When you’re twenty-five, your father buys you the Rubí soap opera on DVD because he wants you to learn Spanish. It’s not to late for you, he says. All you need to do is switch the subtitles to On. He tells you that Mexican soap operas are far superior to the ones in the U.S. because they always come to an end. The Mexican ones go somewhere and they die a proper death. You imagine a graveyard full of novelas, the title of each one written on a large gaudy tomb stone and there are cowboys and priests and maids and socialite beauties with pearls wrapped around their throats, popping out of the ground, their hands flailing and arabesque in fake studio mist.
The Rubí that you watch is a reboot of an old black and white novela your father saw as a kid. This Rubí that you watch is about a beautiful Mexican woman with a light complexion and green eyes the color of cartoon cats. In the intro for the show, she wears an off-the-shoulder red dress and her hair looks like it would be really nice to stroke. You can see why men would adore this woman, played by the actress Bárbara Mori. You think she looks like a man’s fantasy. You think you want to look more like her. You wear the same cotton V-neck shirt every day, but in a different color. You wear blue, black, orange, and lilac, but never red. Your hair is dark and down to your back, like that. You wonder what you’d look like in that red dress. You think that red is not such a good color on you, but it looks really good on St. Bárbara Mori.
Now Rubí is in love with a man named Alejandro, who has curly dark hair like a cherub, but is a doctor with a lot of machismo, but a kind man, a man who will pay a hospital bill for a poor woman who can’t afford to pay.
Flash forward and Rubí is jealous of Alejandro’s beautiful bride, Sonia. Sonia looks a little bit like “Don’t Call Me Latina” Jessica Alba and she wears a pretty ponytail on top of her head like a water fountain. Rubí goes to Alejandro’s house to antagonize Sonia, and Sonia falls through her bridge made of glass, down to her garden below, bloodied mouth and eyes like a trapped rabbit.
You do begin to pick up phrases:
You begin to practice the words in the mirror and touch your empty womb, imagine that a magical baby son is in there and you don’t know exactly who the father is.
Your son just started kindergarten and you spend your days taking two different buses to community college where you are taking a mid-morning math class. When you get home with the sun sailing the sky like a scar, you watch your Rubí. When you get winter break from school, you binge watch your Rubí, the fog clinging to your apartment window like the flapping of wings. You make an occasion of it. You make yourself Mexican hot chocolate and drink it from a blue cup and saucer like a woman. None of that just-add-water bullshit. Bárbara Mori is ritual for you.
You father tells you that Bárbara Mori isn’t even Mexican-born. She’s actually from Uruguay. You pull out a real paper map to look for where Uruguay is. You’ve always been bad at geography. You realize that Mexico City is a place for actors and artists to go and find themselves and make a little cash. You paper cut yourself on the map and you suck your finger to make it stop.
You find out that Bárbara Mori is also the star of a movie called La Mujer de mi Hermano. In the film, her character, Zoe, has fallen out of love with her husband, Ignacio. She lives in a house made of glass on the outskirts of big city. A glass house, you think to herself. Is that too obvious of a metaphor? But then you remind yourself that this is a soap opera in film form, and you begin to like the decadence of that. There is a death in the woman’s bed, meaning the only thing her husband’s fucking in their bed is his hand. She decides to take up with his younger brother, a hipster artist named Gonzalo with curly hair who looks like he eats his lunch in the park with blackbirds pecking at his shoe.
You admire the way she fucks him because she gets on top and does it with autonomy. She spouts from her heated swimming pool like a baptism in reverse. The chisme that spews from her rosebud mouth is about her own self and she likes it. A love child is conceived through all this fucking of her brother-in-law. You begin to think about how women become marked when they become pregnant. When a woman is pregnant, everyone will know that she is having sex, and even if she got pregnant some other way, like through in vitro or Immaculate Conception, they will still assume that a man has had her.
You think you could make a shrine to Bárbara Mori out of old magazine clips, gluing each piece of her to the tiny nook in your wall. You think she would like a can of mousse for the ringlets in her hair, a white gold bracelet, and a tiny bottle of French perfume. You could put a magnifying mirror in the corner of the nook, the small circle of light shining on your bedroom wall. The distant buzz from you son’s TV set says it’s 2008. Your joy boy lets you pray without disruption. You make your saint a pair of wings from pink cellophane, taping to one shoulder blade and then the other, your dirty fingers smudging them perfectly, and you catch your own dark eye hooked in the mirror as an offering.
Monique Quintana is a beauty, fashion, and wellness editor for Luna Luna. She is also a contributor at Clah Media and blogs at Razorhouse. Her work has appeared in Huizache, The Acentos Review, and Bordersenses, among other publications. Her work is forthcoming in Retell It Like It Is: Fairy Tales By People of Color by Alternating Currents Press and Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired By Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath by CLASH Books.