Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Breathing Life"

© 2009 Pia Villanueva-Pulido

The best spot in the house is the corner bookshelf in what used to be her mother's formal dining room when she was growing up. Now she converted the room into a mini-library filled with all kinds of books she has collected since her undergrad years as an English/Lit major. Those were the years when possibilities like the Great American Novel followed by a Nobel Prize were within reach. HA! What a joke.

How do I get out of here? She thought to herself, shaking her head, as she longingly glanced at the row of paperback Shakespearean tragedies. She walked away from her books, as if avoiding a temptation that would be impossible to resist if she dared to take another step forward, left the room, and didn't look back.

Walking past the small dining area and a narrow kitchen led her to another “best spot” in the house. When she was 12, it used to be what her mother called a “game room” where she had all her daycare kids and grandkids play during the day. Her mother quit the daycare business to take care of an elderly aunt, so it became a laundry and storage room. By the time she was out of college and married, it became a music studio. But the original homeowners used it as a garage. For her family, it had been anything but a garage.

She entered the room and heard her husband rhythmically counting and snapping, “1, 2, 3, 4, 1,2,3,4,” as a student attempted to follow his beat on the drums. She knew better than to disturb the fast-forward pace of his lessons, so she shut the door and walked back to the kitchen.

“Mommy, I'm hungry!” Her four-year old daughter announced, rubbing her belly exaggeratedly. Moments later, his metronome counting and the banging on the drums faded.

Oh, eternal gratitude!

But before she could even catch her breath to take out the toaster and some ham and cheese, she heard the electric guitar and his familiar three-chord progression technique he always used on beginner students. “It's a universal three chord trick,” he lectured to the little second grader. “If you practice just five minutes a day using these three chords, you can play any song you want.” That was his hook, and it always worked. The kids always walked out of his music lessons excited and passionate.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Excerpt #2 from the Big Six Contract (language edited to be suitable for young adults)

"Yes it did. It explained my behavior. I already told you, it really was my period. I told you I was sorry and I’m exhausted. Let’s just watch the movie.”

“No!” His tone changed from affectionate teasing to passive-aggressive. “When it’s not convenient for me to talk, like when I’m working, you call me and make me listen to you whine and complain. Now it’s your turn.”

“That’s very mature of you, Carlos. An eye for an eye, the basis of our marriage. I thought we already outgrew that.” Eunice got up from the couch, removed the movie from the DVD player, and turned the television off.

Carlos knew that when she turned off the TV, she had every intention of extending the conversation to equal the same amount of time for a full-length movie. He looked at the clock behind him: 2:17. In about five minutes, he is going to shut down everything around him so that he can remain calm, cool, and collected. He did not want to listen to her taunts and insults. Actually, he did not want to listen to her at all. Eunice was known for her razor tongue, and she would attack without warning. He closed his eyes and recalled the night they met.

“Not once did you tell me I wasn’t being true to myself. You’re the one who lied to yourself when you said you were successful in your career back when we were dating, and how much money do you make for this family now?” Her voice trailed off as he thought back to the night they met.

It was at Brews, a downtown pub, where all the frat boys and the beer-bellied alumni rugby players hung out to drink the imported specialty beers. Beer snobs. Not where he belonged, yet he found himself driving over there to meet up with his shady friend Larry who was a lot of fun to party with.

“Dude, I found an after party tonight, but I gotta meet this chick at Brews first. I am going to hook up with her tonight," Gary said matter-of-factly. It was no secret what he did for a living.

“Why don’t you meet me up there?”

“No, thanks, man. I’ve gotta work early in the morning tomorrow and my son’s gonna be looking for me in the morning.”

“Isn’t that why your dad’s living with you? So he can take care of your son?”

Carlos laughed. “Good point. But I’m already in bed, man.”

“The after-party, Carlos. I heard DJ RJ is spinning tonight.”

“Oh really? He’s playing house music?”

“You know he will.”

Carlos found himself getting up out of bed that night and telling his dad to watch his son. No, he didn’t feel badly about leaving his son to go party. After all, he gave up everything so he could raise his kid, even though he didn’t want one. Unwanted pregnancy. Unwanted woman. Then she had to go leave them both. He felt entitled to a break once in a while, and tonight was his opportunity. He had to seize it before it slipped away again.

