Divorce for Cuban Dummies
Once—very seriously—Sylvia considered that predictable thing: smashing the windows of his car. He’d refused all her offers of settlement, refused to get a lawyer, asked for half of her frequent flyer miles, lied to the mediator’s face, called her lawyer just to run up her bills. By then all she wanted was out, but still—two years later—he refused to sign the last piece of paper, said he’d re-open the mediation to investigate her finances. Her finances! Pennies between the couch cushions. Stipends spent before they came in. Student loan contracts piling up like promesas to San Lazaro.
She lit red, yellow and white candles. She offered a cigar and a glass of rum. Santa Barbara save me from my Cuban temper. Yemayá prevail, dress me in yellow, send me some doves. Changó keep your big African nose out of this.
But for three hours she considered the details.
It would require a plane ticket. Could she get there in time to smash the car before dawn? Would they let her fly with a baseball bat? Could she even find the car where he’d parked it on the street? She hadn’t seen it—Waiting to Exhale—but someone told her about it. All his clothes, all his papers, all his shit, thrown into the convertible, gasoline splattered like unholy water, a match and WHOOSH.
Of course he didn’t own a convertible, he was the fucking paragon of practicality, but she could buy the bat, she thought, the gasoline, the matches, once she’d deplaned.
She imagined La Lupe for background music, imagined the first explosion of glass, the delicious sound of the flames, and in the morning: his Irish-American face before the charred, smoking wreck. A paradise almost more satisfying than the death of Fidel the immortal.
Against all odds, Yemayá prevailed.
A year later, at a dinner party of college professors and lesbians, Sylvia told the story. Violence against an ex’s car — who knew? — is the most common form of female violence. Almost everyone had a story. A key across the paint. A dog conveniently coaxed to lift a leg. And yes, even a little piece of human shit wrapped in wax paper and left under the driver’s seat. So difficult to locate — so impossible to extract! — with any dignity. But the absolute best: the short, little woman — she’d lost the house, the money, was being threatened with the loss of her kids — whose Toyota Celica came screeching down the lane, across the lawn and into the back of his … Porsche.
The other women on the block, pruning their roses, watering all the things women are supposed to water, cheered her. Stood in their front yards and clapped. The mistress was at the window. It’s such a cliché I don’t even want to write it here. A student. His student. In a ripped denim mini, her mouth open, her expression frozen in the incorrigible stupidity of the young.
Because He Still Signs His Emails
Rage rises like those African ants that swarm by the millions, overnight defoliate trees, make clean bones of live chickens. There is no warning. There is no season. And there is only one remedy. Run to the river, drag your children, submerge yourself to your eyeballs and wait silently until the swarm is satisfied.
But she has no children. He didn’t want any.
And she has not yet found any river.
Ready for power is what the decal on the bathroom mirror says, but Daniela sits on the toilet and sobs. Later, she sits cross-legged on a cushion silently repeating Tibetan words. The whole time she wants to get out the agua de violeta and sprinkle it around, do a despojo the way her father does when he jokes a Santera has caught him with a hex. What she needs is a Santera and a priest both, for the exorcism of the fanged man in her heart.
This is where Melissa finds her.
“You remind me of Tina Turner,” Melissa says. She’s swinging her hips, Barbie blonde hair morning rustled. “You know that story? Ooo girl, Ike was bad to Tina. He beat her, used her, abused her. One night Tina does her concert and in the limo Ike starts beating her up.”
Daniela loves this about Melissa. She talks with her hands even though she’s not Cuban.
“Tina gets mad,” Melissa says, and so Tina, she hits him back. They get to the hotel hot and bothered, clothes ripped, black and blue.” Melissa stops, puts in the Tina CD. The house fills with drums and sass. “Tina,” she says, “slips Ike a tranquilizer. She’s got no money because he always kept it so she crosses the highway, the fucking highway, in those spiked heels she wears too, and she hustles it over to the Motel 6.”
Melissa slams her hand into the desk and looks at Daniela like the first woman to ever walk the earth. “I’m Tina Turner,” she says. “I ain’t got no money but I’m gonna need a room.” Melissa straightens up and shakes her head. “Done,” she says, “finished. Hasta la vista ciao.” She points at Daniela. “You know,” she says, “Tina’s a Buddhist too.”