Dispatch 6 (A conversation before lunch, Saturday, Sept. 19)
She looked at me blankly.
"Your boyfriend. The other
night. You said you were going to call him."
She looked away, glancing at her menu, dismissing it.
"I dont want to talk about that now. Lets talk about something
Gina looked around for the waitstaff, her sculpted,
painted nails tapping impatiently on the aged wood tabletop.
"No, Gina, it doesnt work that way. When I ask
a question, youre supposed to answer it." I tried to keep it steady, but I
feared my voice was wavering. I hadnt expected this.
"Who says?" she said, her attention back on me,
her eyes sharp.
"Gina -- " I began.
"No, I mean Im not lying to you. Im not
holding anything back. I just dont want to talk about it, is all. Is that alright
with you? Can you accept that?" Gina said. Loudly.
"Its not okay if I ask a question and you
dont answer it," I said. I was about to go on, go on a tirade if necessary, but
was interrupted by a waitress, a blonde waif with bags under her eyes.
"Can I get you both something to drink?" she
Gina, lemonade. Me, Coke.
As the waitress walked away, I said, "All access
means I get an honest portrait of you, not just what you feel like telling me. It
doesnt just mean I tag along when you visit your spiritual advisors and pray,"
I said, regretting it instantly.
She looked at me, her light brown eyes suddenly cold.
"What are you trying to say?"
I didnt know.
"I dont know," I said lamely. But I think
I have an idea what it meant. I think at that moment I figured it out. If Gina became self
conscious about herself in this writing, taking me to see Luisa,
praying to this sweet older woman, would be a good way of making me see her in a way she
wants to be seen. Maybe its a cynical, uncharitable thought, but Im too unsure
of Gina at this point to put it past her.
"So you dont want to see my friends, the people
I care about, the people who are important to me?" she said. "Thats what
youre trying to say?"
"No," I said. "But when I ask a question
about something important in your life, dont blow me off. Thats what Im
trying to say."
The waitress returned with our drinks. I scrambled over
the menu as Gina ordered a tuna fish sandwich on 12-grain.
"I dont like to talk about him," Gina
said, her eyes on the table. "Hes not for me to share. Do you understand?"
I shook my head no.
"Hes a beautiful boy," she said.
made of music. He has long hair and a dark body and he is very
I listened, the world disappearing around us as she
painted his portrait with her words. "Hes an artist. He wants to be. Juan, his
name is Juan, grew up near me. But hes not like my family. Pobre. Hes poor. He
never had things handed to him."
Gina looked around suddenly. Her hands were clenched
around the glass of fresh lemonade. Where her fingertips ended, condensation formed around
"Hes very deep. Young, but deep. He understands
me. And its very personal," she said. "I dont like to share him, or
talk about him, you know? Because it diminishes him. It makes him less real. Or less
fantasy. One of the two. I dont know. Does that make any sense?"
I nodded this time.
"So you love him?" I asked.
"I love him and Im in love with him.
Theres a difference between the two. You know that, right?"
"Yes." It hurt a little to say it, but yes, I
do. "But what about Julio?"
"Julio," I reminded her. "From the club?"
She laughed. "What about him?"
"You were, you know, making out with him and
She was smiling now and it disconcerted the hell out of
me. "And he
"He stayed over," I said. "At your
"Id been drinking and we made out. But that
doesnt mean I dont love Juan. What does one have to do with the other?"
"Youre in love with Juan, but you have sex with
"Where the fuck is our food?" Gina said
suddenly. She looked around once more, her fingertips returning to their martial beat on
the table. "They are so slow here."
"Gina?" I said.
"No," she answered this time. "Or, no, it
doesnt mean that. Look, Juan is very special, and I know this is your little
project, or our little project, but Im not comfortable. Not talking about this now,
"So when?" I said, angry myself now. "Talk
about later? Next week, next month, a month after its over?"
"I dont care," Gina said. "But
youre making all these little assumptions about me. I dont know what
youre writing in your little notebook, but dont assume you know what I do or
how I feel about Juan or Julio or anyone else, okay? You dont know."
"If I dont know, then tell me," I said.
"Our foods still not here," Gina said,
looking away. She turned back to me. "No. Juan is off limits. Maybe just for now,
maybe for the whole time we do this. Do you know what it is when something is
I felt the world, at least the world of this writing
project, falling apart at the edges. "No," I said, sensing defeat.
"Its sacred. Im not going to make it less
than what it is by comparing Julio or anybody else to what I have with Juan. Its not
"Okay," I said.
"Our foods not coming. Im leaving,"
In one fluid motion, she swung around from her chair,
sliding her backpacks strap through one arm and was off.
I called out to her. She walked out the door, not looking
back. She didnt return.
About two minutes later, our food and the check arrived.