Our Little House in Lisbon: an excerpt from Gitanes – Fawzy Zablah
April 1, 2022
I wrote this last night, but waited to send it because I didn’t want to spoil what was left of your milestone birthday. How I wish I had been there to celebrate with you! It would have been nice to give you birthday hugs and kisses, cook you a lovely dinner, and bake a cake.
Isn’t it funny how life turns out? You and I, husband and wife living hundreds of miles apart over a big, blue ocean. I suppose this is what you always wanted; the only type of relationship you could deal with. You are a man waiting for another woman and I am here waiting for you, or maybe I’m not. Either way, we’re still married, and I take that seriously.
You can fly to Lisbon whenever you want and your home will be ready and taken care of. There is an old lady by the name of Carmen who lives next door and thinks you’re a mirage; a figment of my imagination. “When is your husband coming?” she asks in Portuguese. Or perhaps, “quando seu marido vem?” And the only thing I can say is, “Ele estará aqui em breve. Eu espero.”
This is your house that you bought with your money and yet, you refuse to live in it. Why? Because your heart belongs to another? Because of some faint hope of reciprocity? Because she needs you? I will not turn this letter into a screed about the many mistakes you’ve made in your life that turns into a reflection of my mistakes which are very similar. All I can say is that your wife awaits you. Your home awaits you. Beautiful Lisbon awaits you.
Buckle up now, this is going to be a long ride – we have unfinished business. I never thought in a million years I would end up like my mother; longing for someone that refuses to recognize my love for them. There was a time—after our reunion—when I thought I knew what I was doing, when I thought I was in control but I was so ignorant and foolish. Let’s be real Javie, maybe we were never meant to be and this—this thing now is us just trying to force something because we have nothing else, we are two lonely people clinging to each other because those dreams that we seek never came true. But such is life, no? You chase her and I chase you.
If you only knew how many times I’ve thought about writing this letter and actually started it, and then threw it away. I bought a typewriter about a month ago at the bazaar near our home. It’s a blue Corona and still works like new. I managed to find ribbons online. So one fine morning, with hundreds of sheets of clean typing paper, and new ink, I typed away explaining myself to you and probably got as far as twenty pages before I threw it all away. I was so embarrassed at all I had written that I didn’t even want any of my daughters to find it when they come visiting so I threw it in the chimney and watched it burn and had a good, strong cry over you. How I have cried for you Javier Mansour!
Fifty years on this earth and I still haven’t learned that lesson everyone should learn; you can’t make them love you—you can only show them what they’re missing. And yes, I know you love me in your own way, but it can’t come close to her—the goddess, your special someone, the queen of your heart, the woman you’ve given up everything for. You will never admit it and I don’t need you to. And this letter is not about her, but about you, and what you’re missing; the love, peace of mind, and the heaven that awaits you in Lisbon in your own home in your own kingdom in heaven that you feel you’re not ready for.
I promised myself that this time, I will not throw the pages out—it’s all going to you; I will spew my entire soul to you Javier Mansour. The only woman in the world who loves you is in Portugal and until you realize that, you will never be happy. You know this to be true. When you look in the mirror and look at the reflection looking back don’t look away and face your truth—you’ve wasted your life for a person that will never love you back the same way.
I saw my mother suffer through the same thing and finally pass away of a broken heart and is it even really worth it? It’s like I’m writing this letter for my own sake. How much more can I love you? I have given you everything; I am all yours spiritually and it’s still not enough. Meanwhile you waste away in America at her beck and call. While your house mostly stays empty.
This house has the capacity to hold so much love. I will never understand you Javier for you will always be a puzzle to me. And yet, I still forgive you, and still consider you my husband. When is your husband coming back? The neighbors ask, and all I can say is when he gets tired of America. That is an answer that doesn’t even make sense. I don’t make sense; we don’t make sense and we’ve never made sense.
I still remember it like if it was yesterday the first time I ever saw you in the lobby of that hotel in Downtown Miami. You looked so adorable in your polo shirt and jeans with that big smile on your face. You ended up saving my vacation. I was so lucky you were working, and you didn’t even have to come to take me out anywhere. You didn’t have to do anything. I was attracted to you from the beginning. I’m not going to lie.
You took a strange girl out that night; you took her to dance salsa; you corrupted her on Collins Avenue. Then we start a long-distance relationship that lasts almost two years. I, of course, never move down because I’m afraid but not exactly sure of what. Then we have a spectacular break-up and you hate me now, and go off to Europe to get lost in drugs in Amsterdam. Then ten years later, I’m newly separated with three young girls and seek you out on Facebook to ask your forgiveness because I never stopped thinking about you and because I’m praying and hoping you’re not married and you’re not and we start an on-and-off friends-with-benefits situation which eventually turns into a real relationship (albeit quite briefly), we marry, you buy a house in Lisbon, and leave me here so you can continue your chase of the real prize. Did I miss anything? Did you notice how it started so sweet before it went off the rails?