The day Jeffrey was born was the day he gave up on music and the band, but he couldn't resist music altogether.

Driving downtown was like coming home. The clubs and the streetlights were familiar, and the drum and bass from the music clubs was throbbing in his ears. People were laughing and drinking, and someone’s getting her belly button pierced at the tattoo parlor. He felt alive again. What a horrible year it has been – with Jeffrey’s mom leaving him and two years of his life wasted, tonight, he felt like he finally was able to start picking up the pieces to move on.

He pulled the old Buick up to the curb and parked his car next to the meter. I’ll only stay for 30 minutes, he thought to himself, as he put in a few coins in. Just enough time to drink a beer and go.

He walked into Brews and instantly felt nauseous. He was surrounded by the same dorks that he and his cousins used to hang out with in San Antonio. Those were the guys that used to be stars of their high school football and talked about what losers the non-football players were. They were the guys who drank overpriced beer.

They were all here together in one place. Ugh, he was gonna get sick. Where’s Larry? I gotta get outta here.

He finds Larry surrounded by several young women, all of whom were giving him their undivided attention. Larry could charm anybody’s pants off, even a middle aged male bartender. He was just Larry, and everyone loved him.

That was the night they met.

He saw her talking to Larry. At first, Carlos thought she was the girl Larry was talking about over the phone, but it turned out that she just happened to have smashed his drink earlier that night.

As he walked towards them, he could hear her telling him, “I totally didn’t see it. I’m really sorry about that. Let me buy you another one.”

Before Larry could agree to the free beer, Carlos walked up to them and interrupted. “You don’t have to buy Larry a beer. He doesn’t even need another one. Don’t worry about it. It’s his fault anyway.”

He gave her his sexiest grin, but it didn’t work. In her innermost snotty attitude that she still throws around from time to time to this day, she asked, “Who are you… and why are you interrupting us?”

He fell in love with her instantly.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Excerpt from the Big Six Contract

You know who you shoulda married?” They were sprawled comfortably on the living room couch, their legs intertwined on the ottoman, and his arms were wrapped around her. A movie was on, but it was what he liked to call a ‘chick flick,’ so he chose this moment as the perfect time for him to talk because she was quiet.

“That tall white guy – what’s his name…the guy who was pissed off at me at your birthday party that year when you were so drunk at Dave and Buster’s.”

“Ohhh, Jayden!!” She recalled fondly with a smile. “Honey, that was years ago, like during the time we were straight outta college.”

“Yah, but that’s the kinda guy you want. You should’ve been true to yourself and just married him instead.”

Eunice scrunched her eyebrows and looked at her husband curiously. Even after he gained twenty-something pounds since their wedding day five years ago, he was still irresistibly handsome with his sharp chin, his perfectly symmetrical nose, and those sexy brown bedroom eyes with unbelievably long eyelashes. She wanted to just straddle him right then and there and attack him with kisses. And more. Everywhere. Instead she attacked him with words.

“What the hell’s the matter with you? Where did that come from!? I AM being true to myself! I married you!” Her chest tightened and she could feel her heart beating so fast. Her heart felt like it was coming out of her throat. Deep breathing techniques where are you when I need you most? In with your nose, out with your mouth. Breathe in, breathe out with your nose, in with your mouth. Relax, she said, just forget what he said. He’s just talking smack, she thought. But she couldn’t. Forget the meditation technique. It’s just for sissies. Whatever.

“Okay, here we go again!”

She took the DVD remote and searched for the PAUSE button, threw it hard on the floor and it smashed to pieces. This was not unusual behavior for either one of them during a heated argument. They knew they could get psycho with each other, which is probably part of their unhealthy attraction towards one another. Breathing heavily, she positioned herself carefully to face her husband before returning to the conversation.

“You know, this is a rare moment for us. It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon, just the two of us, while the kids are out shopping with your mom. No distractions. Do you really have to bring up some random relationship issue from the past right this very moment? Jayden was not even a boyfriend. He was an old college buddy. We lived in the same dorm. That’s it.”

He rolled his eyes and shook his head. Eunice reached for what was left of the remote to continue the movie when he replied, “It came from what you said yesterday. Do you not even remember everything you told me while you were in tears, crying and hysterical? And don’t blame it on your period. It had nothing to do with your period.”