The Bartender's Girlfriend
by Stephanie Nolasco
It is 8 a.m. as I walk upon St. Marks Place in the East Village. September is almost departing as October creeps by with its ruby red and glowing orange dying leaves plunging down frozen concrete, exposing drying bark on city streets. My hunter green scarf gently smacks my face with each step as I quickly walk past the jewelry vendors, neon punk wear and depressed emos smoking European cigarettes. The stench of burning tobacco flares up my nostrils, inhaling along with them. Two lanky prostitutes with eye bruises repeatedly curse, their voices fading away as I pace by. As usual, I am late. Ariel is going to kill me. I mean, surely he must understand that waking up at 6:00 am to take the A train down 14th street, walk down more on St. Marks to grab a mocha frappachino to stay awake, now speed walking to Thompson Square Park is no easy task. All this I do for being a bartender's girlfriend. These are the sacrifices I must make to accommodate his evening work schedule. He will surely never find such a devoted woman as I.
My fingers tremble as I carefully hold on to the dusty shoe box my mother left by my bed this morning. With a yellow post it, she noted, "This is our story. You will know the truth." I haven't had the time to discover what was inside the russet brown shoe box. The subways were crowded and I am now marching to my lover. I gaze upon each window above, carefully hiding its residents with silky curtains. I silently wish I was one of them, resting my own eyes, until mid-day. However, like most women, I am prone to make noticeable sacrifices for men. My scarf now seals my chapped lips, my hair twirling with the bitter wind. I stare at a rusting, silver gate stretched outwards. Taupe little sparrows flutter and dance with their mates, carefully hunting for bewildered morning worms. Their delicate little feathers flow with the wind's tide. Their sleek bodies roughly flap along each other, declaring their conquest over blind squishy flesh. I walk inside, my own eyes hunting for Ariel. He is nowhere in sight. Damn him.
Here I am, believing I am late. Yet, he's the one who needs to get his ass down here. I sigh in exasperation, sitting down on the bottle-green bench. Two stray cats, one grey, one black, hiss towards each other, quickly prancing away. Bums lay aimlessly around the dewy grass, snoring their dirty little dreadlock infested heads away. One woman scratches her exposed left breast, while remains of Jack Daniels drip down her mauve lips. Many other homeless folks run down an average size white truck, where free strawberry cupcakes, warm milk and carrot soup is being served. Others complain of no free beer "like last time" being offered today. It's hard to believe free alcohol would be given away so easily, but who ever believed a bum's word anyway? Few joggers pass by me, making the brisk wind firm and rough on my skin. The shoe box remains closed on my lap as I look around. No sign of Ariel. Clearly annoyed, my eyes linger towards the box again. "This is our story. You will know the truth." The words flow inside my brain, imitating my mother's nagging voice. What could have been inside this box? Unwanted shoes? That wouldn't make sense. Money? That always makes sense. Hesitant to open the box within a hobo community, I patiently wait for Ariel. Patience? Hah, what a silly word in the English vocabulary. Of course I couldn't wait any longer.
My fingers wiggle around the flap. Inside are three old journals, the first one with a ripped mahogany leather cover. No money, no new gift, damn, how disappointing. The least my mother could have given me was some blank paper to kill time with. Each journal has individualized handwriting; one is elegant Edwardian script, the other is sloppy print and the third is bubbly with circles and hearts for dots. The sheets are yellowing, some of its words faded or smudged. They smell of freshly bathed dog. The box has no pen inside, no other post it, not even an explanation for the bizarre gift. Each journal has a voice, a story to tell, some sort of truth that I must discover and understand. None are recent and they clearly belong to various people. Luckily, I've never kept a journal of my own. I was always too afraid for my mother to discover my own hidden secrets. Secrets weren't meant to be shared to the world, but we all get curious in our own ways. It's a universal language of desiring knowledge that all humans possess. Yet the secrets within these pages were meant to be found. They were meant to expose bruises from the past. They were meant to be read by me. Why? I clearly don't know. The one way in finding out is doing the obvious: reading. Besides, it seems that Ariel isn't coming any time soon. I turn the first page. Script displays my ancestor's native tongue. The Spanish language I hold within me is revealed. The words of my foremothers, my Spanish blood, are delicate, each loop declaring sentiments that makes my heart clobber against my chest in anticipation.
