Overview

What starts out as a pilgrimage to a women’s conference turns into an unexpected journey toward self-awareness for four dynamic, sexy women. Jackie confronts her vulnerability as she falls for a handsome lawyer, while Hazel makes the toughest confession of her life. Lourdes stands up to her conservative mother, and Irena faces her demons. As they make their way from town to town, laughing, fighting, crying, ...
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Divas Don't Yield

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Overview

What starts out as a pilgrimage to a women’s conference turns into an unexpected journey toward self-awareness for four dynamic, sexy women. Jackie confronts her vulnerability as she falls for a handsome lawyer, while Hazel makes the toughest confession of her life. Lourdes stands up to her conservative mother, and Irena faces her demons. As they make their way from town to town, laughing, fighting, crying, and bonding, they learn more about one another, and themselves, than they ever bargained for–and turn plenty of heads along the way. . . .


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Get this book! The world of Chica Lit has a brand-new superstar, and her name is Sofía Quintero.”
–Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, author of The Dirty Girls Social Club

“A raw, unflinching, and unforgettable novel about friendship, in all its incarnations. You won’t want this trip to end.”
–Lynda Sandoval, award-winning author of Unsettling/Desperada

“Certain to be one of your favorite books of the year! Sofía Quintero and her cast of divas touch your heart and make you appreciate the comrades in your life.”
–Mary Castillo, author of Hot Tamara

“Sofía Quintero takes us on a virtuoso roller coaster as Divas’ true-to-life characters dodge reality, confront one other, and ultimately prove themselves true friends.”
–Berta Platas Fuller, author of Pasion en Miami

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307494863
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/19/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • File size: 4 MB

Read an Excerpt

TO: Hazel1983@hotmail.com, LuLuLinda@aol.com, DreaminginCuban@juno.com

FROM: imokurnot@yahoo.com

DATE: May 30, 2006 11:27 PM

SUBJECT: Cali Here We Come!

OK, gals, while procrastinating on my thesis, I banged out a potential itinerary. If we each drive at least two hours every day, we should get to Frisco in time for the opening ceremony on Thursday the 22nd. Here’s how I think we should ride:

9AM—12PM:Me

12PM—1PM:Lunch

1PM—4PM:Hazel

4PM—6PM:Lourdes

6PM—8PM:Irena

8PM—???:Dinner and all the fun we can stand and still hit the road by 9 AM SHARP the next morning.

If we keep to this driving schedule, we’ll spend the night in the following cities:

17th—Cleveland (I know this means missing the Emergency Brides’ March, Irena, but we really need the extra day.)

18th—Chicago

19th—Des Moines or Omaha—I don’t care either way. Omaha’s another two hours west though and might be a better option, especially since the drive between Chicago and Des Moines is seven hours. Let’s do as much as we can each day. Mush!

20th—Cheyenne? Denver? Someplace else?—Still trying to figure this out. On the one hand, I thought Lourdes would want to drop in on her family. But the truth is it’s going to be really tough to make it there because there’s almost 700 miles between Denver and Des Moines (or Omaha).

21st—Salt Lake City—I’m maaad curious, aren’t you?

22nd—San Francisco!

I suggest we stay in the same cities on the way back. Not just because this damned thesis is kicking my ass, and I don’t have a lot of time to figure a completely different itinerary for the way home either. I’m just thinking that while going west, there’s bound to be things that we’re going to want to check out but won’t have time to. So I say we hit the same cities again on the way home so we can do the things we couldn’t on the way to Frisco.

Everybody, give an update on your tasks so we can see where we are before we meet on Friday. Haze and I aren’t going to have a lot of time, since we have to leave no later than a quarter to one for our graduation rehearsal. So let’s use lunch to iron out any last-minute details.

Peace,

Jackie

P.S. Anyone want a hundred bucks to finish this stupid paper for me?

