Love and Heartache in Gringolandia
The cosita between Magdalena's legs, my cosita lured me like the smell of sweet papaya, with the power of passion and affection. My cosita. Mine. Not vagina, too clinical. Not cunt, too harsh. But cosita--the little thing--cute and sweet. Innocent, like Magdalena. To me, her cosita, more precious than a diamond, like a green chili pepper that bit the tip of my tongue and made my lips tingle.
We met in Gringolandia, at a church picnic arranged by Father Morales. She was young and beautiful, only seventeen. Skin ... like smooth mahogany. Hair ... lujoso like black silk. Eyes as deep as her soul. Lips, fleshy and pink, lips that begged to be kissed. Breasts that begged to be caressed.
The animalejo in me wanted to make her mine. She turned me into a coyote dog, the kind that would howl in the night outside my family's stone fence in the foothills of Cerro el Tigre in Usulutan. Coyote dog possessed of a spirit. Magdalena. Fire and ice. The air I breathed. Her name burned into my heart like the hot embers of the wood burning fire that heated my mother's iron skillet.
Our country was ripped apart by war. Papi and me, we left all that behind, went north to Gringolandia to escape the blood and sorrow, to earn money we could send home. Gringolandia, our salvation, just the way Magdalena was my salvation. Mi angel. I loved her like I loved no other. I wonder now if she'll stay with me. She says she will. Palabra she told me. "I promise." I hold onto it like a man holding onto a life raft.
Things were going great for us, until he showed up. Then everything went bad. Like a tornado that sweeps through a town and takes everything with it-all that's left afterwards are cinders and broken dreams. I was always a peaceable guy, anyone can tell you that. I still can't believe what I did. It's all a blur now. That's what happens when you let your blood boil and you don't think straight. But I need to tell you the rest of my story, just so you see how things were for me, how happy I was, before that mean gringo came through on his motorcycle, trying to mess with my Magdalena.
El Norte: a new culture, a new language. I had to get used to so many things. Latinos or Hispanics, as the white Anglos call us, prefer to say things more obliquely, or at least, our mothers did anyway; they're the ones who taught us to say the unmentionable in a nice way. Just like the boy's thing is the miembro viril, but it sounds so odd in English: the virile member. But what should we say? Penis, dick, cock, meat, pecker? All those words I learned after I arrived in Gringolandia. And the girl's thing, we have other words for that too: papaya, like the fruit, succulent and juicy; or raya like a line in the desert, like a streak of light, like a soft and narrow brush stroke on a canvas; or timbre like a little bell or buzzer you push or a little postage stamp you lick to put on the envelope. Shrine of love, temple of the one-eyed snake.
I was careful with Magdalena from the very start. I could see she was a nice girl, just a sweet kid from the campo, like me: a good-looking, wholesome nicaraguense; anica who spoke my language. An American family brought her over as a domestic to look after their kids and to cook and clean for them while the wife worked out at the health club and played tennis and the husband flew all over the world, a big shot executive for a chemical company.
Magdalena melted my soul, made me ready to lay down my life for her. Everything about her, like angel dust ... even the patch of dark bristly hair that covered her sex where I liked to lay my head after we made love. Without a struggle, she captured my soul, so different from the other girls I slept with in my Fernando's hideaway: Motel 8 out on US Route 40, near Havre de Grace, when Papi was still living with me. After he went back home, I brought them to my trailer where I seeded the desert and drank papaya nectar all night. I always had plata in my pocket, too, you know: money. Just to show them a good time.
My gringa girlfriends told me they went for me because I had a lot of color: the way I talked, the way I danced a really neat salsa, with all my sexy moves. American guys can't dance to our rhythms. They don't have the feeling, the passion. You have to feel the love, the amor, the heat when you dance salsa. Yeah, the gringas were all over me and I loved it. "You're different, Enrique," they would tell me. "You're hot. Caliente." I taught them that word, and other words too that sounded so cute coming from them, with their gringa accent. They loved it when I talked to them about their cosita and all its sweetness as if I were describing a ripe papaya or a little tinkling bell. I'll never forget this one girl, a sexy little blonde from the local Dairy Queen, had the biggest pechos I'd ever nuzzled against. Carajo, I sucked on those mounds like a baby calf at its mother's teats.
