Eye of the Hurricane
tatiana de la tierra
It was the 23rd of August, 1992, and they had second-row center seats for Ana Gabriel’s concert that evening. It would be Ana Gabriel’s first concert in Miami, right on the eve of Sirena and Julieta’s two-year anniversary.
They had their special date planned far in advance. Sirena would call for Julieta at 6:00 p.m. sharp, as if they were on one of those dates they used to have when they were courting. Dinner at the Rusty Pelican in Coconut Grove. A leisurely walk around Bayside. The James L. Knight Center, where Ana Gabriel would be sure to entrance them with her husky voice. Afterwards they would go to the ocean-front hotel room that they had reserved, have a few drinks at the bar, maybe play a game of pretending to meet for the first time, and head for their room. By then, Sirena would have transformed the hotel room into their private sex chamber, though it was hard to say what she would conjure. Would she wear the honey leather saddle on her back and make Julieta ride her across the room? Blindfold and strip her woman immediately upon entering? Paint her skin cobalt blue before bondage? Immerse her, fully clothed, in the apple-scented warm waters in the bathtub and then peel off her street wear, article by article, in the candlelight? Any scenario would do, because it would all lead to fucking, which in their relationship, was all that mattered and just about the only thing the two had in common.
“Look toward me, but not at me.” Julieta turned her face a bit to the left and focused just beyond her lover’s figure. She held a huge Dominican papaya in her hands, as if she were offering it to the goddess of cunts. The fruit was sliced down the middle, revealing the vaginal form of the glistening black seeds on the reddish orange flesh. “Así, mi amor, that’s right.” Sirena was painting her nude, fruit-bearing lover on their bayside balcony, as she had done every morning the week prior to their anniversary celebration. In the daylight, Sirena saw details of her lover’s body that she missed in their lights-out love-making. An abundance of black hairs over astonishingly white legs. The caramel mark on her thigh that seemed like a country that belonged in an atlas. A sprinkling of freckles and stretch marks over her belly. The way each breast had its own personality. The aquamarine veins that bulged on her wrist from the weight of the papaya. Sirena was an artist, and Julieta was her model as well as her woman.
“Are you almost done?” Julieta was just a little impatient. She wanted to go shopping again. Every day she thought of something else to add to her attire for their date.
“Ya casi. Shush.” It was warm out and windy. Sirena highlighted the glint of the morning sun over the rolling surface current of the bay. The little curl that moved slightly in the breeze. Bumpy black papaya seeds. The openness and tranquillity on Julieta’s face. Just a few more sessions, and the painting would be complete. “Ahora sí,” she told her lover, covering the paints, placing the brushes in solvent, taking off the splattered overshirt. Julieta carried the papaya into the kitchen to wrap it in cellophane as Sirena stood in the doorway, gazing at her from behind. “Give me some papaya.”
“I’m going to the mall.” Burdine’s was having a lingerie sale that day.
“I said give me some papaya.” Sirena didn’t like having to repeat herself, and Julieta knew this. She also knew that when Sirena was born, her parents had named her Isabel Caridad, “Isabel” as a tribute to the maternal grandmother and “Caridad” in reverence to la Virgen de la Caridad. But before she was baptized, the infant amazed the household and nearby neighbors with her piercing wails whenever she had needs to be attended to. “Where is that siren coming from?” asked a visitor who had been passing by during one of the baby’s tenacious displays of lung power. The fitting name became hers. Sirena always had to have her way.
“And which papaya would you like?” Julieta wasn’t sure. The fruit? The flesh?
“Give me some papaya.” Sirena liked confusing her lover. She waited for her on the rocking chair in the living room.
Julieta brought out a plate of papaya sliced in lengthwise chunks, wet with lime juice, and offered it to Sirena, who took the plate, without a word, and placed it on the floor. She stood up, motioned Julieta to the chair, and when Julieta was seated, still naked and warm from the modeling session, Sirena rocked the chair and straddled her. “My woman doesn’t know the papaya of my desire?”
“I do know.”
“It’s just that I want to go shopping.”
“You can go shopping after you give me my papaya,” said Sirena, sucking Julieta’s neck, fingering her nipples. Julieta whimpered just a little, enough for both of them to know that, yes, she would give Sirena her papaya, and then Julieta would go shopping.
“Ay, I just feel so exposed,” said Julieta, who seemed to always be naked in the daylight these days.
“The more I see, the more I want,” said Sirena. “I want you exposed. It’s the only way I’ll have you.”
