To have the company of a woman, simply as a friend, is the most perfect state for a man. If I could, I would assign such a task to all men and if they could not pass though it without transgression, I would assign to them, preemptively, a prison cell. To have such company is a blessing. It is rather like having a sister, but with some small amount of sexual/romantic tension spicing things up. For a very brief while there was the promise of a sexual liaison, but we quickly set that to one side and we settled into a kind of otherwise-domesticity.
Mabel was a refugee. She was cast out of her family in her early twenties to cover for the sexual transgressions of a male cousin. She briefly witnessed, but did not understand until later, the turmoil of El Salvador. A twist in the immigration laws of the United States allowed her family to dump her into the custody of an aunt in Los Angeles. I am vague on the details of how she met Miguel but he endeared himself to her. Mabel told me that Miguel had warned her of an imminent gang rape she was to experience. Miguel had a sense of correctness but he also had designs on Mabel, which I assume were of a more honorable sort than the crew of vermin that also swarmed about the scene. I glean these sentiments from my contact and conversations with Miguel. I must say he had the upright bearing of a man and he gave me the impression of one whom may have some noble heritage.
I don’t recall how I first came to make Mabel’s acquaintance, but I do recall she was attempting to gain her GED and I spent many an evening prompting her into the correct answer. She was working tremendously hard and making very rapid progress; something only a person burning for an achievement can muster. I warned her to slow down and make more steady progress. But she worked at it the way she drove her car…in a maniacal fashion. I remember sitting at her kitchen table and the soft air of the coast breeze wafting through her windows and over my shoulder; the whole scene illuminated by a small, low lamp.
She had one eye smaller than the other. When she became tired, her left eye would shrink or recede into her head giving her an odd appearance. She was cognizant of this odd trait and we would make jokes about it, “So, I see by your right eye, it’s time to hit the sack.” Mabel’s apartment was adjacent to mine in a most intimate way. Our bathrooms were back to back and even more intimately our medicine cabinets were a mere fraction of an inch apart. The metal cabinets were, as a result, rather transparent to sound. We could open the doors of our cabinets and talk to each other as if we were in the same room. On a few occasions I would hear her on the other side and remind her, via my disembodied voice, “Don’t to forget to floss.” If we left the cabinets door open, we could talk quite easily while she was at the cabinet and I was in my living room.
Mabel would enlist me for grocery excursions on Saturdays to the Farmers Markets set up in downtown El Segundo where we lived, and to the supermarket at night as she liked to have a male companion to “protect” her. But, she really wanted company and I would comply by driving her there, to shop and then return her, and unload the groceries. Very domestic, no? Through these excursions, I came to understand the competitive nature of the female of the species. While shopping with Mabel by my side, I noticed the very much greater interest women had in me; I was otherwise invisible to them. But I digress.
I am unclear as to how, or why I concluded my life in L.A. but in November of 1999, I packed up a van and moved myself back to Dead Stick, Arizona. After two years of loneliness I returned to Los Angeles to visit Mabel and Miguel. Mabel was many months pregnant when I left, and her daughter, now two, was so young and so pretty. They provided room and board for me for several days as I renewed our acquaintance. My fondest memory of the visit came one evening as music played and the three of us watched and enjoyed the sight of their child dance freely, and uninhibited, as if to teach us, how we should be. And then, Miguel turned to me and said, “You know Zed…life has become so simple…when she’s happy…we’re happy.”