Ms. Ruiz

I had but two teachers in all of elementary school. I started in second grade when I arrive to the states. That year, my teacher was Ms. Cardenas. Our class was mixed; third graders and second graders. It must’ve been about 30 or more students. Since I was in bilingual, I guess my school had a shortage and we got the short end of the stick, but that’s beside the point. In third grade, I had Ms. Cardenas again. This time, only the 3rdgraders; no more mixing. For the most part, she was the one who taught me English so in part, I feel bad that this essay is not about her.

Now, in fourth and fifth grade I had a repeat teacher as well, Ms. Ruiz. She was something. I remember her for many things, especially her hair. She had bright red hair with as much volume as humanly possible. She’d pair it with a smudge of red lipstick, every single day and on most days, she’d also wear a red blazer.  Thinking back, Ms. Ruiz was what we now call a “foodie.” She’d use any excuse for us to have food in class. I remember on multiple occasions she’d have us sign permission slips and bring in three dollars and she’d order Chinese food for the entire class. On other days, closer to the summer she’d again have us sign permission slips and this time bring five dollars and we’d go on a field trip to Baskin Robins to get ice cream. And another time, she used a book we were reading as an excuse to bring us conchas. Somehow, she was always on a diet though. Sometimes we’d come up early after lunch and she’d be eating soup and would share with us the fried wontons because she “couldn’t eat them.” Other times, she’d snack on plain rice cakes in class which she often let us try.

My favorite thing about Ms. Ruiz was all the field trips she’d take us on. As I mentioned earlier, I was in bilingual class. Most of the students in our class had recently arrived from our birth countries and for the most part, we hadn’t done or seen much. Ms. Ruiz made sure to change that for us. I have no idea how she got permission to take us on so many field trips but we would go somewhere different at least once or twice per month in those two years. Every museum in New York City, every aquarium, zoo, botanical garden, the circus, I’ve seen it all; thanks to her. Until this day, I say that I don’t remember ever doing work in elementary school, all I remember was the many trips we took all over the city.

Ms. Ruiz was a bit old at the time from what I can remember. I always wonder where she is now and if she is still teaching. My school is no longer where it used to be and now the new building has many new teachers. I doubt I ever would, but If I bumped into her in the street, I’d be happy. I’d thank her for all the amazing memories she created for me and for sharing her rice cakes. Looking back, I had no idea how lucky I was to have her as a teacher.

My Red Shoes

Twenty-three-year-old me has a room full of over one hundred pairs of shoes but if you were to ask me, none of them come close to being as special as my old cherry red shoes. I remember being about five years old and being allowed to spend the day with my godparents who were known for spoiling me rotten. They had a daughter whose name was Stephanie, or as monolingual- Spanish speaking me would say “Estefani.” She was a bit older than me, a lot taller. She towered over me which was and still isn’t surprising, most people do. Stephanie and I spent most our time together playing at my house, but since we were at her house this time, it meant we could play dress-up. We walked into her closet which housed clothes way too big on me and rows of shoes way too big for me as well, but one pair caught my eye as nothing had ever done so before. These shoes were bright cherry red, so shiny; they had a small heel and a big red bow on top. Stephanie had already grown out of these shoes and her mother offered me to take them with me. The shoes were too big for me at five years old but I was hopeful that one day they would fit my small feet. I can promise you that I prayed for this change in my body. “Dear God, please let me have bigger feet,” I’d say at night in Spanish. And each morning I’d wake up and try them on, but no major changes. You see, at the time, getting to wear heeled shoes for me meant that I’d now be older, feel older, and be treated as such and this was exciting, I was now six and that had to mean something.

A few months later, however, we packed up our things and got on a plane from the Dominican Republic to the US and the cherry red shoes were not allowed to come on the journey with me.

Mom

“You look nice.” She said, as If forced to do so.

I remember her pale skin so dull and plain. She had one of those faces, like the one of the kid from the Skittles commercials. It was just skin, a nose, a pair of dark brown eyes, small lips, and eyebrows so light you could barely see them. There was just nothing to it- her face was boring.

I looked away after what seemed like minutes of starring at her through the mirror and choked up a thank you, as dull as her face.  Thank god we’re not identical.

She was such a buzzkill, but the only way I was allowed out was with her. Our mother was too strict to ever let us leave the house on our own.

