“Procure alguem que a preencha! Nao fique isozinha nunca, procure!” “Look for somebody to fill you up. Don’t be lonely.”
Mama took me, when I was 13, to the modern hotels in Brazilia to see the prostitutes in white boots, to the bordellos where whores lean out second floor windows, breasts naked on the sill.”If you don’t want your boyfriend to come here,” she say, pinching my arm because she don’t like how it’s fascinate me, “then be a friend, a mother and a lover to him.”
But here in the U. S, I have nobody. Only Marcos, the cook. He is deaf, his words thick-formed and his head fogged by marijuana. Other women have husbands or boyfriends to teach them the sweetness of love, but I suffer the responsibility of Marcos, who I cannot leave, even though people say he is a mental case with his loud voice and slow, dopey eyes. I work as a housekeeper in Atherton, and while Mrs. Joyce is away for the holiday and I have a green light to do anything I want. I’m hoping to change my life.
It’s the 4th of July, but why pin things down? Let them enter the kitchen the way they did, four white figures. The fat lady in soft flowing drapery, swirled and layered, her body dense and billowy as a mountain of Dairy Whip. She have the porcelain face of an old-fashioned doll, and a tiny head of molded brown waves. Her purple lips open like the clasp on a purse, and she say her name, “Aeva.” It was the only thing I did not believe about her.
Her lover was a Peter who looks like one. Pumpkin-eater, Pan, O’Toole. Pale and delicate in a Lawrence of Arabia outfit with pantaloons and sash of red. Strapped-on foot leather. Why would a good looking guy like that allow himself to be crushed between those 38D breasts like garlic in a press? I wondered. Then I think that Peter may be the kind of man who look for a women to be a friend, mother, and lover. Right behind them are two more, wearing the white suits of hospital orderlies. Aeva introduces them as cousins which, in Santana, where Marcos and I come from, is everybody.
Marcos sleeps in my apartment with Geronimo, in my bed, and I sleep on the floor, as does Coca, the mother of my last boy friend, Carlos. When Carlos went home, he’s sent his mother to the U.S to live with me. I recommend her to Mrs. Joyce, and now she works here. A dark, shrunken woman of 46 who look 64.Before the metaphysicals came, Coca asked me to take her home. She is superstitious, afraid of everything.
Things in Brazil weren’t so well. Papa died, and mama reject me because he loved me. With a year to go for a certificate in psychology, I had to leave school because mama refuse to pay the tuition. She lost papa’s business—a big turkey plantation, enough jobs for all the cousins—and we came to the U.S.When we came, in my trunk I had six hand-embroidered table cloths—my dowry. The lady I worked for in Virginia carry them outside in sunlight. She examine the stitches and say the work is shoddy, how much are you asking? Mama could not adjust, she refuse to learn a word of the language. On her job in the nursing home she stand in the kitchen, her nose running, a witless, stubborn expression on her mouth. Her dyed red hair cut short, her arms fat and useless. Her shriveled chest shake while she cry onto the pureed beef patties. Nights, in the apartment, she nag me to go home.
“What will you do there? You know nothing.”
She snap at me in Portuguese that she’ll throw her breasts on the sill and become a whore before she’s stay another day.
I sold my table cloths and bought mama an air ticket to Rio.
After that I had a job as a live-in with an invalid, a woman with a foul tongue who have to be excused, no matter what, because of the sadness of her condition. The husband come into my room in the night, and I had to leave there in a hurry, without my stuffed animals that I have since I am a child.
In the next situation Marcos was called a chef. He wore a tall, pleated white hat. I had a starched uniform with a lacy apron tied in a bow, and I transfer warm popovers with tongs to the diners’ plates. On my day off, at Mass Bay Community College I did study English. After six months time I married an American, a kitchen worker who smell of potato peel and cigarettes. He had a habit of hitching up his pants with his forearms before he say something. For the wedding party Marcos make Chicken Xin Xin. When I wrote down his name, Sidney LeRoi, at City Hall in the missing persons bureau, eight months later, I realize that I had married before I knew my husband’s real name—we called him Papa.
In Aeva’s broad shadow we march down to the pool. The day lilies are in bud, ripe raspberries on the bushes, and mosquitos biting.
“This is where the best kama is to be found.” Aeva inhale with uplifted happiness.”Welcome to our Higher Selves,” she say.”Let us surrender to our own spiritual being and allow ourselves to receive all the beautiful gifts God has for us.” She distribute treasures—a vial of sparkling liquid which she say are diamonds that she pour in the pool, candles scented with myrrh, and two crystals, a round smooth amethist that would watch over me, and a scaly quartz the size of my thumbnail that I could rest my future on.
