tatiana de la tierra
My bed is big and full of puffy pillows. It fits snugly in a corner and seduces with a silk-draped ceiling and paintings of butt-naked Botero women on either side. My bed entices with modern comforts and ethereal possibilities, all within arms’ reach: books, sex toys, TV, tarot cards, fresh flowers, scented candles and a window that overlooks water with islands and invites the moon in. When I visit my bed in the dark I fill a tiny space, make myself into a ball, and cry.
I cry and cry pathetic tears, marveling at my ability to cry and cry. Every trite refrain I’ve ever heard fits in my scenario: your cheating heart, why don’t we get drunk and screw, you are so beautiful, do that to me one more time, the tears of a clown, the twelfth of never. All the songs I despise haunt me under the covers. I always hated the popular concepts of love and of rejected girls who cry their eyes out over it. I’ve never respected people who make others emotional tag-alongs. Yet none of this matters when I’m in my crying mode. I just wonder where all the pain is coming from and where it’s going, or rather when it’s going, if ever.
Over a year ago I was untouchable. I was unexpectedly diagnosed with lupus and regaining my health had been my focus. My intimacy door was closed. Margarita flirted with possibilities of passion– old-fashioned courtship and raw sex– and opened up much more.
A conservative-Christian-Cuban macha, she fingered nasty Marlboros, inhaled shots of syrupy brown-brine Cuban coffee, and wooed me. She was disgusting and exciting in the same breath. Her kisses tasted of noxious fumes and stirred my cauldron of lust. She spoke too loud and had a brassy tongue, but when she wanted to, she could seduce me with a special tone. She wore ugly polyester outfits to work but when she took me out on dates, she dressed with guayaberas and pressed linen suits. She was a staunch anti-communist republican and I supported free trade with Cuba. She hated Colombians as much as I hated Cubans, and we dealt with out attraction as if it were a karmic doom. We differed intensely in our habits and politics, yet we were destined to love.
I was drawn to the perversion of it all. With her around, I got to act out all my dirty heterosexual fantasies and explore my own femininity. She was a perfect gentleman and I was her experimental mujer, her whore, and a little girl under her protection. She knew how to please me and she knew how to play. A hard-core, stone-cold butch, she delighted me in the seriousness of what to me was a game. It was a game I tried hard at, only to fail miserably.
Everything was fine until we tried to go beyond formal dates and hot sex. When she moved in with me, the white walls became green, the black vinyl albums I had decoratively glued to the living room ceiling came down, and the sandy brown pillows on the couch had to be symmetrical and fluffy. I became her mujer, relishing and rebelling against the ensuing rules.
I had to concoct her café con leche and feed her chocolate and vitamins and any meal she wanted. I had to allow smoking in my house, play music to inspire her, and burn incense to bless our space. I had to sleep on the left side of the bed and subject myself to Don Francisco’s obnoxious on-stage commentaries on her favorite TV show, Sabado Gigante. I had to be a clean, orderly, cheerful servant and wear ironed clothes. I had to be a lipsticked and perfumed raunchy whore in bed. All the while I worked six days a week managing a pawn shop, helped edit a magazine, and wrote book reviews, romantic stories and bad poetry. With her at my side, I was creative and happy and in love.
My attempt at being la mujer that I’m not was disastrous. During the course of our break-up, I was to find out that the coffee was never made exactly as I’d been instructed, my New Age vegetarian cooking was rank, my hair was never brushed, my clothes didn’t match and my shoes were never quite right. I was a demanding, spoiled, unkempt, boring brat. I had no business asking where she’d been nor with whom. All I did was work, write, clean house and get in bed with her. I didn’t serve her right, didn’t give her enough, and asked too many questions. I planned vacations without consulting her and made decisions for myself. I had my own life and I didn’t give it up for her.
I know I should be proud of myself. In the midst of an engagingly emotional setting I was able to be true to myself and to experiment at the same time. I continued with my life as I had before knowing her and opened up to passion. Everyone who knows me sat by, baffled, well knowing the end before I did. I thought the rigorous mujer training was good for me. It allowed me to explore different facets of my feminine self and to play roles and to pretend that I was woman with a devoted husband. I treasured the irony of loving the epitome of a Cuban stereotype–a loud, excitable, arrogant right-wing republican. I fell in love, whatever that is. Love is still here, and she’s not, and all I’ve got in my big bed is my pathetic tears.
written 10 de septiembre de 1992, mayami
revised: 26 de abril de 1997, el paso, tejas