Five Pints and a Hummingbird

I met her at the Wal-Mart in West El Paso. She was standing in front of the ice cream freezer. "I love Cherry Garcia," she said, and put five pints into her blue plastic basket. When she reached for the ice cream, her fat arms quivered. They were covered with tattoos. The one of a hummingbird looked so real that I wasn't surprised when it began to sing.

"That's beautiful," I said about the high-pitched chirp. "Where did you get it?" I asked about the bird.

"Psycho Tattoos," she said, flashing the silver stud in the middle of her thick pink tongue. "They're good, if you get there before noon. Later in the day, the guys get bored and start drinking and getting high." Her fleshy lips stretched into a smile. "You don't want someone high or drunk putting ink into you."

I nodded and we stared at each other for a full minute or two. "Are you tatted?" she asked.

I rolled up my sleeve to show her the tiny red rose on my bicep, more of a conversation starter than a tattoo.

"Cute," she said. "Ladylike." Then she glanced down at the basket of Cherry Garcia weighing in her meaty hand. "Well, I'm going to get in line," she said. Then, after walking a few paces, she looked over her shoulder and said: "You're welcome to come."

We paid for the ice cream and sat in her Ford Festiva in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I felt her tongue ring click against the back of my front teeth and I put my hand between my thighs, imagining how her tongue would feel there. *

After we made love, she got out of bed and walked from the room on wide bare feet. She came back holding a spoon in one hand and a pint of Cherry Garcia in the other. I watched her push the spoon into the carton and then push the spoon into her mouth, repeating the motion without looking up. Her single-mindedness disturbed me, as did her unwillingness to share. The latter surprised me, because less than a half an hour earlier, she was a selfless lover, pleasuring me with her pierced tongue.

I sat up in bed to get a better look at her. The fat on her digging arm quivered as she shoved into the pint. The hummingbird on her forearm opened his beak for a taste, but she ignored him like she ignored me.

I smacked the pint out of her hand.

"Hey!" She narrowed her eyes. "What did you do that for?"

"You don't need to eat that," I said, feeling spiteful. "You're big enough as it is."

She got out of bed and walked to where the pint had rolled across the floor. She picked it up. "You don't understand," she said, cradling the ice cream in her hand. "You've probably been thin and pretty your whole life." She looked into the Cherry Garcia as though its fruits and nuts understood better than I. "You're just a lipstick lesbian," she said.

I got out of bed and stepped into my panties. The rest of my clothes were in the hall outside her bedroom. She followed me there.

"Why did you come here?" she said, her hands on the bumps of fat where her hips should have been.

I forced air through my nose, thinking of how useless I'd felt earlier that day. Before Wal-Mart, I'd been watching Friends reruns alone on my couch. I wanted to tell her that I needed sex the way she needed ice cream. Instead, I finished getting dressed.

She stood opposite me in the front doorway and I scanned her forearm for the bird. I hoped to see its tissue-paper wings flutter invisibly fast or hear its sweet high-pitched chirp. But all I saw was flat ink over mottled skin and the last thing I heard was the door slamming in my face.

About the author:

Rosanna Armendariz grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She now lives in El Paso, Texas, where she is a recent graduate of the bilingual MFA program at the University of Texas at El Paso. She recently attended the Callaloo summer writing workshops at Texas A&M University, and her story, Salt, has been selected to appear in a future issue of Callaloo. One of Rosannas poems, Transplant, will appear in the Gival Press poetry anthology, Poetic Voices Without Borders, and her prose poem, Virus, appeared in the October 2004 issue of Barbaric Yawp. Several of her poems and short-shorts have appeared in BorderSenses magazine. Her chapbook of prose poems and short-shorts, titled Brooklyn Smoker, will be available in the summer of 2005 through BoneWorld Publishing. She is currently at work on her first novel, Chefs Salad.