TAMPONS WILL TAKE YOUR VIRGINITY
WHAT I'M TRYING TO DO HERE
Why are commercial publishing houses overlooking Chicano literature? We're putting good stuff out there.
It's partially due to the Big Six's reliance on literary agencies' knowledge of the current market to find books. Unfortunately, literary agents believe the Mexican American genre is unmarketable. Chicano submissions are being rejected out of habit.
I don’t see a way around these traditional channels. Strengthening a reader-base through social networking is an option that needs to be explored. People in the industry (including publishers) now keep abreast of new developments through social media. Which is where this site comes into the mix.
I’m asking people who think divergently to review and opt to comment or pass this site along. Collaboration not only draws on the expertise and energy of different people, but a shared environment can also create new media resources. We need a positive change through cultural exchange!
I’m feeling my way through this, so suggestions on expanding this experiment to the community are welcome.
TAMPONS WILL TAKE YOUR VIRGINITY
“They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds.”
— Mexican Proverb
Mr. Gilbert Zamora decided to take his own life during a rerun of I Love Lucy. He was sitting next to his wife on the plastic slipcovered couch while their two teenage daughters watched TV from the shag carpet. With the not-so-agonizing decision finally made, Mr. Zamora tuned back into the show. It was the episode where Lucy places a bet with Ricky. She was going to keep from buying a hat for longer than he could keep from losing his temper.
The screen turned snowy. Leah got up to adjust the reception by rotating the coat hanger antenna. When she let go the screen became a blizzard. She touched it again and the screen cleared.
“Don’t move!” Mrs. Zamora said. Their youngest daughter stood in place as if caught in a game of freeze tag.
“Did you know that the show almost didn’t make it to TV because Ricky was a foreigner and had an accent?” Roxy said. “At the last minute Philip Morris sponsored the show. That’s why they all smoke so much and keep showing their cigarette packs. But Lucy didn’t like their cigarettes, so a stagehand had to fill her pack with the cigarettes she liked. I forget what kind.”
Roxy was working her way through a bag of chicharrónes. “They’re still doing it and not only on TV shows, but in movies.” She counted off chili-stained fingers. "There’s Hazel, Love Boat, Love Bug, Clockwork Orange, Grease, The Exorcist, Smokey and the Bandit and all of the Bond movies.”
The blizzard was back. “Turn it again. No. The other way,” Roxy directed, the way older sisters tend to do.
Leah rotated the hanger slowly the other way as she said, “Which products did the Exorcist show?”
“It wasn’t split pea soup. That’s for sure,” Roxy said flatly. “Probably Coke. It’s usually Coke.”
As Lucy’s hat arrived via the store’s “fastest, speediest delivery,” Mr. Zamora worked out how much the $49.50 hat would cost today. In 1980 that ugly little hat would cost over $125.00!
“I hate Lucy.” Mrs. Zamora’s tone was so full of loathing that her family resisted the urge to look at her. In the wilderness they called home eye contact was an act of aggression.
Mrs. Zamora spoke again. In her husband’s periphery view she looked like a beanbag with a russet potato for a head. “Lucy is so spoiled. She can’t cook and never bothers to clean their apartment. She’s always spending her husband’s money and doing things she shouldn’t be doing behind his back. Now what kind of a wife is that?”
Mr. Zamora was thinking how familiar that sounded when the potato spoke again. “And what kind of a name is ‘Ricky Ricardo’ anyway? Did his parents really name him ‘Ricardo Ricardo?’ You see, that’s what happens when los otros write about us. They always get it all wrong!”
Roxy spoke to the chancla dangling from her mother’s big toe, aware that she could wield the house slipper with the precision of a ninja throwing star. “Enrique. His name is Enrique Ricardo.”
Annoyed by the correction, Mrs. Zamora crossed her arms over her bosom. She sunk deeper into the cushions causing the plastic slipcovers to moan. “Poor Ricky. If he had married a good Mexican woman instead of that...he would have been much better off.”
“He’s Cuban, Mother.” Roxy said, bracing for the chancla.
“I know that,” Mrs. Zamora said, offended. “He’s Catholic and he speaks Spanish. If that’s good enough for God it’s good enough for me.”
Enrique bent Lucy over his knee and started spanking her. Mrs. Zamora perked up. “Harder! Hit her harder!”
Mr. Zamora watched his wife cheer on the domestic abuser. He frowned. The last two decades married to this woman had been a series of daily suicides. It dawned on him that he wasn’t going to take his own life, he was taking it back from her.
As the show’s closing credits zipped by Mr. Zamora wondered how many members of the audience were dead. The plush theater seats alongside Dinah Shore, Rosemary Clooney, Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Jack Paar, Milton Berle, Perry Como, Carol Burnett and Ed Sullivan’s deceased audience members called to him. All those plush folded velvet seats.
His decision to sign off the air had been scheduled, but where was the exit? How am I going to make it look like an accident? Mr. Zamora became serene as the answer came to him. I own a restaurant. Accidents are always happening there.
MR. ZAMORA IS DEAD
After Mr. Zamora 's unexpected death most of the regular customers stopped patronizing Cabeza de Sesos or Sesos for short. It wasn’t that the people of the Mission District didn’t feel sad for the Zamora women, now without a husband and a father. It was just that everyone knew his widow was running the restaurant and no one wanted to spend good money on a bad meal.
