I wish I could tell a good story.
My father, Charlie, would always tell a story. My talents came from him, as we both exaggerate to the extreme. It’s our way of making some sense of it. To exaggerate it until it turns to a fairytale. A myth with some general explanation – or some stereotype. That’s how he would support any of his arguments. He would use an example of something that happen in his life. At time, I would do the same thing back. If he experienced something, and I didn’t, it usually led to an argument. One subject in general would be women.
A father and son talking about women – typical exchange. Our background so sort demand it of us. Our machismo, as some would like to call it, a simple role we had to take on, demanded that we had stories of women. Women that came into our lives, change them, and left. Somehow the conclusion of one failed relationship could be spread out against all women. Most of the time, it was just a sign that we didn’t know many people. In our isolation, we attract a certain type of person. We’d never admit that, of course, because that would show weakness in our roles. That’s the straight forward version of it. In an actual exchange, he would say something simple: “Watch out for women, did you know they will change their minds on you in a second?”
I knew, but I was trying to rebuff him before he continued. I mean, it’s hard to think on some of that past stuff. I was engaged, or at least I thought so, at one point. People can change their minds, but when he implies that it is only women… Well, it pulls a string of truth in my chest. I know it isn’t true, but it feels it. Much like when you get a mosquito bite. Even well after the bug is a smear in your palm, you feel the ghost pick at your ear or your ankles. That was the exact feeling that goes through my chest when he speaks in those generalizations. It can’t be helped.
Then he tells a story.
It was his first wife – The Cubana, as she’s constantly referred as – who was the woman that won my father’s teenage heart. They were kids, but they had kids of their own, and my father struggled to support them the best he could. He was only about nineteen when they married, and this was back in the 60s, and she was already pregnant with his kid. All he could focus on was going to work. Helping out his flourishing family. He even packed up and moved back to Puerto Rico looking for work. It was there that many of the problems began to happen.
He spent all his time at work. At night, he would climb off this soft hill to the house on top of it. The first child, Jessica, was already born. She was probably around 1 or 2, but even my father doesn’t quite remember. It wasn’t too long before The Cubana gave birth again, this time to a son, Ivan. So the happy couple would live up there in that small house on the soft hill. During rainstorms my father would have to drudge through the mud, pulling the horse he rode, right after doing a day’s work. It was a hard living, but he had to live it. To top it off, he was more of a city person. The island wasn’t for him, even though he was born there, but he had to do it for the sake of his family. He would bring home money. It wasn’t too long before they all decided to move back to New York.
Back in the city, he’d take several jobs at a time. Again, he had to. It was backbreaking labor, in between bouts of heavy drinking. The kids continued to grow. Jessica was approaching her teens, Ivan was still a kid. It was around this time that The Cubana had had enough of their lives. Even though it was very typical for a guy to be the only one working, she resented that it would be nearly the only thing he ever did. He would try to reason with her, saying if he didn’t they couldn’t live. This was true. For a poor illiterate Puerto Rican there was nothing else he could do. He would tell her that she could go out. She was looking to go to bars and clubs more often, said that she would be going with her friends. He gave her the money and told her to go. Unfortunately, it grew out of control.
She would cheat on my father plenty of times. The times he knew, he would beg her to stop. There was no sense in splitting up the family. A family needed a father and needed a mother. Even if it caused fight after fight, even if it became physical one time or another, there needed to be a family. This was how they decide to live. Yet it would only escalate. The final decisions occurred when The Cubana had an abortion, to a man she was having an affair with, and the police were called in. Why? For what reason? Not even my father remembers. Yet he does remember when the cuffs were put on him, and when he was thrown in jail for a day. The Cubana told the police that she was forced to do the abortion. That it was his child and he forced her to abort it. At time point, they practically had nothing to do with one another. When he pleaded his case, they let him go. And when they let him go, they went their separate ways. The courts would handle custody. Custody when to the father.
So my father continued to do what he usually did. He would work himself to the bone, get drunk afterward, and still manage to run a household. Then he would court another woman, Maria, and she would be the mother to his children – at time point a teenager and a ten year old. This situation had to be a big shock to them. Jessica began to act out, with Ivan adjusting a little more firmly. Before too long, Jessica fought time and time again. She wanted to be with her mother, who had visitation rights, because her mother would give her more freedom. So my father relented and told her to go. He wasn’t going to stop his daughter from living with her mother, even if the two didn’t like one another. They made it official with the courts, and began to move on, with my father visiting Jessica on weekends. It was one particular weekend where there was no answer at the door. Again he relented, try to call, again with no answer. It would be like that for three weeks of constant calling or some form of contact before he finally thought of something.
He went to the building, but instead of going inside he waited across the street. He saw The Cubana in a car, hanging out with a friend, strolled right over, and asked about Jessica. At first she wouldn’t say a thing, but then admitted in plain words that he put her up for adoption. Adoption! Yes, she completely abandoned her to the state – stating that my father was unable to take care of her. No one told him. He put too much trust in his ex-wife, and now he had to go running to the courts to find out what was going on. She stayed at an orphanage for a week. Quickly, within the week, they apparently found a home for her – in Long Island. Taking a cab, my father rushed over to see his daughter. He wouldn’t accept that someone else would take care of his child. Even if it was a beautiful house, a kind couple, and an amazingly lush environment. It was just not done. Jessica was also missing home, missing family, though felt incredibly betrayed by her mother. My father asked if she would come home. She said yes. He pleaded to the courts, they drilled him until they were completely sure. Then Jessica was off back home, and my father continued his life the way he did.
So there was no arguing for him. Women weren’t to be trusted. They will cheat and leave you in a heartbeat if you don’t give them enough attention, even if you’re attempting your best to support them and the household.
I couldn’t agree with him. I just couldn’t, no matter what I felt. So I took my own story and minimalized it to the plain truth. I was engaged to a woman. I trusted her. She trusted me. It didn’t work out. She felt the only way she could release the burden was by moving away and cutting off all connections. I am angry, but we both let the relationship go to hell. We needed to be apart. So we went our separate ways.
Even with the truth, I still wish I could tell a good story.