I used to wear her bad moods, like I’m supposed to take cues from her on how to be a man. She got addicted to saying: “Be a man, tell your boss you deserve a raise, something better!” and I got addicted to fuck-yous that couldn’t quite bitch-slap her the way she’d manhandle my pride, as though she could see clearly through me. We were high drama all the time, like everything started in the third act, and somewhere in our midst was a dagger, a pistol, or something that could stop the flight of arrows in our words, cutting through memories of people we've loved, hated, and leveled out of their wits. After a year since we met, we realized that particles of Eastern Europe in her heart couldn’t quite dig the sweaty, Sub-Saharan ballads I’d pile in her voicemails. We didn’t quite melt into each other in this melting pot called California.
One cloudy afternoon, 3pm was a neighbor that when you say his name, your mouth would stay open, because his face was your cliché of drop-dead gorgeous only Mexico and Algeria could mix. I had left the kitchen door open and didn’t hear Warsaw march in who saw my hands busy and crazy inside his pants, out of control all over Latin America and North Africa. The scene was never talked about, and begged to be erased. But still, she endured the usual kisses, though sometimes they felt different. Strangely, her white borscht began to taste the way it should, and we would finish the evening with a movie, as she falls asleep on my lap, and I’d imagine our future together, our children, pale or brown, inside sturdy, picket fences.
The job hunt intensified, which gave in to interviews, though success was elusive. But luck favored her blonde ambitions, and within a year after that episode in the kitchen, she found a managerial position. Now and then, she'd be on the phone, with a colleague from work, killing and breeding time for an hour or two. This went on for a while, until the movie nights were canned, and she saw me less and less at my place or hers. I began to miss her soup, her legs on my lap, and how I'd massage busy days away from her. Soon, I'd occupy my time with a man from any color in rainbow coalitions, often someone that only felt special for a few days, or weeks.
We lost touch for years, but saw each other again last month, on her birthday. She's a new mommy now, and has a husband she could abuse with the finest verbs in Polish, German and English the way they handled and bundled me in euphemisms you wouldn’t want to hear. A job that paid better got my attention, eventually. I kept looking at her man, and imagined myself in his place telling stories to my baby girl with olive skin and the greenest of eyes. I've been wearing this image for a while now, even though I have a new man in my life, brown as me. We fly to far, dusty places that haunt romance novels; and as always, the sight of a husband and wife with children gives me pause, as I look into my man's eyes, beyond their black, agnostic clarity, into where the shutter could never shut up Poland’s voice in me, that somehow there’s something better for me out there, something better than these travels, these sweaty nights gasping for God and heaven, for men, for the grace of more.
M. Leland Oroquieta has written op-ed pieces for his alma mater. Each month, Chinatown trims his hair under careful, Guangzhou hands. The day-job and the long commute to work are daily preludes before desk-time, plodding to plot a novel. He loves clichés as long as they’re drop-dead gorgeous, know their exit cues, and don’t moon the suns of our stars. His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in Local Nomad: An Online Journal of Writing & Art, Cricket Online Review and Ink Sweat & Tears (UK).