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Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Script

I had my script. I was very young when I decided I had to be an independent woman. I knew I would have to live alone. Marriage never entered my mind. I did not, however, rule out a live-in partner, and I knew that would happen sometime, too. Or sometimes. I would have as many lovers as possible. This was not a script I needed or wanted to change for any reasons.

But I did change it. I did not know it, though. By the time I married I thought I had been the independent woman already. I had, actually, but not independent enough, not long enough. I know that now. I had had as many lovers as I could, and I had a partner. I even thought he could be the man of my life, if there was ever to be one. Still, I did not really want to be married. That I knew for sure. He didn’t either.

But life is often cruel in its works. It was the ultimate irony. The one person that does not want to marry has to do it for political reasons. We loved each other, and the only way we could be together was for me to get a Resident Visa. And there we went. We knew it would not be pretty, because our families would see our marriage as “the real thing” but we knew it wasn’t. It really does not sound surprising the thing did not last. Aside from the fact that we were basically very different and that we were never meant for each other (long-term, at any rate), there was the pressure put on us by society. By the fact we were married and that people expect certain things and behaviors from you if you’re married. I could not deal with that. I could not be continually identified and linked to this person, no matter what.

It’s over now. I lament the loss of a partner. For a while I lamented the loss of a friend, since it the original agreement that we would always be friends did not seem to work. In a few months I went to hell and back thinking about what I had lost and how I could have done things differently. I abused myself with false notions of failure. I forgot to remind myself that this was what I had been wanting for about 3 years. Just last week I stopped thinking in the negative and forced myself to focus only on what to do next. On enjoying life. Granted it is difficult when you don’t have too many people around --most of my social life disappeared with Scott, hence all these incomprehensible months.

But I am the independent woman I wanted to be, now more than ever, what the heck. I can choose anything. Now I’m making the easier choices professionally, and not worrying about them -I don’t care if my two part-time jobs are not fulfilling and do not come with benefits. For now. Of course, I don’t care because it’s not going to last long. After the winter I’ll make more risky choices and I’m going to go for everything I want. I am going for everything I want personally right now. Jobs are only jobs.

I am thirty-two and the year 2000 is 23 days away. Before that time when I decided to be the independent woman, there was another time when my siblings and I were calculating how old we would be by the year 2000. It was almost impossible to imagine, but I would be 32, so I could vaguely imagine someone old and boring. Of course, the only models we had were my parents and other parents. I didn’t see it in a negative way, but I just assume I would be like them, and that I would have children and a serious life, full of responsibilities and adult problems. At that point I was not worried about--did not think about—other options. So it’s relieving to see that I am not that person. The problems I have now are not the kind I imagined at six. Although I feel pretty much adult these days, it’s kind of new; it only happened after the separation. Up to that point, I felt adult in the wrong ways: the marriage, the connections with people through the marriage. The having a job and problems. The way I dealt with Scott and other people: not mature enough. Now, I have the adult part that I wanted: the way I deal with people, the not being dependent on people. It has not been easy, and it won’t for a while, but it’s there, I’m getting it. And I don’t have the adult constrains of marriage and the social assumptions that come with it. I can be playful and young when and if I want to. And everybody will know that I’m not here because of a man. That I am here because I chose to, and I do what I do, professionally and personally, because I chose to. It is beautiful.

WHAT I KNEW ABOUT FRANCO

November 20, 1975. Franco died. The children did not know much about this little old bald guy, whose picture hung from every classroom wall. I don’t even think I noticed the word dictatorship until I was, at least, in my teens.

We children only knew that we did not have to go to school that day. And I remember playing, sitting down on the living room cold tiles. I remember their pattern so clearly, and their color. Why it was such a big deal that the man—who’d been kept alive artificially for about a month—had died we wouldn’t even wonder. Later –probably many months later - we would learn about democracy in school and we would make murals pasting pictures and stories from newspapers. Writing “La democracia” (“government by the people,” was the meaning of the new word) on the top, in big nice letters.

