He was standing close—a bit too close. The kind of close that contains a hint of discomfort because of the implicit offer—the hormonal suggestion—being ever so gently lobbed, followed by anticipation: will the shot be returned? I knew this was my opportunity to make an adjustment, to step back a touch if my answer was a definite no.
I stayed where I was. Not that I was saying yes. But I was surprised. Nothing like this had happened in a while.
I stayed put to see if what I suspected was real. After all, I wasn’t young anymore. I was graying—grandma gray, not the new dyed, chic variety. My gray steadily advanced, swallowing up my dark brown with reddish highlights, replacing it with a monochromatic palette that enhanced my wrinkles and dulled my skin. That creeping neutralization I’d observed in many an aging female.
My Midwestern sister dyed her hair, and she was convinced I should, too. She waged a steady drip of a campaign to that end whenever we got together. But I liked the way my hair looked. I thought it was pretty, and more than one person had complimented me since its transition began. I’d just never thought of it as an accessory for attraction like a mini skirt or a push up bra.
But the longer we stood there talking, the more certain I became I was picking up his signal accurately. His skin was lined and tan—weathered from his cowboy lifestyle. A huge mustache bisected his face, while sparkling blue eyes disarmed me with their too direct gaze from beneath the brim of his hat.
Hair? Impossible to tell. Those cowboys…they could surprise you when they removed their hats. But by then it was already too late.
He was about my age—hard to say with the weathering and the hat. My sister guessed him to be younger. I imagine he placed me as a bit younger, too, thanks to rain, city living, and the expensive line up of spackle and paint in my bathroom cabinet. I knew I looked okay for my age, still sporting a reasonable body type, at least fully clothed.
His wife, he was saying, was over in eastern Oregon on their other spread, their 800-acre ranch. She’d be here later in the week to clean the house for the next guests once we left. He didn’t really know when. “Not my department,” said his demeanor. Of course not. He was the man.
And what a man. About six-foot-four, broad shoulders, muscular, and lean. Probably from ranch work, whatever that entailed. Something to do with horses or hay?
And huge hands. When we shook, my own hand disappeared, enveloped in his rough warmth. Calloused fingers curled around mine, holding on a beat too long while my cheeks flamed. I didn’t dare look at his feet lest they, too, were oversized.
Our conversation was mundane—nearby restaurants, how to work the fireplace, where to find the trailhead to the pond—but his eye contact was intense, his proximity disturbing. A seductive essence beckoned, and for one dangerous moment I let its deliciousness waft over me before I was caught up short by one of those intuitive pings: he’d done this before.
Here was a man who probably got a bit of action off the city folk who rented his house. I recognized the vibe: availability. Nothing pushy, not quite a pass, more like a buffet. He was simply set out before me in all his glory, there for the taking. Unmistakable. His message broadcast loud and clear…to me, I realized, in amazement.
And I wondered, what would he think? I mean, what if I took him up on it? Say we took a walk around the property and accidentally brushed hands or bumped shoulders, sparking that old favorite, sexual tension. I’d be fine with just that.
But say we took it further. What if, somehow, it came down to us both actually disrobing. What would he think of the road map etched across my chest, the tiny hillocks and folds, where my other breast used to be? Would he run screaming? Back away in horror, tripping in his own pant leg in his rush to get them back on? Maybe he’d politely renege, claim a sudden bout of conscience, offer an “I just can’t do this to my wife” kind of lie. Or, worst of all, perhaps he’d lose his desire.
But maybe he’d take it in stride. Most likely he’d seen it before. Breast cancer is pretty common nowadays. And men are such dogs…so focused on sex they put up with almost anything to get it once they have it in their sights.
Except most women reconstruct a dummy breast—surgical creations that look fine, but don’t often have much feeling or even a nipple. When it finally came time for my own turn at reconstruction I surprised myself by declining. By then, I’d had enough of doctors and surgery and waiting for recovery. I wanted to feel good again. I couldn’t bear another uncomfortable six to eight months with an expander followed by the year the plastic surgeon had admitted it would take to “make friends with” my new breast. Plus, I knew from firsthand reports, there would be countless little surgeries later on to tweak the sculpture. Not exactly the quick fix advertised. And after all that, a bra would still be necessary. Besides, I couldn’t quite get behind the idea of implants, in both sides. They would even replace the “normal” breast. The better to match them with, the doctor said.
Nope. Not for me.
The only one who’d seen my body post mastectomy was my husband, and he didn’t seem to care. At first, when we’d resumed having sex, I’d worn a camisole or a pretty nightgown. For him, I told myself. I adopted a positive attitude: this was my chance to wear all the lingerie that had lain dormant in my dresser drawer for years. Maybe it would enhance our desire, breathe new life into our old married routine, spur a few fantasies.
But I was anxious about how my newly ravaged body would be received. Of course we’d discussed reconstruction. But my husband is a man of few words. All he’d offered was that it didn’t matter to him. It was my choice. I was relieved at the time, but later tiny doubts seeped in.
So, I gift wrapped myself in silk and lace, hoping pretty packaging would soften the blow in case my new look proved more of a challenge than we’d anticipated. But that never happened. And, after a couple of weeks, in the heat of passion, he mumbled something about why was I wearing that thing, and suddenly it was gone, never to return.
He pretty much ignored the entire issue, acting like there was nothing different about my recently acquired lack of symmetry. I couldn’t remember anymore if he’d ever been attentive to my breasts, but I was grateful for his current lack of concern.
I wasn’t sure if other men would be so forgiving. And, faced with this sexy cowboy, I wondered when exactly one tells a potential new partner. Maybe, like with STD’s, the popular wisdom is to broach the topic over, say, drinks before you find yourself in flagrante delicto. A missing breast hiding beneath a prosthesis was relatively benign. I mean, it wasn’t contagious. But it could be shocking to encounter without warning. Yes, full disclosure in advance seemed prudent to allow for second thoughts.
Not that I intended to find out. I was happily married.
I knew I passed as a woman with two God-given breasts. People who didn’t know—didn’t know. And from his behavior this cowboy was one of them. He was just throwing it out there because, hey, you never know. Women on vacation could be fair game—away from home, in an exciting, new place, eager to try new things…
I shut the thought down. My sweet husband was right inside. He could probably hear our whole conversation. I felt guilty even though nothing untoward had taken place. And, indeed, when I stepped inside a moment later I held my breath as our eyes met. Then, with a wink and a grin, my husband asked, “So, are you done flirting?”
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