the bodega clerk told me in a low voice how beautiful I was, I thought, how would this work? The animal nature of each man’s approach is plain, I am not in doubt of what they want. But how, I can’t help but wonder, what words exactly would we speak, if I actually wanted any of them, how could one of these exchanges of street intimacy proceed? The thought of it is grotesque, comedic, awkward, sad. Maybe they know that, maybe it’s that boundary of impossibility that gives them license to sing out their lust openly. Or, maybe not.