The dictatorship was 36 years old, so I had known nothing different. I did not affect me—yet. Next day, my dad went to the ‘little store’ in front of our own drugstore. The little store sold mainly candy, of which you could get quite a satisfying amount for just one peseta, you know? What my dad bought that day was a cassette tape—and a very bad quality one I seemed to gather by the looks of the cover, and I think experience proved my intuition right eventually.

He got this tape especially so he could tape the coronation of the new king, two days after Franco’s death. A few good years would have to go by for the first VCR to appear in Spain, decades before my mom ever saw one—she still refuses to own one; ‘I don’t have the time,’ is her excuse. So dad only placed the tape recorder in front of the TV set so we could have such an event saved for posterity.

About this event I only knew it was a good thing, from my family’s perspective. The old man had left everything set up for this young prince to become a king and so that Spain would be a monarchy instead of a republic. It was the closest he could get to exercise his power from the grave. You see, the republicans in Spain’s history were traditionally the liberal party and Franco’s enemies; monárquicos were conservative. So Franco died knowing he did his best to keep Spain in the right track—both metaphorically and politically. But for the people, king or no king, democracy was the good thing, and no king or monarchy could take the joy and freedom away. Eventually this king would turn out to be a good one, since he stood up against the military forces, led by an infamous lieutenant colonel, that tried a coup d’etat in 1981 and failed. Of that event I had a better awareness; I was in seventh grade, and I remember not going to school that day either, this time with fear. Nobody was allowed to go out that night.

November 22, 1975. We went to my grandmother’s house, I would say because it was Saturday, but it could also have been a second day of forced national holiday. I also remember granma’s living room, and the couch that had a pattern, now that I think of it, very much in line with the floor tiles at home. The house was rented, as was ours, and it was on top of a cliff overlooking the port, and we could see all the little and big boats anchored there. My dad had also a small boat, which he owned jointly with another man in the family. We had family downstairs and good neighbors next door, first and second floor. So there we were, ready to watch this coronation on TV. Next thing I remember I was going up the stairway –old Mediterranean tile, nice colored pattern. It was kind of dark; probably the winter sunset; some adult was with me. I can’t remember if it was a neighbor or one of my relatives, but she told my mom it was my birthday. “¡Ah, sí, Miguel, es el cumpleaños de Pepita!”
“How could you forget such a thing?,” my neighbor or relative said.

Actually, birthdays, you must have guessed by now, were never a big deal in my family. Let’s say celebrations are not our thing. I could never get mad at my parents for forgetting my birthday. But oh! I can get mad and argue violently with my father about politics or sexual harassment at the dinner table. Manners are not our thing either. Still, I could not love my parents more.

ANDY

He was from Minnesota and beautiful as they come. He probably made his wings and halo visible to me the first time I saw him. They must have the best acting schools in heaven. Everything seemed heavenly work: his birthday was my mother’s birthday—and I love my mother—, we had the same brand of car—mine much crappier than his. He had been 5 km away from my hometown when he was in the navy—and probably has some children in the area too.

At the time he appeared, I was not exactly looking for the love of my life. Experiences were all I wanted. Good ones. My friend Diana, born matchmaker –the topic of La Celestina was often mentioned when talking about her—played a metaphoric violin while we talked looking down to the ocean. Her job did not stop that night, and she finally sold me and everyone the true romance story that maybe still lays buried in her mind. We were the perfect couple. Little did she know, little did I care about little details like the fact that I would never go skinny dipping in December, in Rhode Island, or that I don’t have the patience to play chess, or that I don’t like animals—no matter how breathtakingly good he looked holding that black cat in his arms, his pale skin in the red flannel bodysuit, standing in the morning sunlight.

A man like that did not need to be so sweet to get in a woman’s pants. He did not need to cook me breakfast in the morning while I was still in bed. You don’t do that if you don’t mean it, man. The whole thing was so blissful that I lost my muffler on the road coming back from his place one Saturday morning and did not notice until I saw the catalytic converter on the ground once I got to my final destination.

As all things that seem too good to be true, this felt too blissful to me. As blissful was the silence the Tuesday after that Monday night he begged me to come over to his place and we studied and went to bed but had no sex. And I asked him why in the morning and he gave it to me in that blissful silence that would end the nineteen days’ story. Plof!