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Category Archives: gabriel

Two Worlds, One Great, One Small (1999)

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Physics and climatology was standing on its head. Since when did a chilly Canadian jet stream influence weather in Puebla? But two-month-old Gabriel, chilled by the 5•C air, shoved through the flimsy windows of the makeshift apartment above the taller, was crying, and, Dios gracias, it wasn’t from lack of formula. Anna had plenty of that. One light bulb hung from the ceiling, around which one of Anna’s friends in the theater had fashioned a chandelier of sorts from wire hangers and crepe paper. The base color was lime green. At night or during naps, Anna could roll a layer of forest green crepe over any or all of the fixture and, using hooks adapted from hardware store junk, change the ambient color to approximate what she thought Nietzsche would have found in the Bavarian Black Forest. Today, Gabriel was having none of it. Anna couldn’t make phone calls. She couldn’t do her planeaciόn. All she could do was unbutton her flannel shirt, wrap it around her baby, and comfort him with the rhythm of her beating heart.
Esto niño lindo
Que naciό en dia
Quiere se la lleven
A la dulcería…”
Gabriel, dry, well-fed, and now warm, stopped crying in a millisecond, and, puzzled with the change in his environment as much as comforted, focused upward on his mother’s face and started giggling. Baby and mother reinforced each other’s laughter until both faces turned ruddy with the increased flow of giddy blood. En esto momento no podría pensar en mis problemas. If sex weren’t enough to make people reproduce, moments like this would do fine.
¿Mande? What am I talking about? The fucking Maestro threw me out of his company for getting pregnant. I had to form my own company in order to sell tickets to pay for my senior recital. I can’t get a job; I have a baby. My father thinks that I pissed away my life already. My mom thinks that I drank it away. And I live in one room, above a taller, where my baby cries whenever they use the pneumatic wrench!
The baby noticed the change in his mother’s attitude and started to form another howl.
Palmas, palmitas,
Hongos y castanitas,
Almendras y turrόn
Para mi niño son…”
Anna played patty-cake with Gabriel by slapping his cheeks with her breasts. While doing so, she formulated a plan.
She had surrounded herself with a troupe that would sustain itself. In fact, Sandrina was practically demanding the role of business manager, and everyone agreed that anyone who had graduated Maestro Garza’s program could direct a play. Somehow, the control diva herself allowed it, while always having her own production (which would be the best, the most influential, the most profitable, etc.) in mind. So this plan would not hurt her theatrical career. It might create some money, and maybe even bring in some sponsors for the company. But it would definitely entail a change in diet – she thought about the barrenness of her cabinets, and the one bottle of milk in the refrigerator downstairs that belonged to her, and decided that a few servings of crow would do nothing to harm the emptiness of the pantry. She reached out to the phone, on the floor next to the mattress, and made the call.
Bueno.”
“Papi.”
“Si, chica. Como estas?”
“Bastante bien. I have thought long and hard about your offer. I can, and will, sell the books. I have even arranged a public reading through my company to start the promotion.”
This last point was a little white lie, but it might get her father to ship an extra case of his business management text. Enrique had not become an MBA overnight, nor had he ever recovered from Fulgencia’s betrayal and early death. Yet, he had made good business habits into a kind of therapy which, beside restoring bounce to Enrique’s middle-aged step, had erased his debts and restored his practice to solidity. When Anna had begged him for money after she left Hector, he said no, that he no longer poured champagne down empty drains. When Gabriel was born, he bought a crib and a gift certificate good for a year of formula (he still thought of breastfeeding as a barbaric practice) and a case of newborn-sized disposable diapers (washing cloth diapers is for indios). He had offered her a case of books that she could sell and keep the profits. She hadn’t taken him seriously. At first, her pulse raced and her temples throbbed with shame and humiliation when she thought of his offer. In fact, when she called him, she could only hope that the offer was genuine. How humiliating would it be if the offer were withdrawn now!
Okey, mi niña. Creo en ti. I believe in you.”
