By Attila Zønn
“Afternoons get me down. The morning’s different; you get up, stretch and look forward to the wonderful things that might happen that day, but then if nothing wonderful happens it depresses me and by that time it’s the afternoon and you wish the afternoon would go quick.”
“You could always nap,” I said.
“No, then I wouldn’t sleep at night. I just live with my shitty afternoons and hope something wonderful happens when Freddie shows up.”
“Sometimes we go out and have fun but sometimes we stay in and that’s good too. It depends on how he feels.
“When Freddie comes over it’s not just to fuck but to let off steam. He calls this his ‘oasis’, but mostly he’s here to fuck.” She made a circular motion above her head. “There isn’t a spot in this apartment where we haven’t fucked. We’ve fucked in all the corners. He likes corners for some strange reason. He likes walls. He likes to put me up against the wall. We hardly ever use the bed. He comes in, all pissed off, doesn’t say ‘hi’, grabs me, pulls off my panties and then I’m up against the wall. He doesn’t allow me any time to get in the mood. After he fucks me he’s happy. He’s relaxed. Then he talks about his day. I know everything about everybody he’s ever dealt with. Typically it’s: Ludy’s an asshole, Lorenzo’s got an attitude but Freddie can’t do without him, the only perfect woman is his ma, and David is a ‘good guy’. He really, really likes you. And of course, his wife’s a bitch. He’s always talking about his wife. He says he doesn’t give a shit about her but he’s still hung up on her. A couple of times when he had me up against the wall he said her name. ‘Oh, Connie! Connie!’ and then he came. Yeah, he’s still hung up on her no matter what he says.”
“He says his wife’s name when he’s making love to you?”
“How does that make you feel?”
“Like a blow up doll. But—I’m used to feeling like that. That’s the story of my life—Ginesta, the blow up doll. But it’s all my fault. I could have done better I guess but I was lazy—always looking for the easy way. I never liked school. Kids were cruel to me. I was chubby you see and they’d call me ‘fat cheeks, tubby toes’, and because I had red hair some kids called me ‘stepchild’ and slapped me for no reason.
“I was restless in school too. I had this habit of not sitting in my chair and the teacher would always say, ‘Sit down Ginesta.’ A couple minutes later I’d be standing again, leaning on my desk, one knee on the seat and my bum out in the aisle. She’d have to say it again, ‘Sit down Ginesta,’ and then one day all the kids started chanting, ‘Sit down Ginesta. Sit down Ginesta.’ I looked at the teacher and she was laughing. That hurt me because teachers aren’t supposed to laugh at you. I wanted to cry because teachers aren’t supposed to take sides and at that moment I felt so alone in the world that I wanted to get away. So at recess I just went home. The first years of highschool weren’t so peachy either, but by then I got a lot of sympathy from my girl friends, so it wasn’t so bad. The boys still called me names but my girlfriends defended me.
“Then one summer a miraculous thing happened—my boobs got big and I lost a lot of weight, and my abuela—”
“Grandmother. She allowed me to pick my own clothes and when I went back to school the boys who used to call me names—they all wanted to be my friend. They invited me to sit with them in the cafeteria, all the time, so I started sitting with the boys. I liked that they liked me. But my girlfriends didn’t want to know me anymore. I guess when I was chubby I wasn’t a threat, now they said bad things behind my back. But that was okay. I felt more comfortable among the boys now. They’d buy me lunch and pop and I started thinking, Hey, this is easy.”
“It would be.”
“I know what you’re thinking,” she said. “They liked me because they wanted to fuck me. I know that but I never let them. I just made them think they could. They probably told each other they had, and it was fun using them that way. I didn’t feel guilty. Why? Did they feel guilty after they used to call me ‘fat cheeks, tubby toes’ and ‘stepchild’? None of them ever said they were sorry. So it was kind of my pay back. When you’re in with them, you really get to know boys. They had a lot of fun with each other. I was never interested in sex with those boys. They were too much like children, even though we were the same age. Sex would have felt silly with them.
