Last Call, an excerpt from Empanada: a lesbiana story en probaditas
RELEASE DATE: SEPT. 16, 2011
Ruby probably served me one too many drinks because she knew my garage apartment was one block south of here and I’d more than likely stick with them after closing for our usual three am Mr. Taco feast. I barely saw you across the room; but in the corner of that dimly lit bar the jeweled details of your tejana shirt reflected off the three-colored light fixture pointing towards the dance floor. What were you doing there? Wasn’t it too late for you to be away from home? The smell of forty-year-old throw up should have been enough to keep you out of this old bar. I always felt like I was standing under the exit sign at one of those weddings in a catholic school gym, like the one your prima’s daughter threw just recently in San Benito. It smelled the same there, like sweat, old cigarettes and beer mixed together. The music was the same and the color and density of the fog in the air was the same. Hats and tight jeans were dancing cheek to cheek just the same.
Tejana dyke night at the barbrought me the closest to feeling like all of me: lesbian and chicana. But after a long night, I always drove back to my apartment alone, crying the way I cried when I backed out of your driveway for the last time, leaving home. You found out my lips kissed your friend’s daughter’s lips from a phone call. You said I could spend the night over there to study. And, we were studying at first but then we kissed and her mom walked in. After you hung up the phone the next morning you looked through me like I wasn’t there. I got the hint and got myself out of there, out the backdoor, out of the driveway and to the bar.
In between drinks I saw you at my home, my bar. You weren’t wearing what I imagined you’d be wearing. I was used to seeing you in Sunday, church-spring colors and flowy material. At the bar that night, you went beyond my expectations by not only joining me here but by also dressing the part in dark jeans, botas picudos and a pressed shirt. Do you remember when you used to take me to your friend’s baby showers and barbeques? I would dress in pastel colors and linen to please you. I guess you realized how important it was to return the favor. Thank you.
At the tejana bar it was hard to see the details of your shape because of the thick smoke soaked air, but it was easy to hear your rumbling heartbeat because it pumped at the same speed and volume as mine, through the jumbled wiry ritmo of the dj jams.
Pairs of girls, one small and round, the other tall and slim, in one another’s arms stepped on, passed you with one step, then another, brushed briskly against the floor, a third step, and again, over and over. Neither you nor I tired of watching the women dance around the floor in a large circle, following the shuffle of one another’s feet. While I wished the women were you and I dancing in the kitchen like we used to, you were mesmerized by the newness of two mujeres. I understood your curiosity.
I raised my short glass of undressed tres hermanas tequila, took a slow sip and choked at the sight of a girly-girl tejana ass crookedly swing by, all alone. If you wouldn’t have been there, I’d chase after her myself, but that night you were the one I had my eye on.
I would’ve enjoyed you much better closer on the stool beside me. Instead, I talked to you telepathically, tapping my leg to the beat, but you didn’t get the hint and come over. With your face behind the smoke I tried to pick out your heartbeat between accordion chords, soft steps and smooth glides of the dancers parading in front of me, but I picked up my own heartbeat instead, beating faster than the song and the steps, faster than both rhythms combined. The overlapping of dancers covered you. My right palm was sweating and my left one could hardly hold my drink. I tried to see you, squinted my eyes, bobbed my head around, between the small space of their legs or under their arm during a turn but only was able to make out the milky white of your cheekbone, high and thin. Even when I thought I could see you, you were not there and it became hard to believe the smoke was the only thing blocking my view to you. Did you have any idea I was there? I saw you fan the landscape with your eyes, searching. That bar was the last place I wanted to be seen by you, mamí. I go to the Silver Dollar Bar on Main. St., to combine my worlds, my worlds of Tejana and Lesbiana. I imagined what I would say if I could go up to you, “Here, I do what I couldn’t do at Ninfa’s wedding last summer when you watched me closely to make sure I didn’t reveal any hints of my girlfriend and gay friends back home.” Why were you in the corner of this bar trying to combine the two worlds, like I do?
The dance floor spread under us. “Do you want to dance?”
You gave me your hand. The other toddling dancers circled around us, amazed at our kitchen-mastered moves. My chest pressed forward, the way papi normally held you, and my cheek leaned against yours. Your dark-red, wide smile chilled and warmed me. Mouths hung open around us. The sharp women with their hair cut short on the sides and long in the back let go of their women, and held onto their gold and silver buckles hoping you’d please them next with your hand. Your face of many years, legs that have walked and kicked up many miles stirred everyone, including me. The simplicity of your stance, the not so simple lines of your open child bearing hips, your panzita rolled into a perfect bolillo, and the grace of your feet across the dance floor, built your austere body into a more mesmerizing woman who could soar like a bird. I pressed my hand firmly against your back and kept dancing until Ruby yelled out, “last call.”
© Anel I. Flores 2011, All Rights Reserved