Oh how I wished my mother's "borrowed" stiletto red heels never clapped their way to that damned bar. Sus zapatos trajeron la tristeza. How I wished my ears never bothered to listen to his sweet drunken nothings and poetic promises! Cómo deseo que yo nunca toque su cara suave. ¿El no puede ver? ¡Los labios, ellos me seducen! ¡Que tonta soy! I would have never felt this passionate love, this agonizing feeling we proclaimed as love. I would never have left home and believed I could be a musician's bride. "Los músicos son nunca fieles," mi madre dijo una vez. I've helped him in every way. Made love in every way. For what? To be left alone here as my stomach trembles with life, while his music is heard by blonde whores? Don't I mean anything to this horrific man, this man that I choose to call my love? Now, distress surrounds me. I hold hate within my heart. Quiero morir de mi pena. Hate for the women he physically desires. Ellas son hermosas, no como yo.
Three blank pages. More writing resumes.
I am here, alone, alone with my throbbing womb, as he smears my devotion over unknown sheets. I pray to the good lord that he would return each night to me. ¿Por qué no contesta Dios mi oración? Indeed, he could return and all could possibly be forgotten. Sí, soy estúpida! Yet, he refuses to budge or even listen to my pleadings. I am nothing to him but a conquest. Not a woman who wears his badge of eternity on my fourth finger. Not a woman he caresses and adores. No, I am nothing, I tell you. Yo no soy nada, nada, nada. I fear for what this anger can do. Quiero morir. Permita que los demonios del infierno me traguen total. I fear of what a life without love is like. Yet sadly, I already do. ¿Qué es el amor? Deseo morir. The man I love isn't here. Only poets fall in love with loveless fools.
I stop reading. Who is this woman and who is this bastard she speaks of? Winter…maybe she is over-reacting. If she's a Nolasco, that's highly possible. Maybe it's seasonal depression? Wait a minute, why would my mother even bother to give me this stranger's journal to begin with? Ok, where the fuck is Ariel already? I close the journal. I’ve had enough. I stomp across the street, towards a payphone. As my quarter drops down, my fingers dial his number.
"Err, hello?" A groggy voice mumbles on the fourth ring.
"Dude, where the fuck are you?" I yell.
"Holy shit! My alarm went off. Babe, can you give me a half hour or so? I'm so so so sorry, I…geez, I must have overslept or something. I'll make it up to you, I promise."
"Mmm…kay." My lips smack. Infuriated, my hand slams the phone down. "Dumbass," I mutter under my breath. The least he can do is remember our weekly retreat. Every Friday we met up at 8am by Tompkins Square park after dealing with my rush hour, eat breakfast at Café Giorno, sleep a few hours more at his place, play video games and finally, after endless pillow fights and romantic gestures, walk together to Bar 69. The remaining evening he would earn his paycheck, calling me at 3AM to simply say, “I love you." A yearly routine and still, he cannot remember? The things women do for their partners baffles me, yet I follow along, as we all do.
My heart is thumping madly. A sour residue of my morning coffee lingers on my dry tongue. My breath is short, my voice yearning to scream in frustration. Despite my disappointment at his forgetfulness, I will unfortunately forgive and forget, solely by a single glance of his oblivious face. I cross back to the park, stepping on each crunchy bit of foliage with great force. Again I sit on the bench stealing away my jeans' warmth. The morning wind becomes more forceful, pulling against dead layers of skin on my lips. My hand roughly smears away lukewarm drops of fresh blood. The forgotten bodies of Tompkins Square Park roll around fall's final enriched plants in slumber. Their growls and yawns prick my eardrums. These are the moments where my Ipod is sorely missed. My hand is moist from the sweat of clenching the shoebox. The box is beginning to crumble and maneuver into a disfigured shape. Now it is time to read more. I am on the path of discovering my mother's truth. I re-open the flap and smell the damp odor of moist paper.
The journal of Anna Maria Lupe, the holder of my grandmother's younger self, is in my hands. Our shared language stares back at me, carefully lining up each exotic verb, each tangy syllable, which makes my tongue rumble and coo, whisper and hiss, clap and twist in shapeless motion.
Diary, my family claims that I have been here in my room, quietly weeping. "Your child will die, eat for Guadalupe's sake!" they exclaim. How could I eat? How could I digest any food when my heart is heavy in sorrow? Nadie entiende mi dolor. Ellos dicen que soy dramática. He hasn't returned in three days.No phone calls. No letters. No sign of return. They claim I am being dramatic, but am I really? Should I really wait for a man, a man who doesn't seem to care? ¿Debo tener yo la esperanza en una causa de la pérdida? Es una cosa terrible de ser un sirviente bueno.