“My first time having sex was years later with an older man. We worked in the same place. His wife just died. I felt sorry for him so I let him fuck me. It was nothing special and afterwards he cried. I don’t know why he cried. Maybe he was thinking he just cheated on his dead wife but I don’t know. Come to think of it, a lot of men are always crying around me. Even Freddie, sometimes.”
She sipped her tea and looked towards the window. “If there is such a thing as reincarnation,” she said. “I’d want to come back as a boy. Girls are complainers. They’re always judging other girls. Guys don’t do that. Even if guys have a problem and have to fight it out, it’s all in the punch and that’s that—just surface stuff. Girls aim for the heart and the brain and it doesn’t end. It keeps coming back.”
“Men can hold resentment pretty good,” I said.
“You mean like Freddie resents Ludy?”
“I wasn’t thinking of them, but that’s a good example.”
“You know why that is, right?” she said.
“Freddie’s carrying the weight of the company and Ludy just fucks around.”
“Sort of. Freddie used to install windows in high-rises. That’s what he did. Then Ludy’s father crashed into a guardrail while adjusting the volume on the radio. Ludy was in the car with him. There was a camera on that shelf by the rear window. It came flying forward and hit Ludy’s dad in the head. Killed him right there. His dad left Ludy two hundred thousand dollars. Fred and Ludy were very close. Really they were, and Freddie kept harping on about how he wasn’t happy installing windows, breaking his back for his boss who didn’t give a shit about him, how manual labour just sucked, how if Ludy would come in with him they could buy their uncle’s import business ’cause the uncle wanted to go back to Italy and was willing to be bought out—cash along with a percentage for the next ten years. Ludy wanted a 60/40 split until he got his money back then it would be 50/50, but in the meantime, Freddie had to pay the uncle’s percentage from his share, and that’s where the problems started. Freddie agreed to the terms, he took business classes after work. Ludy did nothing. But right from the get go, the agreement was, Ludy supplied the money, and wanted no responsibilities. And Freddie agreed. That’s how much he wanted to be his own man.”
“I didn’t know that. If there’s an agreement, you have to honor the agreement.”
“Yeah, but it’s Fred’s hard work that makes the place a million dollar enterprise. Freddie diversified, not just importing Italian stuff, but all ethnicities. The good stuff, the real stuff, original, not some domestic rip-off.”
“You know a lot.”
“Freddie’s a talker after sex.”
She smiled. “You don’t have to leave after the delivery guys bring the furniture, do you?”
“I’ve got nothing to do later,” I said.
She reached out and touched my hand. “Stay then. Stay,” she said. “I like talking to you.”
“Sure,” I said. “We can go grab a coffee on the corner.” Her smile faded.
“I don’t have any money,” she said.
“It’s okay. I’ll treat.”
“But I don’t have any money,” she said. “I’ll never be able to buy you a coffee.”
“I don’t expect you to reciprocate. It’ll be like a gift. No big deal.”
“That’s not how I was brought up,” she said. “You buy me a coffee today, I have to buy you one another time. But I’ll never be able to because I don’t have any money.”
I didn’t understand. “You literally have no funds, anywhere?”
She nodded. “No bank account—nothing.”
“How do you buy food and stuff.”
“Freddie gets it for me. Whatever I need, I tell him and he gets it. I haven’t worked in two years. I used up all that money and now I have nothing.” She averted her eyes from my disbelief.
“How do you live like that?” I said.
She smiled and touched me again. “It’s not so bad. It’s not so bad. He never denies me anything.”
“Just your independence,” I said. She averted her eyes again. She shrugged. “That’s how it is,” she said. “I don’t mind.”
“What happens if you break up one day? Where will you be then?”
“Why? You think Freddie might have another girlfriend?”