We didn’t like each other too much but we still went out to the mall every weekend. Saturdays were our “supermarket days” where we did the shopping for the week. But each Saturday we’d leave an hour earlier and go into the mall which was on the way. It was our way of getting out and feeling like normal teenagers.

We’d try on clothes we knew we couldn’t buy and have a small snack from the food court, so it wouldn’t be too obvious we’d taken from the grocery shopping money. It had been a routine for the past two years and for some reason, it still didn’t make us closer. Likely because regardless of sharing in the same experiences we were very different. For one, I always tried to stand up to our mom but her? She’d never back me up. She was complacent with our lives and I couldn’t be. It just wasn’t okay.

Our parents had us when they were young, both eighteen. At twenty-six, when Alyssa andIe were eight, our dad decided to leave us. Quite frankly, I was surprised he stayed around that long. He was rarely around even when he lived with us so it was as if nothing had changed. Except for our mom’s attitude. She’d since become aggressive and for the last six year,s we had endured absurd physical punishments.

“Alyssa, I told you to chop the onions smaller. Do you really think I want to bite into chunks of onions? You can’t do anything right can you?” mom screamed.

As she grabbed her plate of hot chicken soup and dumped it all over the freshly cleaned floor. Alyssa looked down at her hands, in complete silence. The only thing that bothered our mother more than us answering back was us being quiet. You couldn’t win with her.

She got up fiercely throwing the chair where she sat at Alyssa. She mostly missed, the leg of her chair only hit Alyssa’s shoulder. I was livid.

“What is wrong with you?” I screamed as I walked closer to my sister, my bare feet slightly slipping on the chicken soup that laid all over the kitchen floor.

Alyssa was crying now, sobbing loudly as she tried not to let out a scream. I was by her side now, rubbing her shoulder. I didn’t know what else to do, I was in awe at what had just happened. In the midst of everything, our mom went into her bedroom screaming

“You both better clean all this shit up by the time I come back in here or y’all are gonna see what pain really is.”

“And you, the next time you scream at me that way, I’m going to knock all them teeth out of your mouth.” She screamed as she slammed her bedroom door behind her.

From her bedroom, I could hear her stereo playing, “My savior loves, my savior lives, my savior’s always there for me.”

Hypocrisy was her specialty.

 

One day, after our secret mall trip, my sister ate two tubs of ice cream all by herself. She was in the tub of all places with two gigantic sized Napolitano ice creams, the pink and brown from the sides were all gone but the vanilla in the middle remained. She hated vanilla ice cream.

“Alyssa? What is wrong with you? Are you crazy or something? Mom is going to kill you!”

“I hope so.”

I felt my heart sink. I went into the bedroom, grabbed her a clean shirt and made her change.

“Go outside, get rid of the evidence and come back. It’s your turn to clean the kitchen.” I instructed and she obeyed as it was the only thing she knew to do.

 

She didn’t clean the kitchen. The ice cream had made her sick and she was on the verge of what I thought was death. Her normally pale skin was now almost clear; I could see her veins all through her body. We weren’t allowed to have cell phone’s so I couldn’t call 911. I was scared; more for the upcoming beating than I was about her dying. See, if she died then she wouldn’t suffer by my mother’s hands but me, I’d get it twice as bad. So, I prayed to the god I was forced to believe in and I asked him to please keep my sister alive so we could both share the wrath of our mother.

That night, my mother got home as normal, at 6:30 on the dot. I heard each step she took, each movement she’d make and I just sat there next to my sister in agony.

She’s laying there, almost unconscious. Our room is dark and stuffy. We had piles of books we never had the time to read, a few drawers filled with skirts and pantyhose which we are to share and two beds, one on either side of the room. No decorations, no pretty bed sets, everything was dull.

After just a few seconds our mom walked in the room, turning on the light as she opened the door. I remember looking at her and thinking she looked so pretty. She always wore beautiful clothes and got her hair straightened every week at the salon; except her hair was already straight to begin with.

That day she wore a plum tight dress and black leather heels, with a black duster coat. Her lips plumped and painted carefully with gloss, her eyes big and brown surrounded by long bits of eyelash hairs which could almost double as a fan. Outside of our walls, she lived a different life. I could tell by the way she’d talk on the phone to her real estate clients. She used words like “exquisite” and “charming” and when asked about us, she’d almost sounds like a loving mother. She’d say we did amazing and brag about how much of a big help we were. Except we weren’t helping, we were obeying her harsh rules.

