By Leslie Blanco
We used to go shopping at stores we’d been told we could not afford, buy nothing, stand around smelling things at perfume counters, tap our feet at the saxophone players outside. Snow flakes blew innocently in every direction, as if they’d been born in mid-air. No one rushed us at all. Once, at a football game, we sat alone, without our men. We ate gummy bears, chocolate kisses, hot chocolate, pretzels, coffee, encouraged each other to eat more. They couldn’t tell us not to. She had a house she’d lived in thirty-five years. There were pictures of gap-toothed children on the walls, home-made rag dolls in clear plastic boxes in the closets. I liked to breathe the air there. I liked to hole up against winter and take the plastic lounge chairs out to the shade of the oak when spring finally came. Because it made me feel better she hid things from her husband too: the chocolate chips in the cupboard, the price of her Talbot’s shorts.
I asked her once the secret to forty years of marriage, and smiling, she told me a most un-Cuban thing: learn to hold your tongue and eat crow.
I never got to say goodbye to her. After the lies he told she wouldn’t even answer the phone. And I still dream of her. That her breast cancer has returned. That no one wants to come home for Christmas. That secretly, she thinks it was her fault.
I want to tell her to rest her bad knees.
I want to tell her that all her pleasures are taken on the sly.
And that if she is to keep a secret, let it be that she has a lover, that he feeds her guanabana milkshakes in bed and sings her boleros and is kind.
– Leslie Blanco’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Confrontation,The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She has taught creative writing and screenwriting at Lemoyne College, Syracuse University, and the Syracuse YMCA’s Downtown Writer’s Center. She has an MFA from Warren Wilson College.