The Southside Stories – Chapter 4

When I woke up the next morning, I saw my dad had called and left me a message. I didn’t feel like listening to it so I set the phone aside and checked my emails instead. I was never a fan of the Blackberry but when I got one, I understand why it’s often referred to as Crackberry – because it really is like crack! I can’t get enough of being plugged in twenty four seven. It’s not even like I’m working right now either.

I just got back from the Macondo Conference and I’m waiting on hearing if University of San Francisco will get back to me about teaching freshman English in the fall. Granted they would call me but it doesn’t hurt that I keep checking my emails, just in case.

After I check my emails, I check my account balances. So far, I’ll have enough to stay in New York for a bit before going back to San Francisco.

Before I saw Carlos Perez, I was set on leaving in a day or two (after some New York shopping and dining; there’s no place on the planet like my city!) and of course, chatting with my father. But it’s not as if I have anything but an empty apartment waiting for me back home. Oh yeah, and the boy.

The boy who’s really a man that I have nicknamed “the boy” has a name; his name is William.

The boy is like my stalker except I let him be my stalker, if that makes sense. I met him at a writing conference. He was friendly, a complete gentleman, smart, attractive, and completely five years younger than me that it was painfully noticeable and obvious.

I was chatting with a female classmate from my Masters in Fine Arts program at USF when he interrupted us.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Can I talk to you?”

Thinking he had recognized my work in a magazine or online somewhere, I thought he was a fan and was ready to talk shop or sign something.

“Is there something I can help you with?” I felt like I was volunteering at school again.

“I just wanted you to know that I find you very attractive and I would like to take you out sometime,” he said.

Surprised by his honesty and assertiveness, I had to oblige him. The catcalls in the intellectual world were much more along the lines of, “I love your work. I’d love to get together and write something with you,” or “Let’s chat about our favorite authors together.” Some of those lines were mixed in with each other but I figured out what was what by the end of my two years at USF.

We met two nights later. I was a busy woman with lots of things to do. So there was no way I was going to clear my whole schedule for just one guy.

He picked me up and took me to a restaurant in downtown San Francisco. He made sure to stay far away from Fisherman’s Wharf; only tourists hang out there.

The restaurant’s name was Clamshell; I loved seafood so I was happy he chose this place. I had passed by it many a time and never made the time to visit. The date started well.

Then he started talking.

“I love writing but I’ve never really taken myself seriously before. I can’t wait to get a literary agent and get published through a big publisher. Then I’ll be rich.”

I couldn’t believe his naiveté about the writing world. He had a lot to learn.

“After I get my degree I’ll probably teach and then get my Ph.D. and then I’ll really be making a lot of money. Summers off are going to be great. I’ll just write then.”

I didn’t have the energy to deflate his ideas and illusions of grandeur he had created about writing as a profession and career and even as a life. He was totally clueless. But he had the body of an Adonis.

That night, I took him home and I rode him like a cowboy running for his life. The sex was…exquisite. For someone who I thought was pretty dull, I was surprised he was so good in bed.

That was three years ago. He’s the boy I fuck; I can’t bear “dating” him because we have nothing in common and he’s a damn idiot.

So yes, he is definitely just a boy which I don’t miss.

I take a shower and think about Carlos. How should I come at him? Should I suggest lunch, dinner, or brunch? (I love brunch.) Or should I just play it by ear?

I can’t just play it by ear, this is Carlos Perez! The crush I’ve never forgotten. The guy that makes my feet tingle with anxiety. The guy that makes me forget who I am – Carlos Perez.

I have to get it together. Maybe I’ll relax once I get back to my father. Then maybe he’ll put things in perspective for a bit.

***

I walk downstairs of my hotel room in Midtown, by the Theatre District and head to the nearest Starbucks. I don’t care much for name brands but I like their products; I’m a sucker for their Banana bread.

Luckily, on this early Sunday morning, I was able to find a decent table by the window; perfect for people watching.

After I get my order, I sit down and place the delectable Banana bread I enjoy so much on the table. Then I pull out my Crackberry. I listen to my message left by my father.

“Jaz, call me when you get this.” I’ve only liked it when my father has called me Jaz. When my mom tried, it didn’t work. I remember when he first started calling me Jaz.

I think it happened when we moved and my parents were divorced. I was fourteen at the time. I was helping Dad move some furniture around and he needed help with something heavy like the red couch I have so many great and fond memories of to the other side of the living room. We were still experimenting with space.

He said, “Jaz, help me out here for a second.”

“Jaz?” I said, face distorted in disgust. Sometimes pre-teens can be so overly dramatic. Guilty as charged.

“You’ve never called me that before,” I said.

“Does it bother you?” he said, after the couch was moved.

“Um..” I let the nickname sit with me and thought long for two full minutes. Then I decided, “I like it.”

I beamed as if he awarded me with a trophy; it was our first private father daughter moments. One of the little gems I inherited when I moved in with my father.

But when my mother would attempt to use it, I scowled at her.

The incident in point was actually my fifteenth birthday party. I was too big for cake and candy but perfect for a McDonald’s birthday party! I loved the games and the happy meals. Maybe I was too big for the games but I liked them anyway.

My father was talking to my mom; he was polite, she was sober and I was playing in the big pen of plastic balls of blue, red, green, and yellow. I plopped myself as deep as I could where not even my parents could see me until I heard, “Jaz, get out of there. I can’t see you.”

She couldn’t see the big scowl on my face when I heard her use the nickname my father used on me. I’m sure she’d heard my dad utter it in her presence in the past or even refer to me as Jaz rather than Jazmine.

