Pretend It's True                          May, 2008

Nobody will ever know’-They assured.- "It’s for your own good."

But she would. She would know for the rest of her life.

It’s almost time to go-He said.

-I’m not ready-She muttered, holding three bobby pins between her lips while she fixed her hair and looked at his relaxed reflection in the mirror.  He was laying in the bed, holding the remote in one hand and resting his head in the other, while watching last night’s game results in complete abandon. 

In the other room, the baby cried.

-Oh, not again-She rolled her eyes in dismay-Could you go and see what’s wrong with him?-She said, still holding the bobby pins.  He grunted. Slowly, he moved his joints and went to see his newborn and only son. She kept fixing herself, now selecting from a wide variety of makeup what shade, lipstick, liner, mascara and blush she was going to wear tonight.  It was a very important night-For her, at least.

He came into the room holding the crying baby, unsure of what to do, and presented it to her.

-Why are you bringing it here?!-She shouted, worsening the baby’s discomfort.

-You are his mother, deal with him!

-Oh, so you had nothing to do with him?

-I have no breasts, you take him!

She sighed and grabbed the baby. -Shush, now, you…

But this sounded more like a command than a mother’s whisper.

He resumed watching his T.V. show.  He poked his nose disregarding her, and then scratched his crotch.  She pretended not to care and kept rocking the baby.

-Why don’t you feed him?

-I don’t want to, not yet.  If I feed him now, he’ll fall asleep too soon and wake up before we get back.

-But he’s hungry…-

-I know, so am I, but I have to wait, don’t I?-She snapped back.

He nodded, not completely sure that she was actually following her mother instincts-that is, if she really had any-, but kept watching the T.V. anyway, until commercials started flashing, interrupting the game. His eyes looked but not watched at them, and his mind subconsciously shut itself down.


His senses traveled years back in time.  What had he seen on her in the first place?  Perhaps looks.  Perhaps wit (a forced one, he recognized now). Maybe it was only luck and he met her only because he had been at the right time and place to spot her.  Probably he fell for her like any other simple guy, like just another guy of the dozens she had dated before him.

He came from a small town, and other than rolling down the hills embraced in some young inexperienced peasant arms he had no love experience to brag about. He was a hard working man, with rough hands, wavy hair and crumpled shirts.


He had met her four years ago, when she was just getting out of a divorce.  He didn’t retreat at the warning signs. The allure of the unknown, far from scare him away, rather attracted him like a honey trap to a hungry fly. Even then he only saw beauty, glamour, intelligence, elegance, passion, a cosmopolite way of living, and, why not, power under everything and everyone she placed her eyes upon... including himself.


That first night was at a certain chic nightclub where those who are and those who want to be high class mingle.  It was one of those places where you want to see and be noticed, where image is more important than feelings, beliefs or family. 


He fell in love with her, or better yet, with her visible attributes. He was courteous, humble, and, why not, brute. She gave him the opportunity, no, the honor, of being with her. She dated him for a while. At this point, and while still lying in bed, he asked himself, for the first time: What did she see in him?  A project? An insect to play with, like the little kid who burns with a magnifying glass helpless ants and ladybugs? A loyal gladiator to look after and grant all of her wishes? A way to prove herself that she could still catch an honest man, after her complicated past? Or simply a good prospect to show off as her new loving husband even thought she didn’t really like him? Perhaps it was all of them at once.  Maybe none of them will ever know. 


The baby kept crying and would not calm down. She was beginning to loose her patience. -What is wrong with you!?-She shouted, her scream obscuring the baby’s. Finally, she gave up and began nursing him. Immediately, the baby relaxed in her arms and nourished himself. Then she started crying. 

-Now what’s wrong with you?-The other asked, surprised to hear her sobbing while a lonely tear rolled down her cheek.

She never cried in front of him or in front of anyone, he recalled.

-What do you care? Keep watching your stupid sports!

Confused and decided not to throw another dry log to the fire, he retired quietly again and focused on the monitor.