These cosmic angels that I had led through Mrs. Joyce’s kitchen and down to the pool were friends of Marcos and Geronimo. Geronimo had been talking for months about The Metaphysicals, which I believed was the name of a rock group. In some ways they were, but not musicians.”If you had come to the “door” in Sunnyvale,” Aeva explain now, “You would be lying on a table in the parlor surrounded by thousands of crystals.” I was glad I had not, I know the neighborhood. Whenever I pass I see an ambulance parked on the street.”What you will experience today,” Aeva say, “is a small still voice from within.” And she promise me rebirth and answers to any questions I had on my mind, as well.
Sitting close to the ground, her chair invisible, she seem to be held up by something that I could not see. She start by telling how her own life changed.”One day,” she say, “I was just getting out of the bath tub.” (In my own mind I can see Iguasso Falls sliding off that roly-poly body, and myself in a barrel washed over the edge.) “On the television, a man was saying, “If you don’t want to have your life changed, turn off the sound now.”” (She has a television set in her bathroom! This message would have sent me surfing across the floor to put my hand on the knob and probably electrocute myself, it’s sound so much like my mother on long distance from Brazil). Aeva say, “My life was already shit, so what did I have to lose?” She stood dripping into the tub. Tones explode from the TV that left her weak and shaky, and the next week Aeva—then called Alice—went to a meeting. Twelve strangers joined hands and made sounds that shook Alice into Aeva, and into a happy future, having nothing to do with her shitty past.
I was beginning to get the idea that I was the right person for spiritual healing. I needed help badly. I had no luck in love, and I missed being in Santana but I could not go back. Over there the men work for the company flattening the forest while they die from AIDS.And the women are taught to be friends, mothers, and lovers to them. Jobs are very scarce, and I know nothing like what I did study would come up. One year ago my two younger brothers drowned when the ferry sank, they were bringing gifts for the baptism of my oldest brother’s child. And the last time I call home, mama say that my little sister is pregnant, and mama will have to care for the baby so Rosita can continue to work, as I did work, in the hotel that filled all of our bellies, especially my sister’s.
Aeva decide to do the cook first. Grinning, Marcos shuffle to the center chair. He move loosely side-to-side, grabbing onto things as if he is not sure if they are there. He drag his feet on the ground and twist his body in unnecessary directions. It’s seem chance that lands him in the webbed seat. His eyes slide around, I think that he is asking me if he can trust them not to harm him. Before letting him get zapped (although in his case it can only do good) I pass around snacks and the sake that Marcos’ companion, Geronimo, brought.
The girl wearing a white headband from hairline to eyebrows tell how she had her life changed. She sound like a recording, her face has no more expression than a doorknob. She say her father was dying of cancer, and she was looking for answers in the wrong places.”At the time,” she say, “I was a student at Harvard Med, so I was looking toward science. After I met Aeva and heard the tones, I was reborn.”
“What happened to your father?” I ask her when the tape ends.
The girl say, “His spirit left for a higher dimension.”
Aeva’s side-kick angels surround Marcos. Aeva stands behind him with her baloney fingers tangled in his dark, matted hair. She does not tinker with his hearing aids. Marcos stares straight ahead, and his eyes look weird. Aeva has not started healing him, and already his body is jerking like a swatted house fly.”Relax,” Aeva snaps. She begin to throw out tones, not words, not hums, resembling no bird or animal. Some are shrieks, sudden and piercing, some are twangs, like “nnnnggg.” Some high, some low. It flows. The other metaphysicians tune in. The Harvard Med dropout sits crosslegged in front of Marcos and steadies his knees. Her bright eyes are darty and blissful, as if in her mind she’s hear angels singing. The other one in the white suit, who I think is a man, tries to clasp one of Marcos’ hands, but Marcos jerks it free. Aeva sways. She ripple her fingers from Marcos’ head to his shoulders to his chest as she umms. The metaphysicians seem to have slipped into a higher state.
Suddenly Marcos trashes blessedness. He shouts his own indistinct words and flings his arms and clever, floppy hands. Marcos kneads pastry in air, twirls pizzas, slices peppers, and squeezes lemons or mangos. His body does not stay still for a minute. Finally I catch on that Marcos is high on something. Geronimo keeps their supply safe. Geronimo is a small Japanese man with syrupy blue eyes and a Southern accent. To him, Marcos is like a big dumb piece of softwear. Geronimo programs the stoning to keep Marcos harmless on the job and peaceful at home. All that morning, it’s now come to me, Marcos and Geronimo have been walking out back. Each time they return, Marcos’ shoulders are a little jerkier, his T-shirt a little sweatier, his eyes a little sappier. The pot has no affect on Geronimo, or so I think, until the girl whose papa die happy bring an unexpected scream into the chanting. She jump up from her place at Marcos’ feet. Aeva look sharply at her and make a chopping motion to silence everyone. Flushfaced, the girl say that Geronimo, who was standing behind her, had put his naked hard-on against her neck, and when she reach back to swat a mosquito she grab his penis instead.
