Yolanda warms her hands with her breath, lips chapped, her ankles bare—nipples hard as acorns under her bra, blouse, lamb's-wool sweater... under her coat and scarf.
Wind blows.
Flurries dart at collision-course angles.
Passing cars squeak-grunt as their tires compact the snow.

"Let's fuck; you wanna?"

No; she did not want to "fuck." But instead said:


Fucking hurtespecially that first timeduring and after. Though 'later' she regarded it not-much-more-than... messy.

"Got your period, or what?"

She lied.

"Just started."



It is freezing out; her nose is running. Or is it? She cannot tell. Just in case, she wipes it with a flake-flecked sleeve.

Green: WALK
The stoplight, kitty-corner, liberates its prisoner.

Yolanda's got this one leg shorter than the other. Walks with a limp. I tell 'er, "Nobody even notices"; that's what I tell 'er. A big fat lie. You gotta be cockeyed not to notice Yolanda's gimpy. But why make 'er feel bad? People al-ways makin' Yo feel bad, way they gawk at 'er goddamn limp.

"Remember the crayons, Yo; in art class?"

One of the stories Yo loves to tell. She's in first grade. Tells how she trips, spills this pie plate full o' crayons. They 's all broken, most of 'em peeledcouldn't tell black from purple in the artificial light: no windows, the art room just a portable at the playground's outer fringe. Seems passin' out materials was some primetime deal, kids wavin' choose-me hands, like flashcards, hopin' to get picked. Yo got picked; which didn't happen often on account of 'er limp. The art man, I guess, was cool, liked  misfitseven trouble-makersso long as their quirks showed up when they got down to work.

Dressed in a doll-like hand-me-down frock, white stockings, and 'corrective' (that is to say 'ugly') shoes, Yolanda Vasquez runs the gauntlet, i.e. hobbles down an aisle confined by overcrowded tables. She is plain, not unattractive so much as unremarkablesave for her disability, which designates her "a cripple," inapt at winning friends.

"I am doing well until I catch my sleeve on a chairno telling howand that is when they spill; Crayolas in all directions."

There is a pause in the general hubbub. Heads, in unison, turn. Eyeballs gawk... for hours, or so crawls time to the child who stands as stunned as a headlamp-transfixed deer.

"I think I will die. I mean, I am only six years old and no one in my class, my school is lame. But the teacher does not laugh, or yell, or anything! He walks straight toward me, kneels on the floor, and togetherside-by-sidewe pick up the crayons."

And she goes back ev'ry Fall; do you believe it? Fifteen years; this guy 's still teachin' there. Calls 'er "Yo," like I do. Calls 'er "beautiful." Must be cracked; my Yo 's no beauty.

She's no mule-face, either; I'm not embarrassed or ashamed or anythin'; you know, bein' seen with 'er? Fact she's pretty. Sort of. To me, she iswhich is prob'bly on account o' how well I know 'er. Gotta know a person inside before you say they're beautiful... which I told 'er once. Yo smiled. When she smiled like that, she was.

But marriage? Ha!

"Forget it, Yo. I'm not the marryin' kind."

A shadow casts itself across Yo's homely features, their moon-like luster shrouded as by a reminder she hopes her hope in vain; Max will not wed.

is treating me sadly
wounding me badly
I'm lost without you.
is dimming my lights
bruising my nights
my heart's black and blue.
never suspected
always accepted
stood by your side.
walled off your feelings
hid all your dealings
cheated then lied.

tell me this
did you go away?
tell me this
have you gone?

A pop song blares from the juke box as Max pours ketchup over fries, recalling the hurt he causedwithout really meaning to.

(to hear song click juke box above)

Marry Yolanda? Come on; no way!

tell me this
did you think I'd do?
tell me this
did you think of us?

Yo 's got this pie-in-the-sky idea 'bout us teamin' up. Not shackin' upwhich I wouldn't mind; wants that we get hitched. In church. In public!

once were like flowers
communing for hours
unfazed by time.
shared all our senses
banished past tenses
our differences rhymed.
tell me this
could you say those things?
tell me this
do you think you are?

I tell 'er, "What the frig for? If you love me, love me. When you don't no more, we're through." That's how it turns out anyway, license or not.

Max eats french-fry after french-fry, as the juke box CD wails.

now weeps like a willow
dampens my pillow
robs me of breath.
taps on my shoulder
turns my blood colder
hastens my death.
tell me this
did you go away?
tell me this
have you gone?
Oh, why
tell me this
did you go away?
tell me this
have you gone?

have you gone?
have you gone?

It's crap like that puts 'em up to it"Have You Gone." Song makes me puke. Yolanda's favorite. Which I can't figure out since it always makes 'er cry... Not over me, by the way; over that louse who popped 'er cherry. She's twelve. And, like all girls twelve, tried to act like seventeen. So o' course he fucked 'er. Then fucked 'er over. Tough luck. "Shit happens," the saying goes... And now she's scared to death ol' Max will do the same.

The line of quarters Max has been feeding into the juke box is at its end. He jams the last one in and punchesfor the umpteenth timeselection BB4.

"You could do better," is what I tell 'er. She comes back with, "You could do better, is what you mean." Then clams up like 'the truth ain't nothin' but the truth' and Jo just swore to it.

