Saturday, July 24, 2010

Five women: #2. Leticia (Mexico)

There’s a European sensibility about her and I can’t believe she’s from Mexico. I still don’t believe it and tell her she must be from Spain. I mean she must be. She laughs loud. Her skin is light. I admired her for her bold use of Geneva (a font). We met in the Slug and Lettuce, just as empty as when Ruby worked here, three years ago was it? But it’s a Monday, it’s freezing and windy. I hadn’t seen her for months, and even then, when I had seen her, I had spoken maybe fifteen minutes with her total. In that time I had asked her if I could live and work with her in Mexico, and she had said yes. I thought no more about it, but I had a phone number and a day when she’d be back from Europe, Israel and Egypt. I couldn’t remember if I liked her or not. In fact, when first meeting her at college, I remember not only finding her ugly, but also annoying, with a grating laugh and a loud, unnecessary voice. I’m glad that my first impressions are always, absolutely always, completely and utterly, wrong.

There’s a European sensibility about her. I phoned her at 6:05pm on Monday 30th October. Before I phoned her I thought: I’m going to phone her once. If she’s not in, fine, I’ll forget the whole thing. I don’t even know her. I thought: even if she is in and I do talk to her, I’ll play it cool, maybe I won’t even mention Mexico, maybe I’ll just ask her about her trip. Anyway she’s probably forgotten, or thought it was a joke. I had. I mean, I thought it was a joke, just something to talk about and flirt about in college. I had also forgotten, until I remembered how I was getting nowhere in London, not doing what I wanted to be doing, or thought what I wanted to be doing.

The phone rang.

A man answered. I’ve never, ever, said her name before. She had written it down for me, but I’d never pronounced it. I’m bad with names, especially foreign ones. I ask for Leticia. The man says, ‘Who?’ I say it again, with a different intonation. The male voice says no. I ask him when she’ll be back. He says maybe in a few hours. Then he asks who it is, and I tell him my name and business. There’s a pause. I hear his voice off phone, and a female voice. Then the man says: ‘She’s just come in the door’. Then it’s Leticia’s voice.

Considering it’s the first time we’ve spoken on the phone, and turns out to be the longest time we’ve ever spoken, we do pretty well. Not only do I ask her about Mexico but I ask her if she wants to meet. I’m expecting her to say no, and I think to myself, if she says no, then I’m going to forget her and Mexico. I’m figuring her to say no because this is her penultimate night in London, and she must have plans with friends.
Leticia says, ‘We could meet now.’
I don’t know why, but my heart rises.
I say, ‘Err...’
‘If you’re not busy.’
She has to be nice, I mean she has to be a nice person. I had a feeling about her, if only because I know she had a feeling about me. That’s good enough for me. I don’t know what I want. Let everyone else decide for me. I’ll go along with it, I’m sure it’ll be all right. We agree to meet halfway, in the Slug and Lettuce, on the corner of the High Street, opposite the church, besides the Thames.
‘In fifteen minutes?’ She asks.
‘What, are you going to run there?’
Why can’t I just be nice?
‘No, I...’ She stumbles.
‘Fifteen minutes is fine, I was joking.’
I smoke a cigarette, then I run there. I get there first. I hate this pub. I don’t know if we’re going to get on. Maybe we won’t. Then I’ll forget about Mexico. I have a Kronenberg and stand at the bar. The barmaid looks at me. She can fuck herself, loser. Then Leticia comes in, flustered in a bright red anorak.

We kiss on the cheeks and I decide she has a European demeanor and must be from Spain, not Mexico. She was in Spain yesterday. Whenever I kiss on the cheeks, if feels like slow motion. Her skin is soft yet firm, but light, for a Mexican.

She looks completely different from when I saw her last, four months ago, at the end of college party, at my house. She had made a lovely lemon cheesecake and worn a bright turquoise long coat. Now she was different. She looked lovely, I mean she definitely looked the lovely side of average. Maybe we were both average. What’s wrong with me? Here I am contemplating moving to Mexico, living and working there, starting a completely new life, but all I’m really thinking about is sex with Leticia, who I hardly know, and she must be a lot younger than me, and why would a Mexican woman fancy me? I mean, nothing romantic has ever occurred between us, and she wouldn’t be inviting me to Mexico because she fancies me, I mean that would be stupid. I mean, that’s how I think. I mean, I would travel eight thousand miles for a shag. I would.

We sit and talk for two hours (almost) without a pause. I make her laugh. She makes me laugh. And she’s just so goddamn nice.