I decided not to have my husband Sidney LeRoi traced. Instead I spent my money on Americanizing myself. I lost 30 pounds and had my teeth replaced. I permed my hair so that it stand out restlessly, like uncooked fusilli, the color the same as the redwood stain on the picnic table.
Marcos gets up from the chair still a foggy-looking pothead. He goes to squat by the pool, I think with the idea of fishing out some diamonds, but the fatherless girl come up behind and push him in. He make a big splash and is no more sober when we pull him out. I am making a mental note to shock the water with a big dose of chlorine before Mrs. Joyce comes home.
Now Geronimo is in the hot seat. This neat Japanese man say he was a dentist in Brazil (not the same killer that replaced my uppers with a set too large for my mouth. When I complain he say that he was not himself that day.) Over here Geronimo does acupuncture and massage therapy. He accept his mystical walk-in with dignity, calm even when they shriek in his ears. When silence falls, he rises and bows. Not much has happened so far as I can tell.
Oh-Oh! Now I see that Marcos is getting ready to pee-pee in Mrs. Joyce’s pool. He is standing on the lip and raising one leg in the way of a doggie getting ready to pee-pee.
I call my employer Mrs. Joyce to show respect and to annoy her. Edna Joyce is not anymore married than I am. She does have a boyfriend, a pink-faced man with silver hair who arrives on Fridays with my salary in twenties. Mr. Deport is tall, and rounded front and back in the shape of a hard boiled egg. Before he comes, I write I love you, Bunny in lipstick on the bathroom mirror, and sign it Edna J. In the morning I bring Mr. Deport his newspaper and coffee on the deck so he can read and sip in comfort. I put a towel on the cushion to keep out the morning damp. Mr. Deport’s nature is romantic, like mine. Sometime he reach into my skirt pocket and later I find a 20 there. He say, “If you are writing those messages to me, Yara, that’s okay. I like them. But you should sign your own name.” With a slight shift of luck, he seem to hint, I could be a mother, lover, and friend to him. I am keeping this in mind. But right now, lonely as I am, I don’t want to risk losing my job. It may be all that separate me from becoming a full time link in the Sacred Chain.
“Sit down,” Aeva say. “Your turn.”
I’m not sure. Suppose Mrs. Joyce come home with no warning, and find my Higher Self floating over her swimming pool? Then I reach out for Marcos’ hand, for grounding.”Ok, I’m ready,” I tell Aeva.”Let’s go.”
“Focus your attention on your third eye, between the other two.”
“Okay. I’m focused.”
Don’t talk! Think about what you want most from life,” Aeva say, after a few warm-up chants & tones.
Magically, my mother’s words come out of my mouth: “I want someone to fill me up. I don’t want to be lonely.”
I want someone to hold on to, someone I can count on to love me. But I don’t say this out loud.
“Go on,” Aeva prompt me.
My thoughts go further, why not ask for everything? Why not ask that my father didn’t die, and we are living on the plantation again? Why not ask for Marcos’ hearing to be cured? Even for mama to come—I do remember her often and wish I can see her some day. Aeva is supposed to figure out your deepest wishes and get results. But for now I decide to start simply, with something she can deliver.”I want Sidney LeRoi back.”
“Good!” Aeva says, at my request for help. “Love isn’t love unless it’s ex-pressed.” Her hand give a pat on my head and my scalp tingles. Peter holds my shaking knees.”Allow it to flow,” Aeva tell me, kneading my shoulders.”You’re too tense—breathe.”
I try to relax, I breathe deeply and shut my eyes. I picture my body rising and tumbling around in space. Looking down at myself from up there, I look very small and hollow, empty as a puffball with a crisp brittle shell. If you squeeze it breaks open, then nothing is left but a few specs. I imagine Marcos’ rubbery fingers unfolding, and see that he has the puff ball in his large palm. . . .”
I find myself on the ground looking up. A spiritual energy seems to fill me. It connects me to Marcos, who is kneeling beside me looking fuzzy. His brow has become lower and strands of dark, thin hair are stuck down as far as the bridge of his nose. He begins to make noises. Right away Geronimo tell him to go back up to the kitchen. I let him go, but I am not sure it’s a good idea to leave him alone in the house.
A year ago, out of the blue, I got a post card from Beaumont, Texas: “Hi Yara, thinking of you. Love, Papa.” I wanted to go see him, but how could I leave Marcos? Me and Geronimo are the only ones who can understand what he is saying, and Geronimo steals his salary and feeds him drugs. But Mrs. Joyce was going on an art buying trip to Dallas, and she say she would take me along to pack and unpack. This was my chance to see if Papa was the man to fill up my emptiness, and if nothing more came of it, to see Texas.
