It's okay to give up on me (I totally deserve it).
If you haven't or won't though, here's the second half of what I started a month ago (if you didn't catch the first part, click here).
The Age of Annah-Sense (Part II)
My sudden distaste for his lunches did not go unnoticed. My father and I walked home in silence one Friday afternoon when he finally raised his concern. “Annah, what exactly is the situation with you not eating your food lately?”
I was caught off guard. “Nada, Papa. I’m just tired of pork, I guess.”
He suddenly stopped walking and pulled my hand firmly. “Let me make it very clear that some kids would kill for your lunch,” he said in a tone rarely used in our household. “Don't forget where you live.”
That evening he took me out to dinner for a treat at his favorite restaurant. I recall that night as if it were yesterday, the rough napkin scratching my legs as the waitress recited the menu by heart. The cool breeze on the outdoor patio overlooking the park and a sky filled with stars. The boredom I felt while anxiously sipping lemonade as my dad listened attentively to his dining choices. The drool practically coming out of my ears by the time he finally made one.
“We’ll have the chicken fricassee with white rice and beans,” he finally said. “And Maria, could you bring some of that house habanero please?”
“What’s house habanero?” I asked once the waitress left.
“It’s a very spicy sauce they make here but you're way too young to try. Maybe after your quinces."
I opened my mouth to argue but suddenly Maria was back with a plate of ham croquettes and I forgot all about habaneros and spicy sauce and guys with a penchant for stupid girls.
-------While Johnny romanced Dumb Dumb, he had the audacity to pretend we were still best of friends. I in turn, pretended I didn't want to gouge his eyes out with my tiny love sick hands in a dark corner of a classroom. As we played besties and Johnny resumed eating my sandwiches every afternoon, an uncontrollable hunger began to grow within me: the literal type. Fucker was eating my lunch and I was no longer interested in winning him over. In fact, poisoning him seemed the only viable option to regain my confidence in life.
Eventually I started taking my lunches in the girls' bathroom and resolved to forget about boys altogether. My father was delighted to see I'd resumed loving his food and one day over dinner couldn’t resist indulging me. "I’m going to let you try a little bit of Casa Grande’s sauce with your chicken. But just a tinge, Annah. Es muy picante."
Oh-my-God what was that? I could feel the wheels turning in my head as I took that first bite of habanero douced chicken. Hahahahahahahahaha.
After dinner, I pleaded with my father to make me a pulled pork sandwich for school with just a little bit of the hot sauce and cheese. I forlornly looked at the meal he was so carefully preparing for me and weeped a little internally at the thought of not eating it. I stayed in the kitchen pretending to sip my cafe con leche as I spied on my father. The habanero sauce was placed right next to the mayo in the fridge.
I awoke at my usual time of four to use the bathroom, making a detour to the kitchen and drenching the insides of my pork sandwich with habanero while everyone slept. I went back to bed and guiltily plotted, wondering if maybe I should just dispose of the sandwich in the morning along with my plans of wicked revenge. It really wasn't a big deal, I thought, then immediately fell asleep.
Classes dragged by at a snail rate the following morning, the clock on top of the board resembling an hour glass whose sand had stopped running. When the bell finally tolled at noon, I braced myself for my very first devious move in the name of love. Johnny and Dumb Dumb sat by side-by-side at their usual corner, laughing at something one of our classmates was saying.
“Hola, Johnny,” I faked a smile and waved a little at them both.
“Anita…” He let his voice trail off. “How are you?”
I looked over at Dumb Dumb searching for signs of impatience or hatred, but she just sat there smiling up at me, her perfect blonde curls bobbing in unison as she nodded for no particular reason. I once again considered backing out, but then that meant coming up with another reason why I was standing there.
"Want to trade lunches with me today?” I finally said while turning to him. “I’m kind of craving some rice and beans.”
He shot me a perplexed look and shrugged his shoulders. “Sure,” he pushed his plate in my direction and stretched out his hand. I promptly placed the sandwich in it and stood there like a creepster. When he realized I wasn’t going anywhere, he opened the sandwich and took a greedy bite.
I couldn’t help but revel in the sweet satisfaction of my triumph ahead of time. “Her dad makes the best food,” he said to Dumb Dumb in between mouthfuls. I waited for hell to be unleashed but he bit the thing again without even blinking, his face showing no signs of discomfort. And yet, was that his nose wrinkling?
"Yummy, right?” I asked with fake interest in the boiled egg I’d just stuck a fork in.
“Delicioso,” he mustered while slowly reaching for a bottle of milk, his fair complexion reddening ever-so-slightly. I saw Dumb Dumb reach for the sandwich and thought how lucky I’d be if I killed two birds with one stone. Whether from pride or fear of Dumb Dumb choking half to death, Johnny finished his sandwich in three bites and feigned satisfaction. “That was great, Anita.”
But I knew better.
My vengeance carried out, I pretended to wave at someone across the courtyard and bid my farewells. I sat down with a friend and enjoyed my plate of revenge served bland by Johnny’s mother. It never tasted as sweet.
-------I sat in class two hours later reading a Jose Marti poem aloud when I saw Johnny’s hand shoot up out of the corner of my eye. Knowing good and well Ms. Lopez would not allow for an interruption during poetry, I continued my interpretation of A Sincere Man I Am. As I paused at the end of a stanza, my teacher nodded approvingly, Johnny’s hand still up and ignored still the more. My poetic rendition was interrupted without warning by a loud noise that could not be confused for anything other than a shart.
Despite my wishes to disappear, tearing my eyes from the scene unfolding before me was like not eating cake after a bout of strict dieting. Johnny’s hand went down as all eyes focused on him. His ears a tomato scarlet that gave away what just transpired. “Excuse me,” he whispered at no one in particular as he shuffled towards the door and a ghastly smell followed him. I heard the girl next to me gasp and someone snicker in the front.
“Johnny…” Ms. Lopez began, then quickly decided against it.
I looked up to find his uniform shorts wet on the right side, the same leg smeared in poop that slowly trailed down to his sock. The overwhelming need to help him clean up took hold of me, impossible as it all was. After going to where I presumed was the bathroom, Johnny never returned to class. Nor did he the next day or for the remainder of the week. When he finally showed face six days later (yes, I counted), his eyes were perpetually glued to the floor, Dumb Dumb his only loyal companion.
-------My imaginary romance with “Yohnee” ended that fateful afternoon of ill-timed sharting and pesky bowel movements. Much to my dismay the whole fiasco only deepened his bond with she whom I'll no longer mention. I developed new crushes that year and each subsequent one after, but I never shared my food with anyone else nor did I ever exact revenge on guys who did me wrong. I figured that if someone took the time to hurt me on purpose I'd better stay put and let the universe do its thing.
(I also held back the urge to slash their tires in the middle of the night, as they'd surely die in a car accident or something as a result of my childish fury).
My parents and I eventually moved to the United States and started a new chapter of our lives away from Castro and boiled eggs. I stayed abreast of all the town gossip via telegrams from my grandma and letters that left Cuba in January to reach my hands in May. Johnny married his beloved right after high school and moved to a city close to Havana soon after. Last I heard they had two daughters and a boy on the way they would naturally call Johnny (or Carlos).
I guess some forces in life one really cannot contend with. At the end of it all I couldn't keep those two apart with all the sandwiches in the world.
Johnny and Dumb Dumb ended up with each other.
I ended up with habanero sauce.
True love always finds a way and in my case, it's that of the eternal kind.