If I Didn’t Want To Be With You

Posted on July 7, 2014



PINYON, Spring 2014

February 2, 2007

         Sì pues Niko, I was surprised to hear from you. Marìa Salome told me that you won’t be coming to Oaxaca for Easter. She’s afraid you found a new novia there in S.F. or’ve hooked up with one you had before. I tell her to have faith but chingada madre! who am I to talk about faith? Pinche Mexican Jew brat who never believed in anything! Love? Fuck ‘em and leave ‘em! Now look! Messed up with the nicest guy I’ve never screwed, a pinche gringo like you amigo chingòn, screwed over by what happened here, his reallovetrueloveforeverlove in prison for something she didn’t do and me Mexican Jew brat hanging on like a stupid teenager, can’t leave ‘im and knowing ahead there’s nothing but hurt

You’re right, Big Guy, we’re jodidos, screwed, all of us. There you were on top of the world, you and Jorge, teachers with goody-goody Mexican novias, Jorge with Pati, you with Marìa Sal, and whap! protest marches, tear gas, arrests, your world comes apart, you and Jorgito lose your jobs, lovely, perfect, neverdowrong Pati swept off the street, slammed into prison, you take off leaving Marìa Sal without her Big Dick Nick, Jorge sideswiped by a delinquent bitchjew and mierda! you want me to help you with Marìa Sal? she wants help with you, and Jorge—chingada! doesn’t know what he wants

I think what he wants is me and Pati squeezed into one package. Or for one of us not to exist so he doesn’t have to make a choice.

No, that’s…booolsheet! as an old novio of mine used to shout. What all of us want is for things not to be the way they are. Escuadrones de muerte everywhere, cops with guns, stores closed, you gone, Georgie—he’s never liked it when I’ve called him Georgie—wanting to fight but…

So get this: Some of those they arrested the cops released. Fifteen, nineteen, I don’t know, people not involved in the protest just in the wrong place at the wrong time, Jorge wanting to find out about Pati, the abogada—human rights type—puts him in touch with a woman who went to look for her teen-aged son the night the police—soldiers—beat the shit out of everybody. Jorge asks me to go with him to talk to her. Me? Puta madre! Anyway, I can’t say no. Why? Chingada Nick, I can’t abandon him, I can’t, see, I—he’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a, what? non-lover lover?

Anyway, we go. This woman, fiftish with that kind of round Zapoteca face that hides centuries of hurt, tells us the prison guard-bitches hate Pati because she’s pretty, she’s educated. They make her scrub toilets with a toothbrush, they feed her slop, they squeeze her tits and tell her when they’re through with her she’ll have tits like a man. She never smiles, she never talks, she hardly sleeps. We shouldn’t have gone I tell George when we leave. No, he says, I needed to know. He starts to cry. Teeth clenched, shoulders stiff, glasses foggy but I see tears. I can’t help myself, I want him, I hug him, I’m crying too. Crèeme! don’tgiveashit bitch Claudia—what’s happened to me? Shit, if he’d wanted to use me for a rug and wipe his feet on me I would have let him…

I really, really appreciate all that you’re doing he says in that sincere way of his. I frigging want to slap him: you know how I am, I’ve got the snarl of a fox and I’m whacking my hair out of my eyes and I tell him Mira, I’m no putita santa, I’m a selfish bitch. Probably stupid besides. But if I didn’t want to be with you I’d be somewhere else.

Can you believe me saying that shit? Yeah, probably you can. So we’re standing there like two Idon’tknowwhats and a pickup filled with soldiers passes. They’ve all got guns. They give us the eye—hey! I’m a thirty-year-old but I’ve still got the look! Then I see Jorge. Thank God he didn’t have a gun or he’d’ve wiped them out right there. Afghanistan man, he was there for a year! he never talks about it but he was there. I know he could kill if he had to. Thankgod he doesn’t have any guns.

Anyway, we go to his place—the one the two of you shared. Okay, I know saying this makes me seem like a whore but every time we go there I think about the bedroom. I mean, he and Pati were screwing and I’m sure as hell no virgin but him and me we’re jodidos, even giving abrazos it’s Pati there between us, Pati’s ghost, Pati’s whateveritis.

So anyway we’re there on the couch—I’ve wearing jeans; if I’d been wearing a skirt I would’ve pulled it up to my crotch—and the phone rings. I pick it up, I’m telling him some story about chingada! I don’t remember, oops! his cel, not mine. Very polite young voice apologizes. No, I tell it, Jorge’s here, and hand Georgie the cel. No sè he says pues this, pues that, puts the cel down like there’s just been a funeral.

So chingada I’m worried, I want to know. His students, he tells me. All the way from Tlaxiaco. They want to talk to him. They’re coming over.

I get it, I tell him. I’ll split. No! he said. Like that, No! I want you to stay. I get all queasy inside. Kick’eminthenuts Claudi, can you picture it? I don’t know how to be gracious. Sì amor, I’ll tidy up, fix some canapés…that kind of shit. I can’t even say thanks love I’m glad you want me here. Not me, not fuck’emanleave’em Claudi. So I blurt:

Are they cute?

Jorge gives me a whatthefuckare youtalking about look.

