5. I Want His Words

Marina saw through the eyehole. Hal was at the door. She ran her fingers through her short black curls. She opened the door wide, giddy like when Papi came home. “No warning, sorry.” Hal pushed into her, gave her his stained tooth predator grin. “I was walking through the South City Boro Festival and I found myself around your corner so I took a chance you’d be home and take me in.” Now his grin was boyish. She let him kiss her. He stroked her thrift shop cashmere sweater. “You look so beautiful in lavender.” He stroked her hair. “Your hair’s so black. Your skin’s so smooth.” He was pulling off the sweater, pushing her toward the futon on the floor of her bedroom. “When I was a boy I dreamt of somebody like you. A hot chili pepper.”
How did they get in bed so fast, not even time for a cup of tea? She was swept up by his thrusting, his eagerness. She sensed he barely saw her yet she embodied the hot chili pepper of his early sexuality, borrowed his sexuality, confused his sexual hunger for her own. After they were done Marina lay hollow and silent beside him. He closed his eyes, swung his arm over his eyes. She stirred and he inched away.“Let’s just be quiet and listen to the music.” There were so many things she wanted to say to him but she didn’t know what they were. She waited for him to unlock her. She wanted him to give her her own words. She wanted to show him her last poem but she could tell he wanted to be left alone to his music.
The phone rang. She heard Ori’s voice. She ran to the phone and listened through the speaker of the answering machine. “Machi’s got 104 fever. He’s asking for you.” She dressed quickly, banging the closet door, slamming her feet into her shoes. Her tongue tasted like metal flakes. She recognized the metallic taste from an ancient lsd trip and felt revulsion, nauseated, utterly alone. Hal was tripping. Did grown men still trip?
They walked together to the avenue where they ran into the Festival. He turned right, barely waving, and got swallowed by the crowd. She made her way in the opposite direction toward the train, pushing through the people. She barely saw the booths selling clothes, food, jewelry.
Machi was wilted on the couch, limp, his hair pasted with sweat onto his skull. Ori was beside him spoon feeding him watered down apple juice. She gathered her little boy onto her lap. “You called Dr. Hart?” Ori nodded. “I gave him drops and if the fever won’t go down we’re to take him to the emergency room.” Machi’s eyes were golden brown. She could read them. They were telling her, “Mami come home.”Why had she made all their lives so sad? So she could go be with Danny and now with Hal? She saw clearly, in this moment, that these men barely existed. She was giving them the love she needed to give to herself. They consumed her but didn’t exist, had been a ruse of her mind. But what was it she wanted? Where was the bedrock she couldn't find? If only Ori would take her back she would come back right now. But he swore to her he never would.
“Where did Gato go?” Machi was close to tears. They’d come back from their last family vacation to find Gato gone and within weeks Marina seduced herself and named it Danny and was gone. “What happened?” Machi’s voice was close to a moan. Had his mind conflated loss of Gato and loss of Mother? She turned her face away to hide her tears. Machi was almost asleep now. She slid beside him and cuddled him against her chest and fell asleep. A few hours later she awoke. Ori was asleep in his armchair and Machi’s fever was gone.
Machi needed to fall asleep for the night but he wouldn’t with her sitting there. He pulled her to the window, got her to lie on the mattress under the eaves of his attic bedroom. He liked to look out onto the street with her by his side, watching the people. “Hey down there with the dirty underwear.” He yelled and the man walking past the house looked up but couldn’t trace the sound. “Hey down there with the dirty underwear.” Marina laughed. “Who taught you that?” Machi rolled onto his back laughing his legs and arms pounding with laughter. “David and I do that. We made up a song.” Marina waited for Machi to go on.
“Goes like this.”
She said nothing. She waited.
He was embarrassed and she wondered if he needed prodding before he would sing.
“Goes like this.”
She waited.
He got up and walked to the middle of the room.
“The moon. I want to go to the moon.”
He drew out the oooo sound.
“The streets are cool if you know what to do.”
How long would her son let her be his best friend?
He wanted her to stay until he went to sleep for the night.
“Make me macaroni.”
Everything in her old kitchen was where it used to be. She found the guayo, and in the middle drawer of the fridge, a brick of yellow cheddar cheese. She filled the big pasta pot with water and while it boiled she grated a mountain of cheese Machi kept eroding by taking fistfuls he stuffed into his mouth puffing his cheeks. She could see him longing for her to stay and things to be the way they were. If only they could be.
Ori helped them carry dishes up to the Machi’s bedroom on the top floor.
“Feed me the airplane way.” He’d crawled under his quilt and was leaning into the wall. She flew spoonfuls of macaroni into his mouth, opened to be the airport, his tongue stuck out to be the runway. When her own Papi fed her that way it was to force her to eat.
Just as he got sleepy Machi woke himself up, too afraid to fall asleep.
“Tell me a story of Machimbili. Tell me a story of Machimbili on the disappeared planet.”
Marina nodded. “Machimbili climbed into the invisible spaceship made out of his mother’s love. They traveled through space, through blackness…”
Machi picked up the tale…”Until he landed on the most beautiful planet and a forest of shiny leaves. Machimbili couldn’t believe how beautiful the planet was. He thought he’d find his beloved lost friend Davimbili who had been taken away in a spaceship made of hate….”
Machi had taken over the story….
“The bad spaceship was black and had knives and lances sticking up on all sides like a porcupine. Poison lances stuck out on every side. It was made out of his mother’s hate. Machimbili had the feeling this planet was where Davidimbili had gone…The planet’s trees made music like flutes when the wind blew through the flowers.”
Marina smiled. Ori was playing jazz flute in his bedroom next door.
“Machimbili noticed that Bullet, Bwocket, Black, Nick and Jingle Bell had stowed away on his space ship. He looked at them and he saw this was actually Bad Bullet, Bad Bwocket, Bad Black and Bad Jingle Bell. Now he knew that this was the bad planet and he had to make sure to save Davimbili.” He stopped and looked at her. “Where do you think he is?”
Marina drew him to her and he nestled against her chest. “Davimbili had found himself a cave…
He broke in. “No, no…He made himself a house on top of a flute tree where he could get a good view of everything the Bads were doing on the ground. He wove himself some wings from feathers he found in the leaves.
Marina walked down the stoop of what had been her home for the third time in two days. Had Machi gotten sick to bring her home? His fever was down and here she was leaving him again. For what? The day was too clear and there were too many people on the street. She raced into the subway not knowing where to go. Why leave them if she had no place to be?