This sad little story is a letter I wrote for an upcoming project. I have adapted it here into a short which will likely go into the next collection. This has not yet been to my editor, so go easy dear reader, it’s still a little rough and my eyeballs are burning.
Lidia and Simon
The first time Simon and Lidia got together was at his place in West Harlem. They walked around the Dominican neighborhood and Riverside Park, sometimes holding hands, sometimes flirting. It was amazing to Simon that she called, considering he handed her a piece of paper with his name and number on it before getting off of the train at 125th street just a week before. He was getting his nerve up while peeping at her and figured that he would simply hand her the note right after the train emerged out of the tunnel and he could scoot out just in time to save any hard feelings coming his way. Simon thought she was Dominican and he tried saying something sweet in Spanish to the beauty before him, before hopping off the train in embarrassment. He escaped the situation one full stop before he actually needed to get off and go home.
After she did call, they walked around West Harlem which ruined Simon forever with the Dominican girls in his neighborhood. They could be more racist than whites. He didn’t care, Lidia was wild and new and she showed up wild and new at their first meeting. Simon was a little disappointed that Lidia tried to wear club clothes though on their first date, it was her modest teacher’s outfit and candy red corn rolls that really attracted him in the first place. Lidia told him later that when he first propositioned on the train, she was coming back from a job interview downtown that she just didn’t get. He got to run his hands all over that spiky crimson hair later that first afternoon when the pair went back to his place. Hot afternoon sex with a seasoned black woman really spoiled Simon. The downtown college girls just didn’t compare for a long time after that.
The first time Simon ventured to Lidia’s project apartment in the Bronx, the cab driver he hailed from the subway station was Puerto Rican and he asked Simon if he was sure that he wanted to go to that address. Simon was sure. He had always been into new things and racial barriers never bothered him, a boy who simply didn’t understand. He supposed the whole thing could have been an ambush, but whoever would have got nothing, Simon had nothing. He actually didn’t know what he had until he went to Lidia’s place that night and saw what it was like to have less than nothing, saw what it was like to live in the outer projects. She didn’t have much, but she had an elliptical that she was proud of and claimed to use often.
Even though it was far, and the season turned fall, Simon enjoyed going to Lidia’s and being treated like a king. She would get a babysitter for her two daughters, they would have their fun and then she would cook breakfast in the middle of the night. She was a great cook and would do it all again when they woke in the morning. Simon obliged with some of her strange sexual requests too. He chalked it up to experience and some of it became his own desires that he would later demand from others.
Lidia was always trying to prove to Simon that she wasn’t ghetto. He knew she wasn’t, Simon didn’t know what that was, had never been exposed. She was a school teacher and Simon still held that with some regard, having no idea what it was like to teach in the projects. Lidia was always trying to convince Simon that exercise was a part of her daily regimen, even hopping on the elliptical in her living room to demonstrate for him a few times. He never had a problem with Lidia’s weight. Simon didn’t know his own taste yet. He was hungry for action, his body told his mind that he was a man, a conqueror. She was beautiful to Simon, the way she was, and it’s not like he thought Lidia was a compulsive eater or a slob by any means, just thick. So far, Simon liked thick.
After a few months of random encounters and soothing phone conversations, Simon was playing it loose while Lidia was planning for the future. This crazy notion of future never crossed Simon’s mind. He was getting pressure from his friends to go out on the college girl prowl while Lidia connived a nest and a way for her and her kids out of the projects. She told her girlfriends all about Simon. She told the squad that Simon was good in bed, kind, had some money from a good job, and lived in a nice neighborhood. Simon lived in a decent enough place in West Harlem over by the park which used to be a landfill. He paid six hundred for a room and some shared space. Anybody he ever knew would have considered the place a dump. Lidia thought it was just great.
At thirty three years old and a mother of two kids, Lidia failed to recognize that her oldest, age twelve, could have easily been Simon’s little sister, skin color aside. They were living in two worlds and Lidia wanted a way out with a young white man who was a college dropout making nine bucks an hour at a warehouse in Manhattan. All of the scenery somehow seemed glamorous to her, Simon thought, the big ticket downtown. Simon knew that Lidia genuinely liked him and they made a good bedroom team. What Simon could not understand until years later was that Lidia knew how his color gave him immediate potential. The potential, she knew she would never have in that environment, in that time. Simon would never understand that very serious dynamic that plagues the entire country until years later.
Simon secretly loved Lidia and he guessed that made him a tramp. He fell in love with everyone he met back then and wanted to be the one to rescue her. He spoke with his mom about the whole situation, she was only a tad older than Lidia at the time, and she had Simon young just as Lidia had her first little girl. His mother listened patiently and without judgment, but warned Simon of sinking his youth into someone else’s problems. She was scared that her son even went to the next level and met Lidia’s daughters. That was not his idea, Lidia snuck that one in. They took them to the playground one Saturday morning after a good Friday night romp, all the while Simon thinking about what he did to Lidia in her bedroom. The day was nice, the breeze was good, and they all had fun. Simon was always good with kids but he couldn’t help but think about Lidia’s oldest daughter in a few years and him, fighting off the boyfriends from school, and serving as some kind of role model. No, that brought him back to what they had just done when the kids weren’t home. Simon was no role model, he was evil. They were just kids who didn’t yet know their lot in life.
Sometimes Simon wondered if he’d get that phone call or a tap on the door because Lidia has managed to track him down to tell of a son. He imagines a little mixed race kid showing up on his front porch with a school bag, tracking down his father, waiting to be rescued. Lidia told Simon that certain tubes were tied after her second child and he believed. After the first few encounters, the couple went at it with no regard for making babies. That was the preferred method for Simon but the thought occurred to him that it could have been a sweet little trap.
About the time when Lidia started looking at apartments for them to split, Simon knew he could never see her again. He was immature and did not discuss the impossibility of the situation with Lidia as he was not yet a man. He thought that she should have known better because he sure as hell didn’t.
Simon was sorry. He knew Lidia was desperate and was looking for something she thought she would never get. Simon knew that Lidia grew up too fast and was a single mom trying to raise two daughters to not be like herself. The whole situation just began to focus a little for Simon after listening to her voicemails which were growing ever desperate each week that he ignored Lidia’s calls. Every Friday that went by that she didn’t get a sitter and Simon didn’t come over and Lidia didn’t cook breakfast killed her more and more. He was sure. Simon heard it in her voice. She sounded as if she felt the rope slip away. At the same time, a lover, another man walking out on her again. He knew that her oldest daughter’s father was in jail and knew it must have been hard to tell people. He was sorry for abandoning her. Simon hoped that she would understand that he was just too young. He wanted to fulfill the role that she needed but just couldn’t.
He saved Lidia’s voicemails for a long time after, knowing that anytime he could just pick up the phone and head on uptown by train, that same train where he passed the note. Simon didn’t go uptown to see Lidia ever again. He hoped that Lidia was doing well these days and that her oldest made it to college like she wanted. He hoped she met a nice man who stepped up to the plate and could give her what she deserved. He wanted her to know that he respected her and what she was trying to do with a terrible situation that was Lidia’s life. He never thought she was trash.