I will now discuss my life in Lisbon and I’m afraid I will have to be brutally honest. If I hurt you during any part of this letter, I beg you to forgive me. You have a lovely house, and lovely neighbors and a beautiful African American woman that keeps it lovely for you and for herself. How do I describe my daily routine, darling? Where to start? I wake up around 8:00 a.m. and open the windows to the living room. These windows with the view of the valley that you wanted; the orange tiles and wallpaper; the rosy sunlight; the stucco roof; they’re all waiting for you like you left them.
I finally added a dishwasher, honey. Our very own dishwasher. I’m adding a bit of the Michelle touch to the house. You did tell me that it was my house—this is what I get for your emotional indiscretions. Such a lovely home, as lovely as the ugliest things you’ve done behind my back. All I ever asked from you was to be a little gentle with my heart but alas even that was too much—you’re asking for way too much, Michelle. He’s only your husband.
After making some breakfast, I work out in our gym on the treadmill. After working out, I shower and get some work done before lunch. If there’s no food in the house and I feel like cooking I’ll go to the farmer’s market. Or if I feel lazy, and lonely, I will treat myself in restaurant row. And why not? I deserve it. It’s our money, and it’s a lot of money isn’t it? You can’t give me your love so instead you buy me a house and let me live in it and give me money—I do feel like I won the lottery the day I met you.
I am mostly happy, even without you. I live everyday and I appreciate the beauty of this home of yours. You are everywhere still. Your books, they’re all in that special room we designated. I have allowed only one bookshelf in the living room; the small one. There are just too many books in this home, honey.
I just thought of something. When you reply to this letter, which I know you will because you promised me you would—please explain in detail every drug you did, and every prostitute you slept with in Amsterdam. I want to know everything. I just realized that this, what you’re doing to me right now is punishment for what I did to you, for your running off to decadence in Europe with your crazy friend. How is he anyway? Do you still talk to him? Did he ever get married? Does he have any keys? I think the last thing you said was something akin to MIA in his own self-obsession? Were those your exact words?
I force you to read this entire letter no matter how bored you get. Do you remember still our debauched weekends when I’d come visit? Let me tell you, you’ve been replaced—but I will not go into that now. I will stay mum. Is that what they say? Even in bed with another man, you’re always running on my mind especially when I close my eyes. Yes, I admit you are one of very few men who have consistently made me come. You’re not the only one, Javie – no way I’m letting your head get bigger than it is, darling.
And another special request, in addition to knowing everything there is to know about that long-ago Amsterdam trip, I also want to know more about her—yes her! What is it about her? I would like to understand. Please help me understand this obsession you have for this woman—Sofia is her name? Colombian and Jewish? Who knew? Is she just pretending? I want a full bio. Don’t hold back for I need to know. Not inquiring minds, but my mind. Is she familiar with her compatriot, Gabriel García Márquez ? Has she read the books?
Let’s go back to the lobby in that cheap hotel. Why do I even think you’re the love of my life? Because when you’re good, you’re really good. When you love, there’s nothing like it. I am not crying. You suffer for her, and I suffer for you—is this the deal that we made? I don’t recall signing the contract and yet, here I am, in an empty house.
Ok, I am not totally alone. I have been dating. And why shouldn’t I? You’re dating her aren’t you? And her husband? I actually have no idea what you’re doing. I’m in a beautiful place still dreaming of you. I think I’ve reached the end, Javier Mansour. For my own sake, and for your own sake we should already have gone our separate ways.
I think I’ve always embarrassed you. I feel your uneasiness when we’re in public. Remember that time you refused to dance with me? I think you brought me to some dance club in Hollywood? It was Colombian night if I remember. There was a band playing cumbia. This has always been an issue between us, the dancing. You don’t dance, and I love to dance. I’m happy to report that in Portugal I don’t have any issues with men not wanting to dance with me. I belong to a salsa group that meets every other Friday at a little club on blank. I have many fine men to choose from, and there’s a particular one who is respectful, handsome, and a great dancer. His name is Victor, and he’s divorced and from Brazil. He speaks four languages—would you like to guess which ones?
What else can I tell you about Victor? He’s tall, dark and handsome and he can dance like the best of them—anything: bachata, salsa, cumbia, merengue, and vallenato. He knows it all. Is he one of the closest people I know in Lisbon? Perhaps. And he is not a figment of my imagination. I have photo proof.
Who would have thought that the great love of my life does not like to dance? Yes, dummy, I’m talking about you. My ex, as you recall, was a very capable dancer but a horrible partner. Oh well, life is built on all the mistakes we make and our parents have made. My mother told me that once.
And now here we are an entire ocean away from each other but married. Things are never solved easily with you. Another thought Javie: where would we be without great sex? The amazing sex we’ve had over the years that I miss so much. Am I in love with you, or your penis? Has it stayed hard and full of blood this past year? I keep trying to prevent myself from speaking on those subjects we agreed we’d stay away from.
