So half nude I rush to the kitchen, and bring a kitchen knife and cut through the flap of the box, and there—to my surprise—lays a bottle of Rosé Champagne, flanked by two stemmed glasses, the kind you can stack in layers to build them champagne towers, like the one we had at our wedding.
At first, my bet is that this is a gift from my husband—who else—which takes my breath away, it’s so cool, so awesome, especially because I haven’t gotten nothing from him lately.
So I twist my hips walking up to him, and snatch one of them glasses and put it in place, right over my left breast. Before I got pregnant, and become so full of curves, it would have been a perfect fit—but now, not so much.
Then, just before opening my mouth to ask him to uncork the bottle, I realize my mistake.
“Take it off, take that thing off right now, right this minute,” he stammers, and his forehead curves down over him even heavier and more wrinkled than before. I can’t even blame him, or no one, ‘cause really, I reckon it’s too late for us.
So without saying a word I obey him, and remove the glass from my heart, and watch him, again in silence, as he rummages through the box in search of a note, or something. Which he finds, finally, down there at the bottom. In square, printed letters the note reads simply, “To Anita.”
No return address, no signature, no date, nothing.
The old man looks long and hard into my eyes, like he’s searching for answers, not exactly sure if to punish me, like I was a naughty school girl, or to send me back home to my ma. After a while he figures he can’t do neither, so he just turns his back on me, and punches the box so it can collapse on itself, and stuffs it in the garbage can, along with the uncorked bottle and them two glasses. Then he goes to the bathroom, and the water starts running for his shower.
I try not to be angry, or hurt. I sit there in the dark, and wait. I can’t tell exactly what it is I’m waiting for.
So, Rewind. Record.
What is there to say? I reckon it’s stupid, it don’t make no sense to hunger so bad for a change. Still... It’s a strange feeling, knowing that someone out there is playing with a thought about me, daring me to risk everything I’ve got, like, this marriage, this shelter for my baby and me—all for nothing. For a bottle of champagne.
The water’s still running in the shower, wisps of vapor escaping as far as here in the living room. By now the glass door is all steamed out, so the balcony out there, which is facing ours, is pretty much washed out, and you can’t see the wintery sky no more, and you can’t even tell that it’s moonless. And like, everything is suddenly nothing but a guess—except for one thing:
I swear, I must be crazy. I know I am, ‘cause the only path to see clear out of this place is through what I write here, into the steam, on the cold, hard surface, with my finger.
Anita's voice is special. You would be hard-pressed to find a three-syllable word in anything she says. The lack of long words is compensated by descriptive sequence of short words. You can spot a liberal use of the dreaded double-negative, and of the word ‘like’. In the excerpt she describes the memory of her first kiss with Lenny. Some readers told me, tongue-in-cheek, that the would need a cold shower by the time she completes her story. But one reader found the style of the excerpt incosistent. He complained that at times Anita is lyrical, and at other times her thoughts are expressed in slang.
In shaping her voice I asked myself: even if your grammar is atrocious, even if your vocabulary is somewhat lacking, does that mean you can't feel the throes of pain, or the exhilaration of joy? Does it mean you can't paint what you see, feel and think?
"A literary symphony complete with a cast of likeable, bruised characters"