“No, I’m just say—”
She reached out and put a hand on my mouth. “If you know something, I don’t want to know. I’d rather not know if he does as long as it doesn’t affect my life here. I don’t care. He’s probably been with other women while he’s been with me but I don’t want it to be true. That’s just how I feel. Why do we have to know everything? Why can’t things be left alone—unseen, unheard, unsaid?
“But that’s like putting your head in the sand.”
“What’s wrong with putting your head in the sand? When you don’t know you sleep better at night and everybody needs a good night’s sleep. That’s what I hear all the time on the commercials during the dead girl shows. Get a really good mattress, put your head in the sand and sleep like a baby.” She frowned. “I don’t know why they say that. All the babies I’ve ever seen don’t sleep for too long and they’re always crying about something. You can’t be at peace when you’re always crying about something.”
“I don’t suspect him—not lately. Not because I think Freddie loves me or anything. I don’t think he loves me. It’s just that a woman knows that if her man isn’t giving her the dick, he’s getting it somewhere else. Especially if he’s gone a lot. I wouldn’t call what we do making love because I don’t think Freddie loves me. I know he doesn’t love me actually. He told me. ‘We have an arrangement,’ he said, ‘and to bring love into it would fuck things up.’
“There was a time when I wanted to immerse myself in his life. I was going to learn some Italian. It’s close to Spanish, sort of, and I know that.”
“You speak Spanish?”
“I’ve been speaking it all my life. My last name is Rodriguez.”
“I didn’t know,” I said. “I thought you were Irish, or someone from those parts.”
“You thought I was Irish? With a name like Ginesta? That’s a very Spanish name. My dad said he named me after a freedom fighter woman who fought against Franco.”
Actually—no. I researched Gin’s name after that night we met. She had it wrong, or her father did. The Ginesta she was named after was French—Marina Ginestà i Coloma— and she wasn’t a fighter but a reporter. Her claim to fame was a picture taken of her on a roof top in Barcelona, dressed as a rebel, a rifle slung over her shoulder—but I wasn’t going to tell Gin that.
“So, I was trying to learn Italian,” Gin said. “And I tried out some words on Freddie. He’d come in and I’d greet him with, ‘Buon Giorno.’ He’d say, ‘Huh?’ But I kept trying until he noticed. He said, ‘Why do you want to learn the lingo?’ I told him so one day I could speak to his mother. He told me straight to my face that I was never going to meet his mother. ‘This thing,’ he said, meaning our relationship, ‘doesn’t exist. I made a solemn vow, before God, that I was only going to fuck the woman I married, for the rest of my life, and as far as my mother knows, that’s what I’m doing.'”
Gin laughed. “Before God,” she said, and rolled her eyes.
“My father’s Spanish. He came to Canada when he was a little boy. My mother was born here but her family came from somewhere in Holland. I don’t know much about them. She died when I was real little—a car accident. I don’t remember her at all. Well, there is a thing I remember about her or maybe it’s just a dream: I’m holding my mom’s hand, walking down the sidewalk, there’s a scream, then I’m pushed, real hard onto the ground. I have that dream a lot sometimes, and I don’t like that feeling— of being pushed. It doesn’t have to be a physical push either, even just somebody trying to hurry me along. I hate it. I don’t get angry much, but that feeling really makes me see red.
“My dad has a big plastic bag full of old pictures, and when I was growing up, about once a month my dad would pull out these old pictures. They were pictures of his time in Spain, and my abuela when she was young, and her husband, and there were pictures of my mom—she had red hair like me. Seeing the pictures of my mom always made my dad cry. He would cry and say, ‘Beautiful. Beautiful.’ There’s pictures of her holding me. He’d show me a picture and ask, ‘Do you remember?’ I didn’t but I always said I did, because it stopped his crying and made him smile. Memories, you know, are they real?”
“The more times you recall a memory, the more you alter it.”
“Yeah, I agree with that.”
Copyright©Attila Zønn 2018