I stop reading. My throat tightens with each deep breath. Warm salty tears suddenly drip down my face. It burns. It burns really badly and this sudden rush of frosty wind doesn't help either. In so many ways my grandmother is weak, but in so many ways she's so strong that it brings me to tears of sympathy. What anguish must it have been to be living during a period where a woman must be silent, only speaking in her journals? My grandmother couldn't just leave her husband, especially with child. How many women would do that today, in a well modernized, constructive society where child support and family law hunts fleeing men? I hunger for her words. More blank pages appear. Although none had writing, I knew these were my grandmother's silent moments of mourning dead love. Crunch, chomp, chunch, chomp, chomp, chomp. I look up. The same woman with her ripped Rolling Stones t-shirt, exposing her left breast, stands before me. Her strawberry blond hair is wrapped in loose string. Maroon streaks of bruises leave a trail of addiction on her arms. She smells of fresh dirt, a surprising appealing scent in comparison to her fellow roommates, so to speak.
"Yo miss, you gotta dollar for food?"
"Um, not really…"
"Aww man, you sure?" She wails.
She sighs and slowly staggers away. I'm sure this tune is all too familiar. The addict stumbles on dying grass. Breathing heavily, her eyes roll back as her pink eyelids seal her sight from the world. My hands rub against each other, attempting to capture any sort of warmth my own body can generate. I know I have to wait for a while before Ariel comes along. I know his routine all too well. After hanging up with me, his eyes would leer toward his Spiderman clock, where the early hour would strike. He'll groan and stagger back to bed, aiming for just five little minutes of slumber. He'll wake up an hour later, yelp in realization of his mistake, rush to the shower, spend another five or ten minutes debating his wardrobe, slick back his honey brown hair, run down eleven flights of stairs and cross a few streets towards the park. To redeem himself, he'll bring along something that'll please me; fresh baked brownies from the corner bakery, pale pink roses, or merely a bear hug. While he completes all these things, I'll sit, holding back screams and howls of anger. His arrival will melt these aggravations away and all will be forgotten. How easily I let myself fall into his routine, yet I do nothing about it. I could even walk to his apartment on Avenue C. Do I really want to though? Whether it's pride or flat out laziness, I will continue to wait here until he arrives. I know his routine all too well, yet I let myself become part of it, without questioning. He will never find such a devoted woman as I.
My eyes wander toward the shoe box again as the wind continuously wafts its flap open. I am afraid to read more. I am afraid to come to terms with my grandmother's pain. How could I possibly learn to hate grandpa as she has? How could I hate the man who never forgot to bring a doll on his visits, our trips to the park on summer afternoons, where we would observe all the unknown exotic birds of New York City, his friendly warnings about not swearing in front of relatives? This was an old man, a man who died in my grandmother's arms as he begged forgiveness for all wrongdoing, a man who loved his children dearly, a man who worked tirelessly every day, until his lungs collapsed and asthma stole him away. This was the man that, in loving my grandmother, even just for once, brought my mother into the world, who then brought me. Yet, a part of me wanted to hate him, ask how or even why. I truly wanted to hate him for the pain he caused! He broke my grandmother's spirit, he fucked left and right without giving a damn, he…he…he…I could shout out all the reasons I should hate this man and yet, I can't. I can't because despite his many imperfections, I loved him. Even now, when he is nothing but dust and remains, I love him.
Again, I opened my grandmother's journal. Although I was afraid of bearing horrific thoughts towards my deceased grandfather, my grandmother's words were defensible in tracing her ordeals in living with a betrayer of trust. After about 10 blank pages, her voice, her Spanish character, finally reemerged.
Diary, do forgive me for not coming to you with my thoughts. I have given birth to my first daughter Anna Cecilia, after her patron saint of music. She was born premature, but how healthy she is now! With a new life to care for, I have accepted my husband's wrong doings. Ella es la vida nueva que debo cuidar. Mi marido continuará dando doler a mi corazón. Acepto esto, pero mi amor para él existe todavía. My suspicions, my silent tears…these are all routine. Debo aceptar que es el método de una esposa. I must accept the role of a wife. It would be selfish to immerse myself in his foolishness, when Anna needs me. Despite his thoughtlessness, he loves his daughter deeply. This I can see. He bathes her, carries her, sings songs for her and smothers her in kisses. Estos eran las cosas que hicimos una vez juntos. God has given me the role of being a wife and mother and I must accept these things. Perhaps one day, the good lord will change his ways. I will wait for him on this day. Todo que he hecho ha sido por el amor. Mi naturaleza ha sido creado por el sufrimiento. Everything that I have done was for the sake of love. When I die, the lord will see this. My reward will wait for me in heaven when I leave this earth. I do wish his daughter can make him see the truth. I do wish his daughter can make him realize his wrong doing. Oraré y esperaré. Esto es todo que puedo hacer.