I will change the subject again. Please bear with me; I know this epic letter will be all over the place. I took your advice finally and began to type out my mother’s diary to her lover. Remember that? It’s her unrequited heart in words never sent to the love of her life. Did I ever tell you about the day that my mother came out to us girls?
We already knew; it was an open secret. Our parents had already been divorced for about 10 years. She gathered all of us one Sunday after church right before we were to have lunch and simply said, “I have gathered you guys to tell you that I’m gay. And it’s not a big deal, and I’m sure some of you suspected it. There is no need for whispering or hearsay, because now you know. I’m a lesbian and I’m in love with Bonnie, my friend whom you’ve all met.”
Bonnie was in California planning to say the same exact thing to her husband but she didn’t. She betrayed my mother and stayed with her hubby. My poor mother never got over it. She loved Bonnie so much I could hear it in her voice, the way she spoke of her. How sad is it to be 67 and finally find love? I guess it’s better late than never. She poured all her feelings and anguish and love into that diary that she always meant to send Bonnie.
Remember I asked you if I should send that woman my mother’s diary? At first you said yes, and then you read some of it, and you said no, that maybe I should keep it. I know my situation with you is not like my late mother’s situation with Bonnie, but sometimes I get a ping in my heart thinking about us. I know you love me, even though you don’t say it as much as you used to. You wouldn’t have married me, and have me living in your house in Lisbon, I know that for sure. But I’m afraid you love her, or you think you do, and we can’t have that can we?
No matter what, it all goes back to me reaching out to you after I separated from my husband. I sit in this big, empty bed you bought for us and I blame myself. Will my kids debate someday on whether to send you my journal? I supposed I should leave explicit instructions in the event of my demise. Which could happen any moment; I still firmly believe the cancer can come back. I know you think I’m being negative and should never think that way. But I’ve heard so many stories about it coming back seven to eight years later.
I already told you, but if you only knew how thinking of you helped me get through the cancer. Every sad moment with my ex, you would usually be on my mind. At the hospital, I would fantasize about how if it was you that I had married, how you would have comforted me. Isn’t that a bit sad? Thinking about your ex boyfriend while still trying to swallow a bad marriage just because?
I wasn’t planning on getting a divorce. No matter what, I was going to stick it out. I enjoyed the domestic life. I miss it, and I even tried to have it with you but we saw how that turned out—you preferred to give me a house instead so I can play alone. The only thing my ex was good for was the dancing and that stopped a few years after the marriage. How sad of a line is that? I guess a lot of people would agree with that assessment; the marriage kills the dancing.
It killed our dancing and everything else that wasn’t there to begin with. All he had to do was behave himself but he couldn’t and I couldn’t continue to ignore it. I was already used to the bad and quick sex. I was used to finishing myself off. All he had to do was not cheat. And then after cheating, not make it so obvious. He broke every rule.
I remember you once told me I thought I was happy, that you ran into my Facebook profile and saw the photos of me and the girls and my ex and you thought that I’d found peace and you were happy for me. Remember?
I knew I had made a mistake after breaking into tears at my wedding. We got married when our first daughter turned three, and I remember being so sad because it was supposed to be you. And I wanted to call you so badly, at every horrible moment in my life I wanted to reach out and hope that you would pick up and come and rescue me. How many times have I admitted to you that I made a mistake? I should have married you instead? But I was young, dumb and my family was against the idea of me leaving Kentucky for Miami. And now, I’m the one with an egg on my face for all my sisters eventually left Kentucky. My mother was the only one on your side Javier Mansour. She always liked you, and she told me I should go but I just didn’t listen because I guess I took you for granted—all of you. But how many times must I admit this? I used to think once or twice would bring you back to me, but no. It’s like I have to continue to pay for my sins.
Do you remember what you and my mother spoke about when you came to visit? That only time you came to see me? You said she took you to downtown Louisville and then you guys went to eat at a restaurant next to the Ohio River. I remember your exact words, you ordered fried oyster and you got along with her and you stared at the river and you thought about some singer who drowned in a river, but not the Ohio River, it was the Mississippi. You told me you thought my mom was nice, and you thought she liked you and she said the same thing. She said the same thing, and then she said that I should go to Miami. What am I doing around here, she said.
So my life turned into a big ‘What if I’d gone down to Miami?’ So here we are now; you in America still and me living in your home in Portugal with an Ocean separating us. No matter what, our love has always had to deal with great distances. I already told you Javier, that you will have my heart forever no matter what the circumstance. I’ve admitted it more than once, that I can say with certainty that you are the great love of my life that so many others speak of. Do I represent the same to you? I’m sure I don’t. I used to think that I did, but I’m pretty sure I don’t. It’s very obvious when a man loves a woman; it’s unquestionable.
