Ceniza: Senorita Comunicacion
Summer winds of January hit the coast hard this year, and Martina López Rojas suffers the agonizing consequences. Lying in bed, the shades pulled and a fan softly humming, her husband pokes his head through a small crack in the door.
“Mi amor?” Jim Miller whispers. A growl roars from the far edge of the bed and he steps into the darkness with his sick wife. Martina rolls over and sits up, wiping her eyes, patting the sheets blindly until she feels her phone. Holding up a finger to Jim, he waits while she checks the time and her notifications.
“Que pasó?” Pregunta.
Jim raises an eyebrow but coyly brushes it off and holds up a fresh pot of coffee. Martina groans and throws a pillow that sails through the doorway.
“Fine, no coffee for you.” He laughs and considers explaining the joke by showing her a brief clip from the Seinfeld episode but he’s interrupted by his wife’s alien word.
“Suero.” Ella dice, una tos siguiendo la palabra como un violador persiguiendo su próxima víctima en la oscuridad de la noche.
“Swear-o?” Jim sputters, clueless.
“Suero.” Ella repite.
“Oh, suero. Sí, sí, sí.” He trails in his best accent, turning to go. “Wait, I thought that’s sour cream.” It clicks. He sets the coffee pot on her dresser beside the door and runs down the hall to the kitchen, returning quickly with a squeeze pack of Klaren’s suero pasteurizado and plantains her mother cooked for desayuno. Opening the window, he reclines on the bed next to his exotic wife and hands her the blue and white pouch and sets the plate on a stand to his right.
“Joda. Y ésto que?” Mira atentamente al suero, confundida.
“Suero” Jim smiles and folds his hands behind his head, beaming like a hero to the rescue.
“Este suero, no. Suero de pedialytis.” Tira la vaina y explota en la pared.
“I’m sorry, love, but I don’t what you’re talking about.” He gets up, Martina following, sticking her nose in the fridge and fishing around while he goes to the utility closet for the mop. Closing the door, carrying the bucket and mop, he sets it down as Martina slams the fridge and holds up a bottle of Pedialyte.
“Suero.” Martina señala a la botella enfáticamente. “Suero. Pedialytis.”
“You eat it with that?” Jim exclaims. Martina shakes her head, stroking long curls behind her ear, takes a big drink, and goes back to bed. Fuck me if this isn’t hard enough. Jim grins and cleans the mess painting the wall.
They got married several months back after meeting in Cartagena, while she was working and Jim was on vacation. It was the only time they fucked. Jim understood the pay for play and hoped that following their union her Catholic traditions would unfold like her skirt up her tender thighs and open with her legs. To his dismay, though, that marriage certificate erected a wall that Jim couldn’t scale.
Jim didn’t speak Spanish, and Martina didn’t speak English, ye they grew very close during his week vacation. As long as he kept paying, she kept laughing when he laughed and mimicked his facial features when she was unsure what to do. By the end of the week, their pay for play arrangement became something else entirely. Martina felt tingly with thoughts about him, and he saw himself trotting into his 20th reunion with an exotic trophy on his arm. The day before his flight back home, Jim dropped to a knee and pulled out a diamond for his Pretty Woman.
When they broke the news to her family, everyone was over the luna. So excited, in fact, that Martina’s padre booked a church for that following weekend and they were married faster than they could mejorar la linea de sangre—as her father boldly jodió. Though they had just met, and met through less than conventional circumstances, Martina’s family swooned over the love the young couple had for each other. Jim, always the hombre modelo, held open doors for her, helped with her chair, and took her hand in his; and Martina responded in kind by kissing him tenderly, sitting on his lap, and warmly introducing him to her family.
For several months they lived blissfully enamored with one another, and since they lived with her parents, Jim asked his suegro to secretly teach him Spanish to surprise his querido love while he searched for a house of their own. His father-in-law agreed, and one day, while the massive Colombian hovered over the shorter, plumper gringo’s shoulder, Martina almost killed it. Her father was quick to cover up the language lessons, explicandose a su hija que el tonto gringo wanted to learn about fútbol since he was only familiar with the American version. Satisfied with this explanation, Martina kissed her husband on the crown of his balding head and didn’t waste another second questioning her husband or father’s motives.
As the days went on, and more relatives passed through to congratulate the newlyweds, more and more people remarked on their beautifully confounded love.
“Lo que no entiendo es como una person pueda amar a una otra persona sin hablar su idioma.” Tia Mariela habló una noche mientras cenaron.
“Hablan por su comportamiento.” Contestó Tia Conchi, Jim volviendo con extra plátanos para sus esposa linda. “Mirave! No entiende la palabra patacón pero sí entiende bien perfecto que és su favorito.”