One night she tells me, all breathless and everything: "It turns me on, Enrique, really turns me on, you know, the way you say those things. Just thinking about it makes my cosita go all wet, you know, my timbre, my raya." She liked using the words I had taught her. All the girls did. Anyway, she tells me, "Yesterday, at work, I was at the soft custard machine, you know, filling a cone for this guy, and it happened again, just thinking about the way you devour it with your eyes and kiss it and play with it like it's a little toy you can't get enough of, and I thought to myself, Candy, for the love of God, you're going to have an orgasm right here, and I had to squeeze my legs together real tight when I handed him his triple vanilla swirl and took his money from him. I swear to God he looked at me in a real funny way, like he knew something. I thought I was going to die."
I confess, I owe a lot to my cousin Gabriela. She's the one who initiated me. We didn't live far from each other in Cerro el Tigre. Mamacita, what a hot number! So fuckin hot for my body, too; three years older than me and she wanted to show me all kinds of stuff. I was fifteen then and still a virgin, and feeling plenty hot to know the real thing. I didn't want to have to keep going out behind the excusado anymore--the outhouse--alone, at night, just me and the garrobos, little lizards you found everywhere. Besides it always made me feel like mierda, shit. And the priests said you could go blind from it.
What I always wondered, though, was how come they weren't blind?
"A real man doesn't do that." That's what Paquito told me once. We worked alongside each other in the sugar cane fields and would get to talking about things. He was forty, with a wife and five kids, but looked to be sixty-five, sagging face and deep lines in his leathery skin. "A man finds himself a woman," he said, "and sticks in it her good and hard until she can't walk a straight line between a row of corn, stick it to her hard so she stays that way, and then she'll keep coming back like a mama bird returning to her young because she can't help herself."
Girls fifteen in the country already have the body of a woman, and some of those little campesinas want to fuck just as much as the boys, only they're scared to because of what their mamas teach them. But Gabriela had cojones, if you know what I mean. Balls. Nothing scared her ... went off and joined the revolucionarios a year later, served under Comandante Nidia Diaz. After Nidia was captured, Gabriela herself became a comandante. She had fire in her heart, between her legs, too. A fuckin' inferno. The first time she took the one-eyed snake into her mouth, I cried out, vida mia, vida mia! I saw the stars that night even when there were no stars in the sky. We did everything under the big guanacaste tree out behind her father's field when nobody was around. We invented ways to meet, and she let me kiss her cosita, and do other things with it that set her to trembling beneath my touch, till she jumped like a little minnow in a pond. And she showed me how to use a preservativo too, so I wouldn't get her pregnant. Something she had learned up north in Gringolandia while living with Mercedes, an older cousin of hers. She came back with a whole supply. We did it as much as we could get away with, without anybody suspecting anything. Tio and Tia never caught on to us, thank God. They would have killed us both.
It was terrible when I had to leave El Salvador three years later. I had gotten addicted to her, my Gabrielita, and she to me. I think I even loved her. She would sneak down from the mountains at night and signal me with a whistle. We'd go out to the field and fuck like two dogs in heat. Then she'd sneak back to her camp before dawn, just so she didn't run into any National Guard. They would have fucked her ten different ways before they shot her and left her body draped over a fence. A warning to the rest of us.
The other girls I knew wouldn't let me do anything with them, just kissing and touching. One of them did it to me with her hand, but when I squirted all over her blouse she called me cabron and said it was disgusting, that she wouldn't do it again. I wasn't any fucker. I was a joven, young and with needs, and when I couldn't be with Gabrielita, well, the pressures just built up in me until I felt like a volcano ready to explode. Girls like that said God would punish them if they did anything bad. That's what their mothers taught them, because they got that from the priests and from the Church, which didn't do a goddamn thing to help us against the landowners and the generals. And when we finally got a young priest with new ideas, telling us we didn't have to wait for a future heaven, that heaven could be ours now, here on earth, he ended up in a ditch, alongside some road, with a bamboo stick up his ass and his balls in his mouth. The poor bastard. I said a prayer for him.
