'La Otra'

By L. Crystal Michallet-Romero

Copyright © Thursday, October 06, 2005 L. Crystal Michallet-Romero
All Rights Reserved c/s


None needed. This is an original work of fiction told in the narrative story-telling style. Some is fiction, some is based on actual events. You can decide for yourself which part is fiction, and which is not.

Feedback welcome: CrystalMichallet@yahoo.com

To read my live journal: http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=crystal_romero

What becomes of a floundering relationship that was built upon years of laughter, merriment, humor, and yes, sadness and sorrow? What is a person supposed to do when the remnants of their lives are easily ripped apart like the seam of a hem? When we suddenly becomes she and I, and I am the only one fighting the uphill battle to recapture the zest that once was the glue holding us together. Is it human nature to give up without a struggle? Or is it our innate sense of survival to cling to the mate with whom we have found joy and sorrow?

As I sit here feeling the fragments of my life suddenly slipping away, I wonder how my ancestors managed these tangle of emotions. Did they move on, find another mate and never think twice about the years left behind? Or did they try to fight, and fail, only to retreat into the darkness of an abyss in hope of one day seeing the sun again? I don't really know how my ancestors survived the gut wrenching bile that rose from the misery of their loss. I can only remember how my family handled similar situations. As childhood memories, I stored those incidents in the recesses of my mind.

In his stand up comedy routine, George Lopez once stated that men should heed his words when it comes to Latinas. "Never," he said with an air of authority, "Never piss of a Latina because she will exact a revenge unlike any other classification of women!" This brought a roar of laughter from the audience and even caused me to cry in hysterical merriment at the memories of all the times when my uncles did just that to my aunts.

We Latinas are built of sturdy stock. We have gone through the harshest extremes and not only have landed on our feet, but we've also landed with our pride fully intact. My tia's were no different.

Once, when I was barely able to reach the peddles on my brother's ten speed bike, I remember sitting outside of my grandparents old white house near the railroad tracks. Though my grandparents were never rich, their doors were always open to us kids, and it became the local hangout. One early Saturday morning we were all alerted to the sounds of wailing screams echoing off of the nearby warehouse walls. The owner of the screams seemed unconcerned that a crowd was quickly gathering near his abode. Instead, he was busy fending off the blows, kicks and scratches of one of my aunts. There was an unwritten rule in our community that once a couple was established, even if not yet married, no woman would ever cross that line of decency to covet, steal or even borrow the man. This was an unbreakable rule that was honored by the women with class in the community, if not the men.

On this particular morning we kids did not know what was going on, but as there were only three channels on the television at this time, entertainment was at a premium. Filled with excitement, we quickly dropped whatever we were doing to run and watch the spectacle that was unfolding. Not ones to be left behind, the men quickly followed close behind to gawk, laugh and make rude comments about the man who being publicly emasculated with every curse hurled his way. Even though my aunts were not prone to cursing, situations like this proved they were quite capable of making Grandma cringe with embarrassment at their language.

"Ayiiii, PENDEJO! CABRONE!" Tia Lupie screamed as she chased the half-naked man down the street. She held her fancy, high-heeled stiletto firmly in her grip and swung it with the force of a professional baseball player. Occasionally the dagger tip landed solidly against naked flesh, but more often it grazed his back, torso and arms as he made a wild zigzag formation in a feeble attempt at escape.

"LOCA!" Tia Lupie's boyfriend shouted, but never was able to offer much more complaints as he was too busy covering his delicate jewels while also running away from the constant diatribe of expletives pouring from my aunt's Southern Baptist lips. Every once in a while this poor soul tried to find protection with his fellow men, but with their own sense of self-preservation, they quickly pulled their ranks away from him as their hoots and hollers followed the wayward couple down the street. Each of these men had his own battle scars from similar narrow escapes with his own fiery Latina.

Sometimes when the "pinche pendeja," as the other woman was always called, was found with the man, the scorned wife's wrath was turned on the mistress. This never lasted long because, although the adulteress was given the invisible marking of her nature, it was the man who had to be quickly reined under control, just as Tia Lupie did with artistic expertise.

"Women like this are the lowest form of humans," Grandma's sage tones sounded out to each female generation in the family. "They are viejas putas! They do not care for the families they break apart, the niños who will be left behind, or the souls that they hurt. They only think of themselves, and what's between their legs!" Grandma spat, a look of disgust crossing her features.

Pinches pendejaswere rarely welcomed back into the community. Many found themselves ostracized and outcast by family and friends. Only by returning with a man of their own would one be allowed back into the fold. But even then, she was never fully trusted alone with other men. The scandal of her past actions, her sole indiscretion, was a scarlet letter she forever bore.

As I sit here mired in my own unraveling life, I realize not even Grandma was immune from infidelity. She, the clan matriarch and powerful curandera, healer, felt the nagging sting of betrayal that befell many of the women in my family. But unlike Tia Lupie, Grandma used her wisdom to curtail Grandpa's wanderings.