TO: imokurnot@yahoo.com, LuLuLinda@aol.com, Hazel1983@hotmail.com,

FROM: DreaminginCuban@juno.com

DATE: May 31, 2006 7:38 AM

SUBJECT: Re: Cali Here We Come!

Goddesses,

I’m so excited!

Jackie, I’m cool with the itinerary. Just one thing though . . . can someone switch with me? Since I don’t drive a lot, I’d be a lot more comfortable if I didn’t drive at night. But if no one else wants to do it, that’s TOTALLY OK! It’s summertime so maybe it won’t be that dark when I start driving, right?

As your self-designated community builder, conflict mediator, and spiritual healer, I came up with a few ideas. First, I bought a notebook so we can collectively document our journey. Like a scrapbook or journal. I have supplies, but feel free to bring whatever you need to express yourself. No rules other than please make a good faith effort to contribute to it.

Remember to bring an item to offer as a gift to your sisters for our embarking ritual. Don’t buy anything (I mean it, Lourdes!). It should be something that represents you and is small enough to fit into the box.

Oh, and please bring with you two or three questions that you want the others to answer. Put each question on an index card, and we’ll place it in the box. Some questions should be fun, some serious, etc. But the answers should give us insight into each other. Things like, “What would you do if you hit the lottery tomorrow?” or “If you were an animal, what kind would you be?” Then we’ll write the answers in the journal. Or we can talk about it along the way. The possibilities are endless.

What’d you guys do over the holiday weekend? Dad took me to the Jersey Shore. I just sat on the beach and worked on The Tarot According to You. For each card, you record the personal experiences that come to mind and then compare it to the card’s traditional interpretation so that you do more relevant and meaningful readings. It’s soooo insightful! Oh, and I finally caught up on all the episodes of Starting Over that Lourdes taped for me (thank you!!!!!). Jackie, how was the camping trip?

Blessings,

Irena

Life is nothing but a dream, and if you create your life with love, your dream becomes a masterpiece of art. —Don Miguel Ruiz

TO: imokurnot@yahoo.com, LuLuLinda@aol.com, DreaminginCuban@juno.com

FROM: Hazel1983@hotmail.com

DATE: May 31, 2006 9:41 AM

SUBJECT: Re: re: Cali Here We Come!

ATTACHMENT: Gamba Adisa Playlist.doc

Irena, love your ideas and you can switch with me (and bring that tarot workbook on the trip). But why are we on the road so late anyway? We should have dinner earlier and call it a night. Party or just chill. When else are we going to have the chance to sample Iowa nightlife? RandMcNally.com says there’s going to be a big carnival when we pass through there that we can check out.

As for en route entertainment, I attached the playlist. Anything in bold is something I don’t have, so if you own it, bring it to lunch on Friday. And if you asked for something that’s not on there, it’s because someone made a point to say that they didn’t want it. (Sorry, Jackie, just about every Snoop Dogg song you wanted qualifies as a narcocorrido, and Lourdes isn’t trying to hear that stuff.)

I went to visit my father and grandmother. On Saturday Dad gave me a letter and made me promise to wait until the ride home to read it. It was so beautiful, people on the bus must’ve thought I was crazy, the way I was going back and forth between sobbing and laughing. Then on Sunday I went to St. Raymond’s to put fresh flowers at my abuelita’s grave. Monday was quiet and uneventful, which is just what I needed. Yes, Ruby was away at God knows where.

My ten o’clock’s early so I gotta go. Jackie, I’ll finish your thesis if you come over here and do this woman’s extensions. She wants to look like Alicia Keys when she has less fuzz than a tennis ball.

CHF

Your Cruise (Control) Director

TO: Hazel1983@hotmail.com, DreaminginCuban@juno.com, imokurnot@yahoo.com

FROM: LuLuLinda@aol.com

DATE: May 31, 2006 5:13 PM

SUBJECT: Re: re: re: Cali Here We Come!