I’m hoping I might be in your top three of the great loves of your life. I guess this beautiful house should be proof I’m somewhere at the top. My sister Aurora doesn’t blame me anymore, she’s told me that she totally understands my situation. She doesn’t judge me anymore very well when she came to visit me last summer. She wants to come back in April, and I’m not surprised she fell in love with Lisbon and recently told me she ordered Portuguese language program. She’s quite smitten with the men of Portugal. The dark haired, mysterious type; she picked up a guy named Tomas. She went home actually; it was the full Monty. I didn’t see her until the next day as she cleverly did the walk of shame in our kitchen. Our kitchen honey, I like the sound of that, even though it’s really your lovely kitchen which I’m so in love with. Those orange tiles remind me of a Mexican kitchen.
Yes, Aurora is still married, and her husband is still loyally waiting for her at home and she does have her encounters from time to time. I already told you Javie, I know you’re thinking it—he must know but for some reason or another he ignores it. I pretty much know every thought you will have the moment you read each sentence and I will reply—in real time! We are connected in very unique ways honey, if I was only able to convince you of that through our decades-long love affair – or whatever you considered it on your end. I’d like to think that I was a litte more than just a sex romp. You did marry me, and gave me a beautiful house, but then you left to chase the married woman you think is the love of your life. I’m not you, so I shouldn’t be so judgmental; we all have paranoid fantasies at least once in our life. So let’s say that she’s your paranoid fantasy; this Sofia, and you’re MY paranoid fantasy? See how that works darling? My darling babe, with the handsome face and kissable lips; how is it that I don’t get jealous?
Despite the emotional storm you have created in my life, I feel finally at blank to have some type of peace of mind. It’s not full peace of mind. It’s a little peace of mind. I have no more tears to shed for you and for your aspirations to a woman that will surely be the end of you. A tad harsh, you might say. Perhaps my love, but I only say it because I love and I’m the only one who has loved you. You belong to me Javier Jose Mansour, and someday you will figure that out and wake up. Hopefully sooner than later; because now I’m too old to date anyone else. I can live with our state of being now. My sister thinks I have the best of both worlds.
Her powers may be great but they’re not infinite. I try not to ask much about her because I’d rather despise the caricature of her I created in my mind. I don’t want to know the person, because I know her actions. What is it about her? She is a beautiful woman on the outside, but so ugly on the inside—so duplicitous. What I would give to be in your shoes just once to feel what you feel and see what you see. Or maybe I wouldn’t.
It’s funny how when you’re young you think you have all the time in the world. You could be eighteen or twenty or twenty-two and you think that you have this whole entire life ahead of you that will most surely be filled with hundreds of others; friends and lovers and experiences and homes and moments and countries and food and every kind of beautiful living one can imagine for oneself and then towards the end of your life you realize while drinking a cup of coffee in the morning in a beautiful empty house in an vibrant country that all those things were just hallucinations fueled by your hapless youthful mind.
And what is the truth? The truth is that you will probably only have a handful of people that will stay in your life for most of your life. Others will enter your life and leave and as far as experiences? You will only have as many as your heart and destiny allows you too. It seems that it’s true, we all end up alone in the end no matter how many friends or family we have. I miss my daughters, but I would be more miserable in America, that’s for sure. I miss my sisters, but I’d rather love them from across the great pond. They can visit whenever they want—it’s a big house, our house.
Everyone starts falling away from your life if you let them. What was that line you used to say? People become good stories to tell. You’re so open hearted, you even admitted that you were paraphrasing from an old cartoon that ran in the Miami New Times. I appreciated that honesty about you, like you didn’t want me to think you were better than you were. You didn’t want to pretend like you were smart, but you were. You’re in the top smartest boys I’ve known for most of my life. You are the peak of that pyramid my darling and I know this to be true because I feel it in my bones and between my legs when you get emotional about a subject you care about. Sex with with a passionate Javie was always so riotous and tranquil at the same time. Does that make sense? It doesn’t matter if this email doesn’t make sense. My life hasn’t made much sense.
I guess I could have forgotten about you and tried to move on but that’s neither here nor there. I don’t believe we get to choose the great loves of our lives. I don’t fall in love too easily like other people. Like say, an Elizabeth Taylor or, even your own Sofia who from what very few things you told me is cut from the same cloth. Maybe, you love the chase, and that can very well go for me. It doesn’t matter. I am at peace right now in Lisbon, or at least that’s what I tell my sisters and my daughters and myself.
Let’s get back to the young fellow my sister picked up at the club—the dark, and handsome Tomas. He came later in the day, and I invited him in and served him some coffee and we had a great conversation about dancing and life, and what he wants with my sister. My sister was knocked out in the guest bedroom. I didn’t want to wake her up, but I told Tomas he was more than welcome to wait for a little and he obliged.