Anna checked herself for ear wax.
Details were exchanged. Enrique didn’t even know where Anna was living – she could have dropped dead without a trace, and he would not have known where to go to claim the body. She didn’t want him to come to thetaller, so she arranged to meet at the space the theater company shared at the converted textile mill on 8va Norte and 4a Calle. And of course she would bring Gabriel. Do I have a wet-nurse? I will be your only sales rep with a baby as part of my business attire!
Anna had already read the book. She had already applied the full rigor of Enrique’s system to the business management of her company. She and Sandrina had established a morning meeting and a regular schedule of creative and business activities. She had adhered to the schedule herself, leaving her colleagues slackjawed to find her punctual, even for 9:30 am marketing sessions. She had even proven to herself that she could apply a negotiating tactic that her father had used to reduce his rent while rebuilding his practice, which was to create a desire in the prospect like a homunculus that would swell and take over the prospect’s mind and vision. She had sold the Asociacion Comercial of the Textile District to beg her company to accept free rent for a year instead of a cash contribution in exchange for ad space in the programs.
Anna bundled Gabriel, and bundled him again. She owned a number of hats, commercial and theatrical, and selected one which combined both. It was a teal masterpiece of fabric sculpture, sporting a fan where the tassel would be. Its brim turned up naturally in the front left, and slung over her right shoulder like a cowl. Anna had thought to stitch a ribbon to the forehead, but she decided that would be a bit much. Now, of course, it would be impossible. Under her tweed jacket, a teal and black silk scarf puffed out. Her calf-high leather boots matched the jacket. Only the snug blue jeans disagreed with the style impression, and then only as a matter of counterpoint. Thus attired, Anna clacked down the steps, placed Gabriel in the borrowed rear-facing stroller, and strode off to the theater.
“(!)Papi!” Anna called out as she saw her father emerge from his old but clean Mercedes. It may not be de modo, but it is a Mercedes and a classic at that. Always make a good first impression.
“(!)Chiquita! Y(?) quien es?” Enrique raised his voice in pitch, a near demand to be given his grandson to dandle.
“Papi, meet your grandson. Gabriel,” she paused, flipped the hood of the stroller back, lifted the baby to her lips, kissed him, and rubbed noses, “meet your abuelito!
Enrique held Gabriel aloft as he had his firstborn, a boy, Hernando, who grew up to be a lawyer and later, a judge. The nine-pound bundle had no complaints, understanding at some unconscious level the meaning of familia.Gabriel began to coo and giggle when Enrique tossed him up and wiggled him in the air.
“Papi, it’s chilly. Let me show you the teatro.” Enrique handed the baby back to Anna and followed her lead.
They entered the massive rust-red door midway down the broad grey stucco wall. The first floor of the building held a clothing and textile shop, which by happy accident carried costumes and performed custom tailoring. Across the street the theatergoer could eat dinner before the show, and on performance nights, choose between a dessert menu or a nightclub.
“We paint feet on the street from our door to the doors of our advertisers,” noted Anna.
“You’ll do fine, chica,” returned Enrique.
Anna turned the hall lights on, and indicated the playbills and photographs that accompanied them up the stairs. “You would think that we’ve been performing here for ten seasons, not one, true?”
“Yes. I can understand the photos, but the playbills? Where did you get this? What if someone finds out…”
“There’s nothing to find out. We just took our college credits, and re-staged work that we had done with Garza. The hard part was writing the playbills, but these were real performances.”
Muy lista, very clever. How much money did it cost you?”
Papi.
“Okey, I like your professionalism. This will carry well into business.”
“I read the book.”
The theater held 132 for a sold-out performance. One of Hector’s friends had helped convert bleachers into passable theater seating by riveting a host of contoured plastic seats onto the aluminum row. Quirky, but cheap. For an ensemble edgy enough to use the pregnant status of its star to create a gender-bending Falstaff, quite natural. The fabric and costume store had supplied the stage curtains for advertising in the playbills. The theater (read: Anna) had bought some old drapery hardware from a cinema that was remodeling. Instead of a raised podium, the stage was at floor level, delineated from the audience with a painted yellow arc, like the goal area in futbol. The great failing of this space was its lighting. There was no dimmer on the house lights, and only three spotlights. But these cost money. With a good run of Christmas Carol, there would be plenty of that.
