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On the ride out to the hotel, up through those wild steeps, you pick up a pair of hitchhikers, a couple so giddy with love that you almost throw them out of the car.
And every hour, like clockwork, you say that you’re , and asks you to move from the Harlem apartment that you two share when you’re not teaching in Boston. You even show up at her apartment at odd hours, and at her job downtown, until finally her little sister calls you, the one who was always on your side, and she makes it plain: If you try to contact my sister again, she’s going to put a restraining order on you.
You claim that you were sick, you claim that you were weak. You write her long sensitive letters, which she returns unopened.
You start taking salsa classes, like you always swore you would, so that the two of you can dance together. You phone her every day and leave messages that she doesn’t answer.
(they went to her), your mother won’t speak to you (she liked the fiancée more than she liked you), and you’re feeling terribly guilty and terribly alone.
Kisses you at the door as she leaves; it all feels too chaste to you, too lacking in promise. Two years later, you will run into her in Dudley Square but she will pretend not to recognize you, and you won’t force the issue.
When you see other people hitting the paths, you turn away. You scan the incoming junior faculty for a possible, but there’s nothing. Sometimes Elvis joins you, since his wife doesn’t allow him to smoke weed in the house. Almost all her conversations start with In Santo Domingo. She also scoffs at the idea of racism in Santo Domingo. Of course you end up in bed, and it ain’t bad except for the fact that she never, never comes and she spends a lot of time complaining about her husband. You eventually erase her contact info from your phone, but not the pictures you took of her in bed while she was naked and asleep, never those. Arlenny turns over the cards, quotes Oates: Revenge is living well, without you. When you return to Boston, the law student is waiting for you in the lobby of your building.
Elvis brings you food and sits with you while you eat. Classes start, and by then the squares on your abdomen have been reabsorbed, like tiny islands in a rising sea of lard. In Santo Domingo I’d never be able to meet you like this, she says with great generosity. Everywhere you two go she shoots photos, but never any of you. Write, you tell her, and she says, Por supuesto, and, of course, neither of you does. You have a sucia in town, too, and in the end you call her, but when she hears your name she hangs up on your ass. And, on closer inspection, that her ridiculously Persian-looking eyes are red from crying, her mascara freshly applied.
You keep writing letters to her, waiting for the day that you can hand them to her. Thanksgiving you end up having to spend alone in your apartment because you can’t face your mom and the idea of accepting other people’s charity makes you furious. During finals a depression rolls over you, so profound that you doubt there is a name for it.
Elvis encourages you to try yoga, the half-Bikram kind they teach in Central Square. The namaste bullshit you could do without, but you fall into it and soon you’re pulling vinyasas with the best of them. There are mad hos, all with their asses in the air, but none of them catch your eye. She seems impressed that, of all the guys in the class, you alone never take off your shirt, but you skitter away from her cornpone grin. She’s half your age, one of those super-geniuses who finished undergrad when she was nineteen and is seriously lovely. What she does appear to like is your body, can’t keep her hands off it. The walk back to your apartment is some Bataan-type shit.
The fact that she hasn’t changed her number gives you strange hope, even though you’ve heard that she’s dating somebody. While you’re not exactly feeling the hos right now, you don’t want to lose all the conditioning you’ve built up, so you give it a shot. You finally start work on your eighties apocalypse novel—finally starting means you write a paragraph—and in a flush of confidence you begin messing with this young morena from Harvard Law School whom you meet at the Enormous Room. She says that she likes your mind, but, considering that she’s smarter than you, that seems doubtful.
You cry every time you hear Monchy y Alexandra, her favorite. Your friends begin to worry about you, and they are not exactly worrying types. K., you tell them, but with each passing week the depression deepens. He was pinned under the burning wreckage for what felt like a week, so he knows a little about pain. You breathe non-stop, like a marathon runner, but it doesn’t help. But (a) you ain’t the killing-yourself type; (b) your boy Elvis is over all the time, stands by the window as if he knows what you’re thinking; and (c) you have this ridiculous hope that maybe one day she will forgive you. It’s like waking up from the worst fever of your life. ), but you can stand near windows without being overcome by strange urges, and that’s a start. You put away all the old pictures of her, say goodbye to her Wonder Woman features.
You start losing your temper with friends, with students, with colleagues. You stop hitting the gym or going out for drinks; you stop shaving or washing your clothes; in fact, you stop doing almost everything. Four years earlier, Elvis had a Humvee blow up on him on a highway outside Baghdad. You have dreams where she’s talking to you like in the old days—in that sweet Spanish of the Cibao, no sign of rage, of disappointment. You stop sleeping, and some nights when you’re drunk you have a wacky impulse to open the window of your fifth-floor apartment and leap down to the street. It really is a long stretch of shit, and then, finally, the madness begins to recede. Only one pair of your jeans fits, and none of your suits. A white grandma screams at you at a traffic light, and you close your eyes until she goes away.