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Distance

While she waited for sleep, Jeanne could feel the distance increasing in time to Pierre’s sonorous breathing.

She wondered if being transformed into a planet resulted in a rearrangement of body parts. Would she still have eyes and nose and ears and legs?

Even curled up under the covers, the cold crept into the spaces between her and Pierre. A high thin voice, cold as the cold that invaded the small warm space she’d created for herself, announced that the distance between Mars and Venus was slowly increasing and soon even the force of the sun itself would not be able to keep the two planets from diverging.

Ah, Jeanne thought. And she wondered if the voice was talking of her and Pierre and if the darkness had transformed both of them into bodies whirling slowly in space.

Space is dark, Jeanne thought, and the voice told her it was dark indeed.

Sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum, the thin voice said.
And when she strained her ears, Jeanne realized she could no longer hear Pierre’s whistling snore or the click-clack of his teeth which was a habit that still irritated her even after twelve years of marriage.

If the voice was right and the distance between herself and Pierre was increasing, then she must be venus and Pierre must be Mars.

How cliché, Jeanne thought.

If you were going to turn me into a planet couldn’t you at least have considered breaking the stereotype? Jeanne asked.

Her voice sounded odd—as if it originated not from her throat or from her chest, but from somewhere near her belly.

She wondered if being transformed into a planet resulted in a rearrangement of body parts. Would she still have eyes and nose and ears and legs? What about Pierre?

She laughed into the darkness and felt ripples all over where laughter shook her.

She wished it was light enough so she could look at herself.

But were there mirrors large enough to reflect back the image of a planet?

She puzzled over this, and wondered if she should be doing something specific to planets.

From somewhere in the darkness she could hear a faint zinging sound. She remembered reading a random article about radio waves. Or was it angels in space? She frowned into the dark. Did turning into a planet turn a person silly?

A frisson of cold blew across her skin and she wondered if the blankets had simply slipped from her shoulder or if it was a breath of space wind.

How strange, she thought. Strange to be floating in space with nothing underneath or over you.  Strange, that was her last thought as she drifted off to sleep.

###

She married Pierre when she was twenty eight.  She had assumed that he would be more experienced, that he would at least have slept with one or two women before he met her.

Wasn’t it true that Westerners were free when it came to morals?

The morning after their wedding night, her Godmother approached her and said: “So, I suppose nothing happened.”
It wasn’t for lack of trying.

They had both read books, but nothing prepared them for the real thing.

She could finally exhibit with pride, the pure white towel with dark stains that proved that they had been honorable—he had not touched her before the wedding.

“It didn’t work,” she said. “No matter how we tried, his thing wouldn’t fit.”

Her Godmother laughed.

“So, he’s a virgin as well.”

There was no comeback to that. It wasn’t bad at all. Maybe it was something to even be proud of. Two virgins married to each other right before their expiration date.

In the end, they had to consult the family doctor. Pierre locked up alone with Uncle Pendong while Jeanne pretended she had no idea what they were talking about.

What embarrassment and relief when they were finally able to do the deed.

She could finally exhibit with pride, the pure white towel with dark stains that proved that they had been honorable—he had not touched her before the wedding.

Such futile gestures. She laughed thinking about how backward she had been. Clinging to virginity as a cultural artifact, being a virgin artifact herself.

But back then, her family trotted about as if it were the best thing in the world.

Our Jeanne isn’t like other girls who marry foreigners.

It was a statement to rebut whoever dared to wag their tongues.

After all, they must never forget that they were Dayrits. They were the descendants of a high class family. Her mother was the cherished daughter of a rich doctor and a landed businesswoman. They inhabited a social sphere where wealth was taken for granted.

“Oh governor such and such,” her mother used to say. “Your grandma gave him what for. And there was one time that the big boat turned back to shore for your grandma because she was late. Oh, they would say. It’s Senora Dayrit.”

“That was long ago, Ma,” Jeanne would say. “When grandma was still alive.”

But to her mother, it was the same as if that had happened yesterday. In her mother’s mind, grandma still went to the same Lion’s club and rubbed shoulders with the bigwigs and every Saturday night she went out dancing with the wife of the general.

She kept her eyes closed, basking in nostalgia. The voices reminded her of weekends spent curled up in bed under the covers while the entire household woke up around her.

“You remember who you are,” her mother said. “You’re not just anybody.”

None of that mattered now. Not Jeanne’s high class education, not Jeanne’s high class parents, not their status, all of that ceased to be of value in a country that was not her own.

###

She woke to the sound of voices, high and clear, singing a melody that went on and on. Looping up and around and circling back again like the Gregorian chants she used to listen to when she was in college.

She kept her eyes closed, basking in nostalgia. The voices reminded her of weekends spent curled up in bed under the covers while the entire household woke up around her. That was before she met Pierre—back when she was still a student.

Locked in pretend sleep, she thought she could hear the song of the washing woman, the voices of her mother and her aunt, the clang of the gate in the early morning, and the vroom of early morning motor riders. There was no escaping the invasion of daytime. No matter how hard she tried, morning always pulled her out of bed.

Her first morning in Pierre’s home, she remembered waking with a shock to the quiet. She remembered waiting curled up under the covers, waiting for the morning sounds to greet her and feeling guilty when the fingers on her watch pointed past the hour of nine.

Even now, she had no wish to break this feeling—this golden feeling that belonged to a time long left behind.  Even so, there was no escaping the warmth as it crept over her. Even with her eyes closed she could see the light spilling across the backs of her eyelids, she could feel it wrapping around her, just like the sounds of morning in that place where she had once been a child.

© Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

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Distance
by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

Putsero
by Nadine L. Sarreal
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