Friday, August 8, 2014
The first time I saw Lovie was at my dad’s factory holiday party. I was eight and the factory workers transformed the lunchroom into a Christmas Extravaganza like the banner said, but really I could still see the scratched round tables under the plastic tablecloths and the vending machines were covered in white paper with a bucket of crayons next to each one, so us kids could draw on the hard rectangle shape.
I stood next to the snowman made of toilet paper rolls and topped with someone’s baseball cap, and finished my hot chocolate as my ma and dad danced under the colored lights near the 4ft plastic Christmas tree.
I had just gotten the marshmallows that stuck to the bottom of the Styrofoam cup to slide down the sides and into my mouth when I heard, “My, you look like your daddy.” I swallowed the sweet gooiness and peeked up. There was this woman shaped like a toothpaste tube. She had the blondest hair and the pinkish lipstick and the line where her boobs were pushed together looked like the line on my ma’s forehead.
“You have Miguel’s eyes,” she said and pinched my cheek like the grandmas did on television. I didn’t know who she was or where she had come from. I looked around and saw my dad and ma still dancing. My ma’s arms wrapped around my father’s neck, his clasped behind her waist. My ma had made the dress she was wearing. Bought the material and spent a month on it, so it would fit just right.
“I’m Lovie,” the woman said, she was so tall I could almost see her brain up her nose. She reached out her hand. I was brought up to be polite. I was also brought up not to speak to strangers.
“I work with your daddy,” she said and I nodded. She took back her hand. I wasn’t sure what I was suppose to say or what she wanted from me. Lovie smiled and patted me on the head, looked over at my parents under the tiny disco ball someone hung on the ceiling and sighed. The smile disappeared.
“See you around,” she said walking away to a group of people drinking beer from bottles that glistened.
An hour later, as my dad’s coworkers laughed and told jokes, as salsa blasted over the speakers plugged into the yellow and black boom box like a bumble bee, as my ma told the story to a group of women about the day dad almost died in the park, I went into the room behind the cafeteria to get more marshmallows. I opened the swinging door, streetlight coming through the metal screens over the windows laying light shadows across the walls. In the corner, whispers escaped and then they faded into noises.
Though I knew I should have turned back, I tiptoed further into the room and wasn’t sure what I was seeing. Maybe my eyes hadn’t adjusted to the dimness though my insides knew they had. Lovie was kissing my dad right on his mouth, their hands wrapped around each other just like how his were wrapped around my ma on the dance floor. I wanted to make it go away and I squeezed my eyes shut, but it was like erasing the wrong answer on a test and still seeing it etched into the paper though the lead had been brushed away.
I wasn’t sure what to do. Whether I should scream for them to stop or go get my ma, but both were short-lived. Instead I stepped out the room letting the swinging door go back in place and walked back to the cafeteria.
The streamers were no longer bright and the music was noise and the laughers of the men’s voices were like choking. Some little kid came over and told me they knew how to count to fifty and I stared at the lights on the Christmas tree till they blurred. When I heard “fifty” and the little kid clapped, I walked away and found my ma still in the middle of the circle, the women now awing, so I knew that she was at the part where the paramedics had saved my father. We were happy then. I started to cry.
“Baby, what’s wrong?” she said stopping midway and I told her my stomach hurt and that I wanted to go home. “Where’s your dad?” she said after telling me we’d go home right away and we scanned the room and he was just getting back to the group of laughing men and Lovie walked over towards us with a cup that steamed in one hand.
“Let me get your father,” ma said and left me sitting on a cold metal chair. She hurried over to him. Lovie came up to me.
“I saw you devoured that hot chocolate. I brought you some more.”
I stared up at her. I wanted to tell her what I saw. What I saw she did with my dad, that I knew who she really was and I hated her with hair so blonde and I hated her legs like trees and I even hated my dad at that moment. Instead I lowered my eyes to the floor until I saw her wide black heels leave the tile and walk away.
When my parents came, my dad asked me what was wrong and all I did was cry some more and rubbed my stomach and said I wanted to go home. In the parking lot, my father held my hand like he hadn’t in years, like when I was little and we’d cross the street. I laid in the backseat of the car as he covered me with his coat, I’m sorry, you don’t feel good. You will get better soon, you’ll see, and I fell asleep before we even got home.
Cyn Vargas' short story collection is being published by Curbside Splendor Publishing in Spring 2015. She was recently named one of the 25 Writers to Watch, won the 2013 Guild Literary Complex Prose Award for Fiction, received two top accolades in Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers contests, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing- Fiction from Columbia College Chicago. Cyn is a 2nd Story Company Member and her work has appeared in Word Riot, Split Lip Magazine, and elsewhere.
Street art by People.
Photo by Adam Lawrence.
Literature is a Philly-based band and they are releasing their new album Chorus via Slumberland Records on August 19th.