Sometimes I amuse myself with my little students by having the boys compete against the girls. It always goes exactly the same way: I give the instructions, the girls begin talking and negotiating and deciding who will go first and who will go here and who will go there. And the boys kind of shove each other into place, and all try to push to the front of the line, and usually end up in a dogpile on the floor. These are four-year-olds. And every time I watch and shake my head and wonder just why it is that women don’t rule the world.
Our neighbor Alfredo is a guy in his early twenties. Last year he was wrecked his motorcycle while riding drunk and almost lost his hand. That sobered him up for a while. Then his girlfriend Ana came to live with him. He started going to work every morning at dawn, while Ana scrubbed the laundry by hand and cooked, and in the afternoons we’d hear them laughing together. Ibis and I would comment, carefully, “They seem happy, huh?” “Yeah.” And then look at each other and shrug and not say anything else, knowing we were both thinking, “But how long will it last?”
Last week Ana yelled for us, and Ibis went out to talk to her. Alfredo had been drinking when she left for her job at a daycare center. When she got home, he was gone, and so was the money she’d been saving from her job. She told Ibis she was leaving, and he told her she was doing the right thing, and to let us know if we could help her out.
Three days ago I saw Alfredo stumbling along the road, dumb-drunk. Ana was walking behind him, looking pissed, but when he turned around, she smiled at him.
Two days ago we were driving through the rain to visit some friends in Tlacochahuaya. Ana was walking towards the house with a bag of groceries, soaking wet and alone.
Today a remodel project that Ibis is freelancing on started construction. Alfredo was sober yesterday afternoon, and he agreed to go help with demolition today. Ana, when I saw her yesterday, was standing in the misty rain, scrubbing the laundry.
Ibis loves movies the way I love books: as a general category. I’ll read anything from my mother-in-law’s Harlequin-romance-novels-translated-into-Spanish (“Ay, Madison,” dijó Wentworth apasionadamente, “eres la mujer más bella de todo Emerald Cove.”) to dense tomes on the evolution of language. And it was not out of character for Ibis to come home from Blockbuster the other day with “Just Go With It” (starring Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler!) and “I Spit on Your Grave” (yeah, that’s not a romantic comedy).
So he put on his horror movie after Isaias was asleep. I half-watched the first bit (hot young female novelist rents isolated house—dumb! Is semi-unfriendly to the gas-station attendant—not nice! Drinks lots of wine—bad! Smokes a little pot—worse! Wears black underwear—skank!). When the three sketchy guys from the gas station show up at her house and begin to intimidate her, it occurred to me to read the back of the box—and, gosh, why does it not sound entertaining to me to watch them torture her (fisicamente Y psicologicamente!) and then for her to return from the dead to torture them back? I went to bed.
If I read him right the next morning, Ibis was shaken by the crudity and brutality he paid thirty pesos for (because just as I will finish a book once started, even if I have to skim and jump impatiently to make it to the end, he will watch a movie all the way through, no matter what).
Then we watched Jenn and Adam frolic and make poop and boob jokes, and I laughed, la la la. But I told Ibis, in a way (in a WAY) they’re the same movie, in a way they tell us the same thing. Adam Sandler sleeps with a different woman every Friday night and lies to them all, but he’s still a “good man”, he has “a big heart” beeeeecause…he one time teaches this little kid to swim. Jennifer Aniston is a noble single mother who wears glasses and frumpy clothes and never goes on dates and doesn’t have time to do her hair because she’s busy sacrificing herself for her kids—which is what you have to do to be a “good woman.”
The horror-movie novelist drinks and goes for a run in just a sports bra and short-shorts, and we’re (I guess?) supposed to believe that she is therefore Bad, and kinda-sorta deserves to be tortured and raped, because you’re supposed to enjoy watching it, right? And how can you enjoy it if she doesn’t deserve it?
None of this is a surprise to me. But it never stops pissing me off.
Ibis’s day job (or night job or 3-in-the-morning job, depending on the shift) is answering the 066 emergency line. The other day he got a call: a woman was sobbing, hysterical, she’d just seen her boyfriend having sex with another woman in his car. Ibis didn’t have to take the call, obviously it wasn’t a matter for the police or the firefighters, but he told her not to hang up, that he would connect her with one of the female operators.
The other operator rolled her eyes but conceded to talk to “Ibis’s crazy lady”. For a good half-hour, she listened and comforted and listened some more. Finally (as she later told Ibis) the woman calmed down, and said:
“I think I’ll be okay now. I’m going to go take down this rope that I had put up to hang myself, and go take a walk instead.”