40th Birthday Party (Rudy y Mayra)

Mayra saw the invitation to her surprise 40th birthday party that Rudy had left on top of his dresser and for one moment she looked forward to it. She pictured herself walking into her darkened living room, hearing them yell surprise as they turned on the light. In Rudy's mirror she grinned, raised her eyebrows, and clapped, rehearsing a surprised face. Had he left the invitation there on purpose or was he just careless? He was always thinking about something else.
Rudy came home earlier than usual. He had the newspaper under his arm and he tried to hide the headline. She knew he was afraid that if she saw the bold letters, Hundreds Deported, the 40th birthday party she was supposed to not know about would be spoiled. She saw the headline just as the phone rang. Her friend Angie giggled into her ear, "You have to come over right now I have a problem I need to talk over with you. This can't wait." Mayra laughed too. "Funny problem that's making you laugh." She guessed this was the pretext to get her out of the house. She pulled her long black hair into a bun. The white streak growing out of her widow's peak, her lunar de canas, was definitely wider. Rudy didn't want her to dye it. But now that she was 40...She might just do it and chop off her hair too. Men always said they wanted long hair but when it was short they liked it. She kissed Rudy goodbye and walked to the corner, then turned up La Calle de los Escolares toward Cuentos y Café.
Angie waited at the door. Mayra saw she her friend was dressed up in her highest heels and her sequined t-shirt she wore to parties. Her hair was bleached a lighter blonde. It must have taken her half an hour to put on her makeup. She grabbed Mayra's hand and drew her into the coffee shop to the counter. Perla poured two cafés con leche. "We have bunuelos de yuca today but you probably don't want to spoil your appetite." Mayra watched Angie squeeze her mother's arm and stare hard. Perla pushed the cafes across the counter to the younger women who walked them over to a table in the back and sat down.
"Tengo que hablarte. I think Joel is going to break up with me for real this time." Mayra took her friend's hand. "This problem is for real. I thought you just wanted to get me out of the house."
"Well, that too..."
"Don't worry. I know about the party. Rudy left the invitation on top of his dresser. He's so distraido half the time."
"Joel insists he can't advance his paintor career in Coral and he's wasting the prime years of his life here on this island. He's deporting himself." Angie burst into tears. "No, he wants to deport me. Make me leave my home. And I won't do it. Not even for him."
Mayra pressed her hand. "Angie, face it. You've been leaving him slowly for three years, the three years you have been arguing about where you want to live."
"And Joel, he always wanted to be somewhere else. He thinks he can't get ahead here but he doesn't have the killer instinct he would need to get ahead in the City. He's sacrificing me for nothing."
"He just wants to be drunk on his art. Give him the space to do that. Here in Coral la colonia's going to crush him."
"He should have been born in a different time."
"I think the problem is you, Angie, you're closed to compromise. On this and on everything."
Mayra rose. "Come with me to the peluqueria."
On the way to the peluqueria a few doors down from Cuentos y Café they passed a crowd led by a group of women dressed in black, the Madres Indignadas, heading to the docks. Among the demonstrators against the deportations, the Guardias had the hardest time arresting the Madres. Most days, they were the only ones left standing. Mayra and Angie were walking against the crowd, into it in the opposite direction. Mayra saw one young couple holding hands. Their hands were held in front of both their bodies, both palms facing out. They aroused an aching tenderness in her. Behind them were two young women, arm in arm, talking and laughing. Mayra looked up and now the sky was a radiant, bottomless blue. How beautiful these humans were. How beautiful this planet was. She hooked her arm into Angie's and began to match her stride. "So much beauty, Angie, so much beauty." Angie nodded. "So much beauty in the middle of a war."

When Mayra turned her key in the lock and pushed open her door, dozens of her friends yelled "surprise". Mayra gave them her practiced surprised look. The first face Mayra saw when they turned on the lights was Rolo's. Before she knew it she and Rolo were dancing. She was not a good dancer but Rolo could lead her even in a tango. "Don't move yet. Hold the tension." Rudy tapped Rolo's shoulder to cut in. "This guy came in as a guest and took over the party." Mayra smiled at her husband. "No seas tonto, mi amor." She stroked his hair, pomaded into a black helmet. "As if I could be interested in a boy like Rolo." Rudy spun her. "But he is interested in you and after a while a man will wear you down." Mayra shook her head. "You could consider believing in me. But then why don't you fire him? I'm not the problem, you are."
"It's such a small job, at the quincalla, a job that doesn't matter to the world one way or the other, but still he probably couldn't find another."
She let herself be spun and then she let herself be held. Rudy stroked her new short hair. Cut short, and spiking from her forehead, her lunar de canas glowed. She was glad she'd decided not to dye it. She felt beautiful in his gaze but why was it that her husband refused to believe she loved him? How long could her love hold on when its object refused to believe in it? But for this moment, she let herself be held. It was enough that she believed it. She felt the peace begin, its white blade rose from her tailbone, climbed up her womb, radiated into her heart, her limbs, her hands, and filled. For that one moment her love was big enough to fill him. Rudy, even if only for this one moment, fully returned her smile and held her tight.