We lived a simple life: tortilla and salt, rice and beans, for our three meals a day, and some pulque to numb our senses, made from fermented corn and flavored with sugar cane.
I missed my family, missed my tierra--as strange as that might sound--because it's always in your blood, missed the pupusas at Dona Graciela's Pupuseria. I only need to close my eyes to taste the chicharron and the melted cheese inside the soft tortilla wrap, toasted a golden brown and hot off the griddle. I sprinkle it with red sauce and shredded cabbage, onions, and tiny bits of carrots. It makes my mouth water, just like Magdalena's cosita.
We missed other things too, like the coconut milk and white pulp of fresh cocos. I can still see tio Gregorio on the corner, standing next to his cart, slicing open fresh coconuts. Seemed like he'd been there his whole life. He looked old, white hair sticking out from under his farmer's straw hat, face filled with ruts, just like his neck and gnarled hands.
So we arrived in El Norte, papi and me. Strangers in a strange land where everything sparkled like fresh-scrubbed porcelain. Didn't know a word of the language. Not a damn thing. And no papers. They drove us to San Antonio where a Spanish priest gave us shelter until we could get settled, gave us English lessons everyday so we'd learn some of the words. Survival stuff, you know. A month later some Mexican who was heading east told us they were looking for workers in a place called Maryland. What the fuck did I know? For a hundred dollars a head--the rest of our life's savings--we went with him, ten of us packed like frijoles into his piece-of-shit van, no fucking suspension, and bouncing all the way from Tejas to a place called Havre de Grace where he said he could get us work on local farms and in construction. That was 1985. I was just eighteen then.
Seven years later, after the two sides signed the Peace Accords, Papi went back home, but I stayed on. I had made a new life for myself. Then, five years after, when I turned thirty, Magdalena came into it. At the time, I was still "sowing my oats," as the gringos say. But she turned me on my head like I was some kind of top. How I craved her cosita, how it comforted me: shrine of love, temple of the one-eyed snake; and that animal, I tell you, it would come to life three, four, five times a day, and she'd tell me, "Enrique, don't you ever get enough," and I tell her, "No, vida mia, the one-eyed snake, he never gets enough of you, and you see how big he grows beneath your touch, never has he been so big in all his life!" and I could see from the sparkle in her eyes that she was pleased with what I had told her, and that night we fucked so hard, I tell you, my trailer, that fucking piece of tin, it rocked from side to side, and when I came, I came so hard, and I swear by the Virgin Mary, that tin box, it tipped on its side, and the next day Magdalena planted flowers around it and hung curtains in the windows, and my friend Pepe, he told me, "Hombre, you are fucked, you are fucked." But I didn't care. I wanted to keep her happy. We shared the same blood, we were raza, you know. I liked to see Magdalena happy. It did my heart good. Everybody deserves a little bit of happiness. That's not asking for too much. I was so happy that I never saw what was to come. Some things happen in life and there's no way you are ever prepared for it.
"Enrique, I fix all this up for you and you better take care of it," she told me. Her English was pretty good, but when we were alone we preferred to speak Spanish, "the language of love", you know. "Te quiero, pero mucho, mucho," she told me. I believed her. The other girls told me they loved me too, but with Magdalena, it was different. It was a matter of soul, the alma, you know. I felt like we belonged together long before we met.
She told me from the start, after we first slept together: "Enrique, no other girls, comprendes? I see how you like the chicas and how they come to you like bees to honey. But I won't be like my mother, no matter how much I love you, putting up with a cabron for her man." And I behaved myself, though sometimes it was hard, as hot as I was and with the juices always flowing. If she saw me looking at another girl or talking to some gringa in tight jeans, she really got angry. Those dark eyes of hers would flash like two bolts of lightning. Holy Mother of God, for such a sweet thing she was fiery as hell. And she'd arch her back and those pechos would swell up like a pair of balloons underneath her tight blouse, and I wanted to make love to her right on the spot, as if I was seeing her for the first time.
