Dedicated to the cantina women of Market Street, circa 1997
You stroll into my world of bars, bottles, and beer broken after a hard day at your construction job. You smell of bad decisions and have-to decisions and on-a-whim decisions that you only regret when you get caught.
I smile with red engine lips to fix you. The lights are low and the music is loud. You came looking for me because I’m your favorite. When we dance, you forget. When you buy me a beer, I forget. We both forget that you have a wife and a 10-year-old waiting for your too-little paycheck to buy groceries.
Tonight, you want to be a million miles away from them– away from the man you swore you’d never become. Like your father. You want to be a million miles away with me because you like my ass and the shape of my mouth as I whisper your name. I call you carino. On the dance floor you hold me close. Like you love me. Like you remember what love is, that sinful feeling of being invincible. Here, among the ticking disco lights and the choking fog from the machines and desperate cigarette smoke, I am the dream you dream when your mujer isn’t paying attention. I am your dangling carrot. I am the woman you’ve always wanted but were denied. I am the woman who is paying attention to you right now, in this moment, and it excites you.
You tell me, between the heavy beats of the loud music, that you left your wife in Mexico. Or you tell me that you don’t have a wife. Or you tell me she is dead. You never mention your child even though he looks like you. You tell me what you think should be the truth because you don’t want to taint this moment with gross, messy reality.
You never ask me about my reality. Ni modo.
You tell me how you like my dress and when you think I’m not looking you undress me with your stone-colored eyes. You wonder what my skin tastes like, the flavor of my lips, my tongue, my neck. You lick your dry lips and imagine existing beyond the hem of my dress. I taste like a second chance, the one I knew you never took.
I know that today was payday because your wallet bulges from the back pocket of your dusty Wal-Mart jeans. I know that your truck smells like sweat, like taco meat, like recently sprayed $5.99 musk for men because it was on sale. It’ll mask the smell of honest work, the smell of hunger, the smell of indiscretion. I know that your wedding ring is in the glove compartment or in your pocket or in your friend’s pocket because you don’t want me to know.
I prefer the lies. Lie to me, papasito.
Your dark brown hands are rough. They are blistered workers hands, still cold from beer bottles. They enjoy the smoothness of my arms, my face, my breasts. Your mouth likes to play, to kiss. The tip of your wet, swollen tongue flicks. You discover the difference between me y tu mujer and you are glad for it. And you are sad for it. And you are angry for it. But you continue, like you continue to breathe as if it was your last. You take greater pleasure than I at the sound of skin slapping navy blue plastic seat cushions. Your fingers dig into my thighs like a baker kneading dough. The kneading continues. The needing continues. And you need…you need….you need…
La nesesidad humana es cabron.
After, you question what is next. You offer me the chance to be your mistress. I offer you the chance to walk away. You say you want to see me again but I see the jealousy pouring from you at the thought of another burning their needs into my skin.
But you are not jealous enough to ask me my real name. The names of my children get in the way of our dance. You do not want to know that they sit on the lap of their abuela waiting to hear my voice over thousands of miles of telephone lines. En mi pueblo. En mi casa, the one kept by the money I send every Tuesday with a prayer.
And yet, we both give each other what we need.
We are back inside the bar. The music is louder. The smoke is thicker. The night is ending. Our fantasy requires payment. A bottle of Bud Light cold enough to numb me from the inside. Cold enough to keep me from feeling. Cold enough to stop my heart. With a slice of lime.
Si, carino. La nesesidad es cabron y fria. Como yo.
Icess Fernandez Rojas has been a journalist for 12 years and has published in USA Today, the Guardian, NBCNews.com, Huffington Post Latino Voices, and Latino Rebels. She has an MFA in creative writing, and teaches college students in Houston, TX.