“Brujería” is a short story about two women who are mysteriously drawn to each other. Our nameless protagonist is a butch young woman who must navigate her sexuality through a sometimes grim lens. Along the way is the elusive Verona, a self described “bruja” who may or may not have put a curse on her. Read the rest in my short story book Women Becoming, available for $2.99 on Amazon.
We’re sitting in her friend’s back yard in the dark, at two in the morning, and it hits me that she drove us here high and drunk out of her mind. She got us here in her hoopty, the beat up Honda that she drives without a license, the radio bumping nasty rap, her son’s empty carseat behind us, and the carpteted seats reeking of swishers.
“I’m not trying to brag,” she said when she picked me up, “but I’ve never gotten a ticket or pulled over or anything.”
This girl must have guardian angels or something, I think. Her friend, out here in the yard, is also a Mexican in his late twenties, sitting across from us smoking a joint, rapping over some shitty beats he made on Garage Band. He really wants to fuck her, she told me as we got out of the car just minutes earlier, “but I let him buy me dinner instead.”
He doesn’t know that Verona and I are exchanging unspoken dialogue, where we sit: my hand around her hip, her blonde head on my shoulder, my hand sliding beneath the waistband of her jeans, fingers tracing the lace band of her underwear. Once, she brushes her lips against my neck, groaning so only I can hear her.
Her friend doesn’t know that she’s like this, that she sins, and I’m not even sure she knows it either. I wonder if he’d still want to sleep with her if he knew, or worse, if he’d want to even more because of it.
We meet for the first time outside the infamous, run down steamship in Verde Beach, the S.S. Barnes. I think I’ve seen her before as she sits next to me, on the bench at the bus station. Looks Latina, could be Filipina, ice blonde locks, pink lips, overweight, still hot. Her uniform shirt is ill-fitting, buttons pulled tight across her chest. Her name tag is pinned on crooked, looks like it’s going to pop off.
She doesn’t say anything to me at first, staring at her phone and puffing a cigarette roach. I think she’s just a co-worker I’m never going to talk to as I look upon the ship, thinking, shit, it’s so cold.The ship-turned-hotel, creaky and haunted, is always hiring waitresses for the holiday seasons, nine dollars an hour. It’s a shit job, but it’s something. Christmas presents for the kids. All but two of us are women, most of us struggling, at least half of us “queer,” from what I can tell, but I don’t talk to anyone when I’m on the clock.
“You look like that singer,” Verona finally says, from beside me. I look over, read the name on her tag, and watch as she blows a cloud of smoke, tosses the roach.
“What’s your name?” she asks me. I always take my name tag off as soon I’m off the clock.
When I tell her, she snorts.
“That sounds like Sasha Fierce,” she says, tossing her roach to the ground. “You know, like Beyoncé? I hate that bitch.”
Oh, God, I think, as I remember the moment she first caught my eye. She was the one who’d mispronounced the name of the featured wine last month. When the male chef staff had gently corrected her, she’d verbally torn them each a new asshole, in Spanish, for a full minute. I didn’t see it, but I definitely heard it coming from the kitchen. Everyone in the dining room did.
I know exactly why she didn’t get fired for it.
“Can I add you on Facebook?” she says now. She’s scrolling through her phone, getting ready to search me. I hate Facebook, but I also think this woman is very good looking: Catch 22. Something about the way her sleek, dyed hair frames her face, the way her clothes are too tight for her. I would soon learn that these details were on purpose.
So I tell her the name I go by on Facebook. I watch as she looks through my page for a full minute, then looks up at me suddenly, a spark in her eyes.
“You like girls.”
She’s paused her screen on a photo of me and my ex from high school.
“Uh, yeah,” I say. This is why I hate Facebook.
The bus finally pulls into the harbor across the way, and I stand in wait, eager to get out of here.
“I had a girlfriend in high school, too,” says Verona, and I look at her. “She was mean, she used to steal my make-up.” This is stereotypical of me, but I don’t know if I believe her story.
When I get on the bus, I half expect her to sit right next to me. She doesn’t. When the bus gets crowded, she plays her rap music loud from the speakers, not the headphones. Normally, I hate when people do that.
So I should’ve let her go back then, in retrospect: the fact that she asked me first, that spark in her eyes. But as our work went on, she kept sitting next to me at the bus stop. I should’ve pretended that I didn’t see it in her, or better yet, that she wasn’t the one who’d wanted to show it to me.
Months have gone by since that time in her friend’s yard, and we keep doing this thing, her letting me touch her when we’re both drunk, but only then. We’re down the street from my house, parked in front of the Catholic church, the only car on this side of the street. The streetlights are streaming down on us, illuminating her clearly for me.
I work at a different restaurant now, and she says she does too, but she won’t tell me where it is. It also turns out that she and her four year old son, who she calls Baby, live only a few blocks up the street from me. I’ve tried not to ask about Baby’s father when she mentions him, but tonight, as we drove home from the bar, she decided to tell me the story.
“He’s thirty six now. When I was a kid in Colombia, he kept hanging out around the house. He grew up with my half brother or something. We started dating and he tried selling me a couple of times. It turned out he was a pimp in charge of this huge ring.”
Suddenly, she digs through her purse, hands me a grinder and blunt papers.
“Do you smoke?”
I used to smoke weed when I was in high school, Adderall and mushrooms every once in a while, too. My ex-girlfriend and I did it all together. I don’t remember much of those years, but I remember well what the first hit used to feel like.
The relief that washes over you, the release of your conscious thinking. Things shift and colors change and suddenly, this woman in front of me, turning up the radio and dancing in the seat, is a person I’ve known my whole life, who’s always been here. The platinum blonde hair, the bronze skin, the well-endowed of it all, it all looks so familiar. I’ve dreamed of her or something.