Friday, November 12, 2010

A Working World Before and Above the Boiler Room

He was working in the Toppenish unemployment office, with two master’s degrees
and a future if he stayed put. She was teaching in the Yakima business college,
having taught high school, Catholic school, and college teaching around the corner
if they moved. Gerri Guzman befriended her. She lived in Buena, not
pronounced Boo-yen-ah, the way gringos like Geri and her new-found friends.
Frank Guzman knew how to say it. He lay on the grass on a warm day outside
Employment Security and talked all about his lifelong ambition to be a pimp.
Frank talked as long as the gringo ate his lunch, listening. He would still be
talking if the hour had not ended and going back to the window was the way
the gringo kept his job, the one with a future if he could hold on long enough,
doing intake of the unemployed, of whom he had more than once been one,
but nobody asked, they so loved those degrees.

In Albuquerque, another Catholic school, this time Old Town, San Felipe de Neri.
First settled and still around. The nuns loved her work, as the nun in Puyallup
loved her. Like a mother. Here Coronado came to town on his Spanish steed
hauled over on the boat from Barcelona. A rest stop by the river was named
for him and a fee charged to tourists who knew no better, were told what to do.
The gringo taught composition and hated it but that way found time to write.
Who knows, maybe he’d stay long enough to get another degree, this time the Ph.D.
She said, Fuck it if I can’t get fucked with your nose between covers of a book
even if it is your pre-dissertation comps, I’m outta here, I want to learn from men,
one man that is . . . and he helped her move the first of the year after the ocean liner
returned from San Juan via Anchorage and her lover told her she loved sex
more than any woman he’d known and he oughta know, he used to sell his own ass
on Miami Beach. Old rich fuckers stopped their limousines to buy his wares.
Think of Gerri Guzman, of Frank’s lifelong, you bet, frustration with the dream
he thought he could call his own if he put Gerri in business as Buena’s only madam.
Next thing the gringo knew his love was wearing an Afro wig. Her man said no,
you shouldn’t, you’re white you know, not like me, I have other women with Afros
and not wigs either. She talked back like this: I do everything you want me to.
He bowed, but no one thought him capable of curtsey.

He sat at the bar next to a phone he paid for extra (thirty years ago, before the birth
of cells) and showed his Polaroids to men he sensed he could trust. If they took the bait
he called ahead making sure she’d be ready once the doorbell rang and gave her all
to give them all the pleasure they paid for as soon as they stepped over the threshold.
The gringo waited. He knew the legend of Zuni. He watched time wearing thin, felt
the clock run down, replaced the battery, turned away a lovely who wanted to stay
only till she found a place of her own, she said. He’d known her way back before
unemployment. She was accustomed to paying a high price. He said, One whore
in a family is ample. He was talking about himself, yet she got in a huff and left.

(17 October 2010)

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