Chicas,

I’m so sorry I’m only writing now. As I was driving back from taking some photographs in Jackson Heights, I got into a tiny accident with a taxi. No se apuren! I’m perfectly fine. My SUV’s another story. W Just pray I can get it fixed by Saturday.

Anyway, I agree with Hazel re: the schedule. Another thing . . . shouldn’t we avoid driving during rush hour? IMHO, we should be more flexible in the schedule not only to allow for FUN but for delays, too. Que piensan?

Hazel, can you resend me the playlist in RTF? My Mac couldn’t open it. Oh, and when we go shopping for your graduation dress tomorrow, bring the CDs and I’ll upload them to my iPod.

If Denver’s out of the way, por favor, no se preocupen. I’m going home in August anyway. Besides I think my mother’s going to be at a technology conference that week, and my brother’s away at camp.

Jackie, what’s this about Snoop Dogg? L No me dejen ser la unica en el viaje que no fuma! I pray the police don’t stop us.

This weekend I took myself on a photography excursion to Jackson Heights, East Harlem, and Sunset Park since those are the neighborhoods with many Mexican immigrants. Except for my tiny accident, I had a fantastic weekend!

Un abrazo fuerte a todas,

Lourdes

TO: Hazel1983@hotmail.com, LuLuLinda@aol.com, DreaminginCuban@juno.com

FROM: imokurnot@yahoo.com

DATE: May 31, 2006 10:14 PM

SUBJECT: Re: re: re: re: Cali Here We Come!

A “tiny” accident put your SUV out of commission??? I’m glad you’re OK, pero tu eres loca. Y una princesa tambien, driving to school when you’re only two train stops away. BTW, you have to come to Soundview where Hazel and I grew up in the Bronx. I dropped in on my pops, and your people are everywhere, LOL!

Anyway, I really hope you can fix the SUV, but I’ll see if Raul can hook us up with a backup ride. Just know it might be a rickshaw or go-cart or something like that so I’d hold off on firing up the iPod. Instead get some rest then focus on collecting the common necessities we all need so we don’t have four irons, hair dryers, etc.

And don’t worry. The po won’t be able to catch me let alone stop me! Seriously, if we should get pulled over, I say we just give up the potheads and keep it movin’. Que piensas tu?

If we can make it to Denver, can we crash at your house, Lou? It’d save us some money and be a nice break from all the motels. No pressure. It’s your house, your family won’t be there, etc. Like I said, Denver’s an unlikely stop anyway, but . . .

To accommodate you freakin’ party animals, I made changes to the schedule:

9AM—11AM:Me

11AM—1PM:Lunch & Sightseeing

1PM—3PM:Irena

3PM—5PM:Lourdes

5PM—7PM:Hazel

7PM—???:PAR-TAY (and maybe a liquid supper)

Irena, can we do your ritual thing on the road instead of on the morning before we leave? Is your pops going to hook us up with some food? You haven’t gotten back to us about that yet. He knows you’re going, right?

Wil and I had a blast this weekend. For a moment there though, I panicked because we got off the Metro-North in the middle of nowhere, and the stop didn’t even have a station—just a rickety bench with a slab of wood that read “Breakneck Ridge.” I kid you not. I said, “Where the hell’s this ridge, Wil? In Bust-Yo’-Ass Forest?” But we camped, hiked, and even went white-water rafting. I’m hooked! That’s our next trip.

Almost done with my thesis. Once it’s done, I’M OUT THIS MUTHA! See y’all at the Olympic Flame on Friday.

Peace,

Jackie

P.S. Hazel, if you take us somewhere we have to line dance or sing karaoke, I will leave your ass on I-80.

JACKIE

1783 Willis Avenue

South Bronx, NY

Thursday, June 1, 10:39 a.m.

I make it halfway down the staircase when Wil calls my name. I hope he’s changed his mind. I rush back to his floor, taking the steps two at a time and getting a kick out of the thump of my boots as they hit the chipped marble.