Every day, we’d clean the house from top to bottom, we’d do laundry and each take turns with dinner and dishes. We were only fifteen at the time but our hands looked like they’d been through years of hard labor.

What my mom’s work clients didn’t know was the life she lived inside of the house. Everyday she’d come home and nag on and on about things me and my sister hadn’t done to her taste. Then, she’d change into long skirts or dresses and read out of a bible, pointing out passages she thought we needed to read to become “better daughters.” She never explained to us who this “god” person was but she’d force us to say prayers and read out of the same bible she did. She said it was the right thing to do. I guess it was part of her weird double life.

I always imagined that she was having some kind of affair with one of her clients who she calls darling. But that’s just optimistic me hoping she was and would one day decided to leave us behind.

“What the fuck is going on in here?” she said.

She stepped in front of me and shoved me off the bed. For the first time, I say nothing. I stand to the side, frozen.

I knew what was coming.

“Alyssa, what the fuck?” she says, shaking my sister over and over.

Alyssa sits up as much as she can, her veiny skin sweating, and looks up at mom with eyes of agony. Her lips move as if to speak, but they stop when mom starts again,

“Alyssa, what the fuck is wrong with you?”

She fixes her lips again,

“I ate ice cream mom, that’s what happened. I. ATE. ICE. CREAM” Alyssa tries to scream.

My mouth opens wide. I had never seen Alyssa open her mouth to our mom let alone scream at her. To my surprise, she continued,

“I’ve been trying for too long to be the perfect daughter only to turn around and be belittled by you every time.”
I don’t know that I had ever heard Alyssa put together so many words into a sentence, let alone stand up for herself. Neither had my mom, and you could see it in her face. You could tell she had been caught off –guard. Again, she continued:

“And mom, if you can’t and won’t change the way you treat us, I’m speaking up. To more than just you.”

I stood by the door, frozen. I had no idea what to do. Should I back her up? Should I join in and something? But I couldn’t open my mouth, I couldn’t speak.
Mom was now standing over her, arms crossed over her shoulders. I couldn’t tell she wasn’t going to say anything but that she’d gotten up only because she wanted to try and show she was still tough and that Alyssa’s words hadn’t faced her. But they had, I could see it in her face.

Mom shakes her again as if to get her to respond and instead, my sister’s mouth opens wide and out of it gushes out stream after stream of pink barf all unto my mother’s plum dress. Dumbfounded me and my mother just watch.

That was the first time I had seen my mother looking this way. She was expressionless, motionless even.

“You better not do anything to her.” I screamed, surprising myself as the words slipped my lips.

She had had enough. For the first time, she was being attacked the way she consistently attacked us. She had lost her power and that angered her.

She got up and raised her hand as if to hit me, but I dodged it.

It was at that moment that I knew I needed to run. So, I did. I ran as fast as my long skirt and bare feet would let me. My breath grew short as the cold air entered my lungs but my feet wouldn’t stop. The cold pavement hurt, but it hurt so good.

I stopped when my sister crossed my mind. Though I didn’t like her face or her inability to stand up for herself, she was the only person I had. She was the only one who understood what I went through. The words she’d murmured in the bathroom suddenly felt real. She wasn’t scared to die but I needed her.

I stopped and contemplated; my breath short and painful. My side was hurting as if someone had punched me multiple times.

I went back. I had to. I said another prayer to the man named god and asked him to please just be with my sister.

When I got to the house, the doors were wide open, just as I had left them. I quietly walked in as if trying not to disturb anyone. I made my way through the hallway, it was quiet. I walked into our dimly lit room and there she was. My sister was tucked into bed, clean sheets covering her body.

That was the last time we saw our mother. She didn’t leave a note, she didn’t call, she left no sign. I asked my sister a while after, what my mom had done to her that day and she said “nothing.”

Trust Fund +1

I woke up, startled; as if my body knew this bed wasn’t my own. I looked around the room for a second while my eyes got adjusted to the sunlight. Yea, this was not my room.  The gray walls held up carefully painted canvases and the silence in the room was almost scary. Someone unfamiliar was next to me, sound asleep. If I had to take a wild guess, I’d guess it was his bed.

