When Phillip and I broke up, my mom already knew it was going to happen months before it ended,
“Mamita, I think he’s seeing someone else. I can feel it.”
Mom was straight up sometimes, and you could never blame her, some information just needed to be shared, but in typical Enogenia fashion, I lashed out at her for speaking the truth to me that day, “Why would you say something like that? You’re crazy, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t say things like that Mom.” Enojada, I hung up on her, how could she possibly say something so hurtful, so casually? I wanted to, needed to prove her wrong. I wanted to believe that he would never do our family or me dirty like that, but the seed had already been planted by her. I questioned everything he said or did from that day forward, and as usual, she was right.
Moms just have a way of knowing these things.
When the truth finally came out that he had been cheating on me, I was devastated. I thought about all the sweet moments we had together, that innocent boy next door love reminiscent of endless, hot summer days by the pool, and breezy nights falling asleep to the chirping crickets and croaking frogs from Freedom Park. That naive teenage love that will always hurt good.
I remember the day Mom realized that Phillip and I had feelings for each other. She knew before either of us did, you could tell by the way she’d look at us whenever we’d talk to each other. That day I saw it in her eyes, she was driving Phillip, my brother and I down the 43 to take us shopping at the Fresno mall. It was hot and we had the windows rolled up with the A/C on. We must have thought we were being sneaky, but she caught us giving each other el ojo the entire drive there and back.
She smiled at him through the rearview mirror to let him know, she knew.
“What mom, why do you keep looking at me like that, damn, stop,” he told her.
She smiled at him and said, “No se como te veo Pheelep.”
“You know I don’t speak Spanish, I don’t know what you’re saying. No hawblow Español Mom.” He answered back.
I knew what she was saying. I heard her loud and clear. I smiled to myself and looked out the window so she wouldn’t make eye contact with me either. I let him take the heat that time.
I’d been in love with Phillip from the tender age of 15 until that gut-wrenching night I found out what he’d been doing behind my back. I was 23, at a house party in Highland Park with my closest girlfriends. We were at a white man’s party, and I say man because he was a lot older than either of us, we called him 1974. He was an artist I’d met at work, and well, we figured he’d have other potentially cute artist friends, so we all agreed to go to his hipster party. Don’t get me wrong, he was a good host, the booze was endless and he had an array of hors d’oeuvres, not just cold pizza and the usual chips and dip our broke-ass college selves were used to. We were drunk, and having a good time until I saw the little blue message pop up on Jenz’s phone as we were trying to take a selfie together, “Phillip’s been cheating on her. I’ve known for months, but I don’t know how to tell her yet. Please don’t say anything to her.” We both looked at each other, shocked at what we both had just read, but I didn’t want to be the reason we left the party and ruin everybody else’s good time. We didn’t tell the other girls, I sucked it up and brushed it off as best I could, “I’ll be fine, let’s not talk about it right now, let’s just wait until this night is over.” I couldn’t be the girl crying in the goddamn bathroom all night.
I somehow managed to keep my composure the rest of that night until the minute I walked through my front door and let it all out. I spent the night drunk crying with Jenz pathetically listening to none other than Lana Del Rey, as we wiped each other’s snot faces and sang in-between tears, “Don’t cry about it, don’t cry about it, this is what makes us girls.”
We were a hot mess.
In the morning, I knew that I needed to see my mom as soon as I could, to apologize, and tell her she was right after all. When I finally made it up to Hanford, I put my head in my mom’s lap like I always did when I needed her warmth and support, “Why does it hurt so much, Mom?” I cried to her.
I let the tears flow warmly down my cheeks as I thought about how he’d always so confidently walk through our front door without knocking, saying in his loud voice, “Hi mom! Hi, gramma!” Then go straight into my brother’s room where they’d lock themselves inside all day playing video games, only coming out to eat, go swimming in our pool, or go cruising the backcountry roads and getting high.
Eventually, he’d walk through our front door without knocking to visit me, “Hi mom! Hi, gramma! Hey babe!” He’d say, as he’d plant a big kiss on my lips, I loved that about him. He always felt at home with us and he was the only one who knew we never locked our front door during the day. He was familia, and I loved that idiot the minute my brother brought him home. He was kind and loved animals, even our mangy mutt Chiquito who was never groomed and had piss crusted knots on his dick hair. Phillip would come over and in his booming voice say, “Chaqeeto, you’re fucking disgusting. Why don’t you guys get him groomed, he’s so gross.”
“I don’t know, my mom doesn’t wanna pay to get his haircut. Why pay someone when we can do it ourselves?” I’d answer back.
“Then why don’t you guys just do it?”
“I don’t know, he’s gross.” I’d shrug.
And just like that, he’d grab a pair of scissors from the kitchen and cut off all of Chiquito’s hairballs, always starting with the crusted pee hairs first. He was kind and crass and a beautiful buffoon and I loved him. When his parents split up, he spent even more time with us at our home, and I thanked the gods for their divorce. I remember the day Phillip’s mom came over and cried to my mom at our kitchen table about it, it was the only time she’d ever come to our house and she thanked my mom for letting him find refuge with us. That year, he spent more time with us than I could have ever imagined and I was so thankful for their pain. What a shitty person I was back then.
I continued to cry into my mom’s lap as she so knowingly rubbed my back and wiped away my tears, “Why did he have to go and do such a shitty thing like that mom? After all we’ve been through, doesn’t he know how much he just ruined everything?”
“Ay Mamita, I know it hurts, but one day you’ll find your Aztec prince, and he’ll love you in every way you need him to. Ya no llores mi princesita. One day, you’ll find someone that will know how to love you. Alguien que te sabe querer. Pero tienes que de dejar de amar a los güeros if you want to find your Aztec prince mami.”
I looked up at her and saw her smiling, even then, her chip-toothed smile helped soften the blow of my heartache. She was always good at adding humor to ease our pain. I laughed a snot-nosed laugh and she brushed my curls away from my face, “I know you love him and you can’t imagine your life without him right now. But he doesn’t deserve my morenita, ese güero no sabe.”
We both knew she was speaking the truth again and this time I let it all sink in. Phillip wasn’t the one, and all the güeros after him weren’t either no matter how many times I tried convincing myself otherwise. There’s something about brown love that doesn’t need translation, that doesn’t need an explanation.
I miss mom’s unsolicited advice, she always knew what to say at any given moment, just like she always knew what was best for me and that a good story is never, ever rushed.
“You’re gonna be okay mamita. Broken hearts are like an open wound. You have to let it heal on its own, and it will. Poquito a poquito, a little scab is going to grow over that pain, every day it’ll get smaller and smaller, but if you pick at it, it’s going to continue to bleed. Déjalo aquí, cuando regresas a Los Angeles, no te va doler tanto. Your heart knows where your home is mami, y no es con el.” I looked up into her eyes and nodded my head yes, as I swallowed down more tears.
When I returned home to L.A., mom wasn’t entirely right, it didn’t hurt any less being far away from him, I spent endless nights crying in bed over that beautiful loser.
I should have known better to underestimate the power of a mother’s intuition and discernment though, because only she could have known that sending me back home to the house on Baltimore St. was bringing me one step closer to finding my Aztec Prince. That the dimpled face morenito next door, had already stolen my heart 20 years ago. Only she could have known that a good story is never, ever rushed…