Mamacita has been requesting husbands for far too long. She lights candles and recites rosaries for her hijita jamona. I challenge her request, trading in crinoline for soup kitchens.
“Don’t ask for an esposo in my name,” I implore, two touches too frank for Mamacita’s Catholic ears.
“Y que,” she invokes me.
This time, I choose to answer her.
“Pray for starving children. That’s the type of prayer for which you call upon God. Do that in my name.”
“Oh si…” she challenges, and I see I have done nothing to alter her agenda except to add a whispered postscript for an hijita less spitfire y mas feminina.
* * *
He would chuckle, a deep rich laugh coming from his soul, and I would feel genuinely good humored and beam because of my audience.
“Well, belleza, we will see you tomorrow at Terminal C. Don’t forget to pick us up. Your mother can’t hitchhike anymore.”
Now, terminal is the end. Not her arrival into my waiting arms after a trip to la isla to see Tio Juan y Titi Gloria, but the end, and she is here on this side of the Caribbean where we, the tres hermanos and, me, the nenita, are the only thing she believes in besides the institution of marriage and her rosary.
* * *
Perhaps it is the idea of independence versus statehood that chills me most. One hundred years ago, imperialism was the American fad, and we charged San Juan Hill in Cuba before taking a detour over to the island. The commonwealth arrangement seemed quite nice in theory, yet it was a tease for those island people and nothing more. If you will join with us, we will pretend you are just like us, but we will deny you what we do not deny your English-speaking kindred, the chance at opportunity. And when I walk those island streets, I see potential starved away by the fixed illusion of what being a commonwealth might mean.
“It means nothing,” I want to shout. I want to stomp on over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and say, with my respectable American education that I would not have had in the commonwealth, “It means nothing!”
Maybe, here, we find the root of my fear of union. This commonwealth arrangement began with good intentions: a search for balance among two contributing parties. It is the idea that neither party is as strong individually as the two wholes united, yet neither party is so strong and mighty that it should overpower the other. It was noble in effort, but not in execution. What if that is what marriage is these days: noble yet not do-able? And Mamacita and Papito were too good at it for me to go in and ruin my whole concept of the institution and my concept of this “fine young man” whom Mamacita would like to call her own if only I were more agreeable.
Read Part 2 in tomorrow’s post