Rubbing Tio Nestor's Feet

Adela They'd told Adela , the husband spoke, where they were from. Palestine. She thought, oppressed even longer than us. She remembered this now, as she rocked herself slowly on the swing on the porch of Tio Nestor's house in El Llano where she was the poor cousin living in what would be the servant's room under the house. Clotilde lay curled up at her feet. Nestor had accepted the dog without any complaints and just got done taking the hose to the dog himself , played with her like a boy. The dog was wasted from the excitement of getting adopted, trekking up and down the El Pico Preserve, getting tied up with a length of clothesline, and hosed. Adela watched Tio Nestor dozing on his big porch rocker, with the newspaper spread out on his belly. She read the headline upside down. Matanza en el Bajio. She shuddered. Sitting here watching Nestor nap and little Lydia rub his feet it was almost possible to forget there was a revolution, a civil war, going on. Lydia sat on the cool tiles, bent over her uncle's left foot, working her thumb up and down the arch. Nestor liked to make little girls rub his feet. But Lydia couldn't possibly want to do it. Adela had hated doing it when she was Lydia's age. She studied Nestor looking for signs that the foot rubbing was getting him off. Nestor was good to his family but rotten to his workers. He let Adela and her husband live in that little room under the house rent free. Still, she judged him. Yet here she was, his supplicant. It was really her father Nestor owed, her Father's favors Nestor was paying back. She didn't want to know exactly what the favors were. She imagined her Father's rank as a professor at the Uni rubbed off on Nestor, helped spin some of the mysteries around his original capitalization. How had he left Ventura, on the other side of the Cordillera de los Picos, to run away from that revolution, penniless but within the decade built a huge business as a contratista? And now, here he was in the middle of another revolution. Lydia was compliant. Adela remembered becoming entranced while she rubbed those feet. Now she didn't want to watch. It had taken her until she was eight but she finally figured out she could tell Tio Nestor, "Que no". She got up from the swing a bit unsteady from the motion . Neither Nestor nor Lydia said a word when she left. She walked around the house, hesitated by the door to her room, and went on to Noel's studio. He didn't always like her to hang around. He never said one way or the other , but Adela guessed. She liked watching Noel the way she liked to watch Clotilde, guessing, hoping to discover the secrets of another, more real species than herself. Right now she had no place to go and he would have to put up with her presence. Their little basement room felt claustrophobic in the daytime, although she felt safe in its tight space at night. Did Pulgarcito feel trapped in his small quarters inside her? She stood at Noel's door. She hoped he wouldn't hear her so she could watch the creature in its habitat. He was bent over his work table mixing colors. Where was it written that what Noel got to do counted as work? That's what her cousin Zuleika had said to Noel when she first met him, not long before Adela ran off to marry him. She liked to pick arguments with men she was attracted to. And of course Zuleika was attracted to Noel. Or, wanted Noel to be attracted to her. But Noel wasn't. Zuleika couldn't imagine a man existed who did not want her. Later that night after Noel went home from his vist, and before Adela' s father picked her up, she and Zuleika had settled into Matilde's bed for a late night chat . Zuleika lay alongside her Mother and Adela leaned on the footboard facing them. Zuleika went on and on about Noel's tall, spectacled, dark skinned good looks. "You caught a good one." Matilde squeezed her foot. Zuleika sat up and bent over laughing. "But he's the kind of guy you have to actually grab his yuca." She heard Zuleika now screech her car into the driveway, slam the door, clack clack her high heels. Adela could hear her now, yelling at her daughter Lydia. "Sueltale los pies a ese Viejo verde." Zuleika was home from work. "Let go that dirty old man's feet." She clacked her heelsinto the house. Lydia's screams followed. Adela turned to face the open French doors to Zuleika and Lydia's bedroom. She saw Zuleika throw Lydia onto her bed, and hit her on the bottom hard. "Suelta al viejo. Suelta al viejo." Adela turned away. She was afraid to stop Zuleika. Tomasa Monte would never have put up with tyranny in her own home. Lydia's screams were so loud Noel looked up from his mixing. Just because he could become utterly absorbed in the painstaking calibration of some shade didn't make him less like Tomasa Monte than she was. He gave her his delighted smile, the one that made his lips seem too tight for the joy he was feeling. He had made the decision to completely adore her. She didn't know exactly when it happened nor why. She knew she was a lucky woman. She had the love of a good man. Matilde did too, the love of a man who was good to his family, although to his workers he was bad. But Noel was good in all the walks of his life. Good to his wife. Good to his art students at the Uni Extension in el Llano. Good in a way Tomasa Monte would think was good. And Zuleika who needed to believe herself adored by all men hadn't held on to the one who fathered Lydia. He'd gone off to the City with a shorthaired tourist a few months after Lydia was born. She could still hear Lydia sobbing, forever unforgiven for her Father's defection. She strode into their room through the French doors. Zuleika stood just inside them, sucking hard on a cigarette. Lydia lay curled on her single sized cot along the wall a few feet from her mother's double bed, trying to quiet her whimpering for fear of setting off another assault. "Dejame llevarla al parque. I want to walk my new dog." Zuleika shrugged. For a split second her amber eyes completely framed in green shadow and black liner showed her terror and pain and shame. Adela squeezed her cousin's hand. Clotilde raced inside right at the fat white Persian cat perched on Zuleika's pillow. Zuleika stomped her heels and shooed the dog. "Llevate a la nina. Llevate a la perra." Lydia sat up quick and ran outside. "If I buy you an ice cream you won't tell your Mother." Lydia raced ahead calling the dog. At the bodega she bought them each mamey ice cream cones. They walked slowly, licking the sweet pink cream, letting the dog go in and out of the front yards and driveways of the small working class houses of El Llano, built by Tio Nestor to be almost identical , except for his own. They turned the corner and Lydia raced ahead to the park where several children her age were pushing each other on swings. She climbed on a swing alongside Tina . The two girls let out a cry of pure joy when they saw each other. Adela sat on a bench under a fat old tree . She put one hand on her still flat belly. Nothing seemed easier than fucking up mothering. She remembered Zuleika's pure happiness when Lydia was born, and already she'd given the child more than her share of psychic trash. Pobrecita. Her nephew Guille so far was doing ok. Happy. Adults could decide to be happy. Noel had. But could a child? She walked over to the swings. One close to the chain link fence, was free. She sat, clasped the chains, leaned back into the air and pumped her legs. Cradling herself cradling Pulgarcito. She closed her eyes and surrendered to the pleasure of slicing her body through the air. Then she felt Noel's hands softly pushing against her waist. "A mi. A mi." He laughed and gently pushed the little girls high into the air. She watched him play Papi and looked up at the crown of the fat tree just as a reinita and her mate perched for a split second and flew away.