I never saw Henry Fonda kissing Claudia Cardinale in those dubbed spaghetti westerns of our Sunday afternoons, when the constant rotation of the fan made my father sleep with his eyes partially open and one of us always accidentally tripped on his foot and woke him up. Startled, he would reprimand in a loud voice: “Dejen de joder que estoy viendo la película.”
Maybe censorship didn’t allow those scenes. We learned that years later when we were still young and watched Cinema Paradiso. All the cut kisses played at the end of the film in a long stream of censored scenes. Maybe it was my mother, who, always attentive to anything sexual, ordered me out of the kitchen when the mean guy put the beautiful woman on the small bed and rubbed his hands all over her even when she said no, but didn’t offer much resistance. “Esta muchacha esta muy chiquita pa’ ‘ta viendo esa vaina.”
Or maybe it was so hot that I decided to join my amiguitas outside to play “el avión” or jump rope. The thing is that years later, many more than I could even think I would ever survive, I watched Once Upon a Time in the West with my sons. I told them I had watched the film, but I didn’t remember the scene. “Maybe it was cut. That that movie in my time would have been a Class C. That’s how we said rated R in Venezuela when we were growing up,” I said.
My husband added, “Definitely class C.”
My son said, “Mom, you were so sheltered.”
I wanted to scream back, “Sheltered my butt.”
But my husband stepped in. “She wasn’t sheltered, and that was the time of censorship.”
“Sheltered childhood,” my son teased without knowing that the bad guys stepped out of the TV from time to time.
My brothers and I took turns playing monsters and superheroes, cowboys and Indians, cops and bandits. We wrestled each other to the ground during the commercials and sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the TV in afterschool cartoon-watching marathons. We pretended to be the heroes of Japanese series Ultraman, or Meteoro, or the American series Lone Ranger and Tonto, or El Zorro, or Batman and Robin. In the pecking order, I was last and never got a chance of playing the good guys. I was always a villain; a stupid one that got caught all the time, or el sapo, the snitch.
My light brown curly hair was cut short for convenience. It was difficult to handle and there were five of us. All boys but me, although with my tomboyish manners I acted like one. In the afternoons, I ditched the red gingham jumper and white socks of my school uniform for comfy pants. “Yellow dyke,” my mother said when she couldn’t make me do girl things.
That was until I “developed,” when she changed the “dyke” for “whore” and invited my brothers to finger me. Then whenever we wrestled things went inside me, but like Claudia Cardinale, I didn’t resist much.
I don’t remember the steamy scenes of some spaghetti westerns. Maybe it was censorship. Or maybe I didn’t want to be the snitch, and get beaten all over again.
Lisbeth Coiman is a bilingual writer standing (unbalanced) on a blurred line between fiction and memoir. She has wandered the immigration path from Venezuela to Canada to Los Angeles. As an immigrant, she has performed every job to survive in this country, from cleaning lady to college administrator, and currently earns a living as a Spanish tutor. She is also an In Our Own Voice presenter for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and speaks publicly against the stigma on the mentally ill. Her work has appeared in Hipmamazine, Literary Kitchen, YAY LA magazine, Nailed Magazine, and Entropy. Her debut memoir, I Asked the Blue Heron, was released in 2017.