The fries go down mechanicallyas have the burger and shake before them. Max high-signs the waitress and orders a diet Coke... returning, then, to his theme.

The thing of it is, I like Yolanda... could say I love 'er. Easy to be with. Not bad to look at. And when she green-lights sexwhich ain't too oftenshe's great in the sack. Though fucking outside marriage, Yo insists, is a sin. Makes a "exception" in my case on account o' I should know what I'm gettin'... after we're man and wife.

I keep tellin' 'er, "No wedding. You want me, okay want me; we don't need pre-conditions for hoppin' into bed." So sometimes we get it oneven though she's serious when she says God don't like it.

God, I can do without. It's Yo, I seem to crave: her smell, her softness, her sweet disposition and how she makes a man feel. I ain't all that likeable. The me part. The inside. 'Cept that's what Yo really falls forqualities I don't have.

"Max is very hot-headed; is true."

"Yes, true also; he is aggressive, but not a bully. In his heart, he is kind."

Yolanda leans against the pull, resisting both hairbrush and elder sister's counsel.

"I can wait. Max is troubled, very worried that our love will not be lasting. This is only natural for a man whose home was broken."

"No, his mother left. It was his father who raised Max and his one younger brother. Trust is everything. Maxwell learned to mistrust women at an early age."

"Do you think so? I did, once. I am not certain, now. Men, I agree, are liars; mean and hurtful. But do men behave, in the end, any worse than we? I am lame, and I have suffered from people's cruel scrutiny, yet the glances most destructive have come from female eyes."

"True; those soldiers were nasty. But they were stupid. And all three drunk. I could have ignored them, except for Max... Always fighting."

On a dark city street where curbside drains are trash-clogged, storefronts armored, streetlights unavailing against the crime-infested night, walk three figures / sway three comrades / loom three boot-camp Marines dressed in high-top shoes, baseball caps, and camouflage-fatigues.

"They are talking among themselves, very loudly, until spying us. Then their voices drop. We can only hear them whisper."

In loose formation, closing ground on their isolated quarry, the triumvirate lurch off kilter in a slapstick parody of Yolanda's limp.

"Such foolishness, I am thinking, intends to do no harm. Like children, they view mockery as an innocent form of fun... Max thinks otherwise."

"Real comedians, you baboons are;
manners worse than monkeys. ASSHOLES!"

"Max speaks harshly. Things turn mean... Two are Max's own size; one very much larger. It is him who Max strikes firstdelivers a kickjust below the waist."

A battery of fists, with numbing contact, sprinkles the scene with gore. Max, victorious, staggers arm-in-arm with his vindicated sweetheart.

"I do not like such violence, but you are right; the soldiers were deserving. And I must tell you honestly; it made me proud that Max fought and won."

A chronology of virtue, is Yolanda's waist-length hair, a living record, grown from the day her first-love abandoned heroriginal sin; her fall from maidenhood's graceuntil she swallowed pride, with bitter loneliness, and said yes to Max, trimming tresses, in secretlike Penelope  unraveling her loomhoping for redemption via Max (her second-only 'transgression').

Wants that I should make 'er a "honest woman."

Max shoves his greasy plate aside, reaches for a cigarette, then remembers he has quitat Yolanda's instigation.

Not that she said outright she don't like me smokin'; just sort o' made it known. Like all this marriage bullshithardly says a word ('cept the once); Yo mostly hints. Leaves it up to me to decide what it is I want. By tonight. Propose to her, or else. Never spelled it out, but, boy, she made it clear. Tie the knot or cool itmeanin' cool our 'relationship'which Yo describes as "stalled."

"It is best we stay apart for a time. Both of us must think. Let us meet next Saturday. In the evening. Not before."

Pique disguises panic, as Max mulls Yo's assertiveness, forcing him to concede she is 'his' neither to have nor to hold.

Some thanks, eh? From day one I treat Yo like a friggin' queen, like she 's graceful no matter she 's gimpy, like she 's someone to be showed off. And she believes it. Not from the get-go, but gradually; I'm that convincin'. Got 'er so snowed she snows me. I'm the one should be playin' hard to get. Got muscles on my muscles. Earn a half-way-decent wage. Own a set o' wheelsvintage Buickthat women mostly die for. I'm handsome, for Chrissakes; Yo's not even average; nothin' extraordinary...  'cept for 'er tits�firm as hardboiled eggs after peelin' off the shells. On top o' which, the girl 's got grade-A smarts. Goes to night schoolnot for  some bush-league G.E.D.; I mean college. Computer Science; do you believe it? She actually took apart and fixed my VCR! Don't know squat about engines; that's my department. But Yo 's got circuitry down. Oughta make damn good money, soon as she graduates. Beats the hell outta workin' 'er butt off at Sears.

Have You Gone at last depletes its allocated quarters. The check arrives. Max pays it... buttons his suit coat... plops down a hefty tip... re-cinches his tie... pats the ring-box stowed inside the pocket of his herringbone vest... then exits Smitty's Diner, hothouse rose in hand.

Could do worse.


*     *     *

Have You Gone
composed, arranged, and performed by Rex Padayhag
lyrics by r. muir