“Well, then…Ay…Aaaaaayhh.” Sirena had Julieta’s body in a buzz again. Was there no end to this, getting turned on, late mornings, late evenings? Julieta wasn’t sure if it was just a physical response, like water that automatically comes out with the turn of the faucet, or an emotional one, like loving that leads to constant cuntal wetness.
Whatever the cause, her papaya was ripe. She could smell it, ready to be picked and peeled and eaten, or maybe just picked and bitten through the flesh, raw. She felt her ass being pinched by the round pattern of the wicker seat as Sirena spread her lips open and inhaled her thick scent before licking. She felt the yank on her scalp from the lock of hair that got caught in the corner of the chair when she thrashed her head to one side. She felt the pull at the small of her back as she raised her feet to Sirena’s shoulders, the splinter that entered her palm as she gripped the oak armrest. She heard the hollow scream that flew from her throat, the panting that became a song they had both just written together. The orgasmic release, her leche being delivered directly into her lover’s mouth. And then, she felt her feet plop on the floor, her lover fall into her lap, and the slight rocking of the chair as they interlaced hands and closed their eyes.
Sex when you least expect it. Nasty word games in bed, crying from being tenderly sucked, getting fucked over and over like waves that repeatedly lunge at the shore as if eternally yearning to land. That was why, even though Sirena was domineering, anal retentive, and unreasonable, Julieta loved her like crazy.
Before meeting her, Julieta had thought all artists were funky and liberal. But Sirena was meticulously clean, orderly, and conservative. It was as if the bread crumbs knew not to fall on the kitchen counter. The pillows on the bed had to be fluffed up just so, the shoes cleaned each evening and arranged in matching pairs. She applauded Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy, George Bush’s oratory skills. Sirena was from the old order of lesbianism, Cuban style, a butch who created all the rules, made all the decisions, owned and pleased her woman thoroughly, and didn’t let herself be eaten or penetrated or otherwise mauled. Julieta, on the other hand, was a hippie Democrat who wore wrinkled, mismatched clothes and took the trash out in her bare feet. She liked to eat and fuck women, travel to Disneyworld on a whim, let the cobwebs take over a corner of each room. Of course, she didn’t dare do these things with Sirena in the picture, though sometimes, she yearned to. The two of them were different enough to make living together a challenge, yet passionate enough to be in a committed relationship.
Julieta bought a black lace negligee that afternoon, one with snaps at the crotch so that her papaya could easily be devoured. Then she came home and put on Ana Gabriel’s latest CD, Silueta, so that she could have the new tunes fresh in her mind for the concert. Her devotion to Ana Gabriel went beyond the singer’s rough, rocky voice, or the way she wrote love songs like a coconut flan recipe, and even beyond her Chinese eyes, the suggestive lips, and the widespread rumors that she was a dyke. Ana Gabriel’s music made Julieta weak because one of her songs had healed her relationship with Sirena on a night they were both certain it was over.
Julieta remembered the tension in the stony silence after they had returned from a weekend in Houston. They had gone to a conference together and had ended up at a party in someone’s hotel room on their last night. Julieta had downed one tequila after the next. When they got back to their room, she had stripped off her clothes and gotten in bed with Sirena, nuzzling into her and letting the alcohol rule her sex. She tried to suck Sirena’s nipples and was promptly brushed off. But when Julieta tried to bury her tongue in the center of Sirena’s papaya, they both knew she had transgressed the holiest unspoken rule between them. Sirena was not to be touched, tongued, or penetrated, ever, and no amount of alcohol would excuse the attempt. Sirena had gotten out of bed, packed her bags, and left the room at four o’clock in the morning. The next day, they sat next to each other on the airplane on their way home, neither of them saying a word. They took separate taxis home.
That night, Julieta had sat on the balcony, her bags still at the entrance of their apartment. She overheard Sirena making plans to go clubbing. She knew what she had done was unforgiveable. She felt her heart frozen, the desire barely a memory. And then, pivoted by an unknown force, she had walked to the stereo, and hit play on the CD player. Ana Gabriel’s voice had filled the room, accompanied by guitars, mariachis, and the exact dimension of Julieta’s emotions. The voice passionately sang about carrying the taste of her lover within, the sensation of being near her beloved, and the great love born between the two of them. Julieta reached for Sirena and wept with anguish until arms encircled her with love. For the rest of the night, as they explored each other’s familiar bodies, Ana Gabriel’s raw voice spoke for them both.