On the Monday after the funeral, Mrs. Zamora buttoned the top button of the lightweight black suéter she wore over her simple black polyester-blend dress. She paused to stare at herself in the full-length mirror. Her lifelong fear of living without the security of a man, first her father, and now her husband had come true.
Why women without the decency to wear bras or shave their underarms march the streets demanding more liberation than they need was beyond her. Sighing, she picked up her husband’s hefty ring of keys that looked just like the ring jailers carried. With the prison image in mind she descended the backstairs for her first shift as the sole owner of Sesos.
As Chucha, the cook, conveyed his deepest sympathies, Mrs. Zamora selected baked goods from the pink box he had brought. She served herself a nino envueltos with tongs. After a brief moment of contemplating a concha de chocolate she served herself a second strawberry roll. On her plate they looked just like Princess Leias’ hair buns.
Mrs. Zamora lingered in the kitchen until she received condolences and hugs from her arriving staff. Pedro, the last one to arrive, was fourteen minutes late. In between bites Mrs. Zamora berated the busboy, who worked three jobs, on punctuality. As the waitresses listened, their eyes kept being pulled back to the spot where their real boss had met God.
Mrs. Zamora handed Pedro the tongs and her empty plate before dismissing him. Her face brightened when she realized she had unexpectedly asserted her authority. Earn their respect. If you can’t do that, earn their fear, she thought as she headed to her husband's closet-sized office.
Mrs. Zamora stopped cold. A mound of phone messages, stacks of invoices and scattered envelopes covered the tiny desk. A wall calendar filled with her husband's cramped cursive writing caught her attention. Two of the dates were lassoed in red ink. “Payroll” was written in both. The second “Payroll” date was in five days.
The loud crash of the front door caused Roxy and Leah to jump. They watched their mother trudge into the living room crying hoarse, wracking sobs. They exchanged nervous glances when she momentarily blocked the Price is Right on TV.
The next morning the girls decided to go back to school, which Mrs. Zamora felt was for the best. The school term was almost over and they needed the structure in their life. The precious two weeks of silence remaining would give her the chance to grieve in peace.
Mrs. Zamora warded off thoughts of working on payroll by escaping into television and food. She spent her days in bed, only getting up to go to the bathroom or to switch channels back and forth between the novelas on UHF and the ones on ABC.
The employees were sympathetic. They brought her meals up on trays and took the dirty dishes away. If she did not feel like ‘real food’ they ordered whatever she wanted. Usually sweet and sour pork served with pork fried rice, an egg-roll and fortune cookies.
On the dreaded payday, Mrs. Zamora retreated to her bathroom. She sat on the toilet lid staring at her watch as the minutes counted down. Unconsciously, she wiped her clammy forehead on the hand towel reserved for guests. Downstairs, Chucha and Pedro performed last rites while splashing tap water on each other.
The trickle of arriving employees became a surge. Dressed in their Mexican revolution inspired work uniforms, the normally benign group of waitresses clamored for la jefa. When she failed to show her ‘ugly face' they raided the walk-in refrigerator and freezer. They took their due earnings with meat and seafood wrapped in paper, huge blocks of cheese and butter.
Las Adelitas stormed the storeroom where they claimed unpaid sick days and vacation time owed to them with cases of beer, liquor and wine. Rolling DeKuper Schnapps bottles were left in their wake. As they departed the restaurant the new mothers snatched up the baby booster seats near the back door.
Clinging to the kitchen wall Chucha said to Pedro in Spanish, “Check your fingers and toes.” ← This line doesn't work. Suggestions welcome.
The girls arrived home from school to find their mother frantically filling two suitcases. Tersely, she said, “Don’t just stand there, Roxana! Help me!”
Leah watched from the doorway as Roxy attempted to close an overstuffed suitcase by sitting on it. Her face pinched as questions tumbled out. What about the restaurant? “How long will you be gone?”
In a voice loud enough to hear, but soft enough to ignore, Leah said, “What about us?”
Mrs. Zamora chose the latter. To Roxy she said, “The restaurant is closed. Nobody wants to work here...work for me.” She burst into tears. Roxy knew that was true and did not want to go down that road. She hopped on the suitcase until it closed.
Mrs. Zamora caught the next bus to Watsonville in the Salinas Valley where she would care for an elderly aunt who did not send for her. After putting their mother in a cab to the downtown bus depot the bewildered daughters turned back around and faced their sinking ship. Someone named Güey had recently graffitied over the graffiti on the door.
Roxy felt like she had just fallen down a manhole and was about to hit ground. As the pedestrian traffic moved swiftly around them Leah experienced the sensation of drowning. She parted her lips to breathe in the water.
Thanks for taking the time to read these pages.
As I mentioned above, I value your opinion and would appreciate your taking part in this final group edit. All thoughts and suggestions are welcomed. Feel free to pass this along.
Photography, artwork and music from the San Francisco’s artist community and beyond will continually be added. Links will be included.
Enjoy the music and help yourself to the avocado margarita recipe. You can reach me right here.
Stay very safe,
“The yarn Sandoval spins of their lives…
would make an HBO show-runner proud."
“Some of the most interesting, well-drawn characters
in contemporary Chicana literature...It shines.”
—Rudolfo Anaya, author, Bless Me, Ultima
"...female friendship and empowerment strikes
universal chords that will resonate with all readers.”
—Michael Nava, author of The City of Palaces