Grandma had known something was wrong, she told me years later. She had no proof, but her years as a healer enabled her to detect the minute changes in her surroundings until she was able to pinpoint the ailments of both the land and its people. Using her intuition, she made haste to end the affair before it could flourish.

One Thursday night when all of our parents were working late in the sugar beet factory, Grandma gathered all of us kids into the ratty old pickup that was used to take us to church. Although she didn't have a driver's license, she did not hesitate to take the keys from the hook, grab her purse, and for reasons I did not know at the time, grab her rolling pin that was used to make tortillas.

In very un-abuela like behavior, my devoted Southern Baptist grandmother drove as if hell was chasing her bumper through the dirt streets and over the bridge. Throughout the entire drive we kids remained silent as we listened to the long litany of curses uttered in fluent Spanish and punctuated with a spattering of English. With an unexpected force, she veered the rusty truck up to the only bar in town, located next to the Piggly Wiggly. With purse, keys and rolling pin in hand, she stomped out of the truck and marched through the dark door that hid the neon signs. In the misty corner, Ranchera music blared from a juke box.

As the oldest granddaughter, it was my job to remain in the pickup truck to watch the younger kids, but at eight years old I wanted to see what would happen. Being a child made me invisible. I could walk into the dark, smoke-filled room without a single protest from an adult. Of course, following in the wake of my grandmother, they were probably more intrigued by the look of determination etched on her features than the small child who trailed behind.

Grandpa literally did not know what hit him. Sitting on a stool at the end of the bar with his back to the door, his attention was honed on the Latina beauty perched next to him. With the swiftness of an earthquake, Grandma wielded the rolling pin with lethal force and landed it squarely across Grandpa's head. Dazed and confused, he fell to the floor. Seeing the red in Grandma's eyes, his floozy quickly moved behind another patron for protection from the wild-eyed Latina wife. To his credit, Grandpa attempted a show of machismo, but before he could bolster his bravado, the rolling pin landed one last time with a resounding thump that sounded like a coconut hitting the concrete asphalt.

For my grandmother, everything was a blur after this point. But I remember clearly when the sheriff and his deputy arrived at the bar. After looking over the scene, they turned to my grandmother who, with much aplomb, pointed the rolling pin menacingly at the unconscious form of my grandfather.

"That is my man!" Grandma's voice was low and deep as she gasped from the adrenaline. "And she is a pinche pendeja!" her menacing voice was completely controlled as she pointed the rolling pin at the woman who now cowered behind the patrons.

Hoots of laughter erupted in the small, dingy bar. The sheriff, with a shake of his head, moved down to examine my grandfather. Only after Grandpa began to blink his eyes open did the sheriff turn to Grandma, his handlebar moustache wiggled from his smile.

"I understand," the man stated with a chuckle, "Now let's get him home where he belongs." The sheriff and deputy helped my grandfather to his feet and began guiding his wobbly steps through the bar.

Later, when they helped Grandpa up the steps of his home, the sheriff, fingering the black baton in his belt, left him with one parting promise, "If we ever see you with another woman other than your wife, we will administer the lumps!" For added emphasis, the deputy nodded as he gripped the handle of his weapon.

Although Grandpa swears to this day that it was the threat from the sheriff and his deputy that kept him in line, the family jokes that it was Grandma's the skillful wielding of the rolling pin and the lump that never disappeared that helped him remain faithful in their fifty-three years of marriage. To further bolster this image, Grandma presented rolling pins to each of my cousins on their wedding day. I've never known any of them to use it as Grandma did, but simply the threat of it looming figuratively over their men's heads seemed to keep the husbands in line.

While these memories are amusing, I can imagine the pain that Tia Lupie and Grandma experienced when they first learned of the betrayals of the men in their lives. I can find myself laughing at the comical scenes and remember all of the various retellings of these stories, and I wonder if someday I, too, will be able to laugh at this time in my life. I think of my mother and wonder how she found the strength to go on, to remain married to my father after his disloyalty.

Like my own spouse, my father's infidelity was unconsummated. It was a lust born of boredom and indecision. Unhappy with his life, bored with the wife that he had been married to since he was seventeen years old, he turned his attention to the only single woman in our area – my aunt.

I've heard that the women in our family are gifted with an accurate sense of instinct. We feel when something is wrong deep in our gut, and although we cannot always put our suspicious into words, we search out the cause until the blackness is revealed. This is how my mother's tale preceded my own.

Mother felt my father's unnatural attraction to her sister. I remember her talking to him about it, and him quickly denying it. But as the months wore on, it could not be ignored. True to his nature, he called her loca, crazy, because only a crazy woman would accuse him of such a despicable act. Sadly, she began to doubt herself and believe that she was, indeed, insane. Only when my aunt brought my father's disrespectful conduct to my mother's attention was Mother able to finally confront him.

Unlike Grandma or Tia Lupie, my mother is docile in nature. She is not prone to violence or physical actions. Instead she used her words until my father finally admitted that, yes, he had a desire for my aunt. I realize that if anyone had a right to leave their man, it was my mother. But she did not. Instead, she forced my father to join her in the unconventional solution known as therapy.