I tried to get myself up but I was scared I’d wake the random guy.

I was naked, no surprise. These days I’d been shamelessly seeing guys I picked up at bars. The guy from last week had a bed the size of Rome, I slept like a baby. But this guy seemed like some kind of artist, I could tell by the fact that the bed was on the floor, artsy guys always do dumb shit like that.

I got up as carefully as I could and searched for my clothes but only found my purse. When I realized, I was out of luck on clothes, I opted out for something borrowed. I wore sweatpants that were way too big and a sweatshirt with drips of dry paint around the stomach.

When I got outside his door, I realized I wasn’t far from home, at all. I was on the third floor of my building.

“Where have you been, Ash?” I heard a voice call as I made my way down the stairs.

“Hey Carl, I was upstairs with a friend.”

Carl peeks at his watch, “At eight in the morning? “

I ignored him and proceeded to unlock my door.

“What friend? You don’t have friends.”

“For your information, I have plenty of friends. You just don’t know them.”

“And why are you wearing that? Are those guys’ clothes?”

“Because it’s early Carl. Anymore questions?”

I think he suspected I was sleeping around but admitting it to himself would crush him so he tried to avoid it. If he’d mention it he knew I’d tell him the ‘We’re not official’ excuse even though we both knew we might as well had been since we spent most of our time together.

“You should really change your attitude Ashley, it’s not as cute as you think.”

“Are you going to come in or not? You’re wasting my time.”

Carl was a guy I’d met at a party one night. He was some douche frat guy who’d come down to the city from Vermont. Apparently, he was going to some fancy school up there where his parents basically paid to not have him kicked out. After the party, we somehow kept in touch and suddenly he wanted to like marry me or some shit. He would follow me around like a lost puppy and when I would tell him to fuck off he’d offer to buy me nice things. Of course, I would accept – it never stopped. His constant nagging for commitment was excruciating but his money was nice so I sucked it up.

Truth is I was growing more and more tired of him – his submissive ways, his neediness, but he kept me company and company is good. My mom always told me to try to not end up alone and Carl was my safety net. A guarantee that I wouldn’t live in loneliness.

“Why’d you take a purse?” Carl asked.

I made my way through my small apartment and into my living room. We sat on the couch together as Carl shuffled through my mail.

“Carl, why are you forwarding your mail here?”

“Um… Why not?”

“Oh I have a good answer for that question: Because you don’t live here!”

“I spend a lot of time here and I pay the rent so why not?”

“Here you go throwing shit in my face again. Do I ask you for any of this? Ever?”

“No. I’m sorry… You took it the wrong way I didn’t mean it like that.” He leans closer to me “You know how I feel about you. I just think we should go to the next step.”

“No thank you, Carl. Can you just stop?”

He leaned over and tried to kiss me. I pushed him away.

I was physically attracted to Carl. He was a cutest guy – in terms of looks. He had pretty caramel skin and eyes so chinky they’d close when he smiled. But sometimes, he was just too much and his looks were out the window.

Carl annoyed me now, he was overly opinionated and would always show up announced to lay on my bed and guard me all night, as if to make sure I wouldn’t sneak out and find someone better. He had no substance, he would speak about nothing important and relied on his trust fund for approval of others. He didn’t have friends, he’d buy them; just like he’d bought me.

I was over his guarding dog ways by this point and would kick him out at night to go to the bar.

“Can you please go? I want to sleep alone for once.” I’d say

“Come on Ash… Why do you want to be alone all the time?”

“Because I never am Carl, you’re always here.”

“Isn’t that what couples do?”

“Jesus Carl, give me some space!”

Like a puppy, he’d leave. Only to show up the next morning, questioning me about my whereabouts.

 

His name was Fisher, the guy from the third floor. I saw him around more often, now. He had curly blonde hair that would sit on the sides of his face like big puppy ears. He was handsome in a weird way. He wore clothes that were a bit too big and his hands were usually covered in paint.

“Hey fisher, what’re you up to tonight?”

“Nothing, you should come hang out tonight” he said as he continued to walk up the stairs.

“Okay,” I yelled out behind him

“If I have time” I quickly added, as if that would make me look less desperate.

