She moves through the restaurant, plates spilling from her arms like feathers on a bird.  Her name is Margarita.  She dances to the clink of the oldies playing on a table-sized jukebox. Her hair is pinned up; each bobby pin representing a different cycle of her life.  One bobby pin stands for the men in her life: an alcoholic father now disabled and bare in a nursing home.  Another one for a boyfriend, scared of her pool-playing skills, that ran off. But not even in the middle of the night does he leave, nor does he leave in the middle of the day, and not even with a Dear John letter.  His choice was simply leaving the front door wide open.  Open just enough for anyone not to care except her.


Days behind their affair, she finds herself stiff as an iron board. A doctor tells her that her boyfriend should have left a Dear John letter: Margarita is pregnant.  At the diner she works at, one of her regular customers offers his services as a private detective and this is what leads her to the house on Westland Street.  It sits back from the corner, slanted like a scared game of dominoes, complacent and rickety. There is a party going on and then she remembers the street so well.  This is the block that she should have moved on.  There, in the center of the block she finds the house that he is moving into.  The front driveway and lawn is littered with cars. A banner over the garage reads CONGRATULATIONS but her eyes refuse to read his name and hers, the other woman.  Does she know that Margarita is pregnant? That while they throw a party in the backyard, a child is growing full belly inside her.

            In the backyard, banners of slightly crinkled white decorating paper cover the backyard, becoming a scene from a lost paradise. It doesn’t take Margarita long for her to figure out who she is.  The white flowers in her hair, Christ-like, barren stomach, slightly smeared lipstick.  She is a good girl, the kind of woman you read about in magazines. A slightly frumpy delight that came along to rescue the bad boy from his mistakes, to steal him from Margarita. A tear drops from Margarita’s eyes as she realizes that this should have been her party. Perhaps she should knock on the neighbors’ doors, introducing herself before she is brushed away as an afterthought. But what about that other girl? You know, the one who came to look at the house with him straight from work, with a smock over her pink-and-white uniform, the one with the gap in between her two front teeth, who likes to carry straw purses and carry a bottle of Hennessey and a Pepsi in her purse.

            Margarita wants to knock on the neighbors’ doors and tell them the truth: I’m the one that he should be marrying. I’m the one carrying a mixed baby. The thump of rap music vibrates from loudspeakers sitting on picnic tables, leaning up against wooden barrels of begonias, flowers that will not return next season. She can see the bumping and grinding of men against women, somewhere in the middle of this chaos, she sees him. This isn’t the customer that frequented her diner. He is a different man. Perhaps a part of her remains hopeful that this is his way of getting back at her and she fantasizes about going into the backyard. Perhaps they should fight over him like two women on television, both pretending that they didn’t know about the other.





But Margarita knew by the neighborhood’s lack of concern over the loud music, the closed curtains from the houses across the street with an occasional peeking back, hiding behind the sun that these people could simply care less about her problems. She gets back into her car and drives away.  Only having briefly seen the woman that he is marrying, she drives down the street in a dream-like stupor, imagining the woman’s hair catching fire or an anonymous rock hitting her upside the head, anything to take away that Christ-like vision of her from Margarita. She imagines herself in the woman’s place, imagines them dancing the night away like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.  Instead, she peeks through the side of the house, her fingers making black smudge marks against the house’s clapboard siding.

            A black man comes up on the side of her. He replies,“ I don’t believe I’ve seen you around.”

            “I’m just a visitor passing through, “Margarita replies back.

            “Are you sure that you are at the right place? You don’t seem like anyone’s type.”

            “Oh, I was.  A long time ago, until one day I didn’t make a sandwich. I stopped making sandwiches, through no choice of my own.” The black man looks at her in confusion, but shrugs through his shoulders, a big smile across his face as he bites into a pulled pork sandwich.  Margarita notices punch on the table, and wonders if the punch is spiked with Bailey’s Irish Cream, another lactose intolerant substance. The man offers to bring her a glass of punch, and when she refuses, Margarita knows that it is time for her to leave.

            Moving along Westland Street, she can watch the trees free fall leaves on top of her car.  She thinks of her lack of action choices: the refusal to acknowledge the woman, the passing phrase of romantic projections, the music changing, the neighborhood changing, him changing, just the sort of confusion she needs to realize she doesn’t really belong anywhere.  Where is she needed at that moment? She drives back to her home, realizing that someone out there, other than him, will need her to make them a sandwich.       


Back in her apartment, Margarita begins to clean up as if she were at work, smoothing off imaginary crumbs off the tables, spraying them with cleaning fluid and wiping sugar droplets into her hands, only to brush them onto the floor. Then, with her broom and dustpan, she wipes up imaginary food droppings, recounting conversations the two of them had.  He always came in and ordered the same thing: the peanut butter and jelly sandwich special. She danced through the kitchen, placing his order. Looked forward to their conversations about books, about who was a better writer of vampire stories, Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyer.  Looked forward to the quarters he put in the jukebox, playing songs from the romantic 50s such as Pat Boone’s cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t that a Shame.” He had been a lousy tipper, often leaving a pencil-covered drawing of whatever she asked him to draw in lieu of a much-needed cash tip.


She decides to mail them a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. She wants to be meticulous about the arrangement of their wedding present.  Margarita wants to wrap them up the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich that she can possibly make and mail it to them. Just as if she is at work, she takes her time making that sandwich with as much love as possible.  After all, that is how they meet.  He comes into her diner with just enough money to afford a





sandwich and a black cup of coffee.  The lunch special. Margarita prefers ham-and-cheese

but he is lactose intolerant, lacking the stomach to eat a dairy-filled sandwich.


The steps she takes: First, the bread is toasted in the oven, slightly crispy and baked at 400 degrees.  Margarita is careful not to double-dip her spoon twice inside the jar and she doesn’t test-taste the creamy spread.  It is cold, she tells herself, having sat in the refrigerator for many days and many nights, waiting for a special occasion such as this. The lumpy jelly she smooths over, pretending to be a construction worker, the lumpy jelly representing the soft, crafted dirt that she hopes will be used someday to tear the house down.  Instead, her delicate fingers slice the sandwich in half. She places two little candies on top for presentation, but then decides that only Martha Stewart would make such a mess, so she eats the candies and enfolds the sandwich inside a baggy. Margarita then carefully covers the sandwich in the best wrapping she can find: newspaper.


She blesses the small gift to the “happy” couple and places the sandwich in an envelope.  Should she put her return address on the front? Margarita decides not to. The peanut butter and jelly is clue enough who the sandwich is from.  She then debates about whether to include a card or not and decides against it.  On the back of the envelope, she writes the words: To the man who loves sandwiches, here is his greatest gift. She pulls out the correct postage on the envelope and places it on top the mailbox in the hallway for the mailman when he makes his daily rounds in the morning.  Now, the delivery of her present, that blessing is up to God.


After Margarita mails the sandwich off, she debates if she should make another sandwich for her baby and begins to draw a bath. She knew without knowing that the baby is a boy, but decides against making herself eat a sandwich.  Her and her son are going to be too good for that.