Emily, the truth


Mexico City in the early 90s. I was managing my friend Manuel’s upscale restaurant in Polanco. We served Oaxacan fusion and the plan was for me to open a second one in Los Angeles, once we could find investors. Katherine, my girlfriend, at the time was in med school at the University of Southern California, so I was anxious to get back to LA.

That was before I met Emily outside of my restaurant at 4 a.m. I caught her spraypainting a stencil-phrase over the front door – “El amor es suerte,” which means “Love is luck”.

Trying to keep my cool, I took a deep pull from the joint I was smoking and then passed it to her. “I like it,” I said. She smirked. “Well, then you must be unlucky.”

An academic in art history, Emily was in the DF on a Fulbright, to document the city’s vibrant street art. She didn’t have the defeated demeanor of most scholars I had known, dejected over the futile enterprise of academia. “Scholarship,” she told me, “is supposed to be an adventure.”

Our friendship was cautiously flirtatious. We’d tour the city’s slums, taking pictures of graffiti. Or she’d invite me to galleries, where artists she knew, officially vandals, were hailed as prophets. She’d show up at the restaurant’s bar, smoking a cigarette over a scotch and a book. One night, we were drinking at the bar after closing. The staff had all gone home and we were deep into an expensive bottle of cognac. I was telling Emily a miserable story of my youth and she started to cry uncontrollably. I didn’t know what else to do, so I kissed her, until she started to kiss me back.

I fell completely out of love with Katherine and became consumed by Emily, though I kept both relationships going, unbeknownst to either. I was going to break it off with Katherine, as soon as the time was right. The time, however, didn’t come soon enough. Katherine’s surprise visit to Mexico came at the most compromising of moments with Emily, and stupidly, out of instinct, I chased after her, instead of staying in my apartment to explain myself to Emily.

When I returned, Emily was gone. As was Katherine. I was alone, deservedly alone. A few days later, a new phrase was stenciled in spraypaint on the front door of the restaurant: “You broke your own heart.”

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