In which University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik is moved to attempt to describe some recent experiences using the unique voice and grammar of Junot Díaz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dominican-American fiction writer whose recent collection of stories is called This Is How You Lose Her.
Baby, you say, baby, this is part of my novel. — Junot Díaz
I am not a flirt. Okay, so maybe I am a flirt but I am not a cuero, a slut. I wouldn’t steal another woman’s man. I guess nobody told Miss Lalita that. Chica was putting curses on me from across the room before I had even taken a good look at her boyfriend. Seriously? Half the girls in the bar were already dancing with him. Meanwhile her culo was planted at a V.I.P. table up front, guarding a Tupperware cake box like a nest of baby birds.
What kind of benevolent deity drops yet another puta onto the dance floor at your boyfriend’s 50th birthday party? Putas from Baltimore now, driving in from out of town?
How it came down was this. My girl Rosa from PA, she finally got rid of that d-bag husband of hers and went online. After swatting away the sucios and pendejos, she went mad crazy for a cover-band guitar player, a kind of younger, sexier Colonel Sanders. His eyes the soft blue of 30 milligram oxys. After all those years in the bad-marriage convent, she was rocking a hormone haze that could reverse menopause at 50 feet.
Me, I don’t get back to Pennsyltucky too often since I bolted in ’09, and the provincial capital of Jork I’ve tried to forget entirely. But I was jealous of Rosa out every weekend with the band, me sitting down here with my little perro watching Netflix.
Mamacita, I say when she comes out to the car. Big deer eyes, fitted white jean jacket, pheromones rocketing around her like honeybees. I’ll drive, she says, and before I know it we’re in the middle of nowhere on one of those goat paths they call a highway up there. I say Rosa, mi amor, this is not the way to Jork. And she says, well no, actually the gig is in Spring Grove.
Spring Grove? I’m choking on my Diet Coke. There’s no bars in Spring Grove, chica.
It’s at the VFW, she says.
That’s it, pull over.
What finer place for a Saturday night on the town than the home of the state’s biggest paper mill, spewing clouds of asqueroso stink 24/7/365.
We pass through the deadly smell, the crowd of smokers puffing sin verguenza like it’s 1965, the secret VFW door code and the hammered bouncer. Inside, it’s a whole Star Wars cantina scene: U-shaped counter lined end to end with grizzled John Deeres and brassy blondes, their faces red as sunburned piglets. Big fat gorditos and their skinny brothers-in-law, young and old, toothed and toothless, all 100-percent happy to be alive. I buy a round for the table, and it comes to seven bucks. Country folk, good times.
But I have eyes for this chulo stampeding around the dance floor with a Godzilla-sized margarita glass and a pack of springgrovistas in heat. Between his trash-barrel biceps, his long hair and goofy smile, he reminds me of the quarterback from my high school football team, who also controlled the school’s weed cartel. This is Colonel Sanders’ best friend, Hércules, out celebrating his birthday. Rosa also introduces me to his novia, the one with the cake. She gives me a very tight smile.
The woman is not having a good time. Who can blame her.
I know you don’t want to hear my excuses. I was DD so it wasn’t the booze. Maybe it was the black leather pantalones I broke out for the occasion. Maybe something inside me just wanted to jump up and down. Because usually I do not pogo. And yet I pogoed so long and hard to that AC-DC Van Halen caca, these viejita knees of mine were useless for days.
I went loco with the Pennsyltucky chiquitas, then sidled up to Hércules. Together we were off the chain, dancing like we wanted to get hurt. You should have seen how he reached his comic book arms around me, picked me up and threw me in the air. Then caught me.
I bragged about it to my girls in Baltimore for a week. And you know, I thought that was the end of it.
A month later Rosa was having a SuperBowl party. It was weird to see Colonel Sanders mixing drinks in her basement — last year, d-bag was in charge. Lalita and Hércules were there, too, and soon I was sitting next to him on a bench in front of the TV.
Lalita was six feet behind us on a Barcalounger, beady ojos boring holes into my back, arms wrapped around her middle like a pair of Spanx.
Like I told you, I’m not a cuero. I didn’t say goodbye to anyone, just slipped out after Beyonce at half time.
Are you ready for the Facebook part? No historía de amor without that, not anymore. On April 12 at 1:17 pm, Herc shows up in my inbox. He wants to get to know me better.
I was like, don’t you have an old lady? And a waiting list too?
Actually, he says, several positions have opened up.
Three days and 450,000 text messages later. He has looked at my books on Amazon, read my historías online, knows all about the Hep C and the thing with the ex-con. He, meanwhile, has been on swing shift at the paper mill since he got out of the army.
I’m just a dumb factory worker, he writes. Not so dumb he doesn’t know this is super-hot.
I’ll skip the first date (kissing only), the awkward lunch with my mis hijos (my fault, I couldn’t wait to see him), go straight to the bedroom.
Which was Machu Picchu. A wonder of the world.
Understand where I was coming from. Worse than no sex is the kind I’ve had in the past few years, where the main thing on your mind is how did I get into this and how will I get out? Sadder, you know homeboy is thinking the same.
But this loco was another story. He had bought champagne and chocolate and flowers and scattered rose petals all over his bedroom, which freaked me out but only for a second. Ay, papi.
By early Saturday morning, we had un problema. Mi corazón, I said, if this is going to go on any longer, we have to go to the farmacia.
So he puts me on the back of his Yamaha V-Star 1300 and we ride through the Pennsylvania hills, the red barns, the blooming orchards, the dopey vacas and caballos in their sweet green fields. Through Seven Valleys and Glen Rock and Shrewsbury and all the other places I fled. Places I haven’t set eyes on, I’ve taken detours to get around, for years.
If this was a different kind of story, I’d tell you about the gas station where I drove away with the pump still stuck in my tank. The cemetery where my son and his posse got in so much trouble. The farm where we dressed up like fairies one weekend every spring. The house where my husband and I hurt each other so much, and drank so much, and screamed so loud, and smashed our pobre familia to smithereens.
But this is the kind of story where me and Hércules vrrooom up on the bike at the little grocery store where I shopped for 10 years, run in, and grab a tube of K-Y Jelly. So embarrassed at the register that we also get a pack of strawberry Mentos. Then we tear out of there.
In her phone Rosa found a foto of us in front of the VFW that first night. Neither of us remembers it being taken. The way we look, you can only hope it’s a Weight Watchers meeting going on in there. But think of all the good things that are going to happen to us before long. That shit you can’t make up.
Marion Winik writes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a column about life, love, and the pursuit of self-awareness. Check out her heartbreakingly honest and funny essays twice a month on Baltimore Fishbowl.