I don’t care how educated I get; I will always watch my soap operas! When I sit back and remember hot childhood summer days at my Grandmama’s house, I think of watching soaps. Every day, we jumped out of bed, did our chores, and made lunch so we would be done in time to wrap the all the days of our lives in the realm of another world. A world where characters in the only operas I ever knew anything about were as much my family as my Uncle was. I just knew that when I grew up I would go on top secret missions and save my husband from the dangers that he found himself caught up in. I was happy that I would not have to work hard selling insurance like my Mom or lugging bricks to build other people’s houses like my Daddy, and my Granddaddy did every day. I would wear the finest clothes and set in coffee shops talking gossip with my best friend or my best enemy, depending on the situation.
Boy, I was in for a surprise! Reality was a real disappointment. At first, my life was just the way I thought it should be. I married at sixteen and went to school when I felt like it. At this point in my life, education was trivial, as it wasn’t necessary for anything I was destined for. My only responsibility was to be a good wife and get grades good enough to graduate from high school. Graduation was only as important as making my Daddy wrong, because he swore I would never make it. My life was good! I had my own car, so needless to say most days I was home in time to see my soaps.
As time went by, my life began to change, and I had no control over the events that were transpiring around me. I became pregnant four times before I was nineteen. I had two miscarriages, a stillborn baby, and finally a beautiful baby girl. Things were not working out like they were supposed to be. Where was that nanny that took care of the children while I chased after the phoenix that would never die, no matter how hard I tried to rid my life of him.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that my phoenix was not named Stephano Demarra. He was the man who was supposed to fix everything for me, so I could do what I needed to do. He hurt his back at work and was home all the time. At first, this was great. We went fishing, visited my Grandmama, watched soap operas, played at the beach, and bounced our baby on our laps, laughing at how perfect she was. I could want for nothing better in my life.
Then came that first winter. There was not enough money to keep oil in the heater, the washer was broken, and the diapers froze on the clothesline because our trailer was not big enough for a dryer. It got so cold that the baby had to be moved into our bed, so she wouldn’t freeze. My Prince Charming said he had worked long enough, and he was going to retire. He was several years my elder. I was taught not to argue with my husband from an early age. What he said was “gospel.” It did not take long for me to realize that this was crap. There was no way I was going to let my baby grow up in the cold hell of a hole that was supposed to be my kingdom come.
I began delivering pizza. I had the time of my life. Nobody argued about the small amount of income it procured, as it was better than what we had before. One night, a young handsome guy was telling me about his Army Green Beret adventures, and I asked him if the Army would take me. He told me where to go and find out. The next day, I went down to the recruiting office and spoke to a man in green about my potential in his Army. I took the Army Placement Test and discovered that there were a few positions that I actually qualified for. I knew the Army was the right thing for me to do, as it would provide medical insurance for my baby and me. The income was regular, and it was more money than I had ever dreamed I could make. Along with all those fringe benefits came the dream of actually experiencing the adventures I had always dreamed of.
The hardest decision for me was that if I decided to take this job I would have to leave my baby for about four months while I went to basic training and the school that would teach me how to manage personnel. When I went home that day, the first thing I saw was my baby wrapped up in sweaters, so she would not feel the bite in the air that the open oven was not warm enough to remove, and decided that I had to leave her for a short time. I kept telling myself that in the long run, it would be the best thing for her.
That night, I set about making my husband believe the idea in my head was his plan and that it was the best for us all. The next week, I took a four-month break from my daily familial and soap opera rituals to meet military standards of perfection. It didn’t matter; it would all be worth it in the end.
Three and a half years in the army, another marriage, and two babies later, I find myself no longer taking Army order, but living the good life of a military wife. My husband is a handsome Marine, and my three children make my family a picture of perfection. My life is a dream come true. The days of my life flip over to the beautiful sunset beaches of Santa Barbara, and I realize my error in deciding a few years ago to visit the general lives to those employed in Port Arthur’s distinguished hospital, wiling away lazy hours counting all my children and loving the idea of living my lives one at a time. I immediately return to the soaps of my roots.
I have by now matured enough to realize that the soap images before me are not a reality that I can ever attain, but that it’s okay because my life isn’t so bad. After all, I now have plenty of time to hand down this ritual of deception to my children, as it had been handed down to me. Besides, I have never given up the fantasy that my life can be more than it is. I live on the edge of the twilight zone and loving it. I was to soon learn that I was not the only one to do so.
