You Could Not Resign From the Party

They took aim with rifles and shot out Lydia’s eyes. Adela walked fast, up the drive. She spied Noel through the door of his studio, still painting, and didn't call out to him. Even when Clotilde yelped and ran to greet her Noel didn't notice Adela. His back was to her. She could see through the door half of the canvas he faced. Mostly brown and ochre like her dream last night. The dream image she'd managed to forget all day at work shuddered through her. Lydia had been walking in the middle of a desert, a small eight year old body dwarfed in a vast sea of ochre sand. Two monks in brown robes stood in a tall ochre tower far away. They took aim with long rifles and shot out Lydia's eyes. This dream held a knowing she didn't want to have. She pushed open the door to their small half underground bedroom. Clotilde ran in before her and jumped her tiny greyhound body onto the bed. The phone rang and she let it ring, pretending not to hear it, until Betzaida's voice came through the phone machine. Betzaida's was one of the calls she was avoiding. You could not resign from the Party. But you could hope to disappear. Especially if you were a pregnant woman. Then, often even if you didn't want to, your condition got you spun off the centrifuge of party work. You couldn't keep up, you fell off going to meetings, you didn't do your work, the momentum kept the machine going without you. You were gone. Oh how she wanted to be gone! Tomasa Monte wouldn't think this, want this. But Tomasa Monte had no children of her own. Nieces and nephews. Lydia's dream face with her shot out eyes burst again into her mind. Tomasa Monte did not let her nieces down. Adela looked at the pile of envelopes and meeting notices on the table under the window, stained brown and wrinkled by plant water she'd spilled last time she'd managed to water her malanga plant wilting on the window sill. Betzaida droned on. "The Conferencia has been rescheduled to the 22nd at the Paraiso in El Pico. We just got word we've got the space. It's a good thing the other flyer didn't go out. You can make another one tomorrow at InfoDes." Adela tilted the aluminum plant pitcher into the tiny bathroom sink and filled it halfway, as far as the angle allowed. She let water pour onto the obsolete flyers. Even her negligence didn't free her. And yet Noel was pursued and threatened with disciplina. He'd been summoned to two disciplina meetings he'd blown off. He was a man and had to bear his own oppressions as a man.
Her eyes fell on the poster taped to the back of the door. She fixed her eyes on the photo of Noel's painting of bleeding rectangles, red and ochre, and the tall black letters announcing his opening at the Galeria La Morada. On the 22nd. Her sister Nati had set it up. Noel didn't often get a show. Well, maybe they could do both. The Manantial spa was not far from La Morada.
She grabbed the phone before Betzaida hung up. “You know Noel’s got a gallery opening that day.”
“Am I his agent?”
Adela said nothing.
“In La Morada. That’s minutes away. You can do both.”
Adela hung up. She was glad she cut off Betzaida’s “te veo”.
She ruffled the scruff of Clotilde’s neck. “Tu siempre ganas, Betzaida.” She had the thoughts but not the power. Charisma deprived. Not like Tomasa Monte, nor her Father, the great Leo Ramos, whose lectures were performances, whose spins on Isla history were like legend, fiction, myth. She walked outside with the dog. Betzaida was standing in the path. Had she conjured her with her hatred? She held a cellphone.
“I was nearby and I figured I’d drop in and talk about the flyer face to face.”
Noel called out, “Hola” and waved. Now he noticed. Asshole.
Betzaida sung out “hola” in her blanquita way. Tall, privileged, and the wife of Enrique, or was the war name Alejandro more fitting in their war of the genders relationship. He cheated flagrantly; she ruled the home and the pursestrings, not just theirs but the Party’s. She was in charge of finances and of most of the operations. She got this ability to take charge from her class birthright, a shark in a quoi pond. Among the powers she wielded was that of those who got things done. Because she wasn’t too scared, confused, battered, oppressed to take work on, nor did she have a Betzaida of her own to fear, and didn’t have to quake at the possibility of Betzaida’s judgment and scorn. To their injury was added the insult of being called lazy by Betzaida.
Adela hated her. But here she was kissing her.
“Que barriga tan linda.” Betzaida stroked her belly. In this moment Adela loved her. To be the object of the undivided attention of Betzaida felt sweet, sweet, sweet. Was being in the presence of Tomasa Monte like this?
Adela led her into the room. They sat on the bed. Adela took out her notebook from her giant canvas bag and sketched. Just as she began to sketch the new flyer Noel walked inside, kissed the women, and let himself be persuaded to take over notebook and pen. Betzaida paced back and forth in the small room spinning slogans. Adela and Noel voted them up or down calling out a word here, a phrase there. They settled on Construir el Partido es Hacer Revolucion..They’d shaped the slogan together, arrived at an image of planks of wood, and tools that also suggested guns. And then Betzaida was gone. Adela looked after her, filled with a wave of immense longing, but for what? She remembered just this constellation of aches for Leo. The ache of hating him when he was gone; the ache of loving him when she was in his presence; the ache of the emptiness when he was gone.
She tugged on Noel’s hand, and without speaking, they set off to walk Clotilde around El Llano. They let her lead. She knew el Llano better than they did. They followed her through the straight still unpaved streets of the development and into the yellow gravelly sand of the abandoned quarry behind Tio Nestor’s property. Clotilde ran ahead, down into one of the deep holes. They sat down on the ground, leaning on one of the rises of dug out sand and watched Clotilde run to the center of the big yellow hole, squat and pee.