Page 1


BOOKS & THE CULTURE I BY RUPERTO GARCIA Weddings orotea Jimenez liked weddings until she died. She died at one in fact. Not wanting to cause any unpleasantness, she did it only after the bride and groom and most of the others had left the church. When the wedding was over, she went back inside the church and sat in the same place where she had sat for many yearsalways toward the front and to the right, about the fourth pew. And then she clutched her little bag of wrapped ricean extra one she had decided to keep for herselfand calmly and quietly died. She was 92. She had had her own weddings, two of them. It wasn’t as if she had been deprived of love and affection from anyone. Both her husbandsthe first of whom had been killed in an auto accident in 1968, when the Robert Kennedy assassination was being televised, and the second of whom died of a family illness she didn’t know he had until he diedhad loved her immensely. The latter had been with her until almost the year that she died; he was 86. She had married young, she told her friends, for the lovemaking. “Esos otros viejitos,” she had told her friends, “no tienen pasion.” Those other old men have no passion. She had married her second husband in her 60s. He was younger by a few years, but when she spoke of his body in bed she referred to him as if he was in his 20s. “And down there,” she added with a gleam, “18.” When her husbands had spoken to women her age, they only said that she never lost her romance. She insisted, both of the husbands had reported, in serving them alphabet cereal at least once a weeknot because she thought they would like it or because she was lazy in the kitchenshe was a traditional Hispanic woman who believed she should cook faithfullybut because she liked to spell their names with the letters in the bowl. When her first husband died, she approached the coffin quietly with dignity and left him a love letter she had perfumed herself, It was perfume, she explained to her friends who asked her years later, that he had liked when he held her. The lipstick that she sealed the envelope and dotted her signature with was his favorite kind. The envelope, which had been made some time in the 50s, was made of paper soft to the touch and was beautiful enough that the neighbor’s children liked to pull the stationery out of the small box where she kept it on her dresser just to look at it. She had never had any children of her own. No one knew why. They imagined that she would have been a wonderful mother, but she never discussed motherhood with them. Many of the ladies thought that she practiced birth control, contrary to local Catholic teachings, but she herself never explained it. Dorotea Jimenez liked to describe her private life, but only its positive side. And, as if she perceived that her non-production of children might be considered a negative, she never once mentioned it to anyone or explained herself to anyone she met. Once, at a church function, a young boy brash enough to inquire brought up the topic. Other young men were present when he had asked. She looked at him with her shiny eyes, lowering her glasses just enough to look at him in front of the others with an amused frown, and told him just loud enough for the others to hear, “Mira, mi Juju -0. No es cuando viene el nino, pero cuando viene el hombre lo que me ha interesado.” “It’s not the coming of the child, but the coming of the man that has always interested me.” She was 55 then, and the young men who had overheard her had laughed, and the insolent inquirer had shaken his fingers up and down as if he had just touched a hot stove with his fingertips and was trying to shake it off. “\(Ta bueno, abuelita.” “All right, grandma,” he had replied. Dorotea Jimenez had watched them all walk away laughing, but looking at her with admiration and a new respect. None of them ever asked again. And she knew that the other women she spoke with would never hear of it, but that the young people of the church she attended would all know what she had said by that afternoon. To the amusement of both of her husbands, who were secure in her love for them, she always introduced herself to all the young men in church who had reached puberty and had begun to develop firm muscular builds. “Just let me say hello to little Johnny over there,” she would tell her husbands. And both of them, when their turn came, would walk faithfully beside her to say hello to the new local football or baseball star. After saying hello, and before she left, she was always sure to grab them with her hand on one side or another of their young, firm waist and utter, “Muscle,” followed by a moaning “umm” sound. Her husbands, always amused by her antics, had rolled their eyes and told the young men not to worry, “No to va hacer nada. Aqui estoy.” “She won’t do anything to you. I’m right here.” Neither of her husbands ever went to weddings with her, at least not after a while. The first one had gone to five or so, but realizedas much as he liked to go anywhere with herthat a wedding was one place that she really didn’t want him to accompany her after all. Having realized that, he contented himself by searching small-town papers within a 30-mile radiusa one-hour drive back and forthfor church weddings. There was almost one every week during certain times of the year. He would then 34 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 13, 2006