Dream #16: I’m super happy because Flash has come back. He’s sitting on my lap and purring while I pet him and talk to him in kitty-speak. The end of his tail flicks up and down contentedly. Then I realize that his tail is actually an evil-looking snake. Before I can move, it has bitten me on the arm. Then my arm turns into a snake too and I wake up, terrified.
Christmas is a magical time in New York. There’s snow on the ground, roasted chestnuts on the street trolleys and a feeling of crackling excitement in the air.
In Noon’s absence, Cruz and I had resumed our undefined relationship. We flirted subtly in class, conversed in Spanish two evenings per week (at the café where he used to work) and made out when he walked me back home.
We even spent Thanksgiving together. I guess they don’t celebrate it in Puerto Rico, but his mother was determined to be as American as possible. So in late November she bought the biggest turkey she could find, cooked a passable pumpkin pie and made a huge spread of yams, winter squash, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, butternut rolls and dumplings that inspired me to refer to it as Carbsgiving as I groaned, clutching my bloated stomach for the rest of the weekend.
Mom and I had made the short, shivering walk from The Warrington to the cramped apartment in the public housing block where Cruz lived with his mother and sisters, carrying what turned out to be a totally unneeded box of pastries from the French bakery in Chelsea Market. We rang the doorbell. The chaotic noise of high-pitched Spanish and clattering dishware that we could hear through the front door was abruptly replaced by frantic shushing. We plastered smiles on our faces and waited. The door was flung open by Cruz’s mother.
“Happy Thanksgiving! I’m Dora – come in, come in,” she shrieked, almost pulling us inside.
For the next six hours Mom and I were sucked into a tornado of food, drink, stories, laughter, hugs and more food. I felt like I was watching a crazy 3-D movie called My Big Fat Puerto-Rican Thanksgiving, except that it was me starring in the movie. Cruz interacted politely with Mom, but I could tell that inside he was laughing hysterically at our deer-in-the-headlights expressions.
Dora took Mom aside for half an hour between courses so that she could explain how much she adored me and how wonderful and trustworthy Cruz was. His sisters cornered me and did the same. My phone buzzed. It was Cruz, texting me from the basement, where he’d wisely volunteered to take out the recycling.
“Having fun yet? :))))”
I managed to discretely type, “Best night of my life!” in response before returning to Luce and Terri, who were tag-teaming on embarrassing stories from Cruz’s early childhood.
Mom and I were exhausted by midnight, which was when she finally decided that Dora wouldn’t be offended if we made a dignified exit. Cue another barrage of kisses, hugs and stupid amounts of doggie-bagged leftovers. Ay caramba! (I don’t know what that means but I know this is exactly when it should be used.)
Cruz saw us out. Mom discreetly walked on ahead down the hallway and called the elevator so that Cruz and I could say a real goodbye.
He whispered in my ear: “That was hardcore. We should do it again next weekend,” and I burst out laughing.
As we crossed 8th Avenue and The Warrington came into view, my thoughts drifted to Noon. I realized that part of the problem was that Noon’s absence was only physical. I could still feel him, inside my head and inside my heart. To outsiders, it must have looked like Cruz and I were in love. Maybe it even seemed like that to him. But there was always something holding me back from having deeper feelings for Cruz, and that something was Noon.