Her final words danced within my brain, "I will pray and I will hope. This is all that I can do." These were the words of a surrendering woman. My grandmother left no more entries of her dealings as my grandfather's wife. As she aged, my grandmother never shared her stories of woe and torment. She became your typical Hispanic grandmother, slaving away to well elaborated dinners of arroz con pollo, sweet plantains, ending with thick, syrupy slices of flan, oozing in dulce de leche. She sewed dresses of delicate lace and ruffles for her granddaughters and prepared colognes with droplets of lavender and baby's breath as gifts. She visited every holiday with pastries and never-ending kisses. She taught me to pray and purchased my first rosary. She recited bed time stories of Caperucita Roja and Cinderella. This woman transformed into the role she believed she must become. She became our mother and the silent wife, holding back any sense of emotion her husband toyed with. She did all this, without questioning. It was her only way in masking the truth, a truth not meant to be known by anyone else, except her journal.
A glass bottle shattered against the concrete ground. Two men, one with a mangled gray beard and a wooden cane, the other, mid-twenties, yet bald, giggled in glee.
"Yeah, I cheated on my wife. Ages ago," The older man explained to the younger. "I fucked some stripper…she was ugly after the alcohol." Both men laughed and baldie slapped his older friend on the back.
"That's how I got here. Life's a bitch, but then you fuck it, right?" He continued to explain.
Both men stumbled against each other, one of them catching my glance. Life can be such a sarcastic joker in placing such a perfect scene in front of me. I turned away and closed my grandmother's journal. There was nothing else to be told. I still didn't know the truth. Ariel still hasn't arrived. How could any man leave his woman waiting for such a long time? Surely it's been hours. Don't my emotions matter? What if he just doesn't care about seeing me today? What if he's just too tired to see me? What if he's actually spending time with someone else? I mean, what makes me different from my grandmother? Maybe I am embarking on my rite of passage as a woman with a lover; the joys and sorrows of love. He couldn't be with anyone else, he just couldn't. That would make him an asshole. Ariel's not an asshole…my grandfather isn't an asshole, or at least wasn't to me. Perhaps I am just worried over nothing. God, I wouldn't be so fucking anxious if he came already!
Placing the first journal back inside the shoebox, I grab the second one. This one isn't leather like the first. Rather, it's hardbound, with a pastel drawing of a cherub holding roses. Its once vibrant colors are now faded, almost white, as if color never ran along its lines. Inside are stapled pages of how to create prepositions, how to detect verbs in past tense, where the subject of a sentence is located…was my mother trying to make a joke about my grammar structure? It is no secret in the family of my ambition to become a writer despite those daunting English grammar rules, which divulge my dominant language of Spanish. I can remember every instructor on parent-teacher night telling my mother, "Your daughter is an excellent writer, but she must improve her grammar skills." Very funny, mother dearest. Before I slam the journal shut, my fingers run down further, revealing long entries in sloppy print. These entries show an individual's attempt at mastering the English language, but failing with sudden bursts of the romantic dialect which make every word sound much sweeter, much more beautiful and sad, like an artist illustrating what his mouth cannot describe, the only language both his physical hands and beating heart know all too well. Both languages, dancing with each other, present yet another tale of treachery.
The air outside is warm and nice. The roses I purchased from Mr. Gonzalez's shop have bloomed and look beautiful. The sun shines on all the windows of the apartment and for once, New York does not look ugly with all the big, gray buildings. I wish I can go outside and play with the neighbor's children or go shopping with Jezebel. I cannot.
I wish I listened to my mother. She warned me of European men and their ways in manipulating women. No, no, I did not listen to her. I was a silly girl and I fell in love. He was still married, but told me he would divorce her. He did. Now he is putting his trickery on me. Italian men are very tricky when it comes to getting what they want.
See, its Marlon Brando's fault. If he wasn't so handsome, I wouldn't have wanted a man who looks like him or worse, es un Italiano también.
When I woke up, I was miserable and sick. He wasn't next to me. Someone kept calling and hanging up. The room smelled of cologne, the one I bought for Christmas last year. I know he is with her, singing those estúpido Dean Martin songs. I never liked Dean Martin to begin with. Every woman can tell when her lover lies, yet they're too retardado to comprehend a woman's power. Sin embargo, we are tontas because we let them get away with it, until we can't take it anymore. I could go to la santera Barbara and she could call los espíritus to make him feel what he made me feel. I cannot. My mother would be very angry if I resorted to witchcraft. My ancestors would either bless me or curse me for using the dark arts for my husband to see the love he once had for me again. I also do not have $100.