 

As I got ready for the night, I thought about Carl and how he’d feel if he figured me out. I felt no remorse. I didn’t feel bad for him and this made me feel bad for myself. I didn’t get what was wrong with me or why I had grown to be so annoyed and distant with Carl. He’d become weird and controlling and I was over it.

But I couldn’t break up with him until I was sure about Fisher.

“Safety net” I whispered.

Upstairs, Fisher decided to show me around his place. The layout of his apartment was different; his space was divided. It looked different than it had before, maybe because last time I left in a rush and I couldn’t even remember ever arriving. He showed me his art and his collection of peculiar shaped paint brushes. He was super laid back, careless almost.

“So what do you do, Ashley”

“I… uh… I haven’t decided yet, I’m still figuring myself out.”

“That’s interesting. So, you don’t work?”

“Umm, no… Not right now. So, what’s this painting? Is it yours?” I said, pointing at the paintings over his couch and attempting to deviate the attention.

“No actually, my friend painted this one. He’s super into watercolors.”

I examined the image of splatters and odd shapes, all in random colors that did not match. What even are water colors?

I continued to sound intrigued in hopes that he wouldn’t bring the conversation back to me and my life. It wasn’t too hard, Fisher seemed to love talking about himself more than anything in the world.

After a while, I stopped listening and stuck to nodding and a simple “Oh wow,” every so often.

“so, do you?”

“Shit, sorry. What?” I said snapping back to reality.

I had been looking around at his apartment and thinking about how I might have gotten there the night I woke up in his bed. I couldn’t remember and maybe that was why I ended up here. I’m not sure sober me likes him as much as the inebriated me.

“Well, aren’t you distracted?” he said, looking at me as if he couldn’t believe I didn’t find his conversation intriguing.

“Sorry… So, where’d you say you work again?”

“I didn’t. But, uh, I’m a bartender.”

He didn’t even have money to make up for the fact that he was boring? Terrible.

“No way, where?” I said trying to sound interested.

“At a hotel in the city. It just pays the bills. I’m more focused on my art, you know?” He said, looking around the room as if I hadn’t already seen all his artwork.

“Yea, I bet.” as if that was a big shock.

“Ok, come look at this one Ash… I painted this last year. I was inspired by the idea of life and how one day you’re just born and then you grow up and die. That’s why I chose pink and blue and then splashed black through the center, you see? So clever. This won me an award at my school. It’s my pride and joy. But this one? This one is runner up” He added, holding out another canvas with colors on it “I’m still not done, I need to buy more watercolors and you know, they’re a little expensive. But I’ve been inspired by the galaxy this time and each star will represent something from earth, you know?”

“Sure…”

He looked at the canvas again and sighed; full of pride in his work.

“Listen, Fisher, I have to go. I just have something to do in the morning. See you around?”

“You sure you have to go? I had some more stuff to show you.”

“Yea, sorry. Maybe another time.”

I slipped out of the apartment door and let out a sigh of relief.

What a nightmare. I thought he would never shut up.

I was headed down to my apartment when I heard a familiar voice,

“Where have you been?”

I had never been so happy to see him.

On My Way

I make my way through the aisle after greeting the perky flight attendant who seems to not miss a beat. I wish I had some of her confidence, my knees are so shaky and my breath is short. I realize my nervousness is taking away some of my focus and for the 3rd time look down at my ticket to verify that I haven’t passed my seat.

“13A” I start to whisper to myself in a catchy tune, trying not to forget.
“here we are,” I say, trying to stuff my carry-on bag in the overhead compartment.

It seems effortless in movies but for some reason, I’m having a tough time. I guess it’s because unlike me, people who fly out are usually going someplace exciting. I grab my seat and ponder for a second, trying to get myself together. I watch people quite slowly find their preassigned exciting seats and quickly regret not bringing with me some work.

As a writer, work has been hard for me. Unlike my husband, I wasn’t born into a family who had a path set up for me as soon as I was born. My mom was more of the, “figure it out yourself” kind of woman and although I liked it before, these I couldn’t help but resent her for it. Here I was, 27 years old and living off my husband because silly old me wanted to pursue a career in writing. I’m starting to wonder if I’m even good anymore since every publisher denies my entries. My husband used to always cheer me on, he’d say I was a great writer and one day someone would notice my talent. At twenty-seven you’d think someone other than him would’ve noticed but here I am, with no published writing to my name.

