Mikkilynn Olmsted: Sabor Un Hueso

Spring '08 TOC

     Manuel met me at the airport – silk white shirt, pressed cabana pants, dark hair pulled back. A small crowd of people, some holding flowers or handwritten signs, elbowed for room underneath the baggage claim banner, but Manuel rested on one knee, head bent. Had I not memorized his figure, the slim line of his six-foot frame, I possibly would have walked past, unaware of his presence.
     Pero advertí. Thirty-five days, 16 hours, after he declared he no longer felt anything but contempt for me, he knelt, prostrating on chipped granite tile. I shifted my briefcase to my opposite shoulder. Stomach churned. I paused just short of his wing-tips.
     “What are you doing here?” I asked.
     Rising, he said, “I was stupid. Mi amor, perdóneme.” He expected my embrace.
    “Forgive you for what?”
    He stepped back. “Para todo, Lupe. Todo.” We stared silent as passengers jostled around us. Then he leaned in, brushed hand down my face.
    I should have made him grovel longer, found out who told him I’d be coming home that day, or at least have him explain what he meant by todo. But I was easily out-done by musky cologne, a clean shave, and cooing. As he glided his hand into mine, I felt the paint specks trapped in the folds of his knuckles. He’s working.
    By the weekend, all my possessions were back in his townhouse, in their designated spots. Manuel seemed patient, even-tempered. He stocked the kitchen with organic groceries and installed a mini-shelf in the bathroom for my make-up. He reorganized the garage for my VW Bug. And yet he sensed not to overdo the romance or to suggest our lives had not been interrupted. I insisted he leave his workhorse in front of the sliding patio doors, knowing the patio would be inaccessible. Manuel hadn’t finished a sculpture in three years, not since the show in Malibu our friend Valerie had arranged as a favor.
    Evenings out with expensive dinners and elaborate wines lasted 10 days until our digestive systems tired of rich food. Spontaneous moments of public affection, like un besito during a volleyball game, continued for 7 weeks and 3 days. Make-up sex was spiritual for 2 months; after that, a bit routine. Not that we could not call forth ancestral connections; we had on more than one occasion.
    Our friends, particularly Val, seemed pleased with our reunion, “Two people never matched more.” We were re-invited to afternoon cookouts. We stopped for drinks with the Barmonts almost every Tuesday. The women at work asked me to a candle party. Our separate lives again molded into one definitive pareja.
    Except Manuel became a problem. When he sliced mangos for breakfast, my teeth clenched with each nick to the cutting board. If he slouched on the sofa, absorbed in a Jackie Chan film and a bag of Doritos, my neck muscles tightened. Eyelids twitched as he flipped through the sports section of the newspaper. And sometimes when he slept, I imagined smothering his breath, annoyed by the heave of his body.
    Manuel, still trying to prove his devotion, handed me the solution. One evening, he brought home his abuelita’s stew. As we ate, he sucked four lamb bones dry, gently setting the sharpest one on the table. We drank two and a half bottles of Merlot, and finished the meal with a cake I made the evening before. I washed the dishes, scraping the scraps into the trash. The sharpest bone, a T-bone of sorts, I slipped inside a sleeve.
    Afterward, he led me to the bedroom. His right arm supporting his head, me, left side pressed against his torso, he used his free arm to unzip my pants. I nibbled on his bottom lip, then licked down his chin to his neck. I blew lightly. He closed his eyes. Slightly arching, twisting nearly upright, careful to grip the T-bone, I braced against his collar. The tip of bone pierced deep into his throat. I shoved harder. He gurgled. And in that pause between breaths, we both understood cómo el tiempo mide el perdón.

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Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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