I served him our coffee honey, and I sat with this strange man in our kitchen my darling and his greasy long hair was so effortlessly manageable. Some men are blessed to have better looking hair that most of the women they will take to bed. This is not about black hair versus white or non-black hair; this is about beautiful hair and that’s it.
I made him a cup of your favorite local coffee; that you buy at the market. This young man sat in our kitchen with the sunlight hitting him from behind making him glow like a gorgeous Portuguese angel. The first thought was, wow, my sister finally brings home a real cute guy—not these lost Africans or repentant Muslim guys that want to marry her after the first date or sex romp.
He looked like a young Keanu Reeves with a lock of his slightly longish hair that kept falling over the left side of his face every time he picked up his coffee to take a sexy sip. I could have eaten him alive, he was so delicious. In our own home, nevertheless! Can you believe that? Something I don’t usually do, but I will stay mum on that specific subject matter at this moment in my email.
I sipped my coffee and we both studied each other in silence, and here I was thinking I was going to be the one to grill him like a detective. I like your beauty marks, he said pointing at the vitiligo spots on my neck. They’re not beauty marks, I shot back, I have a skin condition. I know he said, I dated a girl with vitiligo and her spots were beautiful like yours.
He disarmed me right away with that comment. I’m not going to pretend he didn’t. Now, he wasn’t just good looking but charming as well. When a man can disarm a woman, he can really disarm a woman and it’s so obvious and the woman slinks back—as a survival tactic—trying to get her bearings but in the meantime she’s blushing and it’s game over after that. But why am I telling you all these secrets? We’ve known each other so long Javier my darling that to have secrets amongst ourselves is impractical.
All I could think was he was so young, and so full of vitality. His big arms and puffed out chest and excellent posture. Oh, and what posture! Of course, I told him I was flattered that the skin disorder which has affected so much of my self esteem through adolescence and adulthood he found visually appealing. The cynical side of me said that he probably got a good look at my ass that you cherish so much as well. Men, in the end, are all the same no matter how charming or the amount of manageable hair on their heads. I also know, as a black woman, that when a man of another race likes black women, he REALLY likes black women. Don’t think whatever you’re thinking honey, for you know that you’re hardly the only man in the world that appreciates a nice ass like mine. An ass which I hate, I should have gotten that surgery but sadly you talked me out of it or maybe I was just not really serious and I was pretending because I knew getting rid of the very thing that keeps you around would be quite detrimental to me and would have never gotten me this house.
It’s funny how when a man has you in his sights—a man that knows what he wants and is focused-and you, as a woman, you turn into an innocent rabbit in his presence. The gravitational pull of his eyes combined with great confidence give you the point of view of the moon looking down at the earth. You are now a little rabbit on the moon and he can pet you and do as he wishes. What am I getting at?
The sexual tension was so thick and you needed a really big knife to cut it but I had to try to get control back. This mama wasn’t going to go down without a fight, so to speak. That’s cute, I said, is that what you tell all the girls with vitiligo? He smiled and then he laughed. And then I laughed. It was over and I knew it and he knew it. What was an older woman like I to do? I wanted to wake up my sister but I couldn’t will myself off my stool. Why does she get to have all the fun? That question was running through my head in a loop. I was looking for excuses and before I knew it we were both finished with our coffee.
Would you like more coffee young man? Why did I say that? Of course, he said yes, and then asked me about my life. How long had I lived here? Am I fluent in Portuguese? What is America like? Is that your husband in the photo? You have beautiful legs. That last one really got me honey, he really got me with that one.
I was wearing sweats; it was Sunday, I was trying not to be sexy. I really wasn’t expecting a delicious looking man to have coffee with me that morning and go on about my white blotches and how they reminded him of the great love of his short life. How old was he again? I think I decided not to ask him again.
He was as beautiful as a black panther and then he saw my bottle (or your bottle or our bottle) of Ginjinha and his eyes lit up like our neighbors’ windows when I play bachata too loud. You drink Ginjinha, he said. That’s a good brand. Would you like a glass I said? It was a follow up question that was meant out of being a gracious host and nothing else but he said yes and I had to confirm his answer. You sure? Yes, he said, it’s only 12:30; why not?
Why not? Why not? That always seems to be the question I should have lived my life by and until that moment—my brain had always been full of answers that didn’t lead to new experiences, and I realized right there that I had been asking the wrong questions, so yeah, Tomas, why not?
Honey, Tomas had some of the cutest dimples I’ve seen on a man’s face—dimples like if Michelangelo had sculpted into his face with a fine spike. And with those incredibly cute dimples and panoramic smile (like the beach at blank in March before all the surfers show up) he asked me to join him and I did. Like I said before honey, secrets are for couples that don’t stay together and we have been through it all.
How was I going to deny him? So I grabbed those little chubby glasses with the same curves as those rap video girls and poured him and myself a shot. We made a toast and then he confessed to me that last night he admired my bachata and merengue dancing and I was thinking, and said it out loud, you are such a sweetheart and I want to put you in my pocket.
