Sunday, May 18, 2008


It is easy to throw out a quick post about something outrageous, and it is easier still to select only certain elements of someone’s personality and to pick choice quotes and come up with a character in a story instead of a person in your life.

Because there is a lot more.

I don’t know why she has told me. Is it because of the language barrier, the way that everything has to be so simple, or would she tell me anyway? Sometimes it is impossible to pick up on social norms and I cannot tell if she is crazy, Spanish, maybe a little low-class, or all three.

I tell her, “Paquita you have no secrets,” and she laughs, and I am still confused.

This is what I know:

(In chronological order because dios mio how would I pick a way to organize it?)

1. She was born in the south of Spain, second youngest of six children. I have seen a picture, old and black and white. Little Paqui in blonde pigtails, to my immediate surprise, is shy and hiding from the camera. She tells me that she too is shy and I tell her I do not believe her.

2. Her family moved to Catalunya when she was nine. She can understand and read Catalan but doesn’t speak it. The family was very Catholic, very poor. She dropped out of school when she was twelve, to work. I am very careful when I ask her questions about the language now, because she will remind me how she does not know, she did not study. (Nouns are infinitely safer than verb tenses.) She speaks very colloquially and I can now see when her grammar is off.

3. She met Juan when she was nineteen, in a dance club. She was with her sisters, and her older sister liked him too, but the next week he asked her to dance, only her. They dated for six years before they were married. He left 20 years later. She woke up and he was gone. She is still in love him and I would wager that is the reason for the prescription of Prozac she once left in the kitchen by mistake.

4. She has two children. The oldest, Lidia, is almost 24. Pretty (although in my opinion her mother is prettier), very smart, from what I can tell, I’ve only met her twice. She works in Luxembourg, with her boyfriend, of whom Paquita does not approve (I think it’s because he’s Portuguese). Children usually take sides in a divorce and Lidia clearly chose her father, and I have seen her hurt her mother, deliberately calculated, and I have heard Paquita tell me that it does not bother her and I don’t believe a word. And I have done the same thing, and I know that it is different for Lidia because she calls her Mama instead of Paquita but still, I wish she weren’t a bitch like that.

4. The other is named Victor. He is 19. When Paquita was pregnant with him, Juan threw her into a door during an argument, and burned her stomach with a cigarette lighter. I have no idea what my face looked like when she told me that. The doctors told her she would lose the baby, but he lived. He’s mentally retarded but considering the circumstances, very high-functioning. He loves Hillary Duff’s music.

She stayed with Juan, of course, even though he did that, and I wonder if it even occurred to her that perhaps she should leave, escape. It probably didn’t, and she has an odd scar on her jaw that makes me think it has been broken, more than once. And I cannot give you a reason for any of that, but I can tell you that it is the same reason that she is still in love with him.

5. There was a boyfriend, after Juan. José. Former fútbol player, current team trainer, aka A BIG FREAKING DEAL. I’ve met him, he’s a classic sports superstar smooth playa hiding the asshole underneath. She knows that, and now they are “friends, to talk on the phone.” He wants her back and I know she debates just going back, because it would be easy, but she does not let herself. I think.

6. She has worked many, many different jobs, and I think one of them was definitely sketchy—I never understand 100% of what she says but it involved her, in France, with men. She was 14. (For all I know she was selling flowers. Translation errors are an unfortunate reality.) Now, she doesn’t work. She’s sick. At first she told me it was fibromyalgia, and I, the scientist who doesn’t believe in that, was skeptical. Even though I see how sometimes, she is so clearly seized with pain, she will never admit it, will yell at me if I try to pick up whatever it is on the floor so she doesn’t have bend over. But then she tells me, with her little naughty smile how she flirts with the doctor who signed her form for disability payments, and I wonder, I judge her, accuse her in my mind of simply not wanting to go to work.

But there is something else, too, besides fibromyalgia and phantom pain, and knowing how she is, I believe that she would tell me about the “fibromyalgia” and hide whatever it is she also has that is more serious. That some days makes her completely unable to eat. That sometimes makes her vomit, endlessly, even though I know there is nothing in her stomach. I’m sure she thought I couldn’t hear, but I can unfortunately detect that sound rather well and one day worked up the nerve to ask if she was okay. Because, despite her personality, she is still a Spanish woman, and they are so damn SMALL, tiny even. Narrow shoulders, slender wrists, arms, legs—I feel like if I were careless, I might break her. Not that anyone could actually break her—she’d kick your ass first.

This sounds sort of emo, but I had to get all the facts out, somehow. If I don’t say it, it rattles around in my head and drives me crazier.

No comments: