Shall I tell you about the time your grandfather proposed to me?
O It was a jive. He halfassed it the way he likes to do most things. We were in Las Vegas. The fool
was drunk and you could smell it from a foot away. I loved that mixture of smells, his cologne, his denim
coat with that faint smell of tobacco, and the wheat seeping from his mouth like a chorus of cows. The
lights were playing tricks on him. We were wild ones, but Las Vegas makes you wilder. It was like the
twenties never ended. Not that I would truly know…I was born In 91, you know. The millennials, they
called us. There, unlike most of the nation, you could walk into any establishment with a drink at hand.
Most all restaurants could be smoked in. The city stayed dark even during the day, as long as you were
in doors. Drunk and dark, it was a way to make you seem slimmer, more attractive. you could walk the
strip with a gigantic margarita and the sun at your back. Everything was overpriced. There was no
excuse to be sober in that city.
Now hear me, I was an adult at that point. I had a job, I lived on my own, I knew how to keep safe.
There was a time I didn’t know how, and I learned my lesson. a lesson nobody should learn, but this is
not the kindest world for young girls. Anyway, It was vacation.
Your grandpa and I were having breakfast, and I use that term loosely because If I’m not mistaken It
was about 2pm, at the hotel, in the restaurant by the pool. Our eyes were bloodshot, we had spent the
entire night previous off the strip going to as many bar shows and casinos of decently priced
establishments for the non tourists. We went to an especially good hip hop show. It was like being home
again. I was handed a joint almost immediately. In vegas it was legal for medical purposes, but they
hadn’t legalized recreational like Colorado had at the time. It had only been a few months from the birth
of the law. Made everythIng better, kiddo.
Anyway. We danced all night. your grandpa was never a good dancer, but he knew I loved to dance,
and boys I had loved never seemed to want to dance with me. He was the first boy, and the first man
who didn’t give a shit. He loved me enough to pull Carlton moves on the floor, by my swaying body.
crippled as I may have been I had a good pair of hips on me. Not for walking, but my I could dance ok.
And we stood there swaying our hips by each other with our index finger out, dropping our hands with
the beat, nodding our heads to the staccato in the man’s voice. He was fast. Smooth and fast, I
remember. Your grandpa was a jealous man, but in a good way. Sometimes other men danced with
me, men who were already on the dance floor, already swaying uncontrollably. and he just threw his
head back and laughed, as if he had no choice but to let me go with the stranger. we’d smIle at each
other before the man would swoop me away to mid floor. Your grandpa and I, we’d lock eyes,
glistening with that smile of approval, almost saying “you come back soon.”
I caught his glance at the bar. I bowed to my partner, which was especially weird at a hip hop show. 23
year old with thick rimmed red wayfarers for glasses, leather jacket, some metal band tubetop, black
shorts, boots, white as hell, pale, and long frizzy curls that hit my mid back in a forest of black tangles. I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I didn’t care, and neither did the crowd. I hated the idea of a scene, is
this my scene? your scene? you aren’t doing it right If you listen to that or don’t listen to this. Scenes
were exhausting, but almost a necessary evil. I walked off toward your grandpa, sitting with a half smile
on his lips, his eyes downcast to his drink, glancing up ‘neath his lids when he felt me approach. That
look killed me, child. Every time. A surge of pleasure would run through my spine. I’d tell myself I’m
having this man’s babies, everytime he gave me that look. I sat down by him. He put his hand on my
knee and leaned in. “I ordered you a stout, Sugar Blossom.” He always knew what I wanted before I
did. I guess we did that for each other. I knew what he wanted before he could tell himself. I miss him
calling me sugar blossom. That’s what I miss most, darling. The bar was that light wood shade,
yellowing, and with beads of sweat from the cold drinks in the heat. “ Was that fun?”
“Dancing is always fun,” I said giving him a toothy smile. “Did you watch your woman dance or were
you checking out other husseys?” I giggled after I said the word. It’s just so unlike me to insult women.