I put the journal down. I could so use this against my mother in an argument. Ever since I declared myself a pagan she has dedicated herself in finding a different reason each day to make me change my mind and become a Roman Catholic again. However, this isn't the point. This is a woman who's desperate to get her husband back from his mistress. Across from me appears a black squirrel, digging for an acorn. Ugh, I really want to leave. The last thing I need to see is a rat with a fancy tail, squirming for food. I grab a dried stem on the bench and throw it at the ugly creature. Screeching in astonishment, the revolting thing hops away. The drunks, hookers and lost souls of Tompkins Square Park dangle within their surroundings, their living corpses invisible to married couples sharing breakfast picnics and children running aimlessly on the playground. My eyes focus on the couples, wondering if they are real, or if they are the games of players and mistresses. Ariel always had a tendency of being late. Every time the same routine. We'll set up a date and time to meet and he just never arrives at the same proper hour that I do. I mean, come on, who the hell, other than me, would wait for now precisely two hours over a man? How pathetic am I?…Am I naïve over Ariel's devotion to me? God, how could these couples just sit, chat, kiss and laugh as if nothing else existed but them? For one thing, I do wish there was some powerful spell to…to…ease my worries. I sigh in dissatisfaction, the wind blowing away the hair I spent hours on this morning. The sparrows continue to chirp and everyone else continues to live their own routines.
My attention focuses on the journal again, which indeed was my mother's. No one loved angels and roses more than she. No one was as dedicated in mastering the English language, nor devoted to her husband as she was. My hand scrambles onto the pages in finding my mother's 19-year-old self, pushing aside rules in structuring paragraphs, formatting sentences and brainstorming for ideas.
I am waiting. I am sitting by the window, waiting. I have prepared a dinner with all his favorite dishes: yellow rice with pigeon peas, roasted chicken drizzled in barbeque sauce, slices of sweet potatoes, green salad with home made dressing and baked guava. All were laid on my best porcelain plates, the ones my mother gave us on our wedding. The evening was beautiful with stars and lovers walking together. I saw him coming upstairs.
I fixed my beehive hair, de-wrinkled my white mini skirt, put padding on my bra and my best boots. He came into the door and did not notice. Gotas de sudor fell down his face. His dark hair was a mess. His stench nauseated me. He went to the shower, pleased that his wife prepared such a feast for dinner. I had the enemy under my trap.
I heard the noise of running water from the shower. Hearing this tune, I set my finest, large pot and filled it with water. I turned on the stove and let the water boil. Once the smoke of steaming water se flotaba en el cielo, I placed my hands inside my cooking gloves. I tightly held on to this pot and I took it with me inside the bathroom. Maybe this will make him learn to always lock the door when inside. One heel stepped on the toilet seat, the other followed. Mis ojos miraron abajo. My eyes saw the man who was supposed to be my husband. This was the betrayer of my trust. This was my enemy. Ya, yo no soy tonta. He looked up at me. I yearned to see his innocence, but there was none. The boiling water splashed on his naked body.
A huge fiery red object strikes my left shoulder. I shriek in horror, surely believing that some unknown sprite has attacked me. My eyes move up and upon me is a freckled face little boy with orange streaks of red hair in twists. He giggles as I sigh in relief. I hand the ball back to him, my heart thumping harder and harder with each step he walks to his mother.
His screams were of howls and moans from the pain that I have caused. His skin has turned a deep shade of red, now morphing to tints of burgundy. His olive skin is now a tangled flesh falling down in the bath. Diary, I was so scared, I dropped that pot and jumped down. His hand immediately pushed away the shower curtains and my poor beehive was now in his hands, pulling harder and harder. "Estúpida! Idiota! ¿Qué has hecho?" He dared asked me what I did! I did nothing, he did all! I pushed him away, his back hitting the shower. I heard him groan. This sound was all too familiar. "¿No sufre usted también ahora?" I asked. I had asked him if now he understands, now he feels what I feel. He could not. No matter what I could do, it means nothing. He is my enemy and I must accept this. He crossed the line that was never meant to be crossed. Yet, philosophers insist that we, as a female race, are brilliant fashioners of every evil. I am my husband's judge, jury and executioner. I will show no mercy. Diary, I saw this man, my husband, peeling away layers of his own flesh. I have caused this demise, but I feel nothing. Am I a man now? "¡Su propio dios le condenará!" he repeated. Over and over, he claimed that God will punish me. God won't show mercy. I realized in simple terms that I don't care. Las lágrimas que él suelta ahora no son nada. His tears, his pleas, nothing.
