Smells

My hairdresser guides me to the sink
and walks away, leaving me to
lean back in the chair and
settle in to have my hair washed
before it’s cut.

A young Korean man stands over me,
presses his fingers against my scalp,
washing, rinsing, spreading my hair
out behind my head,
careful not to pull too hard.

His breath floats down to me:
a faint mixture of cigarettes and mint.
The smell pulls at me, a familiar,
pleasant ache between my legs.
An agreeable hunger rises up

and I close my eyes as a rush of
memory flies across my mind:
I am 16 at a cowtown dance hall,
an Ernest Tubb waltz played by a
local band paces itself at my back

and a cowboy’s lean body presses
into my chest.
His breath, tobacco-sweet
washed with mint
hovers close to my face.

The ache throbs between my legs,
I pray for the night to stretch
into tomorrow
while his lips move against my cheek.
I want to kiss that mouth

suck in the cigarette and mint,
taste the smell of it.
The memory pulls between my legs.
I remember where I am: Having my hair
washed in a Hackensack beauty salon.

The young man towel-dries my head;
his cigarette-mint breath lingers.
I can’t say I feel the same today,
but back then, I was Eve in Eden
courting the snake.

I was hot for cowboys and dancing,
cigarettes and mint,
and I could’ve waltzed across Texas
following that smell.

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