offering them girls
A WHITE van stopped before us. Father was still not around
but I hardly noticed. My heart was beating faster than
Mother had pasted a smile on her face to prepare to meet
the new face that was about to emerge.
I could barely move. I stood there. My face poker-like, my
eyes unblinking, my heart still pounding against my skin
like a frantic boy knocking on a door. Everything seemed to
happen in slow motion.
The door of the van slid open. Laughter filtered out from
the inside. It was filled with people all smiling and
laughing and looking at us with hardly a glint of malice in
But it was the man who stepped down from the van that
caused my heart to stop.
He carried a blue backpack with him. His shirt looked old
and worn. His jeans were scruffy and faded. His sneakers
looked brilliantly white. Clean. As if if they were brand
He was indeed handsome. His dark hair matched the darkness
of his eyes. His nose was sharp. His smile, gentle.
"Bye Rick!" a girl called from the van as the door slid
A window opened. "Bye bye Rick!" another called out. "Have
The van pulled away in the midst of byes and well wishes.
He waved to acknowledge them. Smiled.
Enrique. My heart wanted to cry out. I love you. I love you.
Mother went to him and introduced herself. "Welcome to our
home," she said.
"Thank you Tita," he replied. "My name is Enrique. I hope I
am not too much trouble."
"Nonsense," she said. "Come come." She led him to me. "This
is my daughter."
I gulped down the rock in my throat. "Hi," I croaked out.
"Hi," he said, looking at me in the eye. "It's nice to meet
you." He smiled.
I nodded in reply.
Mother, perhaps sensing that her awkward daughter was not
about to say anything, decided to draw Enrique's attention
"Let me show you the house," she said. "And let me show you
your room. My husband isn't home yet, but you will meet him
later. Perhaps during dinnertime. Men never refuse food.
Unless you're offering them girls."
They went into the house while I still stood rooted to the
ground. I gave myself a kick in the head that hardly
contained anything. I was being silly. Sillily silly.
Following them into the house, I admired Enrique from
behind. His broad shoulders, his strong arms, his shapely
buttocks, his long legs...
I couldn't help myself. I gazed at him when Mother showed
him the kitchen. I gazed at him when Mother showed him the
bedrooms. I gazed at him when Mother showed him the
It was at this point that I saw the flicker of emotions
that crossed his face. He looked relieved and disappointed
that we had a walled bathroom and that our toilet had a
"We are not that poor," I said meekly, instantly regretting
that I opened my mouth. I am so stupid.
But he laughed. And laughed. And laughed. And I felt my
shoulders relax. My tight mouth slowly spread into a smile.
"Things are not so bad after all," he said with a grin.
He was right. Things were not so bad after all.