Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lady Long Legs

Saturdays were made for sitting on the front porch with your cousin, Maria thought, braiding each other’s hair, comparing nicks on each other’s legs, giggling over the boys who wouldn’t look at them now, because they were only eleven, but who would fall over themselves in a few years, when they were princesses at their double quinceanera.

“And then our double wedding,” said Stephany, “when we’re seventeen. Or sixteen, like abuela. And then have our babies when we’re seventeen. And they can be cousins together, like us, and ride bikes to Eegee’s, and sleep over.”

Maria rubbed at the red place, where she had dragged Stephany’s sister’s old Daisy razor over her legs, and smiled with satisfaction at the thin dotted line of blood that appeared there. “Mrs. Linsey won’t like that.”

Stephany evaluated the school counselor’s opinion of high school drop outs by spitting almost all the way across the yard. “Papi says it’s dumb to waste my time in school.”

Following the arc of saliva, Maria leaned forward. “Oh, look,” she said, “It’s Lady Long Legs.”

The cousins straightened their spines without thinking, then slouched into the porch rails, pretending to look anywhere but across the street, where the stately African woman walked with her head held high. She wore a blue print wrap skirt, a green print wrap shawl, and a red print head wrap covering every strand of hair. Her skin was just as black as coffee, and flawless, like a statue of the Virgin. Behind her walked four boys and one girl in descending sizes, but they dressed regular, with Spongebob and Batman T-shirts, and they didn’t have that beautiful walk, the proud long-leg strut that set Lady Long Legs apart from other women.

“You girls staring at that Sudan lady again?” Stephany’s mami was the very opposite of Lady Long Legs, short and rotund, with her straight black braid hanging all the way down her back. You couldn’t see her on the other side of the security door, but she could see out just fine. “Don’t you think she’s got enough problems?”

Maria stroked the air with one figure, tracing the noble gait as the woman passed. “What problems?” she asked.

“Refugee problems. Losing her home problems. Crazy people cutting each other up with machetes in her country problems.”

Stephany rolled her eyes. “How do you know Lady Long Legs’ problems?”

“’Cause I hear the news, mija. On TV.”

Sighing, Stephany whispered into Maria’s ear. “She’s got no problems, Lady Long Legs.”

“She’s too pretty,” Maria agreed. “And she has five kids.”

“You girls think you know everything. You got it all figured out. You come on in and figure out wrapping tamales, how about?”

Mami, we’re busy.”

Stephany’s mami banged the metal security door, so that it rang like a bell, and the girls jumped, giggled. By the time they regained their composure, Lady Long Legs had turned the corner, out of sight. Maria looked to her cousin, waited for Stephany to stand up. They both rose with queenly grace, making their spines straight, their legs long. The security door swung open, and they entered the house like royalty.