“Yo, Yara.” He didn’t look familiar until I saw him hike his pants with his wrists. Lean, legs bowed, in a ten gallon hat and pointy boots with two inch heels. Drooping moustaches that curve up on both ends like soup ladles. Skin the color of burnt toast and meshed like a strainer. I tucked up my new skirt and spread my legs to either side of the saddle and we roared off on his motorcycle. Mrs. Joyce’s handed-down straw hat lifted off my head as we left the parking lot and twirl into the white sky like a helocopter. The land that flew by to either side was rolled flat as pie dough. We rode for more than an hour, the wind starching my hair—it could of straighten my teeth and save me some money. My lips got so stiff I could hardly open my mouth for the day I was down there.
Papa took me to his camper that he say was outside of town. I never did see the inside of town, everything was outside. The bathroom was outside. We ate that night at a roadside barbeque pit under the stars. In the light of the glowing coals all the men at the long table look so much like Papa, with their big hats resting on their ear rims, I start to wonder if maybe I’d picked the wrong man at the bus.
Back in the camper, Papa (he ask me to call him El Cid, but I kept forgetting) put Tom Waits’ growl on the tape player and hunkered down. I undressed in the dark and got in next to him. We slept alongside each other all night, not touching. I must of listened to “Blind Love,” over and over a hundred times. I could feel the warmth of Papa being there. But there didn’t seem any way I could latch on.
Next thing I hear is Aeva saying, “Now you’re worthy of perfect love,” and laughing a joyful laugh. When I stand up a little dizzy, half under the spell of my old being and half into my new being, I realize that things at the house aren’t so well. Oh-Oh! I start up the hillside. As I come close, I hear yelling:
“Answer me. Did you take that 20 dollars?”
Marcos answers with a roar that even I don’t understand.
“You liar! I caught you red-handed.”
In the driveway, Mr. Deport is slaping the garden hose on the pavement like a wild animal trainer. Marcos, his shorts and T-shirt plastered to his light bones, keeps springing around in front of him, laughing like a crazy man. Mr. Deport’s car sits with the motor throbbing. Mrs. Joyce’s furious yap is coming through a crack in the window: “What were you doing in my house? Who are you?”
Marcos tries to speak, his throat swells with effort. He makes high-pitched, choked, slow sounds. Mr. Deport’s eyes pop. He holler, “Give me my 20 and get the hell off this property, or I’ll call the police.”
Mrs. Joyce opens the window a crack more: “Call the police, get the police! He’s dangerous.”
Mr. Deport twirls the hose in a circle above his head like a lasso, then lets it fly. It strikes Marcos’ shoulder lightly. Marcos tumbles off his unsteady feet. Lying on his back, his head whips side to side the way it does when he’s having a bad dream. Mr. Deport stands above him, breathing hard. Mrs. Joyce shrieks through the rolled-down window.”He’s mental, can’t you see? Don’t try to talk to him. He can’t understand what you’re saying.”
Marcos’ legs jerk in air, he covers his head with his arms and makes a senseless racket. Then all at once he’s quiet. Mr. Deport nudges him with his foot. When I step between to try to push Mr. Deport away, he grabs me, squeezing me to him. He say, “Careful. Careful.” A door slams. Mrs. Joyce has jumped out of the car, and she stand looking from her lover to me, her red mouth popped open like a bruised tomato. Mr. Deport’s long arm press me against his belly, his eyes move rapidly. It seems that he is considering if it is possible for only one woman be all three things to a man. Just then there is a rippling of cosmic laughter, and both of my employers turn in amazement as The Metaphysicians float like spirits up the hill between the tall trees, light and white and high on pot and sake.
With an angry growl Marcos sinks his teeth into Mr. Deport’s pants’ leg, and Mr. Deport lets go of me. Getting on his knees, Marcos hugs my legs and buries his head in my skirt. I hear sirens howling, shrill and near. Marcos raise his face, his bewildered, sorrowful face. A shred of material hangs from his lip. I reach down to take it off, and someone grips my arm.
“I think I’ll go home today,” I said to Sidney LeRoi.
He was going to work and had one foot on the cement block outside the doorway of the trailer.”I’m sorry you came all this way for nothing, Yara.”
“Well, I hope things will be fine,” I say. “I wish the best to you.” All night I had stayed awake trying to figure out what to do, and by morning I knew the answer wasn’t Texas.”Bye, El Cid.” I gave him a big hug.
El Cid kicked the patch of sunlight with his boot, and asked me, “You figuring on getting a divorce?”
“No. That’s okay. I don’t have anyone to marry.”
In the dark back seat of the squad car, I can see Marcos shrunk down on the floor, pulled into himself, muttering, nearly lost. I see the shiny spot of scalp on the top of his head. The sun coming in the window fills it with crystal light. As I look into it, it’s come to me that I have been looking for love in the wrong places. I open the door and slip inside with Marcos.