Jay Allen Sanford 6:52 a.m., Dec. 5
Mona was pretty, but more cute than anything else, in an odd way that you wanted to put your finger on but couldn’t. I was a freshman in college, or perhaps a sophomore, near Los Angeles. I’m not going to press my memory for that, lest I forget the most important things, or lest I forget the things that I know I never should. I worked full time, was in a rock band, and tabled sixteen credits. Even back then, I never really had a good idea what would happen next.
I was all of eighteen or so.
The rock band wasn’t bad; we were all in this college or that one, USC, Cal Poly, Mt. San Antonio, where ever. My destiny from the start, apparently, was to be a musician. I was born with perfect pitch. I could master any instrument that I took a liking to. Piano, or really any type of keyboard instrument, was my bitch. I could make a piano do anything I wanted it to do.
I worked in foundries in my youth. I loved them. It was backbreaking, sweaty, thankless, and yet so rewarding. Taking molten metal, pouring it into a mold, cutting off the down-sprews and the risers and the gates. Sandblasting, testing, even machining. I got drunk on it. We were making something out of nothing. I miss it still.
And also school inside of all of this. And to think that eventually I would up in Engineering. And to think that one day I would wind up living in Mexico!
One day, working on a major in music, I was dutifully crafting something in a practice room, and a head kept peering in from outside of the door. I played on because I had the room reserved. Yet, the head kept appearing, some young girl from outside of the door was interested that I was in this particular practice room. Other practice rooms were unoccupied, I could tell from the lack of activity.
Finally, I had to stop. I got up and opened the door.
"Yes?" I asked her.
She was maybe five feet tall. Compact. Cute. A smile that lit up the hallway.
"I… um… was just listening to what you were playing," she said.
"Ah, well, there are other practice rooms available," I told her.
"Oh, I’m not a music major, I was just passing through," she informed me.
It was awkward.
"Can I come in and listen to you for a while? I promise not to bother you."
I let her in.
"Mona," she said, extending a hand, smiling, as if I were someone important.
"Dave. Or David, whichever."
Mona had these big brown eyes and freckles on her nose. Everything about her was warm and comfortable. She sat, and I played on, and she kept smiling as if to make me believe that everything I did was wonderful and special and amazing.
My tongue is generally planted firmly in my cheek when I refer to Monday as lesbian night in the Dandy Del Sur, in Tijuana. But this is also a truth, in part – it doesn’t necessarily have to be Monday for lesbians to enjoy a nice cold drink there, it could be any day. It does seem that Monday is most likely, for whatever reason, the day to enjoy the very distant company of two girls who are unusually interested in each other.
How would I know that they were lesbians?
I didn’t used to. I went to the Dandy del Sur for a lot of years and only know of one lesbian that was self-professed. We occasionally watched a ball game and chatted from a distance. She was masculine, in her thirties, and drank her liquor straight. She knew the cantineras very well.
Girls and women frequent the Dandy often, workmates or friends through other means; the Dandy is one of the only bars in Tijuana where females can comfortably enjoy a drink and not get pestered. Most Mexican men are aggressive, flaunting their desires with speed and verbosity, pouncing on their prey with drinks and propositions.
But not in the Dandy del Sur.
The Dandy is a safe haven, generally filled with professionals and artists of all different types. Mexican men who drink there have enough money, education, and class to have overcome what is considered to be culturally expected. I noticed this even before I learned that on some nights, as many as half of the female patronage might well be lesbians.
Even before I started paying attention to it.
Mona began to follow me around a lot, and I enjoyed her company. She always seemed to know where I would be, and we would snack out on the lawn outside of one of the music buildings. She was studying psychology. One day we were out there on the grass between classes and I was working on something.
"David, I have to tell you something," she said.
"Um. Sure," I answered, not looking up.
"Before we go any farther," she continued.
This got my attention; I had no idea that we should be going any farther. Going farther with what, exactly? In the two days that I had known her, nothing romantic appeared, I had no designs on it, and she didn’t seem to either.
"With our friendship," she assured me, reading my face.
"Ah, ok," I said and put away my work to give her my undivided attention.
"I’m a lesbian," she confessed.
I waited for more.
"And?" I finally asked.
"That’s it, that’s what I thought I should let you know," she finished.
"Well, then we have something in common, Mona, we both like girls."
Mona smiled really big and then hugged me as if I’d just given her a car.
One Monday evening, after Scott and Jody and everyone else had left, I sat and sipped on my scotch. It was somewhat crowded in the Dandy, but there was still plenty of room at the bar. I was watching American football, taking stock of the people around me. There was one young lady who had been there for at least an hour, I had seen her there before with a friend.
She was beautiful; brown skin, small firm body, occasionally smiling. She pretended to watch the television, sipping her beer, alone. She wore glasses, and it made here even more attractive, she was the diamond in this rough terrain of half-drunk stones. She sat five barstools away, occasionally chatting with a curious stranger; she was elegant and polite.
