Isabella Garces: Nini Johana

Nini Johana has big bones, acrylic nails, breasts that are always on a diet. She wears pocketless jeans and hair that glows like Times Square comedy clubs, wields a blowdryer like a weapon unlike the country club ladies who scald my scalp without properly baking my frizz. Thirteen years ago she slept with a police chief, the one with the inky arabic eyes who would never pay child support, back when I was in highschool and pregnant Nini would climb our condominium mountain to prepare me for quinceañeras. Then she met a Spanish tourist who wooed her with euros, an older man she coddled for ten years but who kept fingering his ex-wife and participating in group chats detailing the cakelayer consistency of the neighborhood women’s vaginas. Nini teaches her son to wash dishes, remain silent when he accompanies her on residential shifts, abstain from opening people’s fridges, respect his mother so he’ll respect women more than any of these men ever have. Nini tells me she wants to move to Spain, make more money than the twelve dollar equivalent I’m paying her for hair, hands, and feet. Ahorita la situación está pesada. It’s easier to lose weight on fish but it costs an arm so she buys the cheapest chicken breast on the market. Just for New Years she spent a million pesos inviting her family to San José Del Guaviare, sunning her feet in the Ariari river while her eighteen-year old nephew got swallowed up by a whirlpool. Her family was calf-deep when they heard his screams, his body flailing until it was tossed lifeless unto the shore. That’s what mining does to a village, Nini tells me, coating my nails with the virgin tones of matrimonio. She tells me about the man who hammered his wife’s skull in at midnight, the hitman her godson hired to kill his siblings, how when her father committed suicide she’d watched him stroll around the pueblo as his brains bled out.

She rejects water but takes me up on the coffee, sweeps the remnants of my hair and slides the chairs back underneath the dining table. When I show her the lightning cracks on my nail beds she tells me I should ingest biotin and crush garlic into nail serum. She massages cream onto my palms, telling me that she’s going to do a cleanse and start carrying around a gallon of water. Obesity runs in her father’s family, but thankfully she can lose just as quickly as she gains, which at the rate the peso is weakening means today’s gain will be worth nothing tomorrow, so eat all the yuca or plantains you can before this week ends, mamita. The holidays are over.

Read More