Some time ago, my mother decided to take a leave of absence from work and take my kids to Puerto Rico so I could have the time and space I needed to finish my college degree. Though it helped me in terms of my career, it was one of the darkest periods of my life – my children had always been my purpose, and suddenly I was without them. I was lost emotionally without them. Not having them close enough to hug or kiss or smell, too far away to get to in case of an emergency, and not being able to simply see them put me in an emotional fetal position. I felt as though my heart had been ripped from my chest and I was bleeding out through my tears. And so I worked to forget my emptiness, tirelessly, like an animal, at times 20-hour days, at least five days a week.
Jesse was my sister soldier. She walked with me every step of the way. We worked together, first at the office and then at The West, where she took my position as barmaid when I graduated to topless dancer. Sometimes we would bartend together in different places around Sunset Park. Like most Latinas, Jesse was the typical J.Lo stereotype: cinnamon-colored skin, hourglass figure, long, jet-black hair. I remember walking down the street with her one night and hearing whistles, and then this guy, the bolder one of the bunch, suddenly shouting "Que tira peo tienes mami!" (English translation: "Damn baby, you have some fart layer!") We started laughing hysterically, but still had to give the offender props for being original.
Jesse was the one who made sure I ate, slept, and took a time out every now and then so I wouldn't lose my mind. She jokingly called me Irona – the maid from Richie Rich – because at that point I was so robotic, so emotionally dead, that all I did was work and work more. She would chill with me at home in between getting ready to go from one job to another and say things like "Take a nap mami, I'll wake you up in an hour" and "I don't know how you do it, girl." I don't know how I did it either, but I did know that Jesse was keeping me alive.
We became incredibly close, so close that we shared physical intimacy – I was her first and she was mine as well. She was as soft, sweet and comforting as only women know how to be with one another, and she felt as beautiful as she looked, her hair long and flowing, breasts firm, skin smooth and warm beneath my tired hands. Her scent was intoxicating and she made me feel content and comfortable and alive, something I had almost forgotten how to feel. Maybe it's because she was a woman, or because she was the woman who knew me better than anyone else, but either way, she was exactly what I never knew I needed.