Late at night after my shift, I find a cowboy in the backseat of my car. I reach for the knife I keep in my boot, as if it would do something, like I would do something. He’s looking out the window, considering the darkness, considering me. Taxi? he asks in a thick Tejano accent. I shake my head. He shows me money. More than I make in a day.
Take me where the girls are, he says. I’ve never known where the girls are, so I take him to a club from my twenties. We drive in silence. The only noise is passing cars and the jangle of his bolo and belt buckle. Sounds of the trail. We arrive. The lights are bright. The bass is loud. The women young.
Someone’s shy. Take me to get some food, he says. We head to a taco stand known for its birria. I place the orders in Spanish. Hablas español? he asks. I shake my head. I tell him, only enough to embarrass myself. He skips the signature dish. Goes for the buche, tongue, and cabeza. My father’s order. The shit parts of the animal. The good stuff.
I was thinking this guy reminds me of someone. I have this picture of my dad when he was a kid in Laredo. Little red cowboy hat. Pink charro suit. Pop guns ready for the draw. We put his ashes in the water fourteen years ago this month. I’ve been alive as long as he’s been gone, which is weird to think about, so I don’t.
I tell the cowboy he looks like my father. I ask if he is him—a sign from God and the Great Beyond. He considers what I’ve said. I laugh a little to break the tension. He leans in close. Stays on top of me. I can feel his heat on my shoulders. I can smell his cologne. Polo. He really thought he was going to meet some girls.
The cowboy says this: Let’s say I am him. What would you say? This is my last night on earth. Say something.
I am thinking. Let me think.
Take me somewhere nice, he says. So I take him to the water. We pull up to the shore. The tide is retreating, the waves steady in their rhythm. The city blinks in the background as the great ships come in, sounding out the start of the day. I watch as he takes off his shirt and pants. He goes waist-high into the saltwater. He closes his eyes and breathes. I can feel it in my chest. The answer to his question comes late: Why do I still see you everywhere? When he’s done, he raises his eyebrows, as if to say where’s next. But the sun’s coming up, and there’s nowhere left to go.