Flora Con Leche

[Santo Domingo, 25 Agosto, Lunes. 3:14]

He was strong. With long, thin, and stringy brown legs, deep in shade like a copper rod. They shined lustrously with the sweat of his muscles pumping them in the various places he went. Tapping his ribs as if they made the sweetest music, he would ogle like a grasshopper, with angular brown eyes rimmed by yellowish outsides, at the girls in the main city shopping center. Like Falcons and Eagles and long legged Flamingos the girls would trudge by, defiantly stomping with that classic Dominican hair that made him swoon like a hungry, sad dog: waxy, long, and thick dark hair-and legs-festered into coiled curls by the pressure of heated plates. And wide feet slicked in deep coloured toenail polish, feet stretched out like tugboats, lavishly painted in blues, pinks, greens, and golds. The boy would beat his ribs and slide his tongue around in the hazy, humid shopping mall air- at these girls who barely gave him a glance back. Maybe he could get a huff if he was lucky. But he kept his cool, running his hands through that rubbery black flat top of a head and awkwardly pumping out his strong muscular legs in funny, floppy, childish dances. He even slathered some of his abuela’s rose water on his wrists, like she told him to, in the hopes of winning amateur hearts which were concerned with better things: like boys who were committed to sports and ate bloody black steaks by the hour ferociously, bulls. He preferred not to eat very often. He liked the feel of his bones burning up against his skin as he exercised them, and he liked the unusual stinging of hunger in his chest and his skinny neck. Anyone can grab that Flacito’s neck, the football player bull boys would laugh, with their dark wash jeans and hair lightened with bleach dye, dry and flaky like breakfast cereal. He would simply jutt out his yellowish whitish teeth that looked like midnight moons flashing in the heat, and tap beats on his body. “ I feel goooood,” he’d croak.

“Mijo! These burgers and sausages aren’t going to be cooked without some hands throwing them in the oil! Come or you’re dead! Rapido!”

[Santo Domingo, 25 Agosto, Lunes. 3:40]

Osvaldo ran inside, aloof and dreamily, with wet eyes. Unflinchingly, he immersed himself in the smoky kitchen to begin cooking for the customers. He was off of his break, yet another unsuccessful. He’d gotten no grub in his body and no girls on his tongue either. Still, he did not feel completely demoralized, and he cooked his burgers and sausages with a boyish exuberance. He kicked his thin feet around and curled his arms in every which way, flipping crusty pots with fat meaty burgers and dipping red and white sausages stained in marbled patterns into puddles of griddling, gurgling, honey colored oil. The walls of the kitchen were supposed to be white ideally, but they had trickling trails of lumpy, condensed grease lining them. It adds character, Osvaldo thought. Makes it less shi shi, or whatever the phrase for fancy stuff is. He grabbed a few soggy sheets of lettuce from a pile in a tin bin, and squeezed some juicy deep red ketchup on top, shaking the concoction in between two soft but crunchy buns, and serving it up on a styrofoam platter. That was the style of burger that was in these days, gritty and fast: “extra meat for just twenty five cents up on the price. Now you tell me thats not a deal worth making, dios mio” Leon, his boss would say with a sly grin that placed itself crookedly from his left ear to the right corner of his chin. His teeth were aged from cigarettes and too much rum, but Osvaldo liked it. He liked all of it. “One day, you may get the business,” Leon would say with his cheap smile, shaking down ice cubes and cinnamon colored water.

[Santo Domingo, 25 Agosto, Lunes. 4:31]

Her face was hidden by all her skin. It was dying inside the skin. So thin she was, Osvaldo thought, tilting his head to fit her whole figure in his view. But the girl looked anything but thin from the outside. She had a hammy set of thighs, the kind with rounded knees and calves that sloped down like those water slides with a deep drop. Her arms crept out from her sides slyly, all brown and warm looking and nice and rounded. Her stomach pressed tight against her tight purple tee shirt too, but not enough to hunch and hang over her belt line. Her cheeks drooped like teardrops under dreamy, chocolate ice cream scoop eyes. She was healthy. But Osvaldo saw the bones of potential inside of her, and because of that he fell for her instantly. and hard. like a rock or piece of sandstone cracked against the streetwalk.

“What’s your name girl?” he said snakily, jutting his chin up and down and practically howling at her with his yellowish eyes. He wiggled with desire like a strip of water suspended in the air, slapping his palms against the greased up counter and clumsily shoving aside some styrofoam plates and cups with droplets of beer clutching their rims. She cocked up an eyebrow and waved a fat, reddish finger near his brown, salty lips.

“Flora Cordova. But don’t think you can be gettin none of this skinny boy.” She wagged her finger all the way down her curves, letting her eyelashes drop like spider legs to the tops of her cheeks. Her eyelids were pasty with green eyeshadow.

“Hahaha” he laughed.

“ What makes you think I’m into you, gordita. I was just asking you a question, ever heard of that?” he backfired cynically, sliding his tongue around and pretending he had just tasted something bitter. She replied by rolling her eyes, which looked like large ellipses that mirrored universes. He trembled.

“Yeah, whatever. Lemme get a Burger pretty boy.”

[Santo Domingo, 25 Agosto, Lunes. 4:44]

He couldn’t stop admiring her as she squirted watery ketchup on her buns. She had eyes like a mexican, hair like an indian, and legs like a dominican. As she paraded past the counter he flopped over to her, legs dangling, and squeezed her arm. He felt a hot pressure from his muscle straining against her pulsy shocked response to the unwarranted touch on her body.

“Hey” he said, attempting to sway and enchant her. He peeled a soggy fry off her oily plate, and waved it in the air like a flag.

