Deep down every woman has a little Crazy. Prissy girls who dare not lift a hammer; intellectuals who live in stiff pantsuits; homemakers who nurture and feed with affection and feasts: they all have a crazy lady living inside of them that they hide from men. See that girl on the news that whacked the guy over the head with a hammer? That’s Prissy Girl who was so afraid to break a nail you’d never imagine she’d be the nail in your coffin. What about the woman who’s screaming into her cell phone in the middle of Times Square? That’s Intellectual who’s had her fill of cubicles and PowerPoint presentations. And Happy Homemaker? The once sweet momma who washed your dishes and boxer/briefs beat you down on Christmas Eve over the last piece of pernil.
To the detriment of unsuspecting, male victims, Crazy can invade rational minds at any given time. Going out drinking to a bar on a night where a boyfriend cheated, a daughter berated or a boss belittled may summon Crazy. A few drinks down the hatch and she appears to cause havoc. That’s exactly what that bitch did to me.
It was a Tuesday night in 2001. I was 21 and much more susceptible to Crazy’s control. She followed me into Coogans Restaurant and Bar. With dark shades and a black straw hat, she lurked behind me, keeping up when I ducked behind parked cars and hid inside building lobbies. Once inside the bar she stood behind me, blending with the karaoke crooners and drunk spectators and waiting for my blood stream to absorb a fourth Bacardi and Coke. My knees wobbled it was all over for Sane Sujeiry. Crazy, or Conchita as she demanded to be called, forced me into the horrors of Drunk Dialing and the emotional outbursts responsible for runny mascara. By nights end, strong and invulnerable Sujeiry transformed into the weepy girl at the bar who sips on ice water to sober up and return to center.
After that unfortunate night at Coogans, Conchita took cover. I thought I rid myself of her franticness but there she was, five years later, shaking things up with Elijah. She made a surprise appearance on Thanksgiving Eve while I waited for him in my apartment. I planned to shower him with love and sexual pleasure before I went home to New York City for Turkey Day – until he forgot about our plans. His abandon was completely unlike him yet so similar to my father’s. I was instantly rattled, fearing Elijah would leave me peering through a window, anticipating his arrival but not show…just like papi did when I was 12.
Two long hours later, I got a call. It was Elijah. He was waiting for me out front. I could feel Conchita brewing.
I scooted into the passenger seat in silence, greeting him with a dry peck on the lips. The engine roared as he pulled out of the parking spot. Still mum, I turned toward the window. He sped down the lot and my eyes remained fixed on the night. It spread across the sky as the beats of a 50 Cent song filled the stillness. Minutes later, the engine purred before coming to a complete stop. Elijah turned to me and uttered the first words of the night.
“Do you want something from the liquor store?” There was a detachment in his voice.
I hesitated to speak, uncomfortable with the distance between us though our bodies were only inches apart. But Conchita knew of no such feeling. She jumped in, requesting a bottle of Bacardi and a 2-liter bottle of Coca Cola.
I watched Elijah stroll into the liquor store. His body bobbed and weaved through aisles. His head cocked. So confident he was that he hadn’t apologized for his blatant disregard – of me, of our time together. Not to mention the numerous evenings spent with his friends and family, not alone, just he and I. Could it be that our relationship was flailing? I shook my head hard, as if expelling a demon from the inner workings of my mind. Crazy Conchita was on the verge of explosion; when unleashed she’d shatter the well-crafted image of witty and logical girlfriend.
Elijah returned with bottle in hand sans Coca Cola. He had forgotten, he said. Forgotten about you, Conchita murmured in my ear. He, however, saw nothing of it, explaining there would be soda in his brother’s house. His brother’s house? Another night with his friends and family? Conchita wanted to holler my demands for one-on-one time with my boyfriend. I held her back and flinched when she pinched my arm. She wanted me to get angry and express my needs, but how could I? I asked for this, to be cherished by a social and family oriented man. I asked to be given my place and he did, driving two hours daily, six days a week, to ensure I was by his side. Still, Conchita was pissed. I slapped her hand away from the Bacardi bottle before she twisted the cap open.
We arrived at his brother’s house and I forced my thin lips into a smile. Elijah, on the other hand, didn’t have to feign happiness. He raised the brown paper bags with the booze in the air as he and his older brother embraced, patting backs as joyfully as Santa Claus. The bottles clinked as he held the bags together, playing percussion to their deep chuckles. My soprano no match for their tenor.