She was so very young, perhaps twenty-two.
I pulled out my laptop to distract myself and began to write, but the words came slow. She was buying her own drinks, and I kept thinking about how wrong it was. All of these young men in here, and no one was buying her a drink! I stewed in my own thoughts, frustrated and perplexed, she was so beautiful. I ordered another scotch.
"Don’t look over there," I told the cantinera in Spanish.
The cantinera decided to hate me, glaringly, she had no patience for my nonsense.
"There is a pretty young lady in glasses sitting over there. I’m buying her a drink, but please don’t tell her whom it’s from. Put it on my tab, please."
Mona was with me wherever I went, and then into the summer. She came with me to all of the band’s rehearsals and gigs; she was my best friend. We laughed at everything, pointed out attractive women to each other, and shared our darkest insecurities with one another. She had girlfriends, the most beautiful, sexy girls I’ve ever seen in my life, and all of them were smart.
We partied a lot, too.
And then one night it happened. As many times as I’ve gone over it in my head, I still can’t make any sense of it. It didn’t change our relationship outwardly, but I think that it was something that allowed us to both move on, to no longer be joined at the hip, and then to eventually drift apart forever.
One night, there were a lot of us partying in some apartment that I rented on the west side, we were drinking and smoking and other things. Music blasted while people were getting blasted, and slowly the evening unwound with people coupling and escaping to somewhere, and me and Mona were left, high and watching a television screen.
Mona was wound up. I had never seen her like that; she was crazy with desire, moving her hips against the carpet, until finally she got up. She extended her hand to me and helped me to my feet, and then didn’t let go of my hand.
"Come on," she said, leading me to my bedroom.
She just pulled me in, and then shut the door behind her. I stood there, I had no idea what she was doing or wanting, and then she walked up to me and I started to say something.
"Shhh! I’ve always wanted to do this for you," she said.
She began to kiss me, and I kissed back, her mouth was warm and sweet. Deeper, our kiss went from sweet to passionate, our mouths were locked, tongues exploring, and she pressed her body against me and felt that I was very aroused. The kiss lasted forever, I can feel it even now.
Our mouths finally parted, and as we panted, Mona pulled off my shirt and put one hand on my chest, and then went slowly to her knees as if it was something she had done all of her life. Probably two incredible minutes later, she just looked up at me and smiled.
"Where did you learn how to do that?" I asked her.
"Was that the first?"
"The second," she admitted.
"I wanted you to be the first, but I decided to make a practice run on my brother’s friend. Was it good?"
Then she pulled me down onto the mattress. We laughed and played and kissed all night until we slept. And then we never mentioned it again.
The second beer that I had bought for the pretty young girl in the Dandy, anonymously, had pushed a button on the control box of the cantinera’s patience. She ratted me out, I saw the young girl look over at me out of the corner of my eye as I worked the laptop, and she raised her beer to me, to thank me.
I was sheepish, it wasn’t what I wanted.
I raised my scotch glass to her and smiled and nodded. I tried to work, to write in there, but I felt silly. I was now avoiding her glances. She finally came over and sat in the seat next to me. I closed the laptop; I was trapped in my own shining heart.
We didn’t have much to say to each other, I told her that I bought her the drinks because no girl as beautiful as she was deserved not to have someone buying her drinks. She didn’t say anything. I was standing next to my stool, and she stood up and looked into my eyes, and kissed me.
Sweetly at first, the kiss went into that deepness, then passion, and then more. Our tongues began to explore and she pressed her body up against mine, and felt my arousal, and went deeper still with the kiss. I felt myself losing control, that the kiss was more than arousing me, that it was going to be a forever kiss that was familiar distantly, and I became frightened at its intensity.
I pushed her away, gasping.
I excused myself and paid my tab and left the Dandy, it was Monday and there were no tacos that night.
Two days later, Alex worked the day shift, I got to the Dandy at about five in the afternoon. I told her about what happened on Monday, and she smiled and laughed a little bit, I’m not so prone to accidental romantic encounters. I described the young girl to Alex.
"Oh, you mean her? Yes, she’s a lesbian," Alex blurted out.
"I don’t think so, I mean, that kiss..."
"She is," Alex assured me.
"Seriously? Maybe she’s bisexual," I offered.
"Maybe, but she definitely likes girls," Alex said.
"How do you know?"
"Other than the fact that she brings her girlfriends in here, she hit on one of the cantineras the other night," Alex informed me.
"Which one?" I asked.
Alex nodded in the direction of Sandra, beautiful Sandra.
And then, one week later, the pretty young girl came in with a girl friend. We acted as if nothing happened, just a nod in my direction. She was into her girlfriend, they discretely held hands underneath the bar. I called Alex over.
"That’s her, right?" I whispered.
Alex smiled and nodded.
"Told you," she said.
I left after one more drink while avoiding the taco stand, and I climbed into a cab. All of the way home I wondered about Mona. I wondered if Mona ever wondered about me.