The past few days I’ve sat by the entrance to the ferry station on the Bay of San Juan. I like to catch the tourists retreating back to their hotels. They’ve seen the rum factory and that is enough for them. The barred-windows and flaking stucco walls make them afraid of what lurks inside. That’s why I like to greet them when they leave. I am included in the ferry ticket. You must pay to avoid me. Us.
Yesterday a pregnant sato began staggering around the entrance. At first, I thought she would steal my earnings, but I soon realized people do not give money to a stray dog; but rather sorrow and affection and water. I thought I’d use this pity to help me.
She is a timid little bitch. A tan mutt with stubby legs and one floppy ear, the other cut in half at an angle. It looked like someone with a machete had aimed for the poor bitch’s head and chopped of a piece of ear instead. I wondered if that person kept that bit of ear and tried to sell it to a tourist as a souvenir. “Real Caribbean Sato Ear. $20.” I could sell a sato ear for twenty bucks. I used to sell hats and necklaces on Condado and over in Aguadilla. Sometimes in the Plaza in Old San Juan. The tourists off the big ships were so eager and afraid. I could make a nice day.
I brought a jerky link for this sato today, but she won’t come around me. She’s timid. She just makes these little circles around where I am, and I have to throw the little chunks of jerky at her, so she’ll stick around me. Once she is close, and there are tourists or even a nice looking local I will offer the bitch to them. I am going to start at twenty bucks. She is worth at least, I think, the price of her chopped ear. I will not tell them she is pregnant. In my experience, nobody wants to deal with a pregnant bitch.
Today is slow. I sit in the shade of the ferry station entrance. I wear my favorite denim shorts and black Nike t-shirt. I smile. The ferry riders nod to me, and leave me a coin or two, or keep their heads high and forward, acknowledging me without saying hello. In the long moments between riders, I stare at the billboard across the street. It advertises ninety cent beer. I could use a cold can of beer.
The American couple walks from the sidewalk as if they had been lost a long time. They are sweaty, tired and are arguing. I pull a bit of the jerky apart and make a little whistle to the sato. The bitch doesn’t listen. She is panting in the shade, laying on her side like a bloated hog about to be picked for a feast. I throw the bit of jerky her way, thinking that she will perk up, walk over to the jerky in time for the American couple to walk by. I will offer the sato bitch to them for thirty bucks. I am desperate. And the American woman looks like she gets what she wants.
I avoid women. Their brain gets in the way of their heart. For me, I use neither my brain nor my heart. The women do not stay long with me. I expect one or two hours before the brain gets in the way. As the couple approach, they stop. I can hear their argument.
“You wouldn’t even look at me.” She says this to him. He does not look at her. She is a sharp pointed doll of an American woman. Her elbows, her hips, her breasts. An orange bikini holds them in behind a thin white tank top. I wonder what it’s like to grow up in the states with women like this around every day. I bet American men think the same thing down here about our women. I would trade all of them for one doll of an American girl like this one. I avoid women no longer for this one. I’d comb her long brown hair for her every day, pig tail it, if she wanted. Tell her she is my queen, she is my reason. Her legs are like two slender pillows I can burrow between and hold on for a good night’s rest. In the morning, I awake and crawl to her breasts for nourishment and kiss the lips and tell her I will go out and earn a living for her. Just for her. So she can continue to stay there, dolled up and dressed up, my American queen. “I live for you,” I would say to her.
But I worry, that would not be enough. Words for her. I would play her Eddie Palmeiri and Angel Canales records and teach her to dance to them. Move all the furniture against the walls for a dance floor. We would dance well into the night. We would dance in the morning time after coffee and fruit. My expression to her, my “I love you” would be more than the words I say. My spirit and my actions are my words. I listen to people every day and all the time. On the beaches – they have words of joy and relaxing. On the barstools they have words of regret and cunning. In sidewalk cafe chairs they use words of choices and exaggerations. When I look at them with an empty cup they give me words of blessing or hate. Where ever I go, I listen and don’t say much. My words don’t have meaning. I say them out loud and they are vapor, gone in an instant. This is why my love for the American doll queen would be more than words for her. She has lived a life of words to define herself and her love, I arrive with passion that has endless definition. She knows no passion like mine.
The wind is like waves today. Rising and falling. Tugging and letting go. He raises a hand to hold down a fiber fedora. His vacation hat. He looks away from her still. He also seems to be yearning for a ninety cent cold can of beer.