I can't bear the words my mother composed into her own journal. On this bitter windy day where winter implies its arrival, I am weary of what's revealed to me. These women, my mother and grandmother, have proclaimed their hatred towards the men I love, my grandfather and father. Their actions cannot be justified, for certain, but I cannot hate them. My father was always stern, only smiling with exposed teeth when he won Sunday night bingo with friends from el campo. Growing up, he was my prince charming, constantly showering me with every Barbie my little pudgy pinky could point at. Whenever mami was sick, he fixed my hair into a fluffy ponytail and rushed me to school. He knew I was to never eat ham, while my mother begged me to devour as much protein para el cuerpo. My father sung me Italian lullabies at night, always reminding me of what a bella principessa I was. "What a pretty princess you are!" he would exclaim. I was his youngest child, his last physical form of DNA to sustain our last name, "Nolasco," a blend of Italian, Spaniard and Portuguese roots. My father's blood runs deep in my veins and I will always carry him within me. Despite his mistakes, his wrongdoings, my love for them is there. Perhaps this is the downfall of lovers; their love conquers all, but the tests involved in proving so are insufferable. If Ariel were to do me wrong…I could easily say, fuck him, I'm outtie…but I know deep inside that I will attempt to forgive. Ariel has stated at times I deserved to be slapped when we argued, giving my fair share of "fuck yous" when I slapped him from disapprovals. He hates poetry readings and frankly, couldn't admire the art of writing as much as I. He believes video games are the keys to happiness and culture is nothing more than societal fabrication. Ariel is nothing like me, yet I choose to turn the other cheek willingly. Despite such imperfections and overlooking resentment, I will choose to love him and silently hold back any further frustrations, only revealing to them in the written words, the only language we all know best.
Turning the pages of my mother's journal, I've discovered that her story was done. The remaining pages contain lessons on brainstorming for creative ideas, using past and future tense in sentences and editing one's own work. My mother would end the 1960s later on in becoming a mother of five, all by the same man she once punished from resentment. She would pursue the role of a housewife, preparing fine meals of grilled steaks, buttered rice, steam vegetables with grandma's secret seasoning recipe and pasteles de miel. Although her dreams of studying within an American university quickly faded with housework, she would guide her children in following their true ambitions. To this day she will religiously nurture our home, saving every dollar her children provided for a ticket back home to la isla. Like all Dominicans, she arrived to the United States to pursue an unfinished dream with a final plea to return back home, spending her final years by the sand, breathing in the salty air of her homeland. My mother will never make known her silent trials of woe. Like an actress perfecting her craft, her true feelings will always be masked by societal expectations of a traditional Dominican woman. She couldn't just kick out my father. How would she face the family in knowing she has no husband to show for her talents in sewing, maintaining a spotless home and wide hips to bear children? She could only immerse herself in the housework, raising me as her daughter and pupil. Preparing dishes was all she did to please everyone, including her husband. No mistress could take away my mother's endless pursuit of perfection in her arroz con bistecca. However, it wasn't an education. A delicious meal couldn't bring her a degree to become a teacher.
Growing up, I would meet only one of the many women my father was involved with. I was a child and didn't understand this. His mistress was one of many in line to please and satisfy at calling. Regina was nothing like my mother. She was tall with long, shapely legs, exposing perfect blends of sun bathed skin. Her hair was blonde and curly, bouncing with every curve of her body as she walked. Regina's eyes were round and green, catlike and bright, revealing all the images of the world through those shades of Jade and yellow streaks. As a child I once believed they were even marbles. Regina was my father's Italiana lover, a clear reminder of his European tendencies to woo and awe women with roses, gourmet chocolate, and caresses in the rain. She was nothing like my mother. Regina was my hairstylist. She was "daddy's friend" as he stated to me. Regina wanted to win my love when mama wasn't around, solely to prove to my father that she can be nearly as perfect. She decorated my hair with pearls and gardenias at no cost, placed chupa chups lollipops in my pockets, told me how much I resembled my father, while everyone else said I was my mother's younger self. My mother knew nothing of Regina, only knowing her as the hairstylist who gave excellent discounts. I was never to say a word or my allowance would be cut. At that time I didn't understand. I wanted to please my father and satisfy Regina enough so I could be as beautiful as she. Of course, Regina will come and go, as my father would treat all his other mistresses. No one could be like my mother, the one wearing his ring. My grandmother once whispered to me, "Your mother cries because your father, like a dog, has eased his itch, spreading other little brothers and sisters in Europe, those you will never meet. He showed no mercy to your mother. No woman deserves to be walked over."