In the next minute, an older woman plops on the seat next to me, 13B. She sits for a few minutes trying to catch her heavy breath, she must’ve run here.

“it’s my first time,” I say later to the older lady sitting next to me.

She seems like a nice enough lady who wouldn’t mind saying a few words to a stranger. She looks like that kind of grandma who bakes holiday cookies and knows all of the names of the hosts on QVC. It almost gives me a sense of comfort which I must say, I do need. She looks at me for a minute as if she were taking a mental photograph of me. I became uncomfortable and a nervous laugh escaped my lips.

She finally speaks, “Your first time? Are you kidding? How old are you?” she asks, her sweet voice brings me back to comfort.

“Yes, I’m 27. I guess I don’t get out much, huh?” She smells like peppermint patties. “I guess not” she smiles.
“I’m Luke,” I say, as if she had asked.
“Margaret,” she says, extending her hand to shake mine.

Her soft wrinkly hands feel fragile and warm. Margaret looks to have expensive taste; she’s wearing the most beautiful black suede coat with mink fur around the neckline, her white hair perfectly styled in a bun and her lips are stained pink. I stare at her for a few seconds wondering what her life outside of crowded airplanes is like. She seems intriguing.

“So Margaret,” I say, “where are you headed all by yourself?”

“New York, isn’t that where you’re headed?” she says, taking a quick glance at her ticket as if she’d possibly gotten on the wrong plane.

“Yes,” I say, “well, technically. I have a connecting flight to Japan.”

Margaret looks at me now, with eyes wide “What’s in Japan? Your wife? I noticed your ring and I don’t see anyone near you or else you wouldn’t be talking to an old lady like me, I assume.”

I look at her and smile unsure of what to say. In my experience, older folks don’t get it. They don’t get how a man like me, masculine, tall and muscular can be gay. I’ve heard so many times by women of all ages that I’m “such a waste” simply because I like men. I mean, it’s not that I’m ashamed to say I don’t have a wife but a husband instead because believe me, I’ve had plenty of time to get acquainted with myself. It’s more that I’m avoiding unsolicited comments. I mean, there isn’t much Ms. Margaret can do. She can’t move to a different seat, and I don’t think the gayness rubs off, or at least I hope it doesn’t. After what seems to be like an eternity I finally choke up an answer,

“No, actually. My husband, mam. He’s in the military.”
My stomach turns as the words come out of my mouth and I look down, making zero eye

contact. I have no idea why this is so scary for me, even coming out to my mom wasn’t this terrifying. When I came out to my mom all she said was,

“Congratulations Luke, do you want me to throw you a party or something?” and that was enough for me.

At that age, I loved my mom for being that way; she just didn’t make a fuss about much. Even when she caught me and my first boyfriend making out in the bathroom once all she said was, “Can I use the bathroom? Or are you two going to be long?” in her most sarcastic tone.

Making us feel uncomfortable was good enough for her. Maybe her inability to make a fuss about things was what didn’t push me to be more than a lousy “writer” who lives off other

people. Deep down I hoped Margaret would be somewhat like my mother because when convenient to me, I loved that my mother didn’t make a fuss. I finally choke up the courage to look up at Margaret who though quiet, looks unfazed by the news. I wonder if like my mother, she wanted to throw me a party. There’s still time for that party, I can call my mother and arrange something.
The flight attendant comes by with drinks and Margaret orders a coffee and I order a diet coke. When Margaret is sure the stewardess is a few rows away, she moves closer to me and whispers,

“how gay of you,” pointing at my diet coke.
I can’t help but laugh along with Margaret, I guess it’s her way of letting me know she was still interested in speaking to me. She quickly warmed up to me. She said she had a gay son about my age and if I weren’t married she’d want us to date. Typical. Everyone always has a gay relative as soon as I say I’m gay and of course, this relative is nine times out of ten my perfect match. I know however that if Margaret knew the truth about me and my failure as a “career man” she would have kept that comment to herself. No one wants their son dating a failed writer, I know my mother in law sure doesn’t. I can’t be mad at Ms. Margaret though, mostly because I misjudged her and thought she’d be homophobic just because she was old. But also, because she was as intriguing as I thought. She too was on her way to her husband. She’d been away on business and he was in New York anxiously awaiting her arrival. She told me about all the places they’d been and all of their business ventures.