The man stands in his doorway shirtless, dangling my sling bag from his hand. “You forgot this.” If Wil’s going to tease me like that, he’d better have changed his mind. I once overheard him tell Kharim, “Another cool thing about Jackie is that she never passes up some lovin’ because she’s afraid to sweat out her perm like Miss Sheila.” He has no business parading half-naked around me if he has no intention of giving it up.

I reach for my bag and say, “Irena says when you leave something behind, it’s ’cause you really don’t want to go.” When I lean in to kiss him, Wil slides his fingers up my neck and gently grips my hair. He knows what that does to me! I press against him, trying to ease my way back into his apartment for another round.

But Wil stands firm in the doorway and then pulls back from me. “Since when do you listen to Irena?” He reaches out to straighten the strap of my tank top. Then he spins me around, swats me on the ass, and gently shoves me back toward the staircase. “I’ll see you tonight.”

He ain’t right, grabbing my hair and kissing me like that, and he damn well knows it. “Be that way.” Then I force a smile because the last thing I need to do before leaving for Frisco is to fight with him. As I head down the stairs, I can hear Wil laugh before closing his apartment door.

And to think that if I had taken that capoeira class instead of the LSAT prep course, I never would have met him. With the money I had saved last year by buying used textbooks and packing lunch, I decided to treat myself to a class over the summer. I still like the kickboxing one I take at school, but I needed a new challenge. I always wanted to learn capoeira since it combines so many things I love—martial arts, dance, hip-hop—so I RSVPed for a trial class taught by this kick-ass brasileña I read about in the Village Voice. But while on the subway to Chelsea, I spotted an ad for an LSAT prep course. I thought, Damn, Jackie, that’s what you need to do. You may have excellent grades and respectable extracurricula, but without an LSAT score in the 170s, you can forget about getting into a top law school, let alone getting a scholarship. If I’m going to be the Latina reincarnation of William Kunstler, I can’t afford to rack up a hundred grand in student loans. So I nixed the class to go home and register for the LSAT prep course. And who’s there teaching it but the finest brother I have ever seen.

Jesus, I am starting to think like Irena. For a fleeting second, I almost chalked up meeting Wil to fate. Fate, my black ass. It was justice. For the first time in my twenty-two years on this earth, being the smartest chick in the room—and unapologetic about it—paid off. I’d better watch it or next thing I’ll be reading my horoscope, going to some botánica to have my cards read or some crazy shit like that. Irena would love that!

As much as I like Rena, I’m not going to get caught up in her New Age gaga even though I get why she needs to believe in it. At first, I didn’t understand why she froze during the Take Back the Night speakout two years ago. But when Irena left the podium and told me she had the unshakable feeling that bastard rapist was in the crowd, I said, “Point the animal out, and let’s neuter his ass.” Bet anything that would’ve done a lot more for her “healing process” than this turn-the-other-cheek bullshit.

When I leave the building, I almost trip over a brick-colored Spalding. Just as I pick it up, the little black girl who lives on Wil’s floor comes toward me, dragging a broken broomstick. What’s her name? I only know her as Li’l Bit, which is the nickname Wil gave her.

So I say, “What’s good, Li’l Bit?” I don’t know much about her, but I like her lots, and I’m not a big fan of kids (or they of mine, let me not front). While the other girls on this block sit on the stoop fawning over their Barbie dolls, Li’l Bit’s running the streets like her little ass is on fire.

I hear this ruckus around the corner so I step off the stoop and look up the block. The neighborhood kids are in the midst of a heated game of stickball. I used to love that game and was pretty damned good at it, too. I turn back to Li’l Bit, who’s standing next to me now, staring down at her ashy knees. Used to have those, too. “Why aren’t you playing with them?”

She just shrugs and holds her hand out for the ball. I give it to her and kneel down to tighten the laces on my boots. As I do, I watch Li’l Bit throw the ball against the building wall and swat it with her broomstick. The ball ricochets around the plaza, and I jump up to catch it before it flies in the street. Li’l Bit’s all power, no technique, just like me before my pops gave me a few pointers.

