July 5th

Today is not a holiday but I’ve decided to spend the morning lying in bed, reading a novel as if the 4th of July would go on forever. The venetian blinds on my bay window are mostly closed but I can still perceive the shifting color spectrum as the sun makes it’s way across the sky. If only I could read in a light tight box, immune to the feeling of time slipping away, I could stay here much longer. Anxiety and galloping thoughts get the best of me. As always, the world is going on out there and in my head; endless variations of individual worlds.

Sometime between 6:00 and 7:30 a.m., I dreamt that I woke up in someone else’s bed. The bed belonged to my friend, Krivo, and it was in his new apartment. I have not been in his bed or his apartment since 1995 but I knew where I was because he walked in the room and started talking to me. I got up to look around and admire his art collection. The piece that caught my eye was a painting on silk of a man in a blue and purple suit wearing a fedora and playing a saxophone. The piece was titled The Jazz Musician. I remembered that this had been a gift from me and was touched that he still had it. Upon waking, I know I did not give him that painting but I sent him a text to see if he had something like it.

At 7:30 Carl left to take his mother to the cancer doctor. She has multiple myeloma and her body is wasting away. She weighs less than me now. That can’t be good. I feel for him because I know the devastation I would feel if my mother were sick but it is an empathy more than a personal sadness because I have intentionally never bonded with her. She is not my mother and I am not her daughter. I feel like an impostor, welcomed into her home like a stranger. Trivial small talk and jello salad. Paper plates partitioned so the mashed potatoes don’t touch the meat. Margarine scooped from a tub and presented in a glass bowl. She doesn’t know what to say to me nor I to her. She is a kind soul but she is not my mother.

Ernesto and Carmen sit at the airport waiting to board the plane that will take them home and back to their routines. I try to imagine Carmen’s life, seemingly free from the burden of ambition. She cleans the house and makes dinner; watching talk shows and servicing her husband in accordance with routine. She goes bowling. At forty-something years old she has many things that he has bought for her yet her own efforts have yielded only a shelf full of bowling trophies and romance novels with creased spines; souvenirs from a life-time free of ambition. Not trying equals never having to fail. It is safe. It is air conditioned. It is the lead role in a cage. I guess it’s a cushy gig. I have to wonder though, bringing nothing to the table, what is she to him except a housekeeper that puts out? I don’t understand and I’m not going to try. She fits his definition of “wife” and it is my lack of understanding that relegates me to being what Monique would refer to as “hardly anyone’s type.” It’s ok though, I would rather be what I am.

Dean is at his office, impeccably attired in clothes that clearly did not come from the department store at the mall. He is not a snob but he is a snappy dresser. Those are his words. He is not prideful but his dignity is strong. Those are my words. He sits at his desk; stirring the world, initiating chemical reactions, making something out of nothing. He is beautiful.



On Sunday Carl and I drove 587 miles through the desert, to the world famous Sin City, for a convention. I had booked us in a $30/night room at Terrible’s Casino, but decided at the last minute to ditch that in favor of staying with my friends, Ernesto and Carmen. This is more of loaded of a gun than it’s benign description would imply. For one thing I have a dare from Dean to stir up some shenanigans with Ernesto just because he wants to see if I “have the necessary skills to pull it off” and by that he means can I find a way to fuck Ernesto, for old time’s sake and without getting caught, while staying at his house with both our spouses. Dean is my soul mate and is mischievous to the core. For another thing, Carl doesn’t know the half of it when it comes to my history with these two but don’t you worry now, Ernesto spontaneously decided to fill him in thus blowing my cover, setting off my warning signals and causing me to abort the dare. Sorry Dean.

We had been there less than two hours, all four of us sitting on the back porch having a smoke when Ernesto decides to stand up and address Carl, like he’s giving a toast. He says “Well Carl, I want you to know that I’m so glad she (me) has found someone to spend her life with. I don’t know if you knew this or not but it was almost me. I just felt that she was too young (like he’s apologizing to me or something) and that I was already a man, set in my ways.” You could’ve heard a pin drop just then as all eyes were calmly fixed on Ernesto although each masking a distinctly different reaction. As far as I can tell, neither Carmen or Carl are seeing the humor in Ernesto’s little soliloquy. My personal thoughts were somewhere between “shut the fuck up” and “what do you mean, it was almost you?” I was not aware that he was almost anything. He never asked me to move in, we were never engaged. To the contrary, he sanctimoniously dumped me for Carmen. I don’t know how that translates into almost spending his life with me but here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the back story.

When I was 13 I took guitar lessons from Ernesto, then age 26 and recent graduate from the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. He was a great teacher and displayed a genuine interest in my musical education. I studied with Ernesto for just over a year and was very sad when he decided to move to Las Vegas to further pursue his career.

Fast forward 5 years; I was 18 and just graduated from high school. I decided to do some sleuthing and uncover the whereabouts of my long lost buddy. During this time my girlfriends and I would issue various challenges to one another like how many guys can you fuck that have the same name or the same birthday, stupid shit like that. Dean and Ernesto have the same birthday although about 8 years apart so I was like “watch and learn, ladies.” Through a friend of a friend of an acquaintance I found what I was looking for and made contact; suggesting that if he was gonna be in town anytime soon that we should do lunch. I’m not not sure why he assumed that “do lunch” implied spending 3 hours at the Econolodge on East Main Street but that actually is what I meant and is also what happened. We spent two or three nights in a row like that and shortly thereafter I started traveling to Vegas to see him. He convinced me that I should transfer to UNLV which did have a better music program than the one I had currently been enrolled in.

