Suddenly, I was remembered. "Amalia, we have to do something with him. He's so butch and hopeless. She's trying to get this guy and we have to put her together so he'll marry her and get her out of our hair once and for all." Divina changed around pronouns as often as cosmetic lines. It usually made people very nervous, but not Amalia.

Reaching behind the counter, Amalia pulled out a tube that I just knew was a concealer. "This is just the thing," she said kindly to me. Amalia was absolutely gorgeous; she looked just like Dolores del Rio.

Divina started giving orders: "Amalia, I told you: he needs everything! Give him a makeover! He needs blush, mascara, bright red lipstick, lots of eyeshadow. It's the neck up that counts."

This was going too far. "Divina," I protested. "I can't go for coffee with Carlos looking like a drag queen!"

Divina looked irritated. "Well, why not? You can't go looking like that."



I sighed. Divina could make anyone feel stupid. Maybe I should listen; it was worth a try. "Well, okay. But don't put on too much, " I said lamely.

Amalia got very busy, telling me to sit and get comfortable, while she got all the beauty products together. I felt kind of giddy, like I was taking a dangerous turn in my life that would change me forever. This was definitely a dramatic moment. Divina sat down, too, watching as Amalia examined my face closely. Silently and expertly, Amalia began applying and wiping with what seemed like millions of colors, shades, and powders. After what seemed like only seconds, Amalia stepped back and looked appraisingly at my face.

"Well, querida, I think we've done it. You look spectacular; here's a mirror." Amalia handed it to me.

Divina hovered behind her, so that he could look straight at me. I peered into the mirror and gasped. I didn't look like a drag queen exactly, but my eyes looked bigger than usual, my lips had a reddish sheen, my eyebrows looked polished and perfect, and my face had a nice overall finish to it. Well, maybe I did look like a drag queen, but a conservative one, the homebody type.

Divina wasn't as impressed. "Well, he looks less masculine, so that's good, but I would have put on tons more eyeliner and lipstick."

I groaned. "Ay, Divina, I'm tired." I looked over at Amalia and handed her my credit card. "Amalia, just wrap all this stuff up; I need to get ready."

Surprisingly, Divina didn't put up much of a fight. He looked eager to get on with his own shopping needs, which were enormous. We kissed goodbye, and I gathered my packages to get ready for my date. Which wasn't really a date-date; Carlos and I were just getting together at a coffeehouse. Carlos seemed quite oblivious when I suggested it--he really had no idea what we had planned for him.

When I got home, I looked in the mirror and almost screamed. I looked like a drag queen from the neck up, and a semi-butch graduate student from the neck down. It was a volatile combination, that was for sure. How could I go out with Carlos looking like this? But maybe Divina was right: maybe Carlos would be a sucker for superficiality. I put on an Ana Gabriel CD and sat down to think. Carlos was a beautiful man and I knew very little about beautiful men. Maybe he would appreciate someone whose sensibility was as far removed from the typical Chicano graduate student/intellectual as possible. Maybe he would be attracted to someone who talked about hairspray and manicures, instead of about Chicanos as an internal colony. I tried laughing lightly, airly. I took a deep breath and left before I could change my mind.

I was supposed to meet Carlos at La Boheme, a coffeehouse in the Mission. As I walked in, I could feel people staring at me, but I thought I was just being paranoid because I was so nervous about meeting Carlos. I glanced around hurriedly, and didn't see him, so I sat down at the only empty table to wait for him. I really was nervous; I could feel my hands shaking. Oh, why did I even try. I'd never get Carlos, what was the use?. . .In the midst of my despair, I suddenly realized Carlos was in front of me, looking gorgeous and, for some reason, very nervous and confused.

"Raul?" Carlos looked at me tentatively, a little terrified.

I tried to make my voice sound confident and fabulously superificial. "Oh, Carlos, how are you? You look ravishing." I had never described anyone using that word before. He did look good: he was wearing a baseball cap; his goatee looked nicely trimmed; and he had on a baseball jersey with baggy jeans. He looked like a sexy, educated Chicano homeboy. I, on the other hand, looked like a drag queen at high noon. I began to get a sinking feeling. But it was too late now: I was wearing cosmetics, for God's sake.

"Sit down, Carlos," I offered, "I'll get you a cappucino."

Carlos sat down. When he spoke, his voice sounded kind of shaky. "Raul, you look so... so different. I almost didn't recognize you." He stared at me with his beautiful black eyes, and obviously didn't know what to say next.

This was going weird. "Carlos, I'm the same. It's just a new look Divina wanted me to try. Do you like it? It's all by Lancôme. The new issue of Allure reviewed all the foundations in the world, and the judges said Lancôme's was the best. Don't you agree?" I remembered hearing Divina say this to someone on the phone.

Carlos looked uncomfortable. I don't think he had given foundations much thought. He smiled nervously. "Well, that's cool." He had brought a book with him, Ramon Saldívar's Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference, and his beautiful hands anxiously fingered it. We had mentioned something earlier about discussing this book over coffee. "I brought the book; it was really good," he said uncertainly. Carlos was very serious about Chicano Studies; it was part of what had attracted me.

But I had gone too far to turn back. "Oh, who cares about literature? It's all so boring and literary." I was getting carried away, what with wearing make-up and being so damn nervous. I suddenly felt very, very deranged. "Let's talk about beauty products or hair or something important. Chicano theory is so...dreary." I glanced over at Carlos. He looked so beautiful and I felt so stupid. "Did you see Sandra Cisneros in Mirabella? She looked gorgeous. I wonder what shampoo she uses."

"You know, " beautiful Carlos began, "maybe we should just, um, do this some other time. I think I'll go home; I need to do some work anyway." He started to get up from his chair, and I knew there was nothing I could do to stop him. I had scared him away with Divina's goddam plan.

"Give me a call, Raul, when you get a chance."

He gathered all his things and in a second was gone, leaving me alone in the café, debating suicide and murder.

 .  .  .


Forward to Flores, continued


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