The clouds above have transformed into a smoky gray haze. The wind blows harder and I realize that I have no umbrella. Silently I curse out Ariel. Here I am, showing mercy on a man who can't even follow the basic rules of meeting someone. How does he dare think that he can just walk all over me? Does he want to get slapped? God why am I dealing with this disrespectful, ruthless, annoying…agh! Why am I so impatient? Why should I be worried? Do I have a reason to be worried? Am I slowly falling into am abyss of craziness for not understanding Ariel's rudeness? Damn, why is it in my nature to forgive so quickly? Is it a special gene that only the women in my family possess? Is this what my mother wanted me to know? I feel a hundred pairs of eyes leering at me within the half darkness of this park. I rub my forehead, debating to stay or leave. The final journal is on my lap, its glossy bound cover reflecting my facial features. I'll give him until the end of this journal. Then, I will leave, no questions whatsoever. No more debates, no more phone calls, no anything, I'm leaving. It's fair, right?
Ariel, born under the sign of Leo, has a treacherous temper. If we weren't on the same page, he will be blunt with his emotions, hurting me with nasty comments that'll make him soon enough beg for forgiveness. I cannot state my complaints of simple actions, such as him being late, without his roars of frustration towards me. Born with my mother's own fiery rage, I made clear of my own frustrations. We'd clash and bang against each other over misunderstandings of a bartender's roles, our yells and slaps becoming louder and louder. I fear for him becoming a drunk, messing with the pretty New York bimbos who'd gave blowjobs for free cosmos. He, on the other hand, thought I was senseless, angry by the fact that I show no trust in him. Of course I trust him, I just don't trust those bitches. If he screamed from believing I didn't trust, I would slap back, outraged by his lack of sympathy towards me. Yet, when the war is over, we would kiss, cuddle and make love as if nothing happened. "You need to be more patient with me hon." "Don't be so hard of me babe." "Just because I say I'll be with you forever doesn't mean that you should control us with an iron fist." I refuse to be walked over by any man, I reject to be weak, I decline to be like my mother and grandmother and let Ariel evolve me into a loving fool. I mean, if I was so cruel why would I wait all these hours in the cold alone in a New York park, just for him? Why do I wake up at sunrise, just for him? Why do I hold back any comments, in avoidance of an argument, just for him? I do all these things for Ariel, and yet, he cannot fully see these things in return. I am merely a bartender's girlfriend who must avoid quarrels at all cost, holding back any yearnings for more passion, more romance. He's just too busy with work to understand. Besides, how selfish I would be forcing him to cut back his working hours, solely to embrace and cuddle with me. I am a Pisces, holding a fatal flaw in seeking perfection when none, in actuality, exists. I should have more faith in the man I call my lover. I should have more faith in myself, and perhaps I can then just merely wait peacefully for Ariel. A writer once questioned, "Who prays and serves, and prays some more? And feeds the beggar at the door and weeps o'er loves lost long before?" Poor Pisces girl, what a sad trait I possess in my own sign, knowing that I can do nothing more, but be patient and wait.
Like the first two journals, I opened the final book, its perky, bubbling handwriting overlapping each straight blue line. Finally, I was reading the words of a language I knew best. A language I struggled through my years of younger youth to comprehend and perfect. A language which represented the new journey my family embarked in leaving their island and traveling to another, a much colder, brick-cramped one. This English language, one I've fought with its endless rules as my mother had. Both revealed quiet thoughts that only a blank journal can record, forever sealing what wasn't meant to be told, until someone, like me, comes to learn what others couldn't see nor understand. The journal is scattered with loops and waves, smiling suns and sleepy moons. This sprightly, animated text is that of Almie, my second eldest sister.
I have awakened from my new apartment in mid town Manhattan. I never thought that after eight years of marriage, I would be free again. I've always wanted a man to love and share, but it seems that this isn't happening anytime soon. I no longer want to hear all the "I told you sos" of my mother. So the marriage was a flop, next? I can sit here and drink my wine, while looking outside at a new day. I've never knew what a human being could endure, until I married. Yes, I was patient and at times refused to say what I felt, but I wasn't happy. I needed out. I just didn't love him, simple, yet cruel as that. I asked for the separation that I needed. I have this new ability that I must continue on living after my life feels forever shattered. Like all wounds, we must convert into a new, thicker layer of skin. Enough of the crappy clichés.
