at the bridal shower

The breeze at the bridal shower was nice.

“I live fine,” Ruby was saying. She had taken off her large sunglasses; they were sitting next to her empty tin cup of wine.

“I learn a lot, living on my own. I play jazz, I cook. You know, I never learned to cook, but now, I really, really like it, I play my jazz loud, sometimes I have some pot, a little pot, I say, what the hell, so I have a little pot,” she shrugs, waving her hand carelessly, leaning back from out of the white umbrella, “and my wine and I just have the whole house to myself and sometimes you know, the room is like it feels full of people, and the music is so loud and I say, oh my god I’m drunk, I need to go to bed!” The mother of the bride laughs; her eyes are large and liquid, they slope sleepily under her eyelids. Her eyelashes are laced in mascara, they are as sharp as butterfly tongues.

“I learn a lot on my own,” she says, nodding. You see her collarbones beneath the loose blouse. They are as sharp as her cheekbones; she has a face like a diamond, heart-shaped and pointed, splintering at her large, liquid eyes and shaped by the careful black bob. “I don’t like it what they say,” her Colombian accent glossing over the heavy words, “Ruby, oh Ruby is so lonely on her own. I learn a lot on my own. I learned how to cook, I never knew how to cook. At my house we always had empleadas, I never cooked, and I was never home! I left, I was out in the street, oh, I was…I liked it! I liked to be out in the street, I left home very early, I said, what the hell! I was, okay, I was a little bad girl. I didn’t like to work, and I liked to dance, I still like to dance! And I was never with my mom, my sister was with my mom. My sister was always with my mom; when I went to school I didn’t live at home, but Martica lived at home ohh…she lived at home very long time. She was always with my mom, so she cooks. And I see her and I think, wow, she is just like my mom, so like my mom, always in the garden, always with her finger, saying, “Listen!” just like my mom.” It is dusky now and the light has turned to a low simmer, golden.  A little chilly and around the table the other women trace the bottom of their tin cups.

“Let me get you some more, honey,” Ruby says, to the youngest one.

“No it’s okay tia,” she tells her, “I can get it. Where is it, in the kitchen?”

“By the fruit,” Ruby says, nodding.

The young woman gets up a little awkwardly from the heavy wooden deck chair and leaves.

Across the deck at a round table without an umbrella a man and a woman sit, a little older, with dusky paper skin, squinting and quiet. The women looks queenly; the man is smaller, rounder, something about him feels weak, even though he has a long curly red beard and his eyes, black and small, look bright. If you did not know he had been heavily into drugs for most of his violent life, you would take his small frame in his white uniform and tall hat for what he was, the chef and the daughter’s father.

The woman next to him has loose black hair and smiles very gently. She does not take her hand off of his.

“Here, do you want some too?” The young woman returns with the bottle, uncorked, liberally but carefully pouring it into the ladies’ glasses.

“Gracias miamor,” Ruby says, smiling. She is beautiful against the sun, and closes her eyes briefly.

“You know I am so happy for Paulina,” Ruby says suddenly, abruptly. “I mean sometimes it’s such a drag, none of my friends can go out anymore, or they want to go out with couples. Ugh, que peresa. And I say why the hell would I do that? No, now I have my places I can go out on my own, or I can go with Marga,” She nods to the permed red-head with thin eyes and thin lips, both outlined in smooth black charcoal, a sort of gypsy who is too drunk not to smile. “She is so happy,” Ruby continues. Behind her, her daughter Sara waves, grins, modelesque and tall in her heels, brown hair curled prettily- leaps giddily over to her father the table over, her heels making a light clicking. “And Chris is such a good guy. I love Chris,” Ruby declares, “And you know, so what, so what if they marry? Let them marry! They live together already, you know? And they are happy, so let them be happy! Let them marry, and then you know, eight years later so what if they say, my god, this is marriage?” She rolls her eyes but then laughs. “Ah…it’s okay, they’re happy, so what.”

“You don’t know that,” the young woman says gently. She makes eyes at the blond Russian woman, who herself has beautiful little blue eyes set against the pale warm folds of her face. She is dressed modestly and wears no marriage band; she has been nodding at Ruby this whole time with kindness. Every so often the Russian woman and Ruby get lunch together. “You never know what could happen,” the young woman follows quietly.