His eyes went from me, to my old CD player next to the toaster oven and stack of CDs. May I? Yes, I said and watched him get up to look through the CDs. Let me tell you honey, to see him from behind with that incredible butt of his was just so rewarding and I was done and ready to call it a day. I had a good image for later, and didn’t need to force anything for it was already perfect, and a happy moment with the incredibly handsome man that had already conquered one sister and wasn’t going to have the other sister but was I so wrong about that. I hope you’re still with me Javier Jose, please pay attention to everything I say.
He chose a CD and opened the player and popped it in and pressed play. This man somehow was after my own heart, for he made the right choice or perhaps the spirits had given him clues or maybe he was a keen observer; that was probably it. He turned at the moment the music of Romeo Santos started playing, and well you know how I feel about Romeo Santos that I will not go into that further but say that the music this fine young man was playing made me feel in my little tired heart from so many years of loving you, yes, YOU, that it was now playing in the real world like I had stepped inside a movie—the sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun or some or other.
He walked back to the table and took down the shot, put it down on the table and extended his hand toward me. I had to close my mouth before giving him my hand, and he pulled me into him as Romeo Santos’ “Cancioncitas de Amor” began playing and with a quick twirl I was suddenly so close to him now I could smell him and he smelled like a man should smell—with a whiff of sex and cinnamon.
The ability to dance well is such an underappreciated talent. Let’s not beat around the bush honey, you know how much that talent means to me and yet, you don’t dance. I will admit that you have other, better established talents which have kept me around. But to get back to my young Don Juan, his movements were so perfect that I didn’t notice my own missteps because he knew how to lead and that is so refreshing because most men don’t know. God bless all those sad men I’ve left on the dance floor with two left feet but at least they try, which is more than I can say for you. My apologies for the dig, darling, but you’re truly missing out.
How many songs did we dance to? Practically the whole CD. When did my sister come down? She didn’t wake up until 6 or so. How much more did Tomas and I drink? Practically the whole bottle and you know me. And how was it when we made love in your downstairs guest room? It was passionate, and rough, and carnal and amorous, and creative and yes, it was a good orgasm and he is quite talented but at the end I still thought of you and I was a little bit ashamed until my sister came down and cheered me for it.
Then Tomas made love to her while I showered and then he made love to the both of us at the same time and what a man; his penis is almost as big as yours and he knows how to use it and all my inhibitions were gone. But what about the next day, you say, what about waking up with that huge hangover and the young stallion gone as fast as he showed up? Read my lips, if you can see them in your mind’s eye my love, it was just sex and it was excellent and I do not feel the least bit sad or bad about it because I deserve it.
This is the type of marriage you wanted and I’m all for it, but you can rest assured that despite my tremendous enjoyment of Tomas and all his attributes, I still love you and will love you forever and do not plan to make a habit of any of this. But what’s an afternoon of pleasure between friends once in a while?
Are you still with me, my love? I hope you’re taking a deep breath and are allowing your anger to subside for I know you so well. You’re probably asking out loud why I would even tell you about this incident? Well, it goes back to trust, my Javie. Without trust we have nothing and yes, I fucked a hot young man in our home, but that’s neither here nor there—you’re still the only dick I really want but it’s always been up to you.
There are so many things my Javier Jose. There are so many things I want to tell you. Please, I’m not changing the subject for my own health, I’m changing the subject because that was just a thing that happened; it wasn’t that big of a deal. You know you have me in body and mind, but I will not be your complete slave. Will you chase a person with such low regard for you and for herself. I do not hate Sofia and you can tell her that. I have no idea what she thinks of me or what you have even told her about me. What have you told her about me?
A black woman versus a pasty white Colombian Jew—never in a million years! Is she even really Jewish? Who is really Jewish? What does it take to be a real Jew? Is it your mother or your father? Have you ever asked her these things? I think you want to be a Jew honey and there is nothing wrong with that for if that is your wish I will convert with you and we can sell this house and move to Israel. I hear it’s nice.
How much more do you love Sofia than me? Is that a question I can ask? Is it a little or a lot? She is pretty, beautiful even but come on babe. She has no ass at all. I have a lot of ass; I have so much ass I can give her some. No, I’m not willing to share you in Utah. That’s false because I am sharing you already so yes, I guess that’s fine. But I refuse to be in the same room as her. Who does she think she is, to string you along for so many years? Who am I to put up with you and her? If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is no perfect love and my love for you is a dumpster fire –we together are a house that is slowly burning. Don’t worry I will not burn down our home after I finish writing everything I wanted to write. Or maybe I should? That’s a joke my love. My honey. My Javie. This is the imperfect home in beautiful Lisbon that we built and where you hardly ever are. I have a lot of love for this empty home. You are everywhere on its walls and books.