They are, I say. I should be wearing something sexier. Right away I wish to God I hadn’t said it. But Jorge, Jorge gives me this look like, like I don’t know what, like he’s just seen a model out of Playboy.

You’re sexy enough, he says.

We’ve got time! I want to say but, puta madre, Pati’s there; shenevertalks,sheneversmiles,sheneversleeps Pati right between us so I just mumble a littlegirlhurt you know what guy, so are you.

The thing is of course we wouldn’t have had time. Through the window I see this pickup rattle to a stop and teenagers pile out, five or six of them. And an older guy, obviously a teacher. Rural type. Rough around the edges but Old World polite. When Jorge introduces us he takes my hand like he’s afraid it will dissolve. The teenagers give whackslap handshakes to Jorge but uncomfortable with me. Uncomfortable but, hey, women see what men look at when they meet a woman and each of them looked at me that way.

But shit I’m uncomfortable too. Do they know who I am? Like oh Pati’s locked up so this is who he’s screwin’? He wants me to stay: Why?

Anyway I blurt What can I serve you? You know, little Missus Housewife. Nothingnothingnothing… So it’s like I’m standing there with my boobs hanging out. I whack the hair out of my eyes. I’m bringing you each coffee. You can drink it or not and I stomp into the kitchen.

I look at the coffeemaker. I look at the kitchen door. I decide on the latter. I’m halfway to it when I hear Can I help?

         It’s one of the teens. You know the type, babysmooth cheeks, wide dark eyes. Cute. I was just leaving I want to say but sì pues como no I blurt instead. I think maybe he’ll try one of those boyish accidentally rub against my butt tricks but, no, he gets cups together, sugar, milk while I make coffee. Then looking straight at me says “We want Maestro Jorge to come back.”

What the fuck am I supposed to do? I don’t say it but I’m standing there, stupid, like I just saw a flying elephant, and he says, “Please help.”

Help? chingada madre, I’m a nothing to Georgie—ni madre, ni hermanita, ni novia but this kid, this teen, he’s got this straightintheeyes sincerity and I, shit, I say—littlegirl voice—“if I can. I will if I can.”

Where the fuckinghell did tough Claudi go? I donno. But littlemisshousewife Claudi joins the conspiracy. Because that’s what it was, a conspiracy. These kids do the talking, the teacher he just watches. They say they can pay Jorgito—a pinche pittance; he says yes but with the Center closed he doesn’t have a car to make the commute. No says one of the kids one of the padres de familia is a honcho in the sindicato de transportistas. He will arrange busfare, a car while you’re there. A fat kid, like he’s doing a huapango, “Y maestro somebodyorother has a little house beside where he lives for you to stay in.” Another, terrible stammer, his jaw all a-quiver, “you would eat meals at each of our houses so there would be no cost…”

Bingbingbing like that all planned out. Jorge starts to stay something about my situation here—meaning Pati—then looks at me. “I don’t know,” he says. Then, “Claudi, what do you think?”

Claudiwhatdo youthink? like I’m what, not just a stupidmexicanjewbitch who doesn’t know what the pinche hell she’s gotten mixed up in. Hey! Your decision I start to tell him but this kid, the one who helped me in the kitchen, is staring at me. Not staring, smiling. Please help he’s saying. No. This pinche kid is smart. He’s saying Do it!

Better do it, I’m a lousy cook!” I blurt.

Jorge, well you know Jorge, he gives me this little smile and nods—that’s all, nods—and the teens clap and laugh and slap each other’s hands and I can’t help it I swing around and give him a hug and it turns out to be, youknow, an embrace, electric, and I’m like, what? like this leading to something more and, chingada! I can’t help it I’m looking at the bedroom and the kids are talking plans and details and Jorge, Jorge somehow kind of slides away from me and

And so Niko Boy you think you need help? Somehow I’m sitting next to Jorge on the sofa and everybody’s finishing their coffee and it’s all agreed when he’ll start and how to get the project they’ve been working on going again and they’re looking at their watches and saying it’s three hours drive back and they need to leave and we walk them to the pickup and shake their hands and kiss on the cheek and the cute one, the one who helped me in the kitchen, says in that clear innocent voice of his “I hope you’ll come too.”

The old Claudi would’ve said Hey! Shack up with me and I will! but little-miss-embarrassed just mumbles something nobody can hear. We wave goodbye and it’s just me and Jorge standing there looking at I don’t know what and he kind of puts his arm around me

Kind of

See, not like a real hug, like Idon’tknow, like he’s going to pull his fingers away any second and I slide around to Idon’tknow maybe kiss him and suddenly she’s there

I swear Pati was there! Flesh, hair, nerves! I jerk away—or maybe George does, no sè, and we can’t get past her. We go back into the house and the bedroom’s there and I’m looking at Jorge and he’s looking and me and I know if we ripped our clothes off and started screwing I’d be screwing him and he’d be screwing Pati…

That’s it, Niko. That’s the way it is. Him and me and Pati. You and San Francisco and Marìa Sal. But hey man, you’re smart, educated, tell me, this is what love is? If so, it’s

Okay man, help me if you can. And I’ll talk to Marìa Sal, tell her what you told me. Probably we’ll cry. Or curse the world…

The world and protest marches and tear gas and cops and falling in love…

Stupidly, woundedly falling in love.

Where in Hell can it lead?