“So that’s why they don’t let you play,” I say as I walk back toward her. “You’re too good for those scrubs.” But Li’l Bit just shakes her head, snatches the ball from me, and fires it into the wall. “Then what? C’mon, kid, talk to me.” But I already know because as I watch her chase the ball into the concrete flower bed, my stomach burns with the same humiliation it did when I was nine years old and the neighborhood kids wouldn’t let me play with them.

Li’l Bit gets the ball and says, “They let Minerva play, and she sucks.” She tosses the ball into the air and whacks it with her broomstick with a vengeful swing. “She’s the scrub, not me.”

The ball bounces off the wall right into my outstretched palm. “You need to hold the stick like this,” I say. I walk behind Li’l Bit and correct her stance. “Open your feet more. Lift your arms a little higher. Okay, now swing from your hips.” Li’l Bit pulls back her arms. “No, you’re swinging from your shoulders.” I place my hands on her shoulders to weigh them down a bit just the way my dad had done when teaching me how to swing. Pivoting at the waist, Li’l Bit whips the stick forward and slices the air. “There you go, that’s it!” I say. “Let’s get out of here before we break a window.”

I take her hand and lead her into the street. At the other end of the block, I see the kids playing their game. Pointing at the manhole cover, I say, “Stand over there.” As I walk up the street, I pull off my sling bag and search the crowd, wondering which ones are the bullies and what nasty things they called Li’l Bit. Did they call her Brillo Pad? Bembe Face? Or the one I really hate . . . cocola. The little snots I grew up with used to call me that because they were too ignorant to realize that being black didn’t make me not Latina and that I understood every nasty word they were saying. And I schooled them to the fact the hard way.

Li’l Bit’s African American and probably doesn’t understand the Spanish insults. Not that she needs to. Regardless of what language they use, she knows they’re saying some racist shit. The venom in their tones and sneers on their faces makes bembe just as clear as Brillo. Shit, the poor kid has it worse than I did really. If one of those little brujas calls her a cocola, and Li’l Bit delivers the fat lip she has coming to her like I did, the brat can always deny that she ever said it.

I make Minerva on sight. She has to be that vanilla princess leaning against that silver Infiniti, twirling her waist-length dirty blond hair around her finger when she’s supposed to be defending the box scrawled in blue chalk on the ground in front of her. The other team must be stealing third left and right. For a moment there, I want to scare a little civility into her prissy behind and send a message to all the other brats that are messing with Li’l Bit.

But I check myself because Minerva reminds me of Hazel when we were kids. Hazel was much prettier though, and probably kinder, too. For all I know, Minerva’s just as innocent as Hazel had been. Hazel had no control over the vicious extremes that other kids went to to impress her, and maybe Minerva doesn’t either. I seriously doubt that shit though. I’ll never get the human impulse to turn cruel in the face of beauty. You’d think the opposite. Isn’t beauty supposed to inspire kindness, charity, and all that? But then again, here I am thinking about going after the kid like Russell Crowe would a bellhop. I stop myself, remembering one of the immutable laws of playground politics. Li’l Bit has to show and prove. It’s not going to help her for my grown-up ass to fight her battle and antagonize the most popular girl on the block. If anything, that’ll make things worse for her.

Instead I drop my bag onto the ground and turn around to face Li’l Bit. “Remember what I told you,” I say as I wind up and pitch the ball to her. With perfect technique, she whacks the ball, and it launches past me and into the middle of the stickball game. The boys look at each other trying to determine which one of them hit it, and I smile at Li’l Bit with loads of pride. “That’s it!”