“We’ve only been married but two years,” she explained. “We didn’t want marriage at first, we were fine without the title but later it became important. I needed to make health

decisions for him and a bunch of government stuff, you know. To some folks, it means nothing if you aren’t married so we just went and eloped, no big deal. We’re too old to make a fuss about things.”

“I like people who don’t make a fuss,” I added, “my mom is the same way.”
When it was Ms. Margaret’s turn to ask me about my life, I debated a while. I wanted to lie and tell her about the perfect life I live like I tell most strangers but there was something about her. Something that made me feel so warm and vulnerable. Quickly, I was telling Margaret my whole life story.

“I’m scared Ms. Margaret, I have been talking with you so much because I want to busy my mind. For one, I’m scared about being on a plane for the first time, alone” I sigh deeply, still debating on whether I should continue.

“You see, when I first met my husband, we planned an amazing life. He’d go on to the military for just four years just to please his parents then he’d leave. We wanted to travel around after, he promised he’d be there for my first plane ride…”
I can feel a tear escaping my eye and rushing down my cheek. Ms. Margaret reaches into her small brown purse and hands me a napkin without saying a single word but somehow using her eyes to motion me to continue. I do.

“You see Ms. Margaret, I am not one to believe in fairytales, I get that life has its obstacles and all but when we saw that my writing career wasn’t taking off the way we expected, he had to reenlist.”
I wipe off another tear, waiting for Ms. Margaret to say something, but when she doesn’t, I continue.

“He said we needed to keep money flowing and he ended up getting deployed. Quite frankly, we haven’t been okay since. We fight a lot now, but it is my fault. He tried really hard to be kind to me but I just cannot help but to feel sorry for myself and blame him for things that I know aren’t in his control. I’ve become a liar. I lied to him telling him I was happy… And I lied to myself trying to believe I’d one day get published.”
I let out a deep sigh and blew my nose into the wet teary napkin.

“Oh Luke,” she says, embracing me. Her peppermint scent somehow soothing me. She pulls away and begins again,

“You see, you know what your problems are but you do nothing to fix them. You know you lie, you know you like to play blame games with people who do not deserve it but for some odd reason, you do not stop. It is obviously tearing you and your marriage apart.”

“It’s too late Ms. Margaret, he wants a divorce.” I let the words escape my lips for the first time and they sting.

“Oh but you cannot give it to him!” she says matter-of-factly.

“I have to, he asked and I need to do at least one thing that will make him happy. I never take him and what he wants into consideration. I must do it just this once. I owe him that” I say, the words leaving me empty as they escape my lips.
My tongue becomes numb like it does when I do scary things, like getting on a plane for the first time, alone. Or walking around with divorce papers in my luggage… that sort of thing.

“Well Luke, you are both making a big mistake. Marriage is about fixing things, not just throwing it away when things get tough.”

“I know. In a way, I’m hoping that him seeing me will make him change his mind. Its why I’m going all the way there in person. You see, he had sent me a ticket for today some time ago, we were happy but as the day got closer, the relationship started to deteriorate. He asked me to just mail the papers but I couldn’t help myself.” I say, my voice shaky.

“You go on over there and change his mind, you hear me? Then you go on and fix yourself. Quit those bad habits and be a man, Luke or you’ll always ruin anything good that comes your way.” Ms. Margaret replied.
Ms. Margaret was in fact like my mother. Like Ms. Margaret, all the blame was put on me. I mean, I deserve the blame but it sucks to hear it. My mother told me since it was my fault, I shouldn’t make a fuss. She told me I should let my husband go and that I was only holding him and myself back by staying.
“we don’t make a fuss; we don’t beg Luke. Have I taught you nothing?” she said on the phone that night.

On the next plane now, from New York City to Japan, I make sure not to talk to the person next to me. My life story is one I don’t want to keep repeating. When I land, I don’t know what I’ll do, if my convincing will work or if I’ll just give up and give him what he wants. Ms. Margaret asked me to keep her posted on the situation but I don’t know that I will. My fear of the gigantic aircraft has been replaced with new fears. Ones of life as a 27-year-old divorced writer, living on the street.