West Side Stories: Facing the music

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WEST SIDE STORIES

This true story by Magda Peck was recorded live on August 7 at Sonoma Portworks in Petaluma, as part of the monthly “West Side Stories” story slam event hosted by Dave Pokorny. Each month, storytellers are randomly picked from the audience to tell five-minute-long stories on a different theme each month, and winner is chosen by the audience. The theme for July was “Face the Music.” The theme for September’s West Side Stories, on Wednesday, Sept. 4, will be “High School.” For information visit WestSideStoriesPetaluma.com.

Just after 9 p.m., I followed Nacho into the wedding reception.

It was held at the Club De Liones. It’s the high-class Lions Club in the town of San Cristobal in De Las Casas. That’s in the southernmost state of Mexico. And it was quite a scene already. There was a band — mariachi, ranchero music — and the head table, you know, the bride, the groom, the flowers, the friends, the family. The room was crowded with tables, and at the center of every table were four huge bottles of liquor — tequila, rum, vodka, gin.

I followed him and eventually got a seat with all of his friends.

Ay … Nacho! Ignacio Chacon Hernandez. He was a late twenty-something engineer from Veracruz, and he had been assigned to San Cristobal to do some work. And I loved everything about him. His black, wavy hair, his dreamy dark chocolate brown eyes. He had this smile that made you melt.

I was twenty, maybe. And I just knew that … afterwards … he would tell me that I was the most beautiful, and I was all his. And he would hold me all night, until dawn.

Now, I’d gone to Chiapas because my parents were in a mid-life thing, and they’d taken the Jeep there, and I stayed after they left and went off on their mid-life adventure. I got a little casita not far from Nacho’s house. And it was just the most amazing, amazing month. I mean, I cooked for him, and cleaned for him, and I shopped for him, and made pies and forgot everything I learned in college. But I tried so hard to make him happy, to fit in, to be get rid of my gringa, to be local.

So, we’re at this reception, and the four bottles on our table become eight. And I keep saying to him, you know, “Bailamos? Come on, can we dance? The music is playing!”

And he pretty much ignored me.

So when his best friend came over and invited me onto the dance floor, I accepted his hand and off we went. And it was awesome! There was a meringue, then a cumbia, then another. And we’re moving. And I felt free. I even started to do ‘the bump.’ And he twisted me around, and I was laughing.

And I am not seeing Nacho’s glare. I am not seeing him get up from the table, I am not seeing him steady himself and make a beeline to us. But I feel his hand on my arm. I was wearing this white, lacy fitted thing, and I felt so pretty. And then, at that moment, I felt so confused, because he said, “Ya no vamos. We are leaving. Right now.”

I’m like, “Todavia no, Nachito. Not yet …? We’re just dancing. We’re just having fun.” And his voice gets a little louder. And then he says, “Basta ya! Sinverguenza? Stop it, right now! Have you no shame? You’re embarrassing me. We’re leaving!”

And he started to pull me off the floor, and I didn’t know what to do. I was watching people watch me, and I felt humiliated, and I went down on my knees, and I looked up at him and I said, “Perdoname, Lo siento.” I started to ask his forgiveness.

WEST SIDE STORIES

This true story by Magda Peck was recorded live on August 7 at Sonoma Portworks in Petaluma, as part of the monthly “West Side Stories” story slam event hosted by Dave Pokorny. Each month, storytellers are randomly picked from the audience to tell five-minute-long stories on a different theme each month, and winner is chosen by the audience. The theme for July was “Face the Music.” The theme for September’s West Side Stories, on Wednesday, Sept. 4, will be “High School.” For information visit WestSideStoriesPetaluma.com.

For my … misbehaving.

And he says, just as the band stops playing, in a voice that everyone could hear, “Gringa. Si tu quierres c---r con mi major amigo, que lo hagas. Puta!”

Which, for some of you, I think I’m allowed to say, means, “You loose American girl. If you want to f--k my best friend, go ahead. You whore.”

I hear this. And there’s this sober, sane voice in my head that says, “What did he just say?”

I stood up, I looked him straight in the eye, and I hadn’t spoken English in a month, but this is what I said.

“Nobody … nobody speaks to me that way!”

And that’s when I slapped him across the face.

I was terrified. I’d never hit anybody before. Ever. My hand was tingling, and I looked around and the bride … the bride was crying, and I felt just awful.

All I remember is that he grabbed my wrist, said we were going, and he literally pulled me off the dance floor, pulled me out of the social hall, pulled me through the front door of the Club de Liones, into these Colonial cobblestone streets.

There’s more to that ugly night. A twisted ankle, worse words, sobs, a broken heart, and when I couldn’t take it anymore, one last punch to get him out.

At dawn, I collected my few things, and slunk out, for good.

There are consequences to public humiliation. I quietly left town, came back to the states. But there are greater consequences to trying so hard to be who you aren’t. And for daring to be who you are meant to be, and absolutely are.

(Magda Peck is a storyteller whose works can be read at www.magdapeck.com/her-words)

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