By Friday morning, Sirena and Julieta were completely ready for Ana Gabriel’s passionate rancheras and the ensuing sexy anniversary celebration at the Fountainbleu Hotel. Sirena had finished touching up the papaya painting of her lover and had made arrangements to check into the hotel in the early afternoon, so that she could design the sex scene and get dressed while Julieta prepared herself at home. Julieta had finished shopping, finally. Perfectly ironed, her outfit hung in the closet, the new shoes and underclothes stacked neatly on the shelf above. Clothes for the following day were packed in an overnight bag, along with favorite sex toys, a zip lock baggy of marijuana, and a bottle of vermouth. Then, for that inevitable pause that almost always took place around 3:00 a.m., she had bought a jar of black olives stuffed with garlic, a small mesh bag of baby goudas, and a box of stone ground crackers. And for lounging around in the morning, a cobalt blue kimono for her and a red velvet bathrobe for Sirena. There was nothing they weren’t prepared for.
Except the hurricane. Julieta heard about it first on Friday morning when she was driving, running errands, listening to the radio. Right in the midst of Daniela Romo’s hit song an emergency broadcast blasted the news of a storm brewing over the Bahamas. Hurricane Andrew was heading for Miami and expected to hit land Saturday night.
Julieta rushed home and called the James L. Knight Center. “Is the concert still on?” She was frantic. Please, please, don’t let this ruin our plans.
“As far as we know,” responded a kind lady from the administrative offices. Julieta was relieved. It didn’t occur to her to consider mass destruction, homelessness, power outages, gasoline rationing, or the National Guard.
Sirena came home later that day, equally unfazed. They went to Miami Beach with a few friends and hung out on the sand, talking and drinking rum and Cokes. The water was choppy; the wind rushed ferociously through Julieta’s hair, hummed high in the night sky.
“Ooohh… It’s coming,” said one of their friends.
“I’ve been here 21 years and never been in a hurricane,” Julieta snapped.
“Pssst. Come here,” said Sirena. Julieta leaned her head into her lover’s shoulder and closed her eyes, wiggled her toes in the sand and tuned out the rest of the conversation.
Saturday morning she awoke to the sound of hammering. In the living room, Sirena was nailing a two-by-four into the wall that criss-crossed the sliding glass doors. Each window was marked with a huge masking tape X.
“Oh no…What’s happening?” Julieta was aghast.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to wake you, but this is for real.”
“But it can’t be! We have plans!”
“We had plans. Now we have to make other plans.”
In those next few hours of scrambling to secure whatever they could before evacuating, the possibility of a hurricane became very real. The Ana Gabriel concert, as well as any other scheduled event anywhere in the city, was canceled. The hotel, which was on the beach, had to be evacuated, along with all businesses and residencies within three miles of bodies of water. Tens of thousands of people were going to spend the night at public schools that would serve as shelters.
Julieta and Sirena would go to a friend’s empty house in Leisure City, south of Miami. Julieta disconnected the stereo and the computer and plunked them in the bathroom, covering the equipment with black plastic bags. She packed jewelry, a video camera, and a strange mixture of objects in a duffel bag: perfumed powder, an anthology of British literature from the 18th century, her women’s almanac, a music box, yarn, chocolates, and a bunch of 100% cotton Indian skirts that she hadn’t worn in years. Oh, and some Ana Gabriel CD’s and the overnight bag that was ready to go. What in the world was essential for a hurricane? She just didn’t know.
Sirena, meanwhile, filled the gas tank, checked the engine’s fluids, bought gallons of water, candles, duct tape, rope, plastic, and bubble gum. She packed a color-coordinated outfit, watercolors, a sketchpad and Infante’s Tres Tristes Tigres, the book she had almost finished reading. She protected the fresh papaya painting with plastic and placed it on a top shelf in the bedroom closet. Meanwhile, the water from the bay was splashing high up on the concrete wall that was just 20 feet from their apartment.
“You get ready while I pack the car,” said Sirena, who had a stain of sweat in the middle of her back. It was a humid and hot summer day and she had been hammering and moving furniture away from the windows for hours. She hadn’t wanted to get caught up in the hurricane warnings, but it was hard to avoid the hysteria. Julieta took a shower and quickly put on khaki pants, a polo shirt, and her favorite sandals. “You’re going like that?” Sirena looked at her, in shock.
“But it’s a hurricane!”
“I will not be with a woman who is not dressed like a woman!”
“You’re insane! Our lives are on the line and all you can think about is how I’m dressed?”