“I told you at the beginning of our relationship that I needed honesty. That I craved it. That I had been lied to too many times in the past to go through this again. And what did you do? You lied to me.”
“I didn’t lie.” He says this to her like he says this all the time.
“Oh?” She has her hands on her hips now, this position gives her confidence.
“I didn’t lie, if I didn’t know. How could I know?” He finally looks at her and she is not looking at him.
My American doll queen puts her hands by her ears and gestures like she needs ear muffs to stop listening to her man say words she doesn’t want to hear. She sees the pregnant bitch sato waddle up to the bit of jerky I threw.
“Look at the poor thing. It looks pregnant.”
Shit. Ten bucks.
“Yes, she is pregnant. Do you like?” I say to her as she bends over to the sato. The sato is so lazy it doesn’t acknowledge the girl. Just lays down on its side again.
“Is it yours?” My American doll queen says to me. I nod quickly. I am so nervous. “Yes. She is mine. Her name is Sato.”
My American queen leans closer to the bitch as her man stands with his hands deep into his yellow Havana shorts.
“Aww Sato,” she says to it in a cute voice. I imagine her saying my name like that to me. “Aww what happened to her ear!”
“Uh, I don’t know, you know. One day she show up to me. With her ear like that. The dogs here, you know? So many just, uh, stray.”
My American queen is petting the sato bitch. The sato bitch doesn’t seem to care. She must be hours away from squeezing out a litter. I suddenly realize that the sato is a wise bitch. Instead of finding a dirty alley in the guts of Cantano Pueblo to give birth, she waddled over here to find a human to save her. This sato and I may be kindred souls, in similar need of what a human may provide.
“You like? Ten dollars.”
I see the American man stand a little more rigid, shifting his body weight in my direction. I can tell he is a human that does not like being taken advantage of.
“Ten bucks, uh?”
“Yes.” I say to him. I am firm. I need ten.
“You can’t sell us a pregnant stray dog, man. It’s not yours to sell.”
Everything is mine to sell on this island. It belongs to me more than them. Belongs to all of us.
“It is not stray,” I say. To prove it I give the bitch a little whistle with a piece of jerky in my hand. I see her raise her head. My American queen is rubbing the sato’s back and turns to look at her man.
“If we give you ten bucks, will you take this poor thing with you? Take it somewhere with water and food. She’s probably starving.”
“Dear, we’re not giving this bum ten bucks. He’s just a beggar. They are-”
“Don’t call me dear.”
The man lets out a gasp that could blow a bird from a wire.
“Just whatever, let’s just get our tickets and get back to the hotel and we can talk there.”
“No. We have nothing to talk about. You lied. We’re through. That’s the end of it. We will stay here one more day, fly home and I hope to never see you again.”
“Dear, now come on-”
She stops petting the sato and stands with the fury of a little waterspout beginning to form.
“Do not call me dear. That privilege, nicknaming cutesy fucking bullshit people do when they love one another is over. I don’t love you anymore.”
“What are you talking about, we just said it to each other this morning. Everything was fine then, what happened?”
My American queen’s anger, I see, makes her ugly, red and mean. The sato has waddled near me now, as if it were seeking protection from her.
“What happened? What happened is that you fucking lied to me! What happened is that I have to spend the rest of my life getting tested for disease. What happened is that you stuck your little sorry dick inside of some whore before you met me and failed to tell me that, that little dirty whore now has a disease. My life has now-”
“She’s not a whore.”
“Oh go fuck yourself.”
My American queen hands me a twenty dollar bill and says to me, “Get that dog some care. She needs food and water. Please.” She is still angry, and tells me this in a very stern manner. I nod. I do not want to upset her any further. She passes through the light blue turnstile of the ferry station.
I look to the man, not for anything more, but for his reaction to my American queen, ending their connection, giving me twenty dollars and walking away.
“I don’t have a disease. She doesn’t have a disease, and that’s not your dog.”
He swipes at my hand holding the twenty. I pull it back. He swipes again. I move away. His right hand is in a fist. The sato begins to growl at him. He stops and looks at her and at me. He gasps again, long and hard. I carry a small knife. I have never used it on another man. I am ready to drive it into him as far as it will go. The wind blows his vacation hat from his head and carries it down the street. He chases after it. My laughter startles me.
I start to walk away, but inside the station I see my American doll queen sitting on a bench. Her arms crossed, her foot tapping on the floor. She sees me through the entrance. She points at the sato. I nod and make a little whistle to her. She follows me. I will make a nice day soon.