Your grandpa loved that about me, how much I loved women. There was a moment in our generation
when it seemed women were competing, pretending to love each other and then betraying each other. I
took no part in that behaviour. And my friends were women who didn’t either. We loved and cherished
the potential, and hardship of womanhood. It was a tough time for girls. He cracks a smile, directed at
the floor, and when the floor became too intimidating he put his slim fingers, like a peacock’s tail,
spread over his lips. Always trying to hide, that grandpa of yours. I know you think of him as a wrinkly
small man, and he was, but his youth stayed intact, and all those little quirks of his, like hiding his smile
and looking from below, and the way he just grabbed without caring who saw, all those little things
shaped why I loved him. Why I love him still. He will always be 23 to me. He cracks that smile of his
and goes “I was watching that man’s hands,” smiling all the while.
We stumbled back to the hotel. He had those long legs of his carrying him like a gazelle. I was always a
few steps behind, but he would walk in circles, round about, walk back to me, say a few words, walk
faster than me and then shout something silly or clever. It was like a song when we walked. He would
match my stride when it was a crowded street, fearing to lose me in the crowd, he’d grab my hand
during those moments of hectic traffic. But that night at four in the morning there were only a few people
up and about, walking to the next open bar, the next casino. We were amazed at the lights. Just bright
neon statues advertising intoxication, and overall fun. Some prostitutes mingled about, in corners waiting
for drunk tourists who didnt get lucky that night. We stayed up to feel delirious, to get into shenanigans,
but mostly to observe. Your grandpa and I people watched a lot. Sometimes we even played games
with people we didn’t love. Just messed with them in the weirdest ways. One time we went to a gallery
opening and he took me there as a date. It was probably our third or fourth date. He Introduced me as
his sister, had a whole array of childhood stories with me in it. Then In the most visible section in the
room he began to violently make out with me. It was ridiculous, but that is just the kinda shit we liked to
do. There was another time he let me hit on men at the bar in the most sexist ways. I even slapped a
man’s ass, asked if he was flexible, if he could bend over and touch his toes. I’d be licking my lips and
winking and begging the guy for his number, even when he obviously wanted to be left alone. I told one
boy that I was turned on when two men made out, if he could please make out with my friend for me, and I’d bring your grandpa to his side. and he began to lick his lips and say “come on big boy, how
about a kiss” the man shoved him and tried to start a fight. your grandpa, he was a fighter. He tamed up
a bit after years of being with me, but he was always looking for a fun fight. And the man punched him in
the jaw, your grandpa crouched low and punched the guy twice in the stomach. Fellah was in a more
intoxicated state so the fight was easy. And your pop didnt wanna take advantage, he wanted a fair
fight. So we briskly walked out of the bar laughing our asses off, curled up at the waist holding our
That night we just wanted to observe each other, and we had danced to the beat, and we had kissed
with liquor tongues, and we had lit cigarettes, and argued about history. We would yell passionately at
one another and smile the whole time we disagreed. He would try to kiss me to shut me up, which I
found infuriating, and he’d find delightful. he would just laugh at me everytime. I’d tell him “kissing me in
the middle of my sentence is sexist!” and he’d agree and nod and kiss me again. And then he’d let me
finish, because he had to, because we were both always right, but we knew we had to listen to each
At the hotel, we got lost in the purple sheets of the suite. I layed down like a starfish while grandpa
rinsed off the desert from his skin. The whiskey smell stayed. At first I didn’t like the sour smell, but
over the years that whiskey scent was him on good nights. He plopped beside me and kissed my
cheeks. He would peck at my face with his soft lips. Once he got started nothing could stop him. He
kissed and kissed and kissed, and lower his lips to my belly button for a raspberry. He knew I was too
tired for sex. My eyelids were half open, as if I were high. I was, but not on drugs. I was high in that
moment of unconditional love. That little space in time that was like all other times. The other adoring the
sound of breath. taking in the smell of our skins. He would move my fluffy hair to the back of my ear
and go in for a sniff, he’d inhale my whole shoulder. “You smell like baby skin”, he’d say. “like the
whole ocean, too,” he’d say. I’d laugh. I wasn’t used to all the love and I’d combat the feeling with
something morbid. “ so… I smell like a drowned baby?” then I’d laugh, because I knew I sounded
crazy. He’d laugh, because he loved me as the lunatic I was. And am. And he agreed “like a god” kiss
“damn” kiss “baby.”
