It should be no surprise by now that I accepted his invitation to go to lunch. On the ride he spoke in an animated way about his plans for his house. He wants it to have in—surprise—a cowboy theme.
I looked over at him. “My cowboy,” I said with much more affection than is prudent for an ex-wife. Tears came to my eyes and I had to mentally push them back. For all the years I’ve known him, some of the things I most admired were his cowboy skills: riding, roping, lassoing; all of that is second nature. His mother told me he learned to ride a horse before he could walk and I never doubted it. When he rides, horse and cowboy are one.
At lunch he asked, “Are you still lying about me in the paper?”
“I sometimes write about you, but it’s never lies. I might as well tell you now that my next novel is dedicated to you.”
He looked horrified. “Why? What have you done? What did you say?”
For the first time, I felt sorry for him in terms of my writing. It must be scary to have an opinionated ex-wife who writes. The waitress scurried over during this exchange; I think she sensed that all was not well. That was true, but there was nothing she could bring to make it better.
“I didn’t say the novel was about you,” I clarified. “I said I dedicated it to you. There’s a difference.” I went on in an attempt to explain.
A month ago, I’d told him my new publisher wanted to have the entire Deputy Ricos series translated into Spanish. At the time he was happy for me, but it hadn’t hit him what that meant. He gets it now.
“You know,” he said, “when it comes out in Spanish, I’ll know the truth.”
“You know the truth now. I’d never write bad things about you.”
“Except for saying I’m a liar.”
“Why did you dedicate a whole book to me?”
“I tell some of your stories about being an undocumented immigrant.”
He looked horrified. “People don’t want to hear those old stories.”
“I disagree. They do want to hear them and they need to hear them. I want to tell them because they put a human face on a Mexican immigrant.”
“This is a bad time in this country. Immigrants are as welcome as two-headed demons. It reminds me of the old days when we were not even as valuable as cattle.”
“That is the story I felt compelled to tell.”
He grimaced. “I don’t think people will like that book.”
“I hope you’re wrong, but even if you’re correct, I had to write it. And I think people will read it and enjoy it. It’s about a lot of things, not just immigration. That’s only part of the story.”
He shrugged. “Well, it’s your decision.”
“When you read it you’ll understand. My Deputy Ricos novels are about more than just one thing at a time.” Except in the case of bloody shirts.
Years ago, when I heard the first of the experiences my new husband ventured to tell, I was horrified. He was a man I adored and respected. He was, and still is, the hardest-working man I know. At the time I wondered what is wrong with people that we can’t see the humanness in each other. Why can’t we look past skin colors, countries of birth, and the other superficial things that separate us from each other? Why do we erect barriers to love that do us so much damage? I still wonder these things. I still have the same questions. As a society, we appear to be going backwards instead of forwards.
“I have to write about the things that are important to me,” I said. “It’s the only way I can do it.”
He nodded in understanding, but he had a valid question. “What if people stop reading what you write?”
“That won’t stop me from writing.”
The look in his eyes was soft in spite of his next words. “You are the hardest-headed woman I ever knew.”
I can argue with a lot of things, but that’s not one of them.