Mojito Mojo by Jennifer Anthony

30 August 2008

 Roxie had been avoiding Graciela since the awkward double date the week before at Al Di La, when Graciela had leapt at the opportunity to leave Rickey and their wedding planning for a long stint in Cuba. But Graciela was no dummy. So when Roxie failed to return her phone calls or e-mails, she arranged an outing for all five friends and tripled the pressure. “First of all, it’s Alvin Ailey’s Dance Theater,” Kyoko told a reluctant Roxie. “I mean, it just doesn’t get cooler than that.” “And don’t tell me you have no money,” admonished Allison. “It’s one of the free performances they’re doing this August. This one’s at the New York City Center.” “You would miss Alvin Ailey?” Noelle said, and paused for a moment of dramatic reverence. “Let me tell you a little something about Mr. Ailey. Back in the day, he said, ‘Dance came from the people and it should always be delivered back to the people.’ Now, please. Show some respect.” So Roxie had succumbed to the peer pressure and despite the pre-gig pitching stomach and jitters, had thoroughly enjoyed the performance. But now that they had left the theater, Roxie was feeling tense again. She wasn’t sure what was happening between Rickey and Graciela, but she was mad as hell at Javier for entertaining the thought of leaving her for so long. And unlike the other couple, she and Javier weren’t even engaged. Roxie breathed a sigh of relief when Kyoko launched into a light-hearted bitch session about work. She knew this topic alone could pull them through the night. She could sense that Kyoko was just as eager as she to avoid any conversations about relationships, given the flack she got at the waterfalls at their last outing. Kyoko was still complaining by the time Graciela marched her friends over to the Hudson, steered them onto the chartreuse-lit escalators, and landed them a table gracing the glass floor of the Hudson Bar. Roxie smelled dollar signs even before she opened the menu or rolled her head back to take in the hand-painted ceiling, but she said nothing as Kyoko continued bellyaching. “I have been putting in 15-hour days for weeks now,” Kyoko was saying. “I can’t do this much longer.” “Well, you wouldn’t believe the reaction I get when I try to leave a bit early for rehearsal,” Noelle said. “Mon dieu! You’d think I was asking for – gasp – a raise!” “Raise?” Allison said. “My lord, I don’t even know what that word means.” Roxie felt their eyes on her. It was a round-robin of complaints and everyone had to participate. Something she normally adored, but today all she could think about was how her tenuous faith in relationships had once again been shaken to the core. “Oh, work is the usual stress, for peanuts.” She flipped open the menu and her eyes popped at the price of the drinks. “Speaking of which, I thought tonight was low-budget?” Graciela slipped her menu onto her lap with nail-bitten hands. “This round is on me. The drinks aren’t cheap, but the strawberry mojito is life-changing.” When the waitress arrived, everyone ordered the mojitos. “And speaking of life-changing,” Graciela continued, once the waitress had left. “Rickey and I have decided to take a break.” “What?” Allison cried. “Oh honey, no! You’re engaged!” “C’est impossible!” Noelle said. Kyoko leaned forward in her chair and tapped her freshly-manicured nails on the table. “Enough, guys. We’re here to support her, remember?” It seemed that Kyoko was now ready to talk about relationships. “Thanks, Kyoko,” Graciela said, softly. “It’s been a tough week. It all started at Al Di La last week, on our double date with Roxie and Javier.” When all eyes turned to Roxie for verification, she mumbled a nervous affirmation and wanted to cheer when the waitress returned with their drinks. But when the waitress had left them a second time, the mojitos sat untouched on the table and her friends continued to stare at her. “Okay,” Roxie said. “It was awkward as all hell. Javier said that their band might go to Cuba for three months, and both Javier and Graciela seemed all for it. So much for relationships.” Graciela looked as if she might cry. “It would have been an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “But when I got so excited about it, without even thinking that it would mean leaving Rickey for three months, I realized I needed to rethink whether I’m ready for marriage.” Allison laid a hand on Graciela’s arm. “I’m sorry for my reaction just now. It’s better to be sure than get married and regret it. Trust me.” “How is Rickey taking it?” Noelle asked. “Not well,” Graciela answered. “He’s not speaking to me.” Roxie was simmering inside. “Well, I understand how he feels! Javier just started going on about Cuba, with no mention of me whatsoever. I’m just someone he’s having sex with, apparently.” Now it was Graciela’s turn to spout off. Face reddening, she said, “If you had bothered to call me back all week, you would have known that I wasn’t calling about my own failed relationship. I was calling to tell you that no one but Fernando is going to Cuba. And Javier decided to stay because of you.” All five women were silent for several long moments. Finally, Kyoko raised her glass. “Whoa. Enough of this awkwardness. Let’s raise a glass to our friendship. To forgiveness. And to life changes, wherever they may take us.” Five strawberry-choked mojitos rose into the air, and with them, a round of tentative smiles.

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