It was fortuitous that Anna had chosen to play Marley and not Scrooge for this production. While she would direct the production, she knew the script in more than one language, so there would be few extra hours. She would use the business hours to sell Enrique’s book. And maybe arrange a seminar or two?
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Gabriel (1998)

Anna missed a period the month of high school graduation. There was no mistaking what had happened; Hector had come from his home group to hers; both groups met in the morning after the night of the last final exam. Unlike Anna, Hector had never come close to disaster through his drinking. How he had navigated the double life of a teenage alcoholic and a young entrepreneur was anyone’s guess, and how he recognized that he could have been the next person in his family to come to a bad end through his drinking seemed like a minor miracle. In a display of judgment that belied his family’s predisposition to self-destruction, Hector had attended his first meeting before he had met Anna the previous year, before he knew about the boy at Lago Manuel Avila Camacho, before he ever heard of Roberto the taxista. Hector now had something worth more than money now that he had opened his own taller, and now that he had mechanics working for him who were older than his father. The captain of the Good Ship Hector stood high over the wheel.
So in a combination of boldness and carelessness – some would say recklessness – 
“How was your meeting?”
“We had some great drunks tell their stories, but there’s so damn much mediocrity out there – so much mediocrity! – that you can hardly tell the speakers apart, let alone the listeners. How about yours, Thor?”
The Norse god now knew the temperature of the water, and the direction of the prevailing winds.
“Just as you say. It sounds like we went to the same meeting, after all.”
“Did you tell them anything? They hardly know you, yes?”
“They were my first group, before I met you, remember?”
“How could I forget? You were so cool, the way you rescued me from the cura. I thought you were the Superhombre himself!”
It mattered little to Hector that Anna had misunderstood the question. Rather than correcting her, he puffed up his chest so that the ripples in his muscles protruded through his signature thin white T-shirt and performed a drum roll on his pectorals with his fists.  “Your turn,” he said to Anna, and emitted a deep laugh as he slid his hands from her bare shoulders down to her hands. He rolled her fingers into fists. Then he bent her elbows and, placing her fists on his chest, began to beat his muscles like a Tarzan until Anna took over the beating. 
She picked up the tempo and started playing song rhythms on Hector’s still-flexed pectorals.
“Batatup bup bup batatup bup ba, batatup bup bup batatup ba da ba, bum smack-smack!,” went her fists, opening up into slaps at Hector’s proletarian biceps. 
“Oh, no, they say you’ve got to go, go go Godzilla!” sang Hector.
“Very good!,” cooed Anna. “Try this one,” Rrrrrroooolllll, batum, dum, dum, dum, roll, push, and tapping, tapping tap, tap, 
“More than a feeling,” Hector and Anna grinned, hers a “double-dare-you-with-a-cherry-on-top” kind of leer, and his, a big WATCH THIS, as he hit the high notes, “That I’m feeling on Sundays (more than a feeling), my spirit’s reeling…”
“My spirit’s reeling,”
“When I see Mary-Anna walk away!” Hector changed the lyric ever so slightly, as he placed his hands under Anna’s arms and turned her gently away from him. 
“Try this one! Badada – Tras, tras, tras!” Hector slapped out “All Night Long” by Billy Squier on Anna’s trasero.
Anna gently pushed back. She had always admired the shape of her own hips. Now she had found a fellow admirer who she admired right back – someone who had access to that sensitive and private trasero by birthright. Hector found the threadbare places in Anna’s shorts that were en modo that year. Not finding a seam, Hector resisted the temptation to linger on Anna’s bare ass-flesh. He ran the tips of his fingers first around the curves under the pockets, then up the stem of the buttock between the pockets. He traced the pockets silently, feeling Anna flex her glutes under his fingers. At the waistline, he touched her in the small of the back, and plunged his finger into her shorts. Grabbing the tiny strip of fabric that he found there, he pulled up her thong, and emitted that baritone belly-laugh as she squirmed against the wedgie.