“That’s true,” Ruby nods, drowsily, thoughtfully, “That’s very true.”

After the guests leave Paulina sits down on the bench overlooking the pond and the patio, between her mother and her aunt. Her mother has now put on a purple hoodie, tucked her hair into headband, and changed into polka-dot boxers; her aunt remains in her white blouse and white pants. Paulina looks like a mermaid in her sweeping mint dress that she has clutched to her breast all evening, being a size too short to fit into her sister’s taller, gazelle frame.

“I love you,” she tells her mother, drunk. Kisses her.

Paulina’s hair is long and black and falls down her naked back. You can see a tattoo along the rim of the gown, just as it tucks into her torso. It reads I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart and refers to her sister, who has since left with the other bridesmaids.

She leans back against the two women. “I’m so fucking happy,” she says grinning. “You know what ma, Daddy did good. The food was fucking awesome.” Her tiny aunt Marta furrows her brows then quickly releases them, says nothing. “You’re amazing, tia,” Paulina turns now to the petite, put-together woman with sharp green eyes, “Your house is beautiful. And my girls…holy shit, my girls,” she laughs, falls back. Her mother smiles at her, then resumes closing her eyes. “I’m sorry tia Marta,” Paulina remembers to apologize carelessly, then continues, “I can’t believe how fucking happy I am. You know I didn’t even like Chris at first? I was like, ew, get him away. I was so fucking mean. I played with him. But then he took me to Atlantic city, you remember that ma? I wasn’t sure if I should go, and she was like, “Heijita, just go, all those perros you’re always with, just go—you remember that ma? She didn’t even give a shit, I was dating this Dominican then who she fucking hated…and so I was like, ok I’ll go, and it was kind of awkward at first, but then, tia Marta, the second night…I just told him, listen this is how it is. I just told him, straight up, this is how I am you know, and if you don’t like it, well then fuck yourself, I’m sorry, but fuck yourself, and he just…we just laughed, I fell in love with him in Atlantic city, I’ll never forget it, I tell him all the time, I fell in love with you in Atlantic city. I came back ma, you remember, and I said, I’m in love, I’m in love. And now we’re going to get married. And he’s my best friend. Chris and I, we can be totally ourselves and we totally get it and we have our own, our own little bubble” she crooks her elbow, makes a circling gesture with her index finger around it, “and like, everyone can come here, like right on the edge of the bubble, and some can even come in, I want them to come in, but like Chris and I are here, and this is our bubble, and this is our fucking space, and if you don’t like it, you can leave. We know everything, together, and just like, instantly. And you know what, Chris loves me so good. He loves me so good. I never was with a guy like that. Chris is my best fucking friend, and I tell him, and I know, he loves me, so, so good.”

Against the final burning orange that slips in the background behind the three women, Martha shifts, touching her niece lightly. Ruby looks as though she is sleeping, and Paulina stares out, her cup empty. “I’m going to have one more cup, and then I’m gonna go,” she says. “No, more wine?” Martha says, appalled, glancing briefly at her sister. Who promptly looks up and addresses her daughter, “No, are you sure?”

“I’m going to stay maybe like half an hour, and then I’ll go.”

“Are you sure? You’re going to be ok?”

“Yeah, yeah ma I’ll be fine. I know the way.”

Paulina exits, lifting her loose mint gown and holding it against her chest, Cinderella over the steps, into the house. The two sisters sit quietly for a moment, looking at the pond. A face appears in the doorway to the house. It is the young woman who consoled her aunt earlier, and now she called, “Ma, do you want me to start on the dishes?” Martha waves her hand. “It’s okay hijita, we’ll do it later.” The girl nods and disappears back inside, where she finds her cousin and kisses her, seeing her drunk and happy and beautiful, carelessly on the mouth. “You look gorgeous,” she tells her. “I love you,” Paulina says, smiling, hugging her to her chest.

She leaves shortly after. Ruby makes her young niece promise to visit her often in New York and bades them all a good night, and Martha calls her husband, telling him to come home.