Authors: Sandra Cisneros
Their laughter outside the kitchen window. Her husband’s, his friends’. Manolo, Beto, Efraín, el Perico. Maximiliano.
Was Cleófilas just exaggerating as her husband always said? It seemed the newspapers were full of such stories. This woman found on the side of the interstate. This one pushed from a moving car. This one’s cadaver, this one unconscious, this one beaten blue. Her ex-husband, her husband, her lover, her father, her brother, her uncle, her friend, her co-worker. Always. The same grisly news in the pages of the dailies. She dunked a glass under the soapy water for a moment—shivered.
He had thrown a book. Hers. From across the room. A hot welt across the cheek. She could forgive that. But what stung more was the fact it was
book, a love story by Corín Tellado, what she loved most now that she lived in the U.S., without a television set, without the
Except now and again when her husband was away and she could manage it, the few episodes glimpsed at the neighbor lady Soledad’s house because Dolores didn’t care for that sort of thing, though Soledad was often kind enough to retell what had happened on what episode of
María de Nadie
, the poor Argentine country girl who had the ill fortune of falling in love with the beautiful son of the Arrocha family, the very family she worked for, whose roof she slept under and whose floors she vacuumed, while in that same house, with the dust brooms and floor cleaners as witnesses, the square-jawed Juan Carlos Arrocha had uttered words of love, I love you, María, listen to me,
, but it was she who had to say No, no, we are not of the same class, and remind him it was not his place nor hers to fall in love, while all the while her heart was breaking, can you imagine.
Cleófilas thought her life would have to be like that, like a
, only now the episodes got sadder and sadder. And there
were no commercials in between for comic relief. And no happy ending in sight. She thought this when she sat with the baby out by the creek behind the house. Cleófilas de …? But somehow she would have to change her name to Topazio, or Yesenia, Cristal, Adriana, Stefania, Andrea, something more poetic than Cleófilas. Everything happened to women with names like jewels. But what happened to a Cleófilas? Nothing. But a crack in the face.
Because the doctor has said so. She has to go. To make sure the new baby is all right, so there won’t be any problems when he’s born, and the appointment card says next Tuesday. Could he please take her. And that’s all.
No, she won’t mention it. She promises. If the doctor asks she can say she fell down the front steps or slipped when she was out in the backyard, slipped out back, she could tell him that. She has to go back next Tuesday, Juan Pedro, please, for the new baby. For their child.
She could write to her father and ask maybe for money, just a loan, for the new baby’s medical expenses. Well then if he’d rather she didn’t. All right, she won’t. Please don’t anymore. Please don’t. She knows it’s difficult saving money with all the bills they have, but how else are they going to get out of debt with the truck payments? And after the rent and the food and the electricity and the gas and the water and the who-knows-what, well, there’s hardly anything left. But please, at least for the doctor visit. She won’t ask for anything else. She has to. Why is she so anxious? Because.
Because she is going to make sure the baby is not turned around backward this time to split her down the center. Yes. Next Tuesday at five-thirty. I’ll have Juan Pedrito dressed and ready. But those are the only shoes he has. I’ll polish them, and we’ll be ready. As soon as you come from work. We won’t make you ashamed.
Felice? It’s me, Graciela.
No, I can’t talk louder. I’m at work.
Look, I need kind of a favor. There’s a patient, a lady here who’s got a problem.
Well, wait a minute. Are you listening to me or what?
I can’t talk real loud cause her husband’s in the next room.
Well, would you just listen?
I was going to do this sonogram on her—she’s pregnant, right?—and she just starts crying on me.
, Felice! This poor lady’s got black-and-blue marks all over. I’m not kidding.
From her husband. Who else? Another one of those brides from across the border. And her family’s all in Mexico.
Shit. You think they’re going to help her? Give me a break. This lady doesn’t even speak English. She hasn’t been allowed to call home or write or nothing. That’s why I’m calling you.
She needs a ride.
Not to Mexico, you goof. Just to the Greyhound. In San Anto.
No, just a ride. She’s got her own money. All you’d have to do is drop her off in San Antonio on your way home. Come on, Felice. Please? If we don’t help her, who will? I’d drive her myself, but she needs to be on that bus before her husband gets home from work. What do you say?
I don’t know. Wait.
Right away, tomorrow even.
Well, if tomorrow’s no good for you …
It’s a date, Felice. Thursday. At the Cash N Carry off I-10. Noon. She’ll be ready.
Oh, and her name’s Cleófilas.
I don’t know. One of those Mexican saints, I guess. A martyr or something.
Cleófilas. C-L-E-O-F-I-L-A-S. Cle. O. Fi. Las. Write it down.
Thanks, Felice. When her kid’s born she’ll have to name her after us, right?
Yeah, you got it. A regular soap opera sometimes.
Qué vida, comadre. Bueno
All morning that flutter of half-fear, half-doubt. At any moment Juan Pedro might appear in the doorway. On the street. At the Cash N Carry. Like in the dreams she dreamed.
There was that to think about, yes, until the woman in the pickup drove up. Then there wasn’t time to think about anything but the pickup pointed toward San Antonio. Put your bags in the back and get in.
But when they drove across the
, the driver opened her mouth and let out a yell as loud as any mariachi. Which startled not only Cleófilas, but Juan Pedrito as well.
, look how cute. I scared you two, right? Sorry. Should’ve warned you. Every time I cross that bridge I do that. Because of the name, you know. Woman Hollering.
, I holler. She said this in a Spanish pocked with English and laughed. Did you ever notice, Felice continued, how nothing around here is named after a woman? Really. Unless she’s the Virgin. I guess you’re only famous if you’re a virgin. She was laughing again.
That’s why I like the name of that
. Makes you want to holler like Tarzan, right?
Everything about this woman, this Felice, amazed Cleófilas. The fact that she drove a pickup. A pickup, mind you, but when Cleófilas asked if it was her husband’s, she said she didn’t have a husband. The pickup was hers. She herself had chosen it. She herself was paying for it.
I used to have a Pontiac Sunbird. But those cars are for
. Pussy cars. Now this here is a
What kind of talk was that coming from a woman? Cleófilas
thought. But then again, Felice was like no woman she’d ever met. Can you imagine, when we crossed the
she just started yelling like a crazy, she would say later to her father and brothers. Just like that. Who would’ve thought?
Who would’ve? Pain or rage, perhaps, but not a hoot like the one Felice had just let go. Makes you want to holler like Tarzan, Felice had said.
Then Felice began laughing again, but it wasn’t Felice laughing. It was gurgling out of her own throat, a long ribbon of laughter, like water.
Durango was his name. Not his
name. I don’t remember his real name, but it’ll come to me. I’ve got it in my phone book at home. My girlfriend Romelia used to live with him. You
her, in fact. The real pretty one with big lips who came over to our table at the Beauregards’ once when the Number Two Dinners were playing
The one with the ponytail?
No. Her friend. Anyway, she lived with him for a year even though he was
too old for her
For real? But I thought the Marlboro Man was gay.
Romelia never told me
Yeah. In fact, I’m positive. I remember because I had a bad-ass crush on him, and one day I see a commercial for
SPECIAL. TONIGHT! THE MARLBORO MAN. I remember saying to myself, Hot damn, I can’t miss that.
insinuate, but I didn’t pick up on it
What’s his name? That guy from
friend! The other guy. The one that looks sad all the time.
Yeah, him. Dan Rather interviewed him on
. You know, “Whatever happened to the Marlboro Man” and all that shit. Dan Rather interviewed him. The Marlboro Man was working as an AIDS clinic volunteer and he died from it even.