M. Leland Oroquieta

 

 

 

 

Ballad for Botox

 

Seventeen is a dream; fat with attitude and a bit of cunning, he wears it in age clients knows him as: twenty-one.  Usually, they’re over fifty-five, divorced, widowed, all married to loneliness and means. Ms. Lydia Betancourt, over there, is one of them, refreshed. It’s the Botox, coaxing wrinkles to stretch. On her pool, tattoos that worship Ché and Fidel splash butterflies in muscular arms that cradle nights and days.

*

 

She waits for their hands to instigate revolutions on the desert of her back, where lotion motions deep oasis of relaxation.  The cue is her top, untied: it’s a Bardot moment, undressing St. Tropez, Costa del Sol, or anywhere along the Mediterranean.  Indeed, the past still clocks her, though now hypertension and other conditions of the heart unleash animals worse than ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends; and so, once again, she is a playground, a moveable feast of aches and pains.  Thus, she waits for him, to interrogate this carnival with his hands, with their macho, cock-sure calculations.

*

 

But the cue is ignored.  It’s all about rubbing the interval, the gap, to expand it, swell it to heighten expectations. Like Ché and Fidel’s dream, he, too, has visions for the future: to sever himself from her, her needs, and her suffocating, mothering power, amidst stuffy doilies and accoutrements of old, inherited money.  And he wants out. But first: a demand, just hundreds more, maybe eight or nine, and why not four figures or five, for something to live on. Otherwise, he’d execute the threat, the plan, and tell her, that he is really seventeen, and she’d be on a list of pedophiles online if she refuses what he wants.

*

 

Soon, his palms mount pressures down the valley of wrinkles that is her back.  He lathers high praise about her face, in Spanish, teasing her, just like the first time, barely a month ago.  He is her new migrant gardener, weaving, sweating a story – in convincing, broken English – of loss, desperation, and a place to stay.   But she understands his game, being one of its veterans.  And so, she dramatized empathy, took him for lunch, then dressed him, the way desperate men dressed and fed her years ago, as their clandestine hobby, away from wife and family. Overwhelmed by his charm, she called him days later, and hired him as her new, live-in housekeeper.

*

 

Beside them, the pool glitters over voice unheard from him: in fluent, unaccented English, he tells her, tells her like he’s singing a love song, melodious, that he is a minor, a high school drop-out, and all he wants is the latest Mustang model on the market, red, plus six-figure cash in a bag. That’s all, Senora Betancourt, he said, that’s all I need, and I won’t tell anyone, and you won’t see me again, ever again, as he tongued her ears, licked them deep, like fierce butterflies he frees on the pool, as her thighs open to welcome fat-fingers, rubbing her into a traffic, a riot of moans sweating humid, Atlantic breezes, before the inevitable. The scream is quick and abrupt, as though a last hurrah, before a violent seizure colonized her, and extinguished air from her heart.

*

 

Breathing into her mouth opens a hollow that refuses to hide him.  The air panics for exit, for new tomorrows, new victims, new personalities.  She is peace uninterrupted now, forever exiled from thirty-year-old men and their pubescent, unconvincing conspiracies, playing twenty-one pretending seventeen with fake, high school ID.  Memory of a body beside a pool accelerates a stolen BMW, sweating erratic streets that orphaned him, then fathered him to farm baits, abstract and otherwise, until inflections mastered midnights into lucrative parks, bars, or street-corners, despite failures, ever ready for desperate, maximum effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

M. Leland Oroquieta used to write op-ed pieces for his alma mater’s paper. Each month, Chinatown trims his hair under careful, Guangzhou hands. The day-job and the long commute to work are daily preludes before post-dinner, desk-time, struggling to finish a novel. His latest work has appeared in Local Nomad: An Online Journal of Writing & Art.

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