Rene Girard stated once that "People want to convince themselves that their misfortunes come from one single responsible person who can easily be got rid of." Of course, I could easily follow this pattern and blame it not on my former husband, but on her. I hate her, very much so. She simply walked into our lives and took him away, with no resentment. My husband thought with his dick, a sad trait men possess. I know, I know, saying these things isn't going to help. Then again, I'm not saying anything. Don't get me wrong, I am content with the decision I've made. I can sleep at night, worry-free, meet new people and start a new life, a new blank page.
Tomorrow I am visiting mami and papi. I plan on staying for the weekend, so I will bring you along. Mami is going to make her red kidney beans, white rice and bacalito with platanos and biscocho de café. My stomach is rumbling just thinking about it! Well, for now, I am done with the "happily ever after" fairy tale concept. For now, I am focused on my life and all the things I've thought I couldn't do before. Maybe I'll even go to church. Grandma would love that.
So, that's how it started. Almie is now a devout Christian, granting me a new bible every Christmas. I guess no one told her I celebrate Solstice. The journal becomes a never-ending tantrum towards the "unsaved," mainly me and how everyone else doesn't understand her new devotion to the new heavenly man in her life. Almie doesn't need anyone else but her God. I guess she wasn't truly alone as she originally believed. My eyes are suddenly shut tight. Large warm hands touch my skin. I know who it is. My throat tightens with all the shouting that waited. The figure turns around and kisses my nose. I clear my throat and I stare lovingly in Ariel's pale face. All the anger of his late arrival dissolves away at sight.
"Hey beautiful," he says, while stroking my hair. "I'm really sorry about being late….but I hope these do justice." Sitting next to me, he places a brown paper bag in my lap. Inside are the freshly baked brownies, their arousing scent of melted fudge oozing in and out of me. My eyes glitter in delight.
"Um…thank you." I respond with a wide, toothy smile. I could have easily thrown the brownies on the ground, accusing him of using sweet delicacies as a way to pay me back for the countless hours I waited for him. I could have simply walked away, gone back home and told him to fuck off, just for the weekend. Yet, I couldn't. He's familiar with my fanatical rage, as I knew his when I choose to piss him off with my own temper. Despite all these things, we stick around because of one simple term that seems to be both the problem and solution to all things: love. He points at the shoe box.
"Went shopping, I see?" question, chuckling.
"No." I smirk. "This is something my mom gave me to read on the train ride." The words of these women just weren't for the eyes of a man to see, but for my own.
"Cool. Babe, let's go to Café Giorno and warm you up with tea. I'm sure you waited long enough for me."
Getting up, we hold hands and walk to his apartment. While crossing the street, I ask, "Hon, will you ever leave me?"
"Ay baby." He groans. "I won't, I promise. No worries, ok?"
My worries are eased by a simple promise of his devotion to me. The women in my family had experienced generations of betrayal by the men they loved. In releasing such frustrations, they relied on their journals, the only thing that dared to listen, without judging their final judgments. Their languages and handwritings are different, but all possess the same outpouring of affliction. I fear that I will become like my mother and grandmother, hiding my inner emotions in secret, while dealing with a man who can easily break my heart. Yet I will drive myself mad if I continue to think this way. I simply cannot. I am not my mother, nor my grandmother. Yes, I am a woman, but a woman who must both love and forgive, without being walked over by someone que no vale la pena. I simply refuse to let these nagging fears overpower me, or I will transform into the shadows of my grandmother and mother. Yes, I will worry and I will question. In spite of this, I will use these women's past as life lessons for things I dearly hope will never come and claim me. Despite my lover's blemishes, my adoration diminishes such flaws. I look up in the sky and the dark clouds have faded away. Our morning will consist of private bonding and playfulness that only those in love would understand. We will then walk together to his job, he will then kiss me goodnight, and I will take the long subway journey home, where class work awaits me. At 3a.m. he will call, telling me of his ordeal at work, while whispering sweet nothings. At times, ok many times, we argue, but the next day brings forgiveness. These are the sacrifices I must make to accommodate his evening work schedule. I won't let the fear of losing love haunt me as they had the women of my family. I am the author of my own destiny. That is the truth my mother wanted me know. I am the one who can reject both happiness and sorrow, while choosing the rightful path that is my own, a path where I will find what I truly desire. I want Ariel to be part of my own composition of existence. I will love and be loved in return, I will forgive and forget, I will become a component of an equal bonding where only Ariel and I understand why we make the decisions that we do, solely for each other. Yet, this is something I already know. All this I do for being a bartender's girlfriend. He will surely never find such a devoted woman as I.