And she’s different from when I saw her last with her cheesecake. Her hair is wavier (her hair has more waves. Before it had been straighter). She’s definitely sexier, and what the hell’s wrong with me, but we’re talking about Mexico and all I’m thinking about is kissing her. Then all I’m thinking about is us lying naked together in a hut in a Mexican village with a bottle beside the bed and music coming from somewhere else as the sun rises, there, just beyond the desert, and birds waking up. What the hell’s wrong with me? I’m thinking about how she smells naked, after sex. Warm, motherish, fresh, her sweat like melted sugar.

Leticia is wearing a black v-neck sweater and a necklace with a large cross on it. Her hair is wavy(ish), her eyes are big and they sparkle, and her lips are big. Fuck Mexico, we’ve got London. Fuck London, there’s a world out there. Or is there?

Then her three South American flatmates turn up. They’re all going to the cinema. Leticia asks me if I want to come along. I’d rather stay and drink, but she’s not a big drinker, she’s young, and maybe average, but extremely nice. Memento’s on, I’d been wanting to see it for a while. I know the South American’s won’t like it, it’s a cruel choice really, I mean I know the film’s going to be convoluted, difficult to understand with a fragmented narrative. I tell them this, and we all go and see it. I like it, a lot, but I don’t think the South Americans do. Leticia says, ‘It was...different’, which is a fair answer. It was different, but in a good way. It sounded like Leticia meant it in a bad way. Well, anyway, what’s the point of seeing What Lies Beneath on your penultimate night in London?

Leticia’s found it hard making English friends here. She’s made lots of South American friends, but no English ones, which is her main regret, having been here one and a half years. I like her. I mean I like anyone who likes me (if they like me, they can’t be bad, I figure). She never had a boyfriend here, she never got a good job, she never made any English friends. She regrets this, but has a sneaking suspicion that English people are boring. I ask her if she thinks I’m boring. ‘I don’t know. I don’t know what you do.’ I told her what I’d done at the weekend (it had been a roller coaster of a weekend, a definite one off, consisting of two parties, various pubs and bars, meeting an unprecedented amount of beautiful and intelligent people, as well as playing chess with a chef and an annoying drunk lass from Leeds). Her typical weekend in Mexico would consist of movies, bars, friends, maybe rollerblading (whatever that is). I guess, all over the world, weekends are weekends and we all do the same things (just with different people). Apart from the rollerblading.

After the film we stand around awkwardly for a while. I go to the cash point, pay back Leticia’s flat mate (from Venezuela) for the ticket, and they all leave (all her flat mates leave, not her). Then things really get awkward. It’s just me and Leticia.

We are left outside the cinema alone. The wind is blowing and it’s freezing. It feels like my most romantic moment since I’ve been back in London (coming up to two years now). It is. I feel like a teenager who’d just taken a girl to the cinema. I was and I had. Then the outside cinema lights went out. We’re alone in the (our) darkness, except for her eyes shining at me in the wind. We say not a word to each other. We just look at each other. I thought I was going to collapse. If the truth be known, we will never see each other again. We were meant to kiss now, I mean it was written, now, now, it was just so obvious (it would have been a cliché), but natural, a kiss that might have changed our destinies (excuse me if I’m hyperbolising), but I saw no point, and didn’t, and went on my way, went home, turned on the Mac, launched Photoshop, and forgot about her.

But no, of course I didn’t forget her. I stayed up till four and imagined all avenues with her, from the kiss that didn’t happen to living and working with her in Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico. I even imagined trips to the desert, and popping up to see Ruby in New Orleans. I imagined the sun, and speaking Spanish, and marrying Leticia, and having a gun, and taking Lomo photos, and kick boxing in the desert, and writing lots and drinking lots. But fuck it, I can’t be bothered.


But. The girl knows her QuarkXPress, she does Ti Quan Do in Mexico, she likes movies, she makes a good lemon cheesecake. A man can’t have everything, but this seems like more than enough. And she’s nice. I like nice people. I mean, that sounds obvious, but it’s not. I mean I can’t be bothered with cool people, beautiful people, popular people, interesting, smart or intelligent people. I’m not bothered about a sense of humour or success or wealth. Just give me a nice person and I’m fine.

This is who thinks I should go to Mexico: Leticia (!), Richard, Pedro, Chayane, Rebecca, Daniel, Bianca, Sonia.

Richard: ‘Don’t be afraid of change, be afraid of no change.’ He says I’m young, free, single, what’s holding me back?

Mexican proverb: ‘Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States.’

Why the hell didn’t I kiss her?

Her grandparents are French and Spanish, hence her light skin and her hair which isn’t black. Her flat mate has olive skin and black hair. ‘Is that how I should look?’ joked Leticia. ‘Yes!’ I exclaimed. Her great grandparents are pure Indian. She has a photo of her great grandfather wearing a sombrero, dressed in a blanket with belts of bullets over his shoulders and a big moustache. ‘He looks funny’, she said.

(2000, London)

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