And their actions do speak volumes—Jim learning Spanish in secret and Martina going above and beyond wifely duties (other than behind closed doors). Months passed this way, each lover singing their love for the other through actions, gestures, and behaviors. Love wasn’t blind; it simply wasn’t accentuated. And at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words.
“Mi vida.” Jim greets Martina the following day, color returning to her molasses cheeks. It was a phrase he heard mil veces, so he adopted it for his love. “Are you feeling better?” Midday news is on Caracol and distracts her momentarily before she kisses Jim and points at her chest, signaling a thumbs up. Jim radiates with joy and gets up, ushering her into the lawn chair with open palms. Martina smiles and sits.
“Gracias.” Le dice, fijando sus ojos en la tele.
Jim goes to the kitchen, stabbing in the dark, yet positive she’ll want coffee. He dumps out the leftovers from the morning brew and fixes a new pot, returning to the sala where Martina and her father watch a news report on campesinos pidiendo justicia para una mujer que le violó y mató. Handing her the tinto on a blue saucer, Jim sits beside her on the floor, taking a coffee with his stunning bride.
After finishing her coffee and waiting on the news to wrap up, Martina takes her tinto cup and tray, along with Jim’s cup, to the kitchen. She washes the dishes and sets them on the drying rack, a warm sliver of light peering in through the window.
“Me voy a bañar.” Les avisa a su papá y esposo.
Jim feigns that he doesn’t follow, arms to his side and shrugging, so Martina plays like she’s soaping her face, chest, armpits, and legs.
“Want some company, mi vida?” Another nickname he picked up. He winks. Martina smiles and leans in, pecking him on the cheek and turning down the unlit hallway. Jim, forgetting that his suegro is in a rocking chair to his left, stares at his wife’s ass like a teenager in those lacy pajama bottoms as she saunters, hips flowing side to side, toward their room. Su suegro le da un galletazo.
“Entiendo que es tu esposa, pero era mi’ja primera y esa es mi casa y la respetaras no joda.” Se rie.
“Perdonami.” Jim nods and lowers his head.
“May. Perdoname.” El suegro le corrige.
“Entendido.” Jim dice. “Hey, suegro.” He elbows him in a hushed tone. “Ya compre la casa.” Sonrie.
“La confirmaste?” Pregunta y Jim saca las llaves. “Hay que decirle. En español.”
“Ahora no.” Hace un gesto.
“No ya? Pa’que esperas? Vaya. Dile, homb’e.” Se levanta y va a la cocina.
Jim thinks about surprising her now, longer than he contemplated his marriage proposal, and decides that he’ll show the love of his life that he’s learning her language and hand her the keys to their house. Tiptoeing down the hall, he slowly opens the door, lucky that the rusty hinges don’t give him away. He hears her voice from behind the closed bathroom door and presses his ear tight against the dense wood.
“Te lo juro, papi. No tiene ninguna idea que le estoy engañando. Me va a traer allá, recibiré mi visa o residencia y te voy a traer conmigo en seguida. No, papi. Te lo juro. Tu, tu eres mi todo amorcito.”
Jim kicks the door off its hinges and stands in the doorway, a much taller and far mightier figure than he’s ever appeared. Breath seemingly snorts from his nostrils in bursts of fire, his chest rises and falls like a ventilator powering an iron lung, and a redness burns behind trickling tears.
“Puta!” Jim grita “Me estás engañando? Pues te veo claro, tu perra de la calle.”
“Mi amor, mi vida, mi todo.” Se cae del inodoro a sus rodillas, rezando, vestida en nada más que una toalla.
Looking up at Jim, hands clasped and raised, pleading, he slaps Martina with an open hand and falls on top of her, wrestling across the floor momentarily. In the brief melee, the towel comes undone and falls loose under her naked body. Jim takes it and wraps it around her neck, mounting her from behind, crossing each end of the towel behind her head.
Martina’s father bursts in and catches the last drop of life fading from his daughter’s bulging, bloodshot eyes. An outstretched hand falls limp with the rest of her body and shrieking screams drag la suegra to the bathroom where she finds her husband pummeling their son-in-law. She tears her husband from their unconscious yerno and drops to the floor, wailing over her daughter’s corpse.
The police came later. They took witness testimony and arrested Jim for murder while booking his suegro on a battery charge. It didn’t come as a surprise to Jim’s father that his son married a Colombian prostitute, and one phone call later the gringo was flying first class back home. Nothing ever materialized beyond the initial arrest—not even a news story on Caracol, because to la Policia Nacional, it was one less puta on the streets in exchange for an extra $5,000 in their financial accord with Jim’s government.