**The following is a piece I’ve been working on.  Maybe a poem, maybe a chunk of prose…  Comment with one image or detail that doesn’t quite work.  Much love.**

Number of:

Relationships she’s had with Mexicans since her first boyfriend in the fifth grade: 0

Relationships she imagined having with greedy-eyed Latino lookers while south of the San Diego, CA border: 9

Months spent in one particular intimate bilingual interaction, actual, not imagined: 3

Rings slid onto her finger by tanned hands — a symbol of marriage, she knows, in a culture that operates in and through symbols, she finds out: 2

Rings of hers that he still has: 1

Cell phone rings she heard, broken English interrupting Spanish symphonies while she made footprints in wet Tijuana sand, cell phone in her purse, his number waiting on speed dial: 47

Times he’s changed his cell phone number: 4

Phone number’s she’s ever had: 1

Practice conversations she had with him, with herself in the rearview mirror of the car, before she last called: 4

Digits actually dialed, to his current out-of-area line: 11

Hang-ups before the second ring: 1

Minute-or-less calls in three-syllable questions and one-word answers in which he asked her to go dancing: 6

Minutes it took to change into her salsa dress, even tying the halter ribbon behind her neck, in the back seat of his friend’s window-tinted suburban: 7

Glances she took over her shoulder, his hand on her back, at the curb where the car was parked, watching the street lamp above flash out and sizzle in the shadow: 3

Calls from a nervous ex-boyfriend offering a safe ride out of that neighborhood: 3

Minutes spent declining these offers, outside the glass doors, the safe suburban blocks far out of her sight: 13

Dollars off the Mexican employee gave to her dirty blonde hair and bright blue eyes at the check-in of the Latina bar, South Chicago, Ladies night: 25

Bartenders, aching for her crisp singles, while she drank water through a straw: 9

Coronas he bought, one after the other, lime in the neck: 9

Sips she took from his bottle, squinting, pursing her lips, quenching a thirst not for drink: 5

Words spoken in English on the dance floor, him or her: 1

Inches of fabric between his hand and her leg, twice: 0

Seconds their lips pressed together, breathing heavy and labored: 0

Intersections of his lips and her neck or shoulder, her declines drowning in garbled and mixed pieces of language: 12

Years she studied Spanish in secondary and elementary school: 9

Tears she cried in a corner of the club, near the bar, when he grabbed her shoulders violently, unable to understand any of her languages, schooled or not: 1

Scenarios is which she pictured trying to actually be with him: 19

Doubts she had about staying at the club, quieted by his firm hand around her wrist or her waist: 6

Graffiti artists on a beach hundreds of miles and 7 months away from this night, buzz cuts and goatees like his, carving huge letters in the wet sand while she leaned over the boardwalk to tell a pastor from Tijuana about su familia: 3

Stories she loved hearing about his familia on fishing trips: 2

Missed calls she would have three days later, all within one hour, from a women he says is not his girlfriend or baby girl’s mama: 16

Girls playing in the Tijuana sand, near the waters of the salty Pacific, that were innocent and light skinned like his daughter could have been, the little girl that he never did admit to having: 5

Hours she powered down her cell phone after accusing and thickly foreign voices from an unknown number demanded that she was his novia and that she knew something about the little girl: 24

People that think he is her novio: 4

Stutters she has tripped over in conversation, hesitating, deciding what to call him, them: 2

Hands held while they waited for the valet driver, solo amigos: 1

Miles from these city streets, trains screaming overhead, until home: 21

Miles left to traverse in this chasm between two beautiful languages, two clashing, incongruent cultures: 1,906,314

Drunk drivers, telling her to get her stuff from the suburban or to climb in: 1

Seconds she held his eyes with hers, waiting curiously for him to say the right thing, anything: 3

Two-thirty AM phone calls to her ex-boyfriend, asking for a ride home: 1

Times Hector called out her name through the window in his language, Leenda!, as he drove away in the suburban, sitting in the back seat without her: 2

New salsa moves, feet now able to chkchk across the wood panels in heel sling-backs, dress corners flirting with air pockets, tremoring in and out from her thighs: 5

Hours she stayed awake replaying these four hours: 4