Love Junkie, by Tess Almendarez Lojacono.
I had just decided to enter the order of Holy Innocents, when my older sister had the nerve to find God. Now I’m sure you know, as I do, the enormous importance of recognizing the Lord in the everyday, commonplace things one does, but this thing, this revelation, was shocking to us both, because what my sister did every day, constantly, voraciously and without regard to anyone else’s feelings, was to collect hearts.
“You can’t be going out again tonight!”
“Why not?” Rosario was putting on eyeliner.
“And that’s my new sweater!”
“Don’t worry, I won’t stretch it out.”
“I know, but it’ll smell like your perfume.”
“You love my perfume.”
“No, you love it and Steve loves it and whoever comes within twenty feet of you tonight better—“
“Very funny.” She ran into my room. “No problem!” squirting herself liberally with my brand new bottle of Lauren.
I’d see her out later, surrounded by men, letting them light her cigarettes, buy her drinks. She’d wink at me over some poor slob’s head.
For a while I was scared for her because she had what we called ‘an addictive personality’, which was code for ‘she did drugs’. It started with Quaaludes, which seemed harmless enough until you couldn’t get real ones and nobody knew what was in the bootlegs that cost just as much. Then she switched to amphetamines, then to cocaine. She didn’t smoke pot—said it made her stupid. Yeah, and cocaine made her so smart. What a simpleton!
That was right around the time I heard a priest say, “Fight your greatest battles on your knees.” So I prayed for guidance, for confirmation of my calling and for my sister, Rosario. Next thing I knew, she read an article that said a side effect of cocaine is the inability to enjoy things—food, music, activities, stuff you used to like. Somehow the drug destroyed the connection between the brain and the feeling of enjoyment. So she quit. Just like that.
But Rosario still drank; still chased after men, or dangled herself in front of them so they could chase after her. I thought it sad, because I was convinced she’d never find what she was looking for. Not that way.
“You’ll never guess who I’m going out with tonight.” She was all excited, brushing her hair till it shone. She rambled on, “No? Okay, I’ll tell you then. Last night Chuck and I went to dinner at that place on the South Side.”
“Yep. And you know that cute waiter there?”
“The one you said looks like Miami Vice?”
Nodding vigorously, “He asked me out.”
“When I went to the bathroom. He followed me down the hall and tried to kiss me.”
“But you were on a date! For all he knew—“
“I know. Can you believe it? He’s picking me up at eight.” I made a face at her but she was bent over, trying on my heels.
The next morning I got up before anyone was awake, for my ritual early morning walk. Rosario was snoring, her makeup still on. She reeked of cigarettes. I couldn’t believe mum and dad didn’t know she smoked. I shook my head. They probably did.
When I got back, my sister was in the bathroom. I could hear her throwing up.
“So,” I said to the closed door. “Was Miami Vice all you expected? You think he might be the one?”
“Ugh. No. Definitely not.” She came out, wiping her face with the back of her hand and dropped onto my bed. She chuckled. “It ended up to be a great night—but not because of him. That guy had some nerve.”
“Don’t tell me you met someone new?”
She only laughed.
“Okay,” I sighed. “What happened this time?”
“Well, I asked him if he’d ever been in love and he said he guessed not. He kept looking around, like he was expecting someone. I said, ‘Hey, I’m over here!’ I think he blushed. Anyway, he said it was hard to commit to just one person because you never knew when someone better might not come along.”
“I know. He called it ‘the dilemma of our generation’. Too much accessibility to others.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means we’re looking for perfection instead of love.”
Rosario stretched. She got up on one elbow. “I don’t know. I thought I was just having fun.”
“This is what you call fun.”
“Well, it was. You know, dressing up, meeting people, getting to be whoever I want for the night.”
“What are you talking about? You’re still you, Rosario, no matter what you’re wearing.”
“I know that and you know that—but people who don’t know me are easy to play with, to impress. Sometimes I’m an artist and sometimes a professional and always independent, always free.”
“Oh, yeah. Real independent, in her sister’s clothes with her boyfriends’ money.”
“But they don’t know that.”
“And if they did?”
She frowned, flopped down again. “Then they’d probably hate me or worse, pity me.”
“So instead, you make them wait till they’re in love with you to hate you.”
“Ha. Good one. But listen, here’s what got me: once I thought about it I realized it must be more than that! I mean, I must be looking for something too, for some kind of perfect love.”
“There’s only one perfect love, Rosario, you know that.”
She sat up. “Exactly! That’s what I mean. I finally get it.” She clasped her hands together and if I didn’t know better I would have thought her play-acting. “The One who really loves me, sacrificed Himself for me, so I could run around partying, sleeping with people, hating them, hating me until BANG! I came smack up against Him! Like, if I never ran around, would I ever have figured it out?”
“I did,” I whispered, but she didn’t hear.
“So all this partying and dating and sex was just me flinging myself at human love, which will never rival what I really crave.”
I sat next to her on my bed. “And what is that?”
“I want to want Him.”
“So ask Him.”
“Really? That’s all I have to do?”
Rosario slid to her knees and stayed there, the heels of her hands pressed to her eyes. I went down to breakfast. When I came back, she was still there, hadn’t moved at all.
Tess Almendarez-Lojacono is a writer, business owner and a teacher. Her company, Fine Art Miracles, seeks to accomplish two goals: 1) to bring attention to the underserved through fine art education and 2) to embrace humanity in the elucidation of common experiences and emotions. She has a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University. International Family Magazine is currently publishing stories from her collection called Milagros under the heading of Latin Families. Her story Walls appeared in Offcourse Issue #33.
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