We stood eye-to-eye when she wore her patent leather heels, the ones with the open-back. I can still see her in those jeans I bought at Walmart for her birthday, the ones that hugged her ass just right. Bought her a really nice belt to go with it, too. I wanted her to have nice things, wanted to take her under a guanacaste tree or the high branches of a maquilishuat and do it with her under the stars.
"What other women?" I'd say, looking surprised, holding my arms out.
"I see you looking, and I see them coming up to you when I step away."
"Tonterias," I said.
"I'm not talking nonsense. You behave."
We were standing in the kitchen inside my trailer. I looked at her, not knowing what to do with my hands. I knew she meant it. She wasn't going to put up with any mierda, and I didn't want to lose her. I looked down to avoid her eyes, saw that sweet spot perfectly outlined in her jeans, that spot that smelled of fresh-cut almonds when she got wet, a smell that drove me wild. I kissed her hard on the mouth and pressed my hand between her legs.
"This cosita's mine," I whispered in her ear.
"Yes, Enrique, it's all yours. As long as you're good. ┐Comprendes?"
"Si, mi amor, I swear. I understand."
And it was the truth. I didn't want to end up dispossessed, like so many of my compadres. Magdalena, she was my woman, my new land, fertile soil for my seed, fertile soil for new roots, a new life. I had come full circle. And I counted my lucky stars.
Magdalena and me, we'd been together for a year, and things were going great for us until he showed up, that puto bastard, all full of himself, on his Harley-Davidson, and long blonde hair. He got this cohete up his ass, the idea he was going to take Magdalena away from me, kept coming onto her. And I think she felt flattered too, because he was a good-looking guy, I'll give him that much. But then one day he just took things too far. I went to pick Magdalena up at the clinic where I had left her off an hour before. A little red brick building near Route #40. Nothing else around except a Seven-Eleven across the road. I had gone over to the Walmart to pick up some things for the trailer. It was already dark when I drove up, close to six I think it was, and there he was, Rick, that was his name, pressing himself up against her, on the side of the building, underneath one of those security lights. How he knew she'd be there, I don't know. He must have been following her. He always seemed to be know where she'd be. Some guys get an idea in their head about a girl and can't let it go. I hopped out of the car and confronted him. "Cabron, let her pass," I yelled. "Fuck you. You got a brand on Conchita's ass?" he said, taking a punch at me. I smelled the liquor on his rotten breath. A dark and ugly day it was. The animalejoin me took over. I saw a lead pipe laying on the ground. Fate had put it there. Fate made me pick it up. "Larguese," I yelled. "Speak English, you prick TexMex wetback. Coming here, talking Mexican, taking jobs away from Americans." That's when I let him have it. Cracked his head open like a fuckin coconut. I heard Magdalena scream, yelling for me to stop. "Por favor! Enrique! No mas!" I kept hitting the bastard. Blood was everywhere. I dropped the pipe. Rick wasn't moving. Somebody across the way, at the Seven-Eleven, saw it happen and came running over. I gave Magdalena the keys to my car before the ambulance arrived. Then the policia showed up to take me away. I can still see the pain in Magdalena's eyes when I looked out at her through the window of the cop cruiser. Her pain, sharper than a stiletto, stabbed me through the heart.
The guy arrived D.O.D. at the hospital. I was up to my ears in shit.
And now that I lie here in my cell at the Correctional Institute, staring up at the ceiling, I keep myself alive by thinking of the times I lay between Magdalena's legs, felt her fingertips tugging at my hair, felt the warmth and wetness of her cosita against my cheek, with the taste of bittersweet almonds already in my mouth, I tell you, hombre, here in Gringolandia, I had a taste of heaven the new padres said was rightly ours here on earth.
She says she'll wait for me, been coming to see me every weekend for the past year. I don't know. They say I'll be out in seven more. That's a long time. I tell her she should get on with her life and forget about me. She tells me, "You are my life, vida mia." I want to believe her. What else do I have? It just doesn't seem right, how everything turned out. Who can know anything in this life the Senor has given us.
This is Michael Molinero's first short fiction publication. He lives in Virginia and is currently at work on a historical novel about a Mayan revolutionary entitled, Place Where The Trees Talk.