My mental state is fine. I’m fully aware I’m the only one to blame for living in an empty house. I chose this. We choose things in our lives every day and we confirm these things with our actions and we try to deny it and say that this kind of life happened upon me and poor me but that is a lie. Everyday all humans make decisions and this has been my same decision for thirty-four years.
And you have made your decisions too, specifically to be with her or be in the middle. You chose to love her—an empty shell that she is. What substance is there behind those pretty eyes you adore so much? Let me deconstruct her for you, since there isn’t much to begin with. I do not hate her or even despise her; she is really a non-entity as far as my point of view is concerned but I would still like to see what you see. I would like to look at her with your eyes.
But I’m realizing now, because it seems this letter is about realizing things about myself, I am revealing myself to myself the more I refuse to let go. It makes sense for you to love her blindly and that can be said about me as well. We are the same person my love; the same ugly person who hates themselves. We hate ourselves. What was that quote? You told me you read it in a book or you saw it in one of those crazy movies you like to watch—it was something like, “Show me who/what you love and I’ll show you who you are.” Truer words have never been said.
Don’t worry Javier Jose I did not have sex again with that man. Tomas left to go to Brazil. He came by to say goodbye and we had tea. My sister has already gone back to the states. But Tomas had to see me and I was afraid I would sleep with him again. But it wasn’t even a fear, it was more like an anticipation of something that I wouldn’t mind happening again. But I told myself I was already in love with a man I had to chase, and I didn’t need another. He was a nice sexual tryst that I needed at this time in my life and I believe you will probably laugh like my sister Aurora laughed when I told her, but he was sent to me by god to open my eyes. He was my grand oasis in the desert of your life—the fountain that nurtured me for a bit to keep going, to keep walking blindly towards you.
I hope you burn this letter and never read it outloud. Maybe, I’m hoping you don’t even finish the whole thing and maybe that’s why I keep writing. I want you to chase my words over and over again because you think you will end up at some satisfying truth in the last page but that’s not how things work Javie. You will be disappointed no matter what. At this moment, because I know you so well, you’re probably getting worried and you want to keep reading but you’re scared that I harmed myself or something crazy—you are trapped, we are an ocean away from each other, you cannot call an ambulance or come over, you can only read this letter until the end and hope and pray that on the last page I don’t describe my suicide to you.
If it were only that simple. I have reason to believe now that if you are thinking those very things it is not because I planted that image in your head but because you’re an egomaniac acting like I’m such a poor woman that could not live without you. Do I love your dick, still? Why, yes I do. And you’re lucky you still have it and it still works so wonderfully every four months we see each other. Is that the only reason? No, but it is a big reason for my love; no pun intended.
You’re getting up there in age and I as well; and I might have to throw you out to pasture my love. Tomas invited me to go with him to Brazil for at least a month. He said we would have a great time together and eat lots of good food and be drunk most of the day and have sex on the beach and almost anything I wanted.
I think he asked me out of pity. I don’t think he really wanted me to go. I did not consider leaving our home empty, my love. What would happen to this house without me? Mine is the only heart that beats in this home. Me and the cats, which are your cats; the cats that miss you. We all miss you. This house misses you. You use money to keep me quiet; you bought this house to make me think other things about you. But I refuse to believe in everything you tell me. Your actions never match your words and that’s where we are. That is the beginning of an end I did not think could come. And it’s coming my love, like a high-speed train at night with huge light in the front racing down the tracks. I didn’t think it would ever come.
Tomas could read me like an open book; a woman alone in an empty house. There are so many things one can surmise from confronting a situation like this. He knew I would never desert this house so he could invite me out of pity and because he was confident that I would say no. I could tell he felt sorry for me because in his eyes he could sense the fat, uncomfortable ghost of you behind me. I guess I love you because you remind me of me.
We then finished the tea and there was nothing more. He was a gentleman until the very end, when he left my left cheek wet from his lips. Then he left never to be seen again. Would I have slept with him again without any kind of guilt about you? Yes, but he had to catch a train and I didn’t want to keep him. But now I can say I had a younger man honey, and I know how it feels. The conversations I will have with my sisters will have so much more substance now.
My life turned into a big what if? I think a lot about how things would have been if we would have married earlier, when we were young and dumb. Sometimes I think that we would still be together, and other times I think you probably would have had an affair with a stripper or hooker like my ex. Is that even considered an affair in the traditional way the term “affair” is defined. I will probably look it up. Sounds like a French word, affair. An affair is deception, so it’s not really an experience insomuch as just the act of lying and doubling down every time you see your significant other pretending you still love them the same way you did when you said you’d marry them. It’s all deceitful. I can at least be thankful you haven’t been completely deceitful with me. There are no real secrets between us. Maybe I will walk away from the edge now honey.