Li’l Bit jogs over to me, and I run my hand across her hair. It’s soft and fluffy, and her eyes just radiate . . . She’s the cutest fuckin’ thing! A smile a supermodel would forgo a year of Botox for . . . How can anybody be mean to her? “Don’t you ever let some little playahaters chase you from where you want to be, you hear me?” I say. I know that’s easier said than done, so I pull the broomstick out of her hands and add, “And if they try, you grab the stick like this . . .” But then I had a better idea. “No, this is what you do. You pick out the biggest kid—the biggest boy—and you take his big head like this.” I hook my arm around Li’l Bit’s head into a gentle headlock.

She starts a giggling fit but waits for more instructions. Then I remember where wrestling with boys got me, and I let her go. But I don’t think that Doña Myra’s little fable about St. Benedict’s going to work here either, so I just say, “Go tell an adult or something.” That’s what I’m supposed to say even though I suspect that it’s probably as useless advice today as it was thirteen years ago.

“No!” Li’l Bit whines. “Teach me wrestling.” The kid’s a pisser—I love that. She growls and throws her arms around my hips, and we both stumble as she tries to tackle me to the asphalt. I laugh as I brace myself and straighten up. Geez, Li’l Bit’s already a good four six, and she’s only nine. All arms and legs, too, just like me at that age. Maybe with all that height, she’ll grow up to be the next Naomi Campbell or Tyra Banks. God knows I sure didn’t.

I throw my sling over my shoulder and give her an apologetic smile. “Can’t, kid. I have to go to school.”

“School? Now? Why?”

“I have to return these library books and then pick up my graduation gown.” Okay, I admit I get a kick out of her disappointment. Like I said, I’m not exactly Maria from Sesame Street. “Then I have to run some errands ’cause I’m going on a trip to San Francisco with my friends.” After I make this trek to Fordham, I have to find myself a cheap white dress for the New York Latinas Against Domestic Violence’s Emergency Brides’ March. No, scratch that. We’re leaving on Friday morning now so that’s one less thing to think about. But now that Lourdes wrecked her SUV beyond easy repair, I’ll probably lose the rest of the afternoon cajoling Raul into lending me his Escalade for the road trip instead of that red sardine can he has the nerve to call a car.

“Well, when you coming back?”

“Just two weeks.”

“Two weeks!”

“My boyfriend’ll teach you some moves until I get back. Now go play. And remember what I said.” Li’l Bit picks up her stick and barges into the stickball game as I walk back to the Ford Tempo (technically Raul’s, essentially mine). I climb into the car, place my sling bag in the passenger seat, and peek into the rearview window for one last check on Li’l Bit. She menaces the boy who caught her ball with her broomstick until he gives it back. Atta girl.

Then I catch my own reflection in the mirror. I rake my fingers through my hair, which is a dark maze encircling my face. Why would Wil want to stick his hands in that nest, let alone actually do so? I reach into my bag for the new serum, pomade, or whatever the hell it was that Hazel gave me. Still I can’t bring myself to open it. I never can. And forget about all that stuff Irena says about cutting your hair to change your karma. I don’t want to become one of those chicks who refuses to leave the house without her “face on” and her hair “did.” I refuse to succumb to those bullshit pressures. That would make me the biggest hypocrite. You can call me a lot of things, but never a hypocrite.

So I toss the tube out my window and tear out of the parking space.

hazel

255 West 21st Street

Chelsea, NY

Thursday, June 1, 11:10 a.m.

Even though I know she’s in her office on campus, I grow increasingly nervous as I get closer to Geneva’s apartment. I sent her an e-mail as late as possible last night, telling her that I was coming by this morning to get the rest of my things. I both hope and dread that she stayed home just to have a last chance to see me, since I doubt she’s coming to my graduation. I made it clear that despite our breakup she was welcome to attend, but she gave me a weak maybe. “I have to grade papers, meet with the freelance publicist I hired to organize my book tour, finish my presentation for the conference . . .” And I don’t doubt Geneva has all those things to do. She wouldn’t create excuses to skip my graduation any more than she would cancel her office hours this morning. But I’m still unhappy about it because as valid as every item on her extensive to-do list may be, every single one is a poor excuse to punish me for ending our relationship.