She too was trying to figure out how she ended up in this situation. Her mind vaguely remembered her first experience with a man-woman relationship, her mother and father arguing: something about Daddy getting home late, or not getting home at all. She would see and hear them fighting and then she would run to lock herself in her bedroom. One time she got back home from school and her mother received her with a purple eye. –What happened?-She would stare at her in terror.-I slipped and hit myself with the bathroom tub-And no more talking about the incident.  She was thirteen, and already started holding hands and kissing with her young neighbor, Huguito. Soon one boy replaced the other, and she became popular among her friends and fellow students.


At fifteen, she lost her virginity with a 21 year old man, who promised the world and dashed her with his wheels and electric appliance salesman salary.  Then he stopped calling her when he find out she had a six week pregnancy.  The teenager with the swollen belly had to suck it up and tell her parents, who kept blaming each other for the daughter’s mistake and convinced her to get an abortion.

‘Nobody will ever know’-They assured.-It’s for your own good.

But she would. She would know for the rest of her life. 


The baby had fallen asleep.  Carefully, the mother placed it back into the cradle and hurried; she wanted to be out soon now that the baby was finally dozing.   With extreme dexterity and without messing up her makeup, the lonely tear was wiped off her face by her perfect white hand. She focused in her mirrored image. “Almost ready” She thought.  Her reflection stared at her once again to check on the final details, and a line crossed her forehead when she noticed those extra pounds that seemed to shout at her: Faat asss!  But her beautiful skin was not altered by the stripes of pregnancy, oh, no. Only the best cocoa butter lotion for her. Now all she had to do was keep the diet for a few more months. She grabbed her purse.

‘Let’s go’ she commanded.


He, who remained silent at all times, turned off the T.V. and grabbed the car keys himself.

‘You look beautiful’ he said, staring at her, and it was true.

She nodded and kept walking towards the door, as if she already knew this and didn’t need his opinion. What for? She already was living with him and she bore his son.


On their way to the party, he placed his right hand in her thigh while he drove. She gave him a harsh look and looked outside her window. It was dusk. People walked and drove by the park. A boy and a girl, holding hands.  A father or uncle or whatever, showing the son or nephew or whatever how to ride a bike, how to fly a kite. Work mates sharing a drink or playing domino. Old ladies walking and petting their dogs. Ice cream carts surrounded by little children.  People exercising together. All with a clear but subtle link between them.


After the abortion, she kept living her life the same. But she wasn’t a girl anymore.  She stopped being one many years ago, when she lost hope in finding true love and real care for each other. Money, appearance, the right connections, that’s all that mattered. But she had learned her lesson. No one will ever fool her again. She was not going to continue the legacy of those tormented, scared, martyrs, unsatisfied women of her family.  Of her country.  Of the whole world.


They arrived late, a custom of the fabulous, and after a triumphal entrance, they sat in a well lighted table.

‘Oh, my God, look at you! I could never guess you were pregnant just weeks ago!’ they assured her.

She nodded hastily and portrayed her “Happy Colgate” smile, whitened by expensive laser treatments and framed in her L’Oreal golden fuchsia lipstick. She managed to freeze and hold it for the pictures, and between flashes, she quickly turned to him, straighten his jacket or ran a hand through his hair.


Then dinner began.  Watching her use her fork and knife was like a melodious dance. Every piece of chicken was cleaned with the accuracy of heart surgery.  Not a single grain of rice slipped off her plate. And, of course, the wine glass became the perfect finale when her lips made it shimmer gracefully next to her gold rimmed rings.


As for him, he only ate and watched. Watched her conquer once again the hearts of men and women, bedazzled by her enchantment. And again he felt like another purse or another pair of shoes carefully selected by her to perfectly match her killer outfit. Actually, he had felt that way ever since they started dating, but, as usual, his love for her or what he thought was love blinded and made him only realize the fact that he was with someone who would give him more than what he could give back, so it was his win. Little did he know what mess he was getting into.