I re-emerged from the ball playing area and asked to be taken home. She had ruined my birthday party from me. And I didn’t even want her to come.

I called my dad and told him where I was. He told me I should come down to his sister’s house, in the Southside, for la comida at noon time. I told him I would but that I would probably eat before I got there. He knows me so well by now that it didn’t bother him. I am sick of the rice and beans and meat meal that most Latinos have. There is more to life than rice and beans and meat! I told him I’d be there around one and I’ll see him later.

I ventured out to shop at one of my favorite shops in the city – Sephora. I know that it’s a chain store but there’s something fabulous about shopping at Sephora in New York City. Or maybe that’s just me.

Since I love having soft skin, I always make sure I have enough body scrubs in my home; it’s called body maintenance. Don’t judge me.

In Sephora, I browsed the make-up section (which I barely use on myself) and remembered the first time I put on make-up was to hide the puffy bags under my eyes from the most I’d ever cried in my life. I cried the other day for my mom but when my father told me they were getting a divorce, I was devastated.

Even though my parents argued immensely during my pre-teen years, I always thought this was the norm. Arguing was how parents dealt with each other.

But in the summer months, the arguing was more explosive, louder, distracting, and obtrusive.

The day my dad told me we were moving out and they were getting a divorce, I had come back from a full day of people watching at my cousin’s house, Liz, across the street.

The sun had gone down but the neighborhood was still lively; most every stoop was occupied with clusters of kids, adults, and teenagers and the ice cream truck was parked in front of the corner bodega across the street from my apartment building. Normally, I’d probably convince Liz to sit outside her stoop with me until later but her parents are a lot stricter than mine ever were. So I came back home, wishing I would’ve stayed out later.

I put the key in the lock and heard loud yelling and crying. I shrugged to myself thinking it was just mom drunk and feeling sorry for herself. I braced myself for the scene either way as I opened the door. I saw my parents facing each other, standing next to the big dining table that occupied most of the living room, right next to the door of the apartment.

They looked at me, my mom’s face distorted as she covered her face and cried into her hands; I looked over at dad asking him the obvious question, “Is she drunk?” He shook his head no and then gestured to go to my room. I checked them out briefly as I passed them on my way to the bedroom; my dad gave me a tight lipped expression as he caressed my back lightly.

I was worried; I knew something was amiss and was going to affect my life. Little did I know, it would have a huge impact on my life from then on.

I sat in my room, with the TV on but not really watching, waiting for my dad or mom to come in and tell what the hell was going on out there.

Newsies was on Channel 11, back before networks didn’t pay attention to rights, companies and all that jazz; they showed the best movies on that channel. One of my favorites was Heathers. Oh and it was before cable became the norm in every household.

Christian Bale was singing in the street when my dad lightly knocked on my door.

“Can I come in?” he said.

I nodded yes.

He sat down on the only other chair in my room, which was right where the TV was on my dresser.

“I’m sorry you had to see that out there,” he said. His stern stare meant bad news.

I shrugged my shoulders. “What’s going on?”

“Well, you know your mother has a problem.”

I nodded in agreement.

“And she is not willing to seek treatment as I’ve suggested to her many times.”

“When? How? When did you suggest that?”

“After you were born. She’s been suffering from post partum depression which hasn’t yet been resolved. The alcohol takes the edge off. Well, that’s her story anyway.” His eyes focused on a spot on the wall behind me.

“You and I are leaving and your mother and I are getting a divorce.” A beat passed as he searched my face for an expression.

I understood what he was telling me but I wasn’t processing it.

“Okay,” I said, no emotion. “When are we moving and where?”

He was taken aback by my unemotional state but assumed I was in shock; I was only fourteen at the time.

“I haven’t figured that out yet but we’ll be here for another month until we move.” He grabbed my hands.

“I wanted you to know what was happening. It’s going to be rough for a while but we’re going to make it, babe. Okay?” His gaze settled on my eyes.

“Okay,” I said. My eyes involuntarily became wet.

On some level, I didn’t realize that I had always wanted to reach out to my mother and felt I was at fault for her sickness. I always thought that when I became older, I’d be able to help her and she’d be happy, like the mothers of other girls I see at school. Doting, loving, and caring.

My fairy tale of the perfect friendship with my mother was shattered and I was sad.

Before I could do anything, my father took me into his arms, as I sobbed into his chest. We stood in my room in the embrace for what felt like forever, but I think was only ten minutes. I wiped my nose with my hands and gave my dad a meek smile.

Even then I wasn’t much for telling him my emotional state in verbalized form; it came out in the form of tears.

He hugged me again and kissed me on the forehead.

“Te quiero mucho,” he said, looking down on me. “You know I’ll always be here for you, right?”

I nodded my head yes. Then he hugged me again, a little longer and tighter this time and left my room.

I pulled out my journal and wrote about the turmoil of emotions I was feeling. I expected mom to come in and tell me her side of the story, but she never did.

Actually for much of that month, I barely saw her. She took over the bedroom my parents shared together while dad pretty much lived in the living room.

Part of me was also upset with her. How come she didn’t want to take care of herself? Why didn’t she want to be good for me? Didn’t she care about me? Her only daughter? I didn’t understand and I wanted to. But when you’re only a pre-teen, adults don’t bother to explain things to you because they assume you don’t understand. Which I assumed was the case with my mother. I was so hurt and full of rage, I made sure to avoid her when I was home for those thirty days. It was like I lived in a house with roommates, except my dad and I got along while my mom’s energy hung like a dark cloud, pregnant with rain that almost fell but never did.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s