Maybe it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have just invited Geneva to my graduation but actually made her feel obligated to be there. But if you have to do that to someone who supposedly loves you, what’s the point? Then again, that hasn’t stopped me from dropping reminders for my mother left and right. Circling the date in bright red marker on every calendar in the apartment, making sure she’s within earshot when I talk to Jackie about it on the phone, asking her opinion about what kind of dress I should wear or how I should style my hair . . .

I even offered to take my mother shopping to buy her dress. My treat, of course. She used to love to take me shopping. We’d go to Main Street in Flushing and spend the whole day wandering in and out of the stores. Even though we couldn’t afford much, we had so much fun trying on clothes and finding accessories. And when we did buy something, we made sure we matched. We were the Beautiful Flores girls.

Then I turned thirteen, my mother found out I was queer, and she shipped me to live with my paternal grandmother in the Bronx. Except for Thanksgiving and Christmas when my abuelita roasted pernil and cooked a large pot of arroz con gandules, I’d never see her. I’d call Ruby on Mother’s Day, and she’d speak to me on my birthday (after Abuelita placed the call to her, no doubt), but that was it. She even stopped taking me along on her visits to my father upstate. Then my grandmother died the summer before I started college, and I had no choice but to move back in with Ruby.

I walk the three flights to Geneva’s floor and let myself into her apartment. Except for a bowl and spoon in the sink, the place is immaculate as always. If it didn’t already exist, the word tidy would’ve had to be invented just to describe Geneva. No other word suits her so perfectly, and no other person is a better example of what it means. If she were a straight white guy, she’d either be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a serial killer.

I wonder who is braiding Geneva’s tidy hair. I last braided it in December. We switched on the news on NY1 just as a group of transgender activists were rallying outside of City Hall. They were calling for the passage of SOGENDA—the Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. Margarita López, the first out lesbian to be elected to the City Council, had proposed the bill to expand the state law banning discrimina- tion against gays, lesbians, and bisexual people to also protect transsexuals—be they pre-op, post-op or non-op—drag kings and queens, cross-dressers, and basically anyone and everyone who challenged traditional gender roles. When the state gay rights bill, called just SONDA, was on the brink of getting passed back in late 2002, transgender folks protested, demanding a more inclusive amendment. The ol’ gay guard had a fit, fearing that the Republican-controlled state legislature would use the protest as an excuse to torpedo the bill altogether. Well, that didn’t happen. Surprisingly, the bill passed—but not before longtime hostilities among factions in New York’s queer community flared to an all-new high. My relationship with Geneva was one of the hidden casualties.

“There they go again,” Geneva said, pointing at Councilwoman López, a petite butch from the Lower East Side with droplets of Boriquen clinging to the occasional word as she spoke in front of City Hall.

“Keep still,” I said as I started a new braid at the center of her scalp. “If you ask me, they never should’ve been left out of the state law in the first place.”

“They almost cost us SONDA.”

“Well, they didn’t. Hell, we owe transgender people. It’s because of them we have a movement.”

“Carmen, I don’t need you to tell me my history.”

“It’s my history, too, Geneva, but we all forget sometimes that what could’ve been just another police raid on a gay bar sparked a movement thanks to a Puerto Rican drag queen from the Bronx.”

“Ouch, Carmen!” Geneva’s hand shot up to her scalp. “Take it easy.”

“Sorry. I just have a big problem with affluent whites being the arbiters of queerness, that’s all.”

“This coming from the self-proclaimed bisexual femme who hangs out with no one but straight girls.”