“I also smell like shit, I’m gonna rinse off”
He always groaned when I got up from bed, like I wasn’t gonna come back. Like it hurt. And his face
would always face the direction of my departure until I returned. Not always, but a lot of the time. “I’ll
be quick,” I promised. I ran the water cold, wanting to feel fresh for a long time in the desert heat. Las
Vegas, the illuminated desert.
I returned to his side, pale, cold, and naked. And laid down. He made M’s with his mouth as if i were a
meal, and coiled my waist with his tanned arm. He drew me to him. “wanna read to me, baby?” You’ve
seen grandpa and I in the morning switching a book back and forth, reading to each other. That tradition
began that night. He always asked, but I came up with excuses, saying it’s boooring, you wouldn’t wanna hear me go on about it. But he would insist, until a bit sullen, he’d give up. I often wondered if
this was something he did with other girls, and it was that little jealousy that would prevent me from
reading to him. The idea that a woman before me existed. It was silly, but it was a fear that grew in my
tummy, like I wasn’t the only one who had shared such a funny thing with him. But that night he cajoled
me. He put his lips to my ear and begged softly “please, Sugar Blossom, please.”
And then I opened up the book I had brought, that I had not touched during the entire trip. It was a
poem by Walt Whitman “I Sing the Body Electric.” From that page, at the crack of the spine, was a
ring, lodged. It was a pearl with emeralds and onyx surrounding it like a bed of flowers. The ring fell to
my tummy. He slid the ring on my wedding fInger. He began to kiss my stomach. And in a low
commandIng voice said “Read”
I began. And this part, this part I’ll skip, but no other man had ever made me feel that way. His head
between my thighs, and my mouth trying to form the words of the poem. As If I were drowning, and
also reborn. When he came up he asked “Is your reactIon a yes?” I laughed, thinking yes to what? He
knew I didn’t believe in marriage. “We don’t have to have a wedding If you dont want to, and we don’t
have to sign papers or pay taxes together, but I need you to be my wife. I’ve never needed anything this
“the title” I said. “you’re wife?”
“I need this, sugar blossom. My sweet Madrid”
I bet I scoffed and crunched my face because he laughed and continued “you are a romantic, like me.
And you are completely in love, head over heels, can’t breath without me…admit it.”
I rolled my eyes and said “fiiiine” with a big smile on my face.
And that’s how your grandpa proposed.
“How quaint the scar on your back is. How absolutely lovely are the freckles surrounding your spine.”
He went on and on, as a soliloquy of saliva harped under his tongue, and made his way to my awaiting
extremities. He praised every bit of me, wobbly, pink, or under endowed. He said he loved my small
breasts, because they were mine and no one else’s, and his, because we belonged to the other. Gosh,
he made me dizzy with love, and I accepted it. Leaving all the rancor like a pile of dust under the bed.
This one is the one I was waiting for all along.
My granddaughter, Mae Ruiz, lifted her head from my lap. She sghed a big sigh, like the whole world
was breathing in her mouth. I knew she understood the gravity of my love. She was reaching an age
when she would begin to wait for her Casanova. “Choose wisely”, I’d tell her, “the Lord knows it took
me some horrible mistakes to get to this good one.” She had that look on her face; the questioning look. I never had the feeling she was just humoring an old lady on her last days. She looked at me and
said “Bita you are always leaving me on a cliffhanger, can you for once finish a whole story?” She threw
her 17 year old head back, and laughed the way I taught her too, with some passion.
Shall I tell you about the time your grandfather proposed to me?