“That is my point, precisely. If this is our last time together, do you think I want to spend it with you looking like a preppy?”
Julieta had to laugh at how ridiculous it all was. “OK, OK, I’ll get ready.” She locked herself in the bedroom while she put on the outfit she had prepared for their anniversary. Silky black undergarments. An ankle-length taffeta skirt with red roses imprinted on the shiny black background. The matching crimson blouse, very simple, over which she wore chunky silver chains. A rose in her hair. Studded bracelets and black soft-leather calf-boots, zippered on the side, made in Italy. And then, of course, the brunelle lip liner, matte red lipstick, and blood red nails. If Sirena wanted her as planned, she would have her, all right.
Julieta unlocked the door, black velvet purse in hand. “At your service, madam.”
“That is how I like my woman,” said Sirena, who had also showered and dressed elegantly. She took Julieta by the arm, and they headed for their shelter, right at 6:00 p.m., the time their date was to commence.
They settled into their friend’s three-bedroom house. Winds were traveling at 77 miles per hour right around when they would have been in their second row seats at Ana Gabriel’s concert. That’s also when they heard on the radio that the eye of the hurricane was destined for South Dade, where Leisure City was located, right where they were. But it was too late to go anywhere by then. A city full of panicked people had created mayhem in the streets, and mother nature was whipping trees and power lines around as easily as little girls jumped rope on the sidewalk after school.
By midnight, Sirena and Julieta had finished securing their friend’s house as best as they could and had polished off the bottle of vermouth. Ana Gabriel sang hopeful love songs with a funky Brazilian bass. The wind hammered at the glass on the window panes. Walls rattled. Papers flew from the study throughout the house. Porcelain cups bounced on the shelf. A glass crashed on the terrazzo floor. A dog howled and barked somewhere on the block. Sirens wailed in the distance. Suddenly, Ana Gabriel’s voice stopped in mid-song and all the lights went out.
“We’re going to die!” Julieta had stopped trying to calm herself with long deep breaths. It was fruitless. She threw herself in Sirena’s arms. Sirena rocked her, patted her head, and stroked her back until she was calm.
“Happy anniversary, mi amor,” Sirena whispered in her ear. “If this is the end of the world, I’m glad we’re together to celebrate.”
“You always say the right things,” said Julieta. “You make me feel safe, even in a hurricane.”
“You inspire me to say the right things, even in a hurricane.” Sirena kissed Julieta on the mouth like a teenager in the back seat on Lover’s Lane. Long and hungry, young with excitement. “Is there ever a moment that you’re not mine?”
“Is there anything you won’t do to please me?”
“No. That’s all I want, to please you.”
“That’s why I love you, you know?”
Julieta knew. Who could understand it? Maybe all love was without reason. Maybe there was just nothing better to do as the winds picked up to 98 miles per hour. Maybe it was the stress, the uncertainty, the distinct feeling that they were truly in danger and powerless. The long black night. The thunder and lightning. The adrenaline. The horniness amidst a natural disaster.
Sirena bound Julieta’s wrists above her head, spread her legs open, and secured each ankle to the bedposts. Bit her breasts through the silk blouse, choked her neck with the heavy silver chains, long enough to make her gasp for breath, waited for her to recover. Kissed and soothed her. Pulled up the long taffeta skirt, pinched her ass, and gripped her inner thighs hard enough to leave a mark. Ripped her fingers through the pantyhose, fucked her in the ass first of all. Slapped her across the face while she tamed her restless pelvis. Said, “papayona,” as she greeted her cunt, stroking the fine pubic hairs. Teased her wet crica before entering. Said, “Ay mami, qué papaya más rica.” Asked, “¿A quién le pertenece esta papaya?” Waited for a response that affirmed her ownership before fucking Julieta with all her fingers, ramming her.
Meanwhile, a pine tree fell swiftly on top of the roof in the patio. Long fluorescent bulbs crashed in the kitchen. Windows shattered. The ceiling cracked in the living room. Wind howled, objects flew. And Julieta screamed from being fucked all the while, and Sirena ground herself into Julieta’s thigh. Then, there was a stillness, absolute silence as the eye of the hurricane positioned itself at 3:00 a.m. Sirena undressed herself and for the first time ever, with Julieta bound beneath her, offered her papaya to her woman’s mouth.
de la tierra, tatiana. “Eye of the Hurricane.” Pillow Talk II: More Lesbian Stories Between the Covers. Ed. Lesléa Newman. Los Angeles: Alyson. 2000: 93-104.