“Your name is Flora, right? Pretty. But I think I’m going to call you Lucia, since it sounds like leche, which you probably drink a lot of.” Instinctively, she jolted and shook him off.

“Geez, you better just be teasing unless you wanna get my boyfriend into this?” she threatened, revealing for the smallest fraction of a second an ounce of hurt in her eye, but then scowling at him and running off. Watching her, he blinked and contemplated whether he had really seen that hurt. Yeah, had to be…he thought, feeling a fuzzy satisfaction roll over him. He thought he saw a bone at the end of her ankle leading down into her fat, soft heel that sunk into her chunky flip flops. Seeing that bone made his lips crack. She got potential, he thought with a zinging shock of inspiration surging through his blood, and making it rush and wiggle all around inside him. He knew he could break her easily if he just had a little more time, replaying over and over that single moment, that fractured piece of time and space when the fat girl was weakened to her knees. He rolled his body like a ripple and zealously tapped beats on his ribs as he watched that ankle bone get smaller, and smaller, and blurrier.

[Santo Domingo, 7 Octubre, Jueves. 8:58]

He held her palm so it was warm and sweaty and she felt a tingly feeling in between her legs. She was breathing a half second harder and faster than normal, and she felt her lipstick dripping off the bottom of her lip. She felt a burning, aching, horrible cringing feeling all over her body, and she couldn’t understand how to get rid of it, or where it was growing from inside her. She finally agreed, pressing her bony chin into her collarbone to hide her shame-stained tears that were piercing holes through her eyes. Osvaldo grunted at a couple of athletic girls jogging by, with strong arms and fat padded shoulders and backs and pressed his salty, thin wet lips like canned sardines into her quivering palm, melting it with his shivering kiss. She felt his fear in her blood. In a sick way this reassured her, and she felt that they were the most disgusting creatures she ever heard about or knew about from all the stories she’d read and seen and been inside.

His saliva left a print on her palm, and she thought that that small, shiny, wiggling, pathetic puddle of his excrement had more energy in it than all the muscles in her entire body.

[Santo Domingo, 13 Diciembre, Miercoles. 10:29]

As Osvaldo snakily purchased the alcohol with his greasy cheap burger money, Flora sunk into a corner near the gin aisle, working intently on scooping some dirt from underneath her thumbnail. Her head was aching and she tried to block out the sickeningly familiar sound of Osvaldo’s charm as he ran his wrists against his ribs and played beats to enchant the liquor man, Mr.Farfas into giving him a discount. She stared furiously at a small, weathered poster that looked like it belonged in the 1950’s, with it’s modestly sized red letters that said “help wanted!”- and a couple of white kids with laughing expressions, thumbs up signs, and employee name plaques pinned to checkered polos. They had scaly blue eyes like the ocean water and hair as freakishly bright as the lights blaring from the ceiling lamps. She sucked on the warm tip of the beer can-which Osvaldo had shoved towards her as they entered the store, trying to put on his act of macho swagger in order to impress Mr.Farfas for the discount he was working at- and squeezed the raw and bitter alcohol between her lips and her tongue and her teeth.

“Its all in the way you act and present it, baby” he preached “from beginning to end.” He was always giving her lessons on how life was supposed to be lived. Be skinny. Be bold. Don’t take nothing from nobody, at least don’t let them realize you’re taking. Make them think they’re giving. Drink more, it will make you feel better. You’re too up tight, Mija. She tipped her head back and felt Osvaldo’s large, bony, suffocating hands grip her neck, and then she felt his familiar sardine lips sucking out her breath.

She had never felt more lifeless than in this kiss that he did to her.

[Santo Domingo, 13 Diciembre, Miercoles. 11: 05]

It was so quiet when Osavaldo put himself inside of her. The night was dark and the air felt restricting and uncomfortable. She felt the familiar tears in her eyes of insecurity and pure assurance that things were not right. It was their first time, and she felt vulnerable and alone. He wouldn’t look into her eyes, and when she tried to touch his cheek he pushed it off by wagging his head, the sweat from his hair dripping onto her chest.

“I didn’t say you could touch me,” he huffed under his breath, curling his neck upwards so his adams apple protruded and his ribs collapsed against hers. Flora began to breathe more quickly and heavily as she felt all of the darkness and badness inside of her releasing itself from the pores in her skin, breaking through her bones that she had worked so long on to make more visible in order to better keep the badness inside.

That was when Lucia was opened for the first time.

[Santo Domingo, 14 Diciembre, Jueves. 12:01]

“My present” Osvaldo whispered like a sick lizard, guzzling her face and neck with his drooping intoxicated eyes and soft, limp neck that hung over her. It was only after she had wiped her tears and felt the soft, purple spots on her face that she realized his hands had been beating her, trying to break her open like a personal pinata. She could not cry, but she just stared at the mirage of greys, purple, reds, and coppers that mixed her skin in the car glass. Her colorful face scared her, and she couldn’t look anymore. When he was finished he drove her home, not talking. Just driving.

She thought of Osvaldo all night and yearned to see him again.

[Santo Domingo, 23 Diciembre, Jueves. 3:14]

“You’re beautiful. But so skinny” he taunted

“Don’t you want to eat?” he pushed his greasy burger towards her.

“I knew you knew better” he said, pulling the plate back towards him and swallowing meat chunks, only to throw them up later in the public bathrooms, while Lucia was forced to wet paper towels to wipe his forehead with when he came up for air, angry and insecure.

Alexandra Ruiz, Age 16, Grade 11, Bard High School Early College, Silver Key

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