She had been to college, dropped it, started working at an office, created and developed a sophisticated image of the self sufficient woman she wanted to be.  She learned to be desirable and at the same time unavailable for men.  She discovered the art of flashing people with the perfect attire for each occasion.  She knew, like right now, that all eyes where watching and admiring her beauty and poise when she held the wine glass so the contrast of the light and her fingers became a melody of fineness running from the tips of her fingers trough her throat, making absolutely no sound when sipping a drink. Of course, she knew how to do it without leaving a mark of lipstick around the borders of her glass.


Dinner was over.


They said goodbye to everybody and walked back to the car.


He opened the door and helped her into the passenger’s seat car again.  She didn’t open the door nor removed the lock on his side of the car. He sighed in discomfort.

‘Something wrong?’ she asked, coldly.

‘Nothing’ he didn’t want to look emotional, neither. She didn’t care, neither.  


A few years before tonight she started seeing more and more unusual people.  Strange calls asking for her worried her mother.  Expensive cars suddenly started parking in front of her parent’s house to pick her up and drop her back several hours later into the night.  One time, she skipped work and said she was sick only to go out with her current boyfriend. Her father found out and hit her so hard she couldn’t go to work for a week, because of all the bumps and purple marks in her face.  The dark marks in her heart, however, would never go away.  Another night she came back home so late, her father locked her out.  She had to spend the night with a girl friend. That’s when she decided she had to move out, anyhow, any way.


Rent was expensive. Food and services as well.  She had to find someone to move with.  But none of her so called friends wanted to.  They knew her too well. So somehow, someway, she got married.


They entered the house once again.

‘Go check on the baby’, she said, while she removed her makeup, still spotless.

He did so, caressing the baby’s little tight hands. This was his boy.  His seed and who would carry his blood since the moment he was conceived.  ‘I wonder if he will be luckier than myself’, he thought. The baby moved in silence.


Her first marriage became as fake as her perfect iced smile. That other man, thought, maybe really loved her, just like the current one. Her father paid for the wedding.  She invited everyone.  Only half of everyone actually went. Once again, they all admired her beauty and grace, but couldn’t decide on who was more pitiful: the bride or the groom.  The spouses had a long honeymoon, traveled around the country to tourist places, took pictures in mountains, rivers, beaches. They moved as far and outside of their families as possible. They slept together, ate together, attended events together. Then troubles began.  Boringness, selfishness, jealousies, intolerance, insults, fights. Each one hoped from the other what none of them was giving back. Lack of love.  


Suddenly she found herself living with her family again; who, resigned, housed her into her old bedroom when the adjective “divorced” first assaulted the daughter after only two years of marriage.  Whispers around her annoyed and darkened even more her real face, that face that she only showed to her parents.  The face of hate, pride, rebellion, retaliation and vengeance.  And she started the cycle again, until she met the man who was now opening the house door for her.


She laid herself in bed, and fixed her eyes at the moving fan of the ceiling.  It was a hot night.  He wandered still in the bathroom, the kitchen, the font porch…as if he was avoiding going to bed while she was still awake.


She looked around her, in silence. His keys, his wallet and his sunglasses were there. Not the cell phone.  She stood up and listened.


He was talking on the phone, but she couldn’t tell with whom.


She drew herself closer to the door, until her ear touched the cool surface.


‘…Yes, tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.  I’ll take care of everything. I’ll see you there’


She went back to bed.


Then he came in and slipped to bed too. No goodnight kisses, no hugs, no cuddling.


‘What took you so long? Did you check on the baby?’


‘Yes, he’s alright… -he lied- ‘I forgot to tell you, tomorrow I have a work meeting and I must stay at work after 5:00 p.m.’ he said.


She remained silent, because she knew. She nodded in silence and slowly forced herself to fall asleep, hoping that tomorrow, when she woke up, she would be someone else, far, far away, with no dark past, no dark marks in her heart, no image to sustain, no babies she didn’t care for.


Because she didn’t knew who she was anymore, who she really wanted to be deep in her heart, or what it would take to understand her.

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