At first we hung out a lot. I spent many a late night on the road to his place in Levi Valley and many a groggy early morning commuting back to town in time for 7:30am orchestra rehearsal. I always hated playing with the orchestra, but that’s another story. Everything seemed copacetic until the day he met Carmen. She was a cocktail waitress at the casino where Ernesto’s band happened to be playing. He tells me how he’s started dating this woman and how awesomely awesome she is and how he wants to marry her, etc., etc., etc. I mean he really doesn’t know when to quit here and just goes on and on about his virtuous relationship with Carmen. I won’t lie, I was pissed off and hurt. I knew he saw other women but they never affected our relationship so I didn’t care. This, on the other hand, was a problem. He never told me he was actively searching for a wife and then he just lays the whole thing on me like it’s no big deal, like I should say “oh ok”. To further add insult to injury one night he tells me “you’re a little girl, and Carmen is a woman.” After having just wrote that, I don’t even know why there’s anything more to this story. The only correct response to that caliber of insult is “fuck you” but apparently he was right because that’s not what I said.

For several weeks I refused to meet or have anything to do with Carmen but he finally wore me down and I agreed to meet her. They stop by my condo one evening and, you have to understand that I’ve been told, point blank, that I’m out gunned so I’m expecting Ms. America to show up. When the door bell rang and Ernesto said “This is Carmen” I was silent for a moment, looking past the, obviously white trash, bar maid at his side for the real Carmen who I figured must have been standing on the side walk behind her. I didn’t know what to say besides “surely you don’t mean her?!?!” but I couldn’t say that so I just said “hi”.

Now here is where the tale really starts to get confusing. Ernesto still calls me every five minutes, wants me to hang out at his place all the time, even stay the night when Carmen has to work graveyard and still be his best friend, only now it’s his platonic best friend and he expects I should be cool with that; like being demoted from girlfriend to little sister is equitable. I mean, if I was into that kind of low return on investment vibe, I could keep exotic birds or be friends with a girl. Anyway, he and Carmen have apocalyptic arguments almost daily which, admittedly, provide some entertainment value for me but I am at a loss to understand what is happening. Perhaps, if regarded from a safe distance, the method to the madness would’ve revealed itself but when viewed from the immediate vicinity, the finer points lay in disarray, proving difficult to see in context. All she’s got on me is height and age and it seems like they hate each other so what the fuck? She is also the single mother of an intolerable brat named Jeremy who is 5 years old and the biggest pain in the ass I’ve ever met. One night when she actually packed her shit and left after a fight Ernesto says to me “You know what? Carmen just isn’t the same quality of person as we are.” and I was like “thank god, the voice of reason.” She was back the next fucking day though. So much for the voice of reason.

As time went on I began to form the opinion that it was better her than me. Granted, she was no where near his intellectual equal but he would antagonize her to the point that she had no choice but to fight back. That is one quality about Ernesto that I cannot stand; he is such an antagonist, never knowing when to stop making his point. I fucking hate that. He may see it as just kidding around but I see it as insulting. It is a sure fire way to get rid of me and he had ramped up his normal levels of antagonistic behavior about 500% with Carmen so it was no fucking wonder the poor girl, pardon me –woman would get so mad that she would cry and throw shit at him.

As his friend, I valiantly tried to dissuade Ernesto from continuing on in what was clearly a fuck-all of a mess. I exhausted every line of reasoning I could think of but my efforts were plainly futile because his response was to buy me a purple bride’s maid dress to wear in their wedding. Just when I thought this shit couldn’t get any weirder, now I’m the Maid Of Honor in their wedding! Fucking terrific. A couple months later we all fly back home to Magdalena for a double wedding ceremony in the gazebo right in the middle of the town square. Ernesto’s sister was also getting married and for some reason they thought it would be amazing to have not one, but two weddings at what I would, years later and under different circumstances, come to regard as the worst possible place in the entire city for a wedding.

The day of the wedding was not a good day for me but I did my best to suit up and pin on my game face. I don’t remember much about the ceremony, just that we all rode from the hotel to the gazebo in a horse drawn carriage. This is what I do remember; after the ceremony, right in front of everyone, Ernesto grabs me in an embrace that is restricting my air flow and he is sobbing. Not like happy tears of joy, like broken-hearted sobs and, while his tears are smearing my makeup, he blubbers “I love you” into my neck several times. This is the crown jewel fucking cake topper of weirdness. I don’t know how to react and just stand there like a pillar of salt. Carmen is watching.

About a month after the wedding I flew back home again to see Dean on his birthday. Coincidentally, he was recently married as well but that didn’t stop us from having a spirited reunion on the floor of his new in-law’s basement. Later that evening, while watching his band play at Hooters, his future ex-wife eyed me suspiciously while I calmly smoked a cigarette and chatted with my friends, feeling that once again things were more or less right with the world. About a week later I was taking a little ride in the car with Carmen. She asked me about my trip so I told her, you know just a little girl talk between women who don’t actually like each other. Granted, my main reason for telling her was just to make her uncomfortable and I guess it worked because I find out the next day, upon receiving an angry phone call, that she repeated the whole thing to Ernesto who actually had the balls to confront me saying “How could you?!?!” like I had betrayed him and to accuse me of being immoral or some nonsense. I was like “Aww, c’mon now. Is it your first day?” He suggested I start going to church with them.

Not too long after that I decided that enough is enough already, I just can’t hang with the Ernesto and Carmen freak show anymore so I disappear like a rabbit into a magician’s hat and don’t surface again for 15 years when, two years ago, I found Ernesto on facebook. Surprisingly, or not, he was still married to Carmen. I saw them then but just for the evening and I wasn’t looking to rekindle anything. I wasn’t there five minutes when out comes the wedding album and Ernesto says to me, in front of Carmen, “I was talking to my dad after the wedding and he said ‘I told you you should’ve married the pretty girl in the purple dress’.”

I honestly don’t know what Ernesto wants from me.