Therapy, Grandma always said, was for the weak. It was unheard of for family to air their dirty laundry to a stranger, let alone a gringo stranger with a paper declaring him an expert. Despite her protests, my family often relies on therapy as a solution.

This past week, as I come to grips with the infidelity of my spouse of eight years, I wonder how my mother was able to handle the ultimate betrayal of her husband. My inherited intuitions led me to suspect the affair that my mate was having with a woman on the east coast. Just like the situation with my father, I was told tales until I, too, began to doubt my own sanity. Mirroring my father's actions, my partner never consummated her longing for another, but she is like Jimmy Carter who, "lusted in his heart," although unlike Carter, she longs to carry it into a physical affair.

As I hear the litany of praise for a woman my partner has never met, I feel my soul crying endless tears. The casual disregard for eight years of shared laughter, happiness and life challenges have left a deep chasm of pain. When I think of the gut wrenching grief that I feel, I wonder how my mother made it through the same emotions that were magnified because the other woman was not only innocent, but her own sister. If Grandma visited me today from the afterlife, her spirit would be pointing toward the rolling pin, the catchall solution to the infidelity of the heart. Tia Lupie would probably loan me her Saturday night "cumbia" stilettos, while my mother would point me in the direction of the Christian therapist who saved her own marriage.

Some have told me that this is a seven year itch, a catch phrase that is meant to explain away the boredom that one person in the union has when real life replaces the romantic idealism of blissful harmony. Another friend told me that her own husband did the same thing when he was my partner's age, and I'm reminded that my father had his own bout of insanity for my aunt when he was my partner's age. Yet there are others who tell me to move on, to find someone worthy of me. Yet that still small voice in my head shows me the virtues of the woman with whom I promised, eight years ago, to spend the rest of my life. I see both her beauty and the character flaws that cling to her psyche like warts. I remember the intelligence and creative talents that first attracted me to her. And I find myself unwilling to so casually toss aside the years of love, dreams, laughter and pain that we have shared. Perhaps if Grandma's spirit is watching me now, she might find it in her heart to forgive her granddaughter who has chosen to air her dirty laundry to a "gringo" therapist rather than resort to the solution that she took those many years ago. Regardless of where my path leads me, perhaps this small step will help me to mend and piece back together the fragile armor around my heart.


I couldn't leave this story with such a bleak tone so I decided to add a tidbit that occurred a few days after I wrote this story. I finally had the opportunity to communicate directly with the pinche pendeja through emails this morning, and although I thought I would have a great deal of anger and hostility toward her, another emotion rose up in me. I realized after replying to her email that a sudden sadness engulfed me, but not for me, for her. The lead weight that was lodged in the pit of my stomach ever since learning of my partner's infidelity with a stranger suddenly vanished. The painful gravity that was holding me down lifted from my shoulders, and I felt liberated from all of the feelings of insecurity, anger, betrayal and sadness lodged within me for the past week.

I realized that this woman is truly a sad character. Yes, she may have things that I do not have, a career, an excellent job title, a home, children, a few published books and, by all appearances, the American Dream of having a stable family, but this is all an illusion. Her personal life is chaotic, her sanity is unstable, her love life in the real world with her own wife is miserable and she lacks the basic essence of self esteem to pull herself out of the grips of her misery. She claims that her wife of three years is a psychotic, "fragile" person which contradicts the coherent nature that I've seen in her wife. I came to the realization that the pinche pendeja is, to put it bluntly, the poster child for the stereotypical "fucked up" lesbian that we either have been (including myself) before therapy, have met, or have befriended in our lives.

I find it truly sad to realize that the pinche pendeja's only shining moment in life is the fictional fantasy love that she has formed with a woman, my partner, whom she has never met. Once the misery and the temporary crushing of my own self esteem vanished, I felt a smile cross my face, and I realized that in terms of mental health and stability, I far exceeded the pinche pendeja by leaps and bounds. If an analogy could be formed that best describes this situation I now find myself in, I am a Mercedes S65 AMG, and she is a Ford Pinto. It suddenly dawned on me that if my partner decides to leave me for this online love whom she has never met, she will be trading down - a Mercedes for a Pinto.

Now there is no sadness in me. I am not saddened by the situation that has transpired because I know that, regardless of what happens in the future, I will be like all of the women in my family who have landed on their feet. I will survive. And as one of my best male friends said to me, "Everyone wants to drive a Mercedes, but no one wants to be seen with a Pinto!"

I know that my life will be alright no matter what happens. The only words of warning I gave to my partner after revealing this epiphany are that should she decide to trade down, I do not want to get a phone call from her later about the oil leak on her driveway or that the engine exploded when it was rear-ended because she is the one who traded a sane and healthy Mercedes for a Pinto who needs an awful lot of work. For the first time since this fiasco occurred, she and I were able to share a laugh together, which is always a good thing.

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