My Man on the Side by Lilly Schneider
Editorial intern Zoe Maki on today’s bonus story: In “My Man on the Side,” Lilly Schneider beautifully captures the humanity inside small-town bars with snow-filled windows.
My Man on the Side
Friday night we’re out just us girls, rounds of beers in the cowboy bar that’s as empty and humid as a long fart. Mounted eight-point bucks with zombie pain in their fake marble eyes, neon lights, popcorn machine, just us and the old guys with road-crew vests slung over the backs of their chairs. We’re talking about boys but when we order our third round we make a rule: no talking about boys. They have lately been hurtful to all in our number. They are still not growing up, and we really actually believed they would start doing that soon.
We continue to talk about boys.
But yet he has time to go to the gym three hours a day
Texts don’t just not send
Can I just get, like, a penis that’s not attached to a man
It’s called a dildo, girlfriend
No, but like a real one
And then in comes my man on the side. Green plaid wool jacket all confettied with sawdust. Black cowboy boots, the soles lopsided, sloping inward, from the kind of bowlegged way he walks.
I expect to see him whenever I’m in this bar. The beers are making me feel frisky. That’s just what they do.
Howdy ladies, he says. Running his hand over and over his downy-baby-duck-hair. Not smiling. He’s anxious. He says, Any y'all seen Amanda?
None of the girls have seen Amanda. None of the girls know that he’s my man on the side.
Well, tell her I’m looking for her if she comes by, he says, and goes outside. And swear I can tell how defeated he is just by looking at the back of his neck. I guess I spend a lot of time looking at the back of his neck, in the morning when he is still asleep, and I am awake looking at his neck and thinking, Who are you really? Who am I that you are in my bed?
Since when have he and Amanda been a thing
Since when do you care
Too bad he’s such an alcoholic
And we order another round.
When I leave, alone, fizzing drunk, I loop desperately past the other bars in town, peering into the windows. If he’s really with Amanda, I’m benched until she dumps him. Which she will. I’m the only girl in this town dumb enough to stick around with a man on first-name terms with the morning shift at the police station.
Beautiful, bars in wintertime. At the sports bar on the corner everyone’s pressed together, laughing, drenched in red and yellow light. The stars glitter in the freezing sky, and I can’t find anyone and I should go home, but I stand before the big picture windows looking until my hands go numb. Bars are stupid rip-offs, I know that. But it’s nice to know they’re there if you’re lonely. They’re there if you get too cold.
Lilly Schneider's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Willow Springs, The Texas Review Press, Green Mountains Review, december, The Briar Cliff Review, Hobart, and elsewhere. In 2017 she received her MFA in fiction at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. She lives in Denali National Park in the summer months and different places the rest of the time.