"It's still raining?" She asks with disinterest at most in her voice. He shifts the weight of his bag and stares at his stubby fingertips. A drop of water runs down his temple towards his chin. She takes his bag, leading him to the low table at which she was sitting. He sinks into the heavy cushions on the floor.
"I'm getting more coffee, do you want any?" She asks quietly this time, allowing a bit of warmth to seep into her voice.
"Just a coffee" he says after a pause. His eyes glance up registering her presence for a moment, as if rising from a dream.
"How do you do it?" The woman stood watching him, drinks in hand.
"You just do." He answers with a shrug, rising to take his steaming mug. "Thanks." An afterthought.
They had met in the rain when the wind had shifted. Neither knew the other's name. They had seen each other often. The crowds they moved in often met and mingled. They had never spoken. She ran into him one day by the river. He held his shoulders differently. Maybe it was the strange slide of the rock. She went close to him and he told his story. He was anguished then. Confused. He spoke of a mother he never knew, of an identity kept from him.
"Juanito" she says, rolling the name off her tongue, calling him out of a daze. "Even your name lies flat on empty ground." He looks at her a moment before her words sink in. Her voice is bitter, but he forgives her for it.
"Just because there is no Mexican blood in my veins doesn't draw it out of my soul." He answers emphatically but he is patient. He knows it's not him she's angry with.
"You don't hate them?" She tries to drop the edge in her voice but it didn't conceal the note of disdain.
"For what? For giving me life?"
"They gave you only lies. She gave you life, but they hid that fact. Not only did they give you false blood, but they killed hers."
"They did not kill hers. They did not know hers. How could they give me something they did not know?" He stops, struggling for the words that will melt the edges of her judgment.
“You call yourself a woman. You define yourself as such from terms given to you by your mother, by your society. Do you say that they lied to you? Because their terms no longer apply, are you any less of a woman?” She draws out a long puddle in a splash of coffee on the table.
"Maybe I'm not…" She says slowly, her eyes down-caste.
"You expect me to believe you think that?"
"Do you say their definition is false?"
"Maybe not false. I don't know. True to them. Or true in part. I just think there's more to it. How true is a definition when the removal of one trait doesn't change the object being defined? Or does it? But maybe that's it. Maybe a definition can include flexibility. Maybe a woman is one who falls under several of these traits...maybe the definitions are all bullshit." He stops, but she doesn't speak -so he continues.
"Can you really break it down to a collection of words? Who a person is? Your parents and your society say that femininity contains the creative force, the power to create life. My mind cannot even grasp the concept of a life growing inside of me. Yours can. You say you've had pregnancy dreams, and urges strong like a physical craving. I've heard other women talk about that. I've never heard a man, though. You cannot have children. How does that change your being a woman? Maybe it's not the ability but the urge that counts--maybe it’s neither." He lifted his mug and held it absently-mindedly. He was surprised at how freely he spoke with this woman he barely knew. But something made him go on.
"My mother was Italian. But I do not feel Italian. I am as Mexican as my mother Maria. But I am Italian. It's in my genes as much as the smell of roasting chilies is imprinted in my memory. My parents adopted me when they thought they couldn’t have children. When Tina and then Carlos came along, my mother made my dad promise not to tell me. She worried I'd think they loved me less because I was not their natural child. She did not think she was robbing me of my heritage. Mama's world was Mexican, to her it was so rich and full she didn't think that perhaps I might want to know about being Italian. What was Italian to her? She lived, breathed and loved Mexican, and she gave her children what she was."
There are tears in her eyes as he speaks. He is leaning forward over the table, talking fast and tense as if to emphasize the importance of what he is saying. Then his speaking stops. She knows he has never spoken these words before. He didn't often speak personally. She is grateful for his words, but somehow feels more distant than ever. He had been given a family, she was being robbed of one. As if reading her mind, he says softly "There are other ways." She regrets her quick judgement then, her contempt at his parents. Hadn't his mother gone through what she was facing now? She looks down, embarrassed at what she is feeling.
"I'm not saying you shouldn't feel a loss...just don't lose perpective..." Juan touches her hand, as he gets up to leave. "You will be fine. Trust yourself." She watches him disappear outside the cafe-a little sad, but confident. Gathering her bag and jacket she walks outside. The rain is lighter now, the wind has shifted.