Grocery shopping is a bi-weekly ceremony that cannot be avoided, as the children have to eat. Today’s trip to the grocery store is far from that of the usual. As I walk up to the check out, I notice a woman that is unlike any other housewife I have ever seen before. It is not her attire, her walk, or anything like that that makes her look so different; I can’t quite put my finger on how I know she is different, but she is. On further observance, I decide that she is definitely a housewife, as her two shopping carts are filled with Tide, Cocoa Pebbles, and pet food that tell a story that is not that unlike my own. The thing that makes her different from the rest of us is a twinkle in her eyes that reveal a fire burning in her spirit.
As I stand in my line trying not to make it obvious I am staring at her, I realize that she like me has visions beyond the line of shopping carts before her. She moves forward and begins unloading the food in her carts, and the girl behind the cash register is sliding the items across the light sensor of the register.
While she stands there trying not to look bored at the actions before her a young man walks up to her and begins to whisper something in her ear. The twinkle in her eyes sparks sapphire as she smiles at him. She smiles and asks him, “Do you have the money you borrowed from me?” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a few dollars, and asks her if she has change for something. She tells him she only has large bills. He then tells her he needs to go to his office and get change. She looks at the pile of groceries that still needs to be rung up, glances over to the cashier, and says, “Okay, I’ll wait.”
After her groceries are rung up, she parks her carts of bagged groceries in a corner and casually walks up to the door of the mystery room in which he had disappeared. It has a plate of smoky transparent glass that allows the managers to observe their domain without leaving the quiet of their office. I can scarcely see silhouettes of their images through the glass, but I am close enough to the office that I can barely hear their voices inside. He tells her he does not have her money, and it becomes apparent that she is losing her patience with him as the pitch in her voice rises when she tells him he has made a fool out of her for the last time. He pushes past her and leaves the office. She comes after him and grabs him by the shoulder, she is suddenly screaming mad and everyone in the front of the store is staring at them. I am embarrassed and angry for her.
She asks to speak to the manager. The manager comes over and asks, “What is the problem here?” She tries to explain it all to him in a pitch that makes it difficult to understand the meaning of her words as they get lost in the timbre of her anger. The manager tells her, “Ma’am this is a personal matter. I cannot help you, so take it outside and resolve it. You are disturbing my customers!”
She, in realizing her embarrassment, walks over to the cashier and tries to explain it all to her. The cashier is so embarrassed that she looks down at the floor. She does not know what to do to help the lady any more than I do. The woman begins to walk away, and as she does the cashier leans over to a co-worker and says, “These military wives, you don’t ever know what to expect from them. They are always up to something.” The woman, in shocked anger, swings around, her long, blonde, immaculately groomed hair flings about her face like a whirligig in motion, she looks at the cashier in a way that makes her turn white with fear. To my surprise, she says nothing at all. She just turns around and steps into the light of the electronic eye of the doors at the front of the store and leaves.
As she walks toward her car, she moves so gracefully in her anger that a whistle comes from the midst of a troop of soldiers that are running pt (physical training) along the road adjacent to the parking lot. She holds her head high and a man standing next to his car lets out a smooth catcall.
The next thing I know, she begins to transform into another person. Right in the middle of the parking lot, she begins to move in a way that makes the troops stop running to watch her. They are whistling and shouting as she strips away the housewife without and reveals the one who is trapped within. She is wearing tight, black leather pants with matching four-inch spike leather boots that go almost up to her thighs.
She starts dancing. Her dance is not your ordinary dance moves. It is a full-blown New Orleans Ragtime Strip. I don’t know where the music is coming from, but somewhere in the midst of the madness is the deep voice of a blues singer singing, “I want to treat you like a child baby.” She moves like the music is the pulse that pushes her through her actions. The men are going wild. They are mesmerized by the magic of her moment. She is working a spell on the whole crowd of onlookers. Two of the men walk up to her and dance around her. She slides her tightly clad breasts over them as if she is a part of them. The noise of the crowd pushes her further into action.
Then suddenly from nowhere a big, white limousine pulls up beside her. A man dressed in white steps out of it with a beautiful full-length coat of silver fox fur. He drapes it over her shoulders. She slips into the car and they drive away. As they turn to exit the parking lot, she glances out of the window of the limo and looks right into my eyes and winks at me. My heart skips a beat, and I momentarily feel weak and faint. I sit down on the cool metal bench that is next to the exterior wall of the store and think, “How am I going to explain this to my husband?”