Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Legend in His Own Mind-29

December, 1983

Dear Lázaro,

If a language barrier helped me to not understand the inner workings of Arpeggia and Buffo's marriage, now I really needed Berlitz to intercede on my behalf.

I met this guy named Chucho. Another Mariel refugee. Dainty said that I should just rent a boat and pick them up as they come ashore. With a sign hanging from my back that reads: “Enter America Here.” I tell you, Lázaro, she can be so crass at times.

This guy was adorable. Chocolate skin, tightly muscled body and a drop-dead smile. He spoke not a lick of English, was loud, obnoxious and a pathological liar.

He was stage managing Panorámico's production and he found out that I was driving Manuela home one evening. She was this beautiful Mesquite Indian from Nicaragua who was one of the actresses in the show. He quickly informed me that he lived near her. Did I mind dropping him off?

The three of us ended up at "La Carreta." It's a Cuban restaurant in Little Havana that seems to be a popular hangout. The theatre crowd goes there after their shows. The Dade County police department goes there for dessert. The drag queen hookers that work Flagler go there with their johns. The Alpha 66 terrorist group has meetings there. They actually take up a back room, put a Cuban flag and a picture of Batista on a table and plot out ways to kill Castro. Dad has lead some of those meetings.

The place is decorated with paintings of old Havana and legs of pork hanging from the ceiling.

This became a nightly ritual for the three of us. I enjoyed it. It was interesting to be submerged in a culture that technically was mine but literally was so foreign.

Then I took them to an extras audition for "Invasion U.S.A." Some new Chuck Norris no-brainer. It seems they had scenes of the Mariel boatlift and they needed people for that. I went for them. I knew they would decide that not only was I not ethnic looking enough but also with my skin color it would be unbelievable that I had ever been out in the sun.

We ended up at the beach. Manuela bought some blankets and we laid down to watch the moonlight. She conveniently goes to sleep and I get swept up in the romance of the ocean and the moonlight and Chucho's glistening brown chest. The moonlight illuminated some of the beads of water on his chest just like body glitter. And you know the old disco kid and body glitter.

Well one thing lead to another and we made out on the blanket. Then we fell asleep in each other’s arms 'till we were rousted by the Shore Patrolman's flashlight in the morning.

To me it was a lovely moment and that's that. Well not to him. He's decided that I'm his boyfriend.

I keep telling him that I was not in love with him.

"You'll grow into it," he keeps telling me.

I keep repeating "I never have before. If the feeling is not there at the onset it never comes."

He keeps insisting he can deal with it.

I keep hearing all of this and wondering. Am I getting through to him in Spanish? Am I saying the correct thing?

He told everyone at Panorámico that we were boyfriends and kept ramrodding me into going out with him. I didn't know what else to tell him without hurting his feelings.

And talk about ghettoi-zation! He made Pablo sound like Yankee Doodle. He even made me translate the third act of "Torch Song Trilogy" so we could do it in class.

He always insisted that we bring Manuela along. I certainly didn't mind her company. Anything to divert my attention from him. But Manuela had this habit of holding my hand in public. Or sticking her hand down my shirt at the theatre and pinching my nipples. One time she even pulled the lever on the seat of my car. When the seat went back she climbed on top of me and bit my penis. I had to beg her to please get off.

"Please, Manuela, if that crazy Cuban sees us he'll take out his machete and turn us both into picadillo.

In the car, Chucho would lay across the front seat with his head on my lap while Manuela cuddled next to me with her arm on my waist. Then they'd look at each other and say, "You know that I can take him away from you anytime I want."

"You can try if you want to. I'm not scared of you."

This went on every night. Yet Chucho would accuse me of getting my macho thrill showing off in public with Manuela. He felt that he was being made a fool of since everyone knew he was my boyfriend. Yet it was he who insisted we bring Manuela along.

Manuela on the other hand told me that she had only been in love once in her life with a man back in Nicaragua who ended up marrying her sister. She said that until she met me no other man had been able to erase his memory

She showed me an 8x10 glossy of me that she had framed and hung on her living room wall. She said she tells everyone who asks that that's her boyfriend.

I feel like I'm in "Cabaret” all of a sudden

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