I remember you telling me once you were afraid to be the hero in your own story. That statement stayed with me and I became kind of obsessed with it, trying to decipher what you really meant. It’s like you were giving me a clue about the bizarre logic in your head. The reason you have made all these decisions. You try to explain it away sometimes like happenstance, but that’s a cop-out. You have been making the same detrimental decisions since you were a little kid, at least that’s what I believe. I know enough about your life now that I’m sure you set obstacles in the way of things that might prevent you from doing what you really love. I think you love what you can’t really have, and you can’t have her.
I know your kind. My sisters are just like you. They’ve cheated on every husband. I never ask them why they do the things they do. I asked Aurora why she did the things she did once and she blamed our father. She always says she’s too much like our father, who had many women on the side and then our mother left him in order to really find herself, but our father, he ended up getting lost without her. She was the only stable thing that kept him alive. After my mother, our father was with a string of sad, mean-spirited, bitter women that only pushed him to his grave faster than if he would have stayed with our mother. The last woman he was with was the one that swallowed him whole like the whale swallowed Job and our father never came out. He didn’t seem to be himself anymore. He stopped taking care of his diabetes, as you well know and he passed on sad and despondent confessing in the end that he didn’t deserve our mother.
I think most of us don’t deserve our mothers. Remember all those times you used to go to Publix supermarket for your mother; buying her grocery every Sunday? You used to text me so angry about it. Despite your shittiness towards me, this is how I can tell that you have a good heart; the way you questioned your love for your mother. You had so much resentment, but you put it away, doing what you had to do to help her because like you said it had to be done. You didn’t help your mother because you wanted people to think you were good or for any type of reward in heaven, you did it because she was your mother, and in a normal world, that is always what is expected. Always.
Then one time that I came to visit you for our sex weekends, you told me that you felt like you were not really living your life; you were living for her. These Sunday grocery visits, and the after-work dinners—you were sick of it all; you wanted a break, but then you woke up and there was hardly any life of your own to live; you had lived most of it for your mother.
Before we got married, back when I wasn’t sure what would become of us, my daughters would often ask me what I would wish for if I could have anything in the world. My answer? More time with you. If you recall, at that time, we were forever trying to cram in conversation, lovemaking and quality time into a weekend every three or four months. Then we got married and you bought this house, which you claimed was for me. Or for us, but just like before, it’s mostly empty, waiting for you. All I do is wait for you. But I can only blame myself.
It’s like we’re two constellations continuously crossing each other over the night sky without the consequence of confrontation. We see each other, and we acknowledge each other, but for what—two ships in the night is that not what they say?
I will never understand your obsessive love for her. She’s a woman who doesn’t respect herself or you or her husband, continuously playing games. How are those brief moments when she does allow you to love her? Are they miraculous? Are they everything you ever wanted? I believe this is sadomachistic. You are the slave, and she is the master, and you will do whatever she says. It’s a step before leather and being tied to a heater in some attic. You must take pleasure from her treatment of you. You told me once, that she would yell at you in front of your co-workers. But you felt like you had the upper hand because before the yelling, she was sleeping with you and you felt it was all an act and you just went along with it. You’re such a fool. Women like her, in the long run, are hardly worth it. You both are probably demons, and you might deserve each other, because you recognize each other.
I’m afraid for you Javier Jose, that you won’t realize what you got here waiting for you in this empty home until it’s too late. But it doesn’t really matter does it? We have already made our decisions.
I remember like it was yesterday, when my mother died out in front of her house, on the grass as she played with my daughters. They came running into the house, yelling that grandma tripped and she won’t get up. Is grandma dead, the little one said. And we all ran out and she was gone just like that. It was a heart attack. Do you remember I called you? I called you in Miami and you picked up and I needed to hear your voice and you were there for me, even if it was from far away.
After Tomas left for Brazil, I found myself thinking about my mother a lot and how she died on the grass on a sunny day in front of my house surrounded by her granddaughters. And I didn’t cry because I thought that is just one of the best ways to die, playing and surrounded by the grandkids. Don’t you think? My grandkids are in America and I miss them. I want to tempt the universe and also die on the grass surrounded by grandkids.
The saddest thing I can think of is that we never got an opportunity to have our own kids. We would have made great divorced parents, I think. I am always going to love you Javier Jose, and that will be a universal fact. I will miss your soft brown eyes, and the way you kiss me. Waking up next to you everyday was the one thing I strived for, but alas, in the end, failed miserably. I admit defeat; I do not stand a chance against my rivals whims. My last hope is that you will think of me and all the moments we spent together more fondly than those with her. I will pray for you every day, I will pray that you do not die alone because despite everything no one deserves to die alone; we can only be so lucky as to die bouncing and running on the greenest grass chasing our grandchildren and avoiding the past, moving on and on and moving on until there is no more road left just like my mother.
My dear, I chose to follow my mother. I wish you all the best. I will not burn our home; I’ll leave the key under the rug and warn the neighbors about my absence so they keep a watchful eye on our big, empty home that used to hold so much love from time to time.
With all my Love,
P.S. Please don’t forget to go easy on yourself mi amor.