Hui, cabron!” Anna slapped back at Hector’s left shoulder.
“I let you go for a kiss,” Hector chuckled.
Anna turned around more slowly this time. Hector released the thong, and with his left hand under Anna’s turquoise tank, he guided her body in its gentle pirouette. His right hand met her face and, with a gentleness that belied his muscular mechanic’s paw, stroked her hair back over her left ear. She lifted her lips upward to their greatest height. He stroked her cheek, neck, and ear as he first kissed her with his chest, his chin, his belly, before leaning the much shorter Anna back in an arc and bringing his lips to hers. His right hand cradled her chin as their lips met and parted. 
Anna stroked Hector’s rigid thigh and hamstring with her right hand. As she arced backward, she clutched the very top of his hamstring and the bottom of his gluteus. Her left hand rolled the T-shirt halfway up his torso. She held herself up against this man-child who was twice her size by pressing herself to him from her ankles to her tongue. Now, she regretted her choice to wear a bra that morning.
A kiss is a moment in which two people share the sensations of their lips, and maybe their tongues, their teeth, their noses, their cheeks. In this moment out of time, Hector and Anna kissed with their full bodies, enabled by the arc of Anna’s back to be in contact from knees to thighs to hips to chest to lips. There was no question of fondling; that would wait for later. The bodies were locked, fully engaged though, not counting the hands squeezed under each other’s tops, fully clothed. 
Hector took a step forward. Anna drew her leg backward. This dance step moved them toward the sofa, where Anna took control. She turned their locked bodies to the sofa, and resting her right foot in its lace-up platform sandal on the pillows, slid her hand up to bare Hector’s chest. His left leg followed. Anna’s hands seemed to move without will as she relaxed into the sofa and lifted Hector’s shirt over his head. Freshly bared, Hector’s left nipple, then his right, met Anna’s lips. 
Hector could not remember the last time he was with a woman in this way. Maybe it was the year he quit high school. He had a vague memory of a face, of the hair, a garter – and waking up alone with a real hangover. Was that a girlfriend? A puta? A one-night-stand? As Anna was working his nipples with her lips and tongue, adding light nibbles while running her fingers atop the light hairs on his spine, Hector had flashes of one or two women that he thought he had made love to. Well, not “love,” more like fucking. Those evenings had been lost in a boozy haze; this afternoon, for two people who had spent much of the preceding two years drunk or high the passion unattenuated by chemical influence made the air crackle.  
As if on cue, sunlight from the partially covered window warmed their hips. Anna’s left hand had moved around Hector’s thigh to the front of his leg, stroking his sartorius and tying the jeans-covered thigh to the bare stomach. Compared to the mix of pleasure and slight pain coming from Anna’s kisses on his nipples, the barely-there touch on the tiny hair at the bottom of Hector’s abdomen shouldn’t have been noticeable; but instead, he trembled imperceptibly on the outside, but shuddered and pressed his cheek into Anna’s hair. Was that fragrance always there on that sweet scalp? Had she used a special shampoo? Or was it the moment? The next thing that Hector noticed, the snap on his jeans was undone. The zipper was down halfway, and the meetingplace of stomach, hips, and pubus met Anna’s eagerly exploring fingers.
Hector did not wear a thong. 
Anna drew Hector’s jeans partially down his thighs, somehow managing not to scrape his most delicate parts with the zipper. Now she deftly pivoted her hips outward, pressing him to the sofa back. 
“Ha! Try to get away now,“ she giggled. Hector’s jeans, now around his thighs, made this impossible.
Anna popped out of the sofa, and in a stroke, removed Hector’s boots and slipped his jeans off. She drew back, as if she were God and he were Adam, and she was admiring her handiwork, lying muscular and naked before her.