Bold as Love

Photograph by Jose Padua
It was my end of the summer visit back home—
to DC, from New York, from the train full of bad snacks
and half-cold beer, and when I got to my house I found out
I’d just missed a visit from my Auntie Anna who’d gone
into town from the suburbs to see my family and
ended up staying for a week. She’d been making obscene
phone calls to her neighbors in Wheaton for a few years now—

living alone could do that to you, I guessed, could
bring out that indelicate madness, but what was it that
kept the rest of us from saying “I’m naked, now,
Mrs. Lewis” or “The wind blows for free how much do
you charge, Mr. Wheeler?” instead of “Do you know
of someone who can mow my lawn? The last guy retired”
or a simple, “Hello, how are you today?”—all those

boring things we ask and don’t really care what
the answer is. Anna was my Uncle Ray’s wife,
an Anglo-Saxon lady, a white woman who’d married
a Filipino man back when that was still at least
half a scandal to half the people in America,
back when they couldn’t have gotten married in Virginia
where I live now because back then it was against the law.

If my wife and I were living back then, we wouldn’t
have been able to get married in Georgia, Mississippi,
Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia,
Arizona, California, Idaho, Maryland,
Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon,
South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. (Yeah, I
included a list, but how could I just mention one place

and stop? Sometimes what it’s all about is not stopping,
sometimes what angers the enemy most is the way
you persevere like a monster in a cheap horror film.)
And back then, before they moved to Wheaton, Uncle Ray
and Auntie Anna were city people, and Uncle Ray
would drop by our house all the time after waiting tables
at a luncheon downtown—like my dad, he worked for a caterer—

and I was a kid and Uncle Ray seemed cool, but Auntie Anna
was one of those quiet grown ups I never said much to
and Uncle Ray had been dead for nearly twenty years
when she made her visit and talked and talked and talked. She
and Uncle Ray had hosted the annual New Year’s Day
party, where everyone ate and ate (which I liked to do)
and drank champagne and cocktails (which of course I was

too young for) and watched football (which didn’t interest
me then and which now, after a few decades of watching it,
has left the stadium of things that keep my excessive
attention). And their house was filled with more people
than I usually ever saw in a single house,
like this guy Joe who looked like a Filipino version
of Popeye, and Max Dizon, the cab driver, who was always

there with his wife and their daughter and Max would outlive
Ray by some thirty years and make it to his nineties,
and there were so many people I didn’t know there
and New Year’s Day was always so cold. I never wanted
to go. It was like a hangover day for me even before I’d
ever had a drink, back when as child of nine or ten I finally
figured out what death was all about and as always I was

obsessed, and I suppose there hasn’t been a day since then
when I haven’t had a moment when I didn’t stop, take in
a deep breath to make sure I could still breathe, or tried to decide
if I was getting stronger or getting weaker, and if the color blue
was less blue than it was the day before, because my idea
of vision was that as one grew older the colors began to fade
until everything was black and white like on some bleak

winter day when it’s so cold that your face is stung and
your eyes feel like ice. Auntie Anna stayed for a week
and sat on a baking pan during meals and explained,
“I’m protecting myself from the gamma rays.” And back
when she was young, and probably wickedly beautiful,
I imagine she found beautiful ways to protect herself,
and other beautiful ways to go out over the edge in ways

that people would think was mad and reckless and in the end
married the man she wanted to marry no matter how wrong,
how awful, how indecent anyone thought it might be.
Because when I was young I didn’t understand how bold
she really was, didn’t know the difference between dirty and
obscene until words, like a curve in the hem of Auntie Anna’s dress,
began rolling off my tongue so easily in times of trouble.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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