Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Old Italian Man at Playa Guyacanes

April 1, 2006

I was lying on one of those white plastic, worn-out, rent-for-the-day beach chairs with my face absorbed in a book. My plan was to get some reading done while enjoying the beautiful Caribbean scenery and the relaxing sound of the ocean’s comings and goings. I arrived at the beach equipped with my one-piece bathing suit and basketball shorts, extra protection from preying men, because I did not want to be bothered today. I had learned my lesson months ago in Sosua when a group of European men mistook my token-ness at the resort for my being a Dominican prostitute, even in my conservative two-piece suit.

Next to me, and my dilapidated chair, were a group of old men, some greasy-haired, others bald, spitting Italian words and gestures all over the place. Their sprinkled-with-white-hair chests and pregnant guts complemented their tight bikinis. Apparently, they did not get the memo: old men should not try to strut their not-so-hot stuff in Speedos. I attempted to concentrate on my reading, but I was distracted by their loudness and their sense of power and entitlement. Instead of struggling to focus on my book, I turned toward my friends to join into their conversation but was interrupted by one of the bald Italians before I could say a word.

“Americana?” He questioned. It was as though he had been waiting for me to put my book down to get my attention, to intercept my words. “No,” I replied. I never say I’m Americana anyway. “I’m from Antigua,” I continued, giving him the benefit of the doubt although, in the back of my head, I knew that he and his friends had to be sex vultures scavenging Dominican women. “I have never been there. I should go there.” he replied, looking as though he was taking a mental note to look into it for future sexual investments and expecting an invitation to there from me. Then, he told me, in his part Spanish, part Italian, that he was in the Dominican Republic for six months, a vacation from the cold, something he always does evidently.

As much as I did not want to talk to this old grimy Italian, I was curious; I wanted to put a face to these prostitute-searching men. He persisted with small talk, and after learning that I also lived in the Dominican Republic, mumbled, “Maybe, you could call me, or I could call you sometime, and we could get together.” I pretended that I did not hear what he said and sought refuge in my book, which suddenly looked more interesting than it did before. I locked my eyes on to the black letters of the white pages while he remained staring at me, his aged eyes’ burning me worse than the Dominican sun.

Several times, he attempted to get my attention, but I ignored him, immersed into my fake-reading. In the awkwardness of the moment, he conveniently noticed a friend and walked to him, away from me. “Thank goodness,” I thought to myself, and I finally joined my friend’s discussion. In his absence, two teenage Dominican girls, after being called over, joined the Elderly-Men-Who-Think-They-Are-God’s-Gift-To-Women Social Club. I watched these girls, who had nothing in common with these men, try to engage in meaningless conversation with them. They sat among these baked foreigners, putting on a show for them, entertaining them as though they were kings.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, in my pitying these girls, a hand brushed over my head. It was his hands, his dirty, disgusting, women-objectifying hands. All I could think was that this stranger old-enough-to-be-my-great-grandfather had touched me, had run his hands over my head, probably getting some kick out of feeling my what-is-for-him exotic hair. Shocked by his boldness, his utter disrespect for my space, I was unable to speak; I was unable to react.

After my initial trauma, I gave him a Dena-from-the-Bronx look. I felt so annoyed, so assaulted, so dehumanized by the way he petted my head as though I were some animal. Nothing about me said, “Touch me,” but he must be used to getting his way around here. I got up from my on-loan chair and hopped onto another crappy beach chair away from him, something I should have done sooner, and at the same time, something that I should not have had to do. I plopped my book open, looked out toward the horizon, and listened to the ocean’s music drown under Italian cadence.


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Anonymous Carlos said...

Bueno hermana, te escribo llorando de nuevo, porque tus palabras me llenan el alma de sentimientos de los que mi mama y yo huimos hace algunos 16 años. La vida en republica dominica puede ser muy dura a veces y en especial cuando uno esta solo en una isla tan grande. Perdoname por no leer en tanto tiempo pero sabes que he estado trabajando duro para terminar aqui en Madrid. De verdad que te quiero y te extraño mucho. Hasta cuando estaras en D.R.? Un beso y un abrazo. Te hecho mucho de menos....Carlos..

4:50 AM  
Anonymous mainegirl said...

Pobre! Es mejor decirles algo como "Leave me alone."

I am sorry you have to experience this behavior on the beach.

You get approached by old dirty guys, I get approached by sankies.

What is it about sex in the DR that makes it so???

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You only moved chairs! I think you could have come up with something better than that 'Dena-from-the-Bronx!'

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Blogger npujols said...

This was impressive . Now you know how life in the dominican republic is for young girls . Being approached by old mans that can be your grandfather . xoxoxoxo

6:46 PM  
Blogger Risse Alicia said...

I havta dedicate a day to read Dena's blogs cuz seriously they're good!
This one I read all the way through. Omg! I would have reacted the same way if that happened to me! What nerve of people!
If you write a book, I'm buying it! Thanks for sharing your stories. I read the it-takes-a-village type one too. Good reading material. Glad I stumbled across ur blog, I'll have to keep it in mind next time on on the bus without a book. =)

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