After their boisterous hellos, I followed the familial crowd into a spacious kitchen. Elijah set the packages on a glass table and brought a bottle of soda from the fridge. I grabbed the rum and soda, leaving behind a six-pack of Yuengling and a bottle of vodka. I twisted the cap open and the potent smell of alcohol hit my nostrils. Elijah, still in harmony with his brother, handed me a glass while the soda hissed and foamed. I filled the glass slowly in an effort to measure my alcohol intake, but Conchita smacked my funny bone and tipped my elbow.
The glass was officially half empty.
By my third drink, my legs were mush. By my fourth, I spoke like a loud and whiny slobbering drunk who pled for spare change. Elijah sat across from me watching as I unraveled with every sip and refill. Hand on frosty beer, he entertained his younger brother and first cousin. They told stories of childhood, excavating photographs from boxes, laughing as each embarrassing photo was hung on the refrigerator with a magnet. I pretended to care, smirking and nodding along with their tales of innocent mischief, then rose from the stool, my legs heavy.
I walked over to the kitchen counter and caressed the bottle. My chest tightened. Conchita could no longer be contained. She gripped my hand and my long fingers crept up the bottle. Urged me to take one more sip, to succumb to the anxiety that was brimming at the surface of confident, resilient Sujeiry. That Sujeiry was not present. She checked out, picked up the glass bottle and tipped it forward. Liquid courage flowed and filled the once empty glass three quarters of the way. The bottle slid down my fingertips before standing tall and vacant.
“Babe, are you sure you should drink another one? You’re getting pretty loud.”
The concern in his voice was more for his reputation. My obnoxious behavior was tainting my pristine image, and, in turn, his. I didn’t care. My eyes narrowed and I brought the glass to my mouth. The glass kissed my lips as I swigged two-thirds of the rum and muttered with spite, “I’m fine. Don’t tell me what to do.”
That was Conchita talking.
He turned away from my glare, reached for the 6-pack and coolly popped open another beer. I stood there, gulping my rum and coke and mad dogging Elijah as he continued conversing with loved ones. Something was different. He was different.
Everything then blurred. Broad shoulders, animated faces, and expressive hands: everything swirled together. I dragged my feet over the hardwood, shuffling toward the leather couch in the living room. My body sank into the softness of the leather and I began to cry.
I don’t remember how long I was out. I don’t remember when my sobs ceased or if they were as loud as they resonated in my ear.
I do remember Elijah pulling me off the couch and handing me my black peacoat. The one with the broken button he had urged me to fix so I wouldn’t be cold. I remember tripping down the stairs after sluggish farewells. I remember the ride back, the silence heavier now and frightening. Not even Conchita made a sound.
The route seemed longer this time. The branches of the majestic Pinelands seemed brittle now, as if bitter winds had destroyed them in the mere hours we’d spent indoors. My eyes remained fixed on the outside, the window operating as an escape from the confinement of the four-door vehicle. I yearned to be home, to submerge my shame under sheets and blankets to only rise to eat, shit and piss. But I couldn’t speak. Articulating my feelings without blubbering would be impossible. Instead, I swallowed my words, pushing the pointy rock lodged inside my throat into emotional oblivion.
Once inside his home Elijah marched down the long corridor like a Capitán who disapproved of his soldier. I followed his lead; walking behind him, chin to chest. In his bedroom Elijah sat at the edge of his bed while removing his Timberland boots. Again, I did as Elijah, removing my high-heeled black boots while watching him with my peripheral vision.
Both barefoot, we climbed into bed. I lifted his goose-down comforter and slid underneath, holding my breath as Elijah’s bare chest brushed my arm. My pelitos stood at attention as I inched closer, grazing his left bicep with my fingertips. Elijah cringed. I froze. Conchita pressed on and mounted his dark chocolate, masculine figure. Peering into his eyes, we ravaged him, pressing our thin lips against his. Elijah’s full lips reacted, until I pulled at his pajama pants. Like a startled stranger, he pushed me away.
That was all he said. All he needed to say to jab the knife in further and leave a hole.
I knew Elijah and I were in trouble. And Conchita vanished. That’s the thing about Crazy. She causes us to thrash and slam and holler and pout, leaving us with the tarnished pieces. She leaves our side to lurk around corners. She waits for signs of weakness, just so she can pounce. My Crazy pounced. My Crazy took over. My Crazy ruined everything.