When My Parents Met




My mother and father met at a club in Puerto Rico called Peggy Sue. My mother, Gloria, was twenty-nine, my father had just turned thirty. Gloria was staying with her father in San Juan. Her two aunts accompanied her to the club as chaperones. My mother wore black platform stilettos, tight black pants, and a leather choli, which was not as modest as her father would have hoped. My father, Blandin, was wearing a polo and jeans, both pressed. When their eyes met from across the room, as they must have according to the story, it was hot and sweaty, and my mother’s aunts were uncomfortable. My father strutted across the room, smelling of sweet coconut oil, chapstick, and blackness. My mother danced as she does, in a trancelike state, clearing a circle of admirers around her, never making eye contact. Sweat flew from her brow smelling of coffee and heavy gardenia perfume. My father made his way to the periphery of the circle and stood as tall and sturdy as he could muster. I don’t know what he said. I’m sure neither of them remembers. I’m sure it wasn’t memorable. But it worked, and my mother awoke from her mystic dancing and took him as a partner, the luckiest man in the club at a glance. My father had learned how to dance in New Orleans to a lot of Motown. He could pop his shoulders like a man with enough rhythm and soul to get along. My parents danced together at a distance that vacillated between appropriate and scandalous, periodically interrupted by the aunts, since it was their job. They danced until the aunts got too tired, and threatened to lock my mother out if she didn’t come home. Blandin had hoped to get farther, but he got to dance with a beautiful woman on a Spanish speaking island. They exchanged numbers, but this was before cell phones, so my father gave her an address she could write to, and she gave him her Puerto Rico number and one for her apartment in New York.

When Gloria was young she dreamt of marrying a black man to have black babies. There was and is much mixing in the Puerto Rican community; a lot a slave blood and brown people. When my parents met, my father still had short hair. He wore a thin tightly cropped mustache barely above his lip. My father’s family is middle class, indicated by the front crease in his jeans and their long length. My mother was never a chola. She wore lip liner and kept her hair long, but never went too far beyond that. She was as American as Paula Abdul.

They exchanged letters for months while my father worked as a flight attendant. Holding true to the principal of the milking cow (why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free), my parents waited to have sex until their wedding night, fueling Blandin’s infatuation with Gloria. When they kissed his lips would tingle so violently he could hardly stand. My mother once had dimples, and when she smiled there was nothing more endearing. Blandin and Gloria would talk until sunrise because that’s how love works, with its constant breathless longing.

After three months, my father proposed because three months is a long time to remain sexless as a virile young man of thirty. My mother said “yes,” because twenty-nine years is a long time to remain sexless as a virile young woman approaching thirty. Together they could not afford a proper wedding, so they married in a court. My mother wore an ornate white dress, my father rented a tux. They were driven around the block in a Rolls Royce because renting it for the day would probably have broken the bank, as they say. That night, they had sex, more violent and lengthy than my mother could have ever dreamed. She was probably disappointed by the loveless thrashing and silence. But at least there was pregnancy.