by Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés
Murderous thoughts consumed her as she peered under the fence in search of that cabrón Macho.
At first it had been cute, but now she thought it a stupid name for a stupid dog. He was ridiculous looking too—sticks for legs, long neck, antenna ears, freakishly barrel chested and three different colors. Mari had squealed at his photo on Craigslist.
“Look, a Chihuahua puppy! For free! Mira que cosa más linda, Raquel. I have to have him. Pleeeeze, can we get him? Look at that face.”
Raquel smiled at Mari’s pushed out bottom lip and baby-sounds.
“Yea, he is pretty cute.” She kissed the top of her head. They’d only been a couple for the last three months even though they had been living together for a year. Becoming lovers was not in Raquel’s plan, though neither was adopting a dog. As soon as she landed a decent accounting job at a big construction company’s headquarters, she had spread the word among her friends that she needed a roommate ASAP since living at home with her constantly-up-in-your-business familia was not at all what she’d had in mind when she moved back to Orlando. Rent for the 2/2 apartment in a yet-to-be-gentrified area ten minutes from a getting-to-be trendy neighborhood was an even grand, minus utilities and WIFI. And the roommate had to be quiet.
Raquel’s plan was to take and pass the CPA exam in the next six months so she could get a better job auditing. Her ultimate goal was forensic accounting—discovering other’s mistakes or intentional book-cooking. But getting to her goal required intensive studying every night after work. Sometimes her eyes would tire and she drifted to daydreams, imagining herself driving a cream colored Boxster convertible headed to the beach. An ultramodern condo in one of those downtown high-rises springing up everywhere and a long cruise around the Mediterranean would be so nice. Then she’d wake up, her face creased from being plastered against the study guide, her laptop dead and only two hours until it was time to get up for work.
Mari was a Zumba instructor and didn’t mind practicing her routines in silence with her wireless in front of the big TV she brought with her when she moved in. Sometimes on her way to the kitchen, Raquel would catch Mari wearing her official gear, brightly colored tanks and coordinated parachute pants with zippers and streamers waving with her movements. It was sexy as hell but Raquel wasn’t interested so she laughed at Mari while badly imitating some fake rumba steps then shutting herself back up in her room.
They had been good roommates in that neither shared friends, occupations, nor interests and so they didn’t have to spend any time together. Then Mari found out that her girlfriend was two-timing her on the same day that Raquel saw her crush sticking her tongue through the forest of some aspiring-hipster’s bushy beard.
Raquel needed to talk to someone and Mari was there. She tried to explain the sense of betrayal she felt at the sight of them tucked into the hookah bar’s back booth until she noticed the tears.
“What happened?” Raquel touched Mari’s hand as she wiped her cheeks. “You ok?”
“It’s just that . . . my girl,” Mari hiccupped, exhaled and tried again, “My girl Milexi’s been cheating on me.”
“Ay, mama, I’m so sorry.” Raquel’s own face reflected Mari’s pained expression. She reached over to hug her close and started to cry too.
There was no need to exchange stories of past hurts; their bodies did that for them. As the early morning sun revealed Mari’s tranquil face, a smile Raquel couldn’t help stretched across her own.
Weekends Raquel and Mari would parade his highness around Lake Eola, always sporting an absurd little doggy shirt—he couldn’t tolerate the spiked punk collar. Faux leather biker jacket with itty bitty chains stitched at the sides, a camo vest with Duck Dynasty embellishments, even a muscle shirt. Nothing prissy or girly for Macho! Inevitably somebody would stop in their tracks to coo.
“Oh-my-gawd, is that the cutest!”
“Thank you.” Mari would always pick him up for them to get a closer look.
“What great coloring he has!” Given his huge penis, there was no mistaking his sex.
“He’s brindle,” Mari’d say to the admirer, then turning to the dog, “No es verdad, bebé?”
“What’s his name?”
“Macho,” Mari would grin. If the asker was Hispanic and sufficiently engaged, she’d finish with proper introductions:
“This is Raquel and I’m
Mari, Macho’s mami.”
Mari thought it was hilarious. A twist on marimacha—that ugly old name for dyke.
The little things that annoyed Raquel when Mari was her roommate became endearing habits once they were sleeping together—the half-drunk glasses of water in the fridge, the way she scraped clean the caked on pans with a knife instead of the scrubber, the sofa throw pillows hijacked into her room. Mari’s protein shakes’ ingredients took up two whole shelves in the fridge and one side of the pantry; Raquel didn’t mind. She could survive on ham and jelly sandwiches and café.
They had agreed to keep their separate rooms for sleeping—Raquel could study late into the night without disturbing Mari and Mari could crank up the ceiling fan (Raquel was convinced in her belief that sleeping under a fan caused sore throats).
Then Macho came into the picture. Not surprisingly, he shivered if the temperature went below 80 degrees but slept under Mari’s covers because, well, it was obvious from the start, he was her baby. Not a problem for Raquel. In her house, dogs slept on the floor. The problem came when the women sought each other out.
First Macho growled ferociously at Raquel—as much as a Chihuahua could—when she slipped into Mari’s bed. They laughed and laughed and put him out into the living room where he whined and scratched until he quieted down and they thought he had worn himself out. In the morning, Raquel gasped at the pile of veneer chips that Macho had gnawed off from the bottom of the door. He didn’t even look up from his yoga poses to acknowledge her.
That was when Macho began his crate-training but many times Mari would forget to close the door’s latch when she left for work and he would have a heyday pissing and shitting all over the place. If by chance the bedroom doors were left open, he only marked Raquel’s furniture and he’d find a way to climb onto her desk to chew up her study guides. If she got home before Raquel, Mari would usually clean up his messes but if Raquel got home first, she would let the dog out in the yard and leave the cleaning for his mami—no matter how tiny the messiness.
Then he bit Raquel, drawing blood on the tip of her nose when she approached Mari for a kiss. Only Mari laughed that time. Raquel was stunned.
“What? He’s a freaking Chihuahua. That didn’t hurt, did it?”
“Coño, Mari, can’t you see what he did to me?”
Macho’s half-closed eyes mocked Raquel.
“That little mother . . .” Raquel raised her hand.
“Hey, what’s the matter with you? He’s just a little baby dog.” Mari pulled away, cradling the dog.
Raquel felt defeated. She wondered how five pounds of skin and bones could cause so much animosity between them. Mari became guarded, and not just when she held him which she was doing more and more.
Before long Macho discovered a bitch five times his size on the other side of the backyard fence and he dug himself a pathway to her.
Raquel didn’t notice he was gone until Mari came home and she called out for him.
“Oh, yea, I let him out in the back.”
“You can’t just do that, Raquel. You have to stay out there with him.”
She didn’t wait for a response as she brusquely made her way to the back door.
Of course, Macho never came back when called. Mari found his tiny tracks in the sandy soil by a post; she could see him through the fence slats, nonchalantly sniffing the bitch’s hindquarters. After a long while Raquel came out to half-heartedly help, but it was apparent to both of them that Macho was Mari’s problem. And the fact that the dog turned out to be the cabrón-hijo-de-puta that he was, well, that was Mari’s fault too.
Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés’ work has appeared in Guernica, Kweli Journal, Literary Mama, The Bilingual Review, Caribe, and The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Her books include story collections, Marielitos, Balseros, and Other Exiles and Oye What I’m Gonna Tell You; a poetry chapbook Everyday Chica, and a poetry CD. She is professor of writing and literature at the University of Central Florida.