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Three Puerto Rican grannies on a German train


Can I borrow a pen I ask Crossword. And so the story begins. I am on a train from Amsterdam to Frankfurt and my companions are three stoned Puerto Rican grandmothers. In the diagonal corner across the aisle, furthest from me is Bass Baritone. Her voice, cured by years of cigarettes, rolls out in waves, pounding on ears. To my left across the aisle is Kaiserslautern. Are we going to Frankfurt?, she asks the conductor, Frankfurt Main?, in her thick Hispanic accent. Is this there more than one Frankfurt Main?, she inquires unaware that the English word ´´main´´ usually implies a unitary. Now her panic raising a notch, Can I catch a train from there to Kaiserslautern? I live in Kaiserslautern, she smiles eager for the answer. By now the ticket collector is just grinning and slowly inching away, forgetting to check their tickets. In front of me on my side of the aisle stretched out over three seats, her legs akimbo trapping me in the corner is Crossword. Clearly comfortable and relaxed Crossword sets down to her puzzle, which I notice is English. Her thick black stenciled eyebrows quiver as she attacks the English crossword. Our hands brush, the thick black rectangles waver ever so slightly. I can´t take my eyes off them. I´ve never understood why older ladies insist on drawing perfectly angular black boxes across their foreheads, as if this were some sign of ageless class. Is this train going to Frankfurt?, Kaiserslautern asks a young German man who has unknowingly sat down across from Kaiserslautern. Yes, he responds, unaware of the consequence of responding to Kaiserslautern. I´m from Kaiserslautern, these are my two friends, actually she´s my daughter´s friend, she says this pointing to Bass Baritone. This gets my attention because I would have guessed Bass Baritone was older than Kaiserslautern; her skin is patchier and her hair thinner. The young German student looks like he could´ve stepped out of a Jcrew magazine, crisp khaki pants and pastel yellow polo, however being German the precision is slightly unnerving. Where are you going? Kaiserslautern asks the German, clearly unhappy with any semblance of silence. To Frankfurt and then taking a flight to South Africa. South Africa, the World Cup, apparently Kaiserslautern follows sports. Did you watch the final? she asks the German, my attention is slipping at this surprisingly normal conversation. She appears to be sobering up. Yes. Who won? Spain. Who did they play? Netherlands, well I guess Kaiserslautern isn´t really much of a sports fan. So who won second? Here the German pauses, Netherlands. Who did they beat? Kaiserslautern has lured the German into her trap. They lost to Spain in the final, so they were second and Spain was first. Who did they beat for second? I glance over at Bass Baritone and catch her stuffing a sandwich into her mouth. Half of it hangs in midair, desperately hanging on, afraid of her cavernous maw. She wipes the crumbs from her mouth and off her shirt. Then with a quick shove the final half vanishes in a gulp. So they beat Germany for second? Apparently Kaiserslautern is still trying to figure out the logic of World Cup scheduling. Somehow, the German is patiently keeping up with her. No, there are two separate games one for third place and one for the final. Ok, she says. She understands, I don´t believe it. I don´t even follow soccer because my team is never in it. Who´s that the German asks. Puerto Rico, we´re Puerto Ricans, she says this sweeping her hand covering her two friends in an awkward triangular circle. I look at the two Puerto Ricans, Crossword giving the English puzzle everything she´s got, and Bass Baritone humming to her self looking out the train window. She´s drifting off, her head bounces lightly against the train window, and her humming evolves into snoring. My attention drifts as I catch the scenery passing by.

Who are you visiting in South Africa? Undeterred, the German answers, My girlfriend. She´s South African? Yes, we go to the same university in Germany. Oh, you´re too young to have a girlfriend, Kaiserslautern wants to offer dating advice now. I tune in. Yeah she´s my first girlfriend. That´s good, you should´nt rush, you´re still young. I had my first boyfriend when I was fifteen. He was older. She giggles. I take another look at Kaiserslautern, she’s wearing a tight white tourist t-shirt and too short shorts, beneath her shirt lie three rolling mounds. I´m uncertain as to where the dimensions of her stomach end and her breasts begin. I´d have to look closer, peer over the aisle to be able to fully ascertain. Unfortunately, her belly hides a good portion of her shorts so it is only a hopeful guess that they rest somewhere underneath. She´s sitting up straight, perfect posture, I see though this is as a result of her belly abutting the table in front of her seat; she looks like an Apple logo.

Where are your husbands? Jcrew asks. Mine died, Kaiserslautern responds. She giggles, and so has hers she says pointing to Crossword, still hunched over her unfilled puzzle. Jcrew is a little surprised at this serious turn in events. He looks over at Bass Baritone, He´s dead, Kaiserslautern answers his unspoken question. All our husbands are dead, Kaiserslautern giggles again, we killed them and took their money. I´m not quite sure she is joking.

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