I grabbed my coat and stormed out of Geneva’s apartment, leaving her looking like Susan Taylor on crack. When I got home, I found a message from Jackie asking me to call her. She and Wil had had another fight about Sheila, but the second she heard my voice, Jackie knew something was wrong. I tried to downplay my argument with Geneva, but she insisted I talk. As I told her what happened, I began to cry. “Geneva doesn’t want a girlfriend,” I said. “She wants a protégée. No, not even. She wants a fuckin’ fan. Sometimes she makes me feel no different than a guy who treats me like a mindless dime piece.” Jackie had been so quiet that I thought we might have been disconnected. “Jackie?”

“I’m here.” Then she sighed. With that simplest of sounds, Jackie let me know that she heard what I had never said. As often as I complained about Geneva’s superiority complex, I believed it was warranted. I could get a college degree, read the books, know the complete histories, wear the buttons, and attend the conferences, but I’d still be nothing more than the pretty yet semi- closeted, working-class hairstylist from Queens. “It’s kind of like Booker T. versus W. E. B. DuBois all over again,” said Jackie. “But you really want to know why Geneva got pissed at you? Not only did you beat her to the more progressive analysis, you got there from the heart and not your head.” Then she started laughing. “I mean, your position leaves room for a straight tomboy like me. No wonder ol’ girl’s granny panties are in a knot.”

I laughed so hard when she said that. And that was when I started to believe that perhaps Jackie and I were meant to be more than friends. Still I agonized for months before finally breaking up with Geneva. I had never been the gay girl who secretly pined for the straight girl. I’ve never been one to pine for anyone at all. I always got whoever I wanted, and too many I didn’t, although that never stopped me from getting involved in the first place. Between my history with Jackie and her ongoing problems with Wil, I finally left Geneva, who apparently had never been left, and that’s why she’s intent on defying one of the most sacred yet unwritten tenets of lesbian relationships: Even when it ends, you must remain friends.

I head to the hallway closet and look for something to carry my stuff. When I find my old Fordham gym bag with the broken zipper, I take it into the bedroom. There I find the last of my things neatly assembled across the bed: a stack of my clothes including a few tops that actually belonged to Geneva; a small pile of mass market paperbacks that you deny buying let alone reading, and a few CDs; a wicker basket of my personal effects including a Lady Schick razor, several pairs of costume earrings, and even little samples of shampoo and lipstick. It hurts me so much to see my things laid out for me. I console myself with the observation that not only did Geneva allow me to keep a few things that were rightfully hers, but she also didn’t return any gifts or cards that I had given her. I keep my eyes away from the wastebasket to protect myself from any devastating realizations to the contrary.

While I’m stuffing all my things into the gym bag, the intercom buzzes. I consider ignoring it. I mean, it can’t be Geneva. Why would she ring her own buzzer? But curiosity gets the better of me. By the second buzz, I’m at the front door. “Who is it?”

“UPS.”

I let the guy into the building and press my face against the peephole. Within a few seconds a brown uniform appears in my view so I open the door. He’s a beauty, this one. “Hi.”

By the way his eyes dilate, I can tell he doesn’t think I’m too shabby myself. “How are you?” He hands me the computerized clipboard. “Sign on line seventeen, please.”

I take the clipboard and sign while he lifts the medium-sized box at his feet. I step back so he can place it inside the apartment on the floor and then hand him the clipboard. He thanks me and gives me another quick once-over. I like that he’s making an effort to be subtle and wonder how many women have dismissed him on sight because of his blue collar. Or should I say brown collar? “You look kind of young for a professor,” he says.

“Oh, I’m not Professor Boyd.” I almost add I’m her girlfriend but catch myself. Even if it were still true, that’d be mean to say, and he’s done nothing to deserve that. And as far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to be single for long. “Thank you.” I move to close the door to politely signal the end of the conversation. But I watch him as he makes his way toward the staircase, and I can’t help myself. “That must be part of the job requirement,” I say after him.

He stops and looks over his shoulder. “Excuse me?”

Not What? Not Huh? Not even Whadyasay? But Excuse me. He deserves some kindness for that.

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    Posted December 28, 2009

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