By the early part of 1953 I had fallen deeply in love with that girl I secretly named “my China doll.” At the time I thought it funny that, here we would meet so often and I still didn’t know her real name. So, during one of those meetings-turned-dates I asked her, “By the way, what’s your name?” She answered nonchalantly, “Pug!” as if I should have known this by this time in our relationship, or a fact someone should have informed me about a long time ago.
“What kind of a name is Pug?” I said. “Pug…like the dog,” she answered hurriedly and pointed to her nose. I didn’t get it even then and to this day in my life. I was baffled by the thought of seeing a lap dog in the personality of that beautiful girl. I could not see anything wrong with her nose but, she must have seen my puzzled. I listened attentively as she explained that it had been a nickname someone branded her with as a child. And so I joined the rest in accepting the nickname and that was how I described Pug to my sister.
Between kisses and caresses that night, however, my puzzled demeanor might have struck her as saddened. So, she continued her explanations about the issue. “I guess that they thought that it might be because I was so ‘cuddly’ as a child…like a lap dog,” she said. “But that is no way to brand a child,” I said, more hurt for her than she was for herself. “So, what is your real name, girl? Because I am not going to call you no dog name!” I said. After a pensive moment she said, “It’s Flora Maria Chong.” “Now that’s better!” I said, “I like the name Flora.” “I hate it!”she retorted emphatically. “So that is why some people know you as Maria Chong?” I asked her again.
All of a sudden she switched the subject around to me. “So who was that girl?” she said. Surprised I answered, “Girl?” “Yes,” she said, “I saw you hugging while you all was walking last evening on Central Avenue.” I retraced my steps from the previous day and I could only remember my stroll alongside my mother. “Oh! I remember now, that was my mother. You don’t know my mother Rosa yet, do you?” I said, still surprised by this jealous side of my girl.
“That was not your mother! I know your mother for years now and don’t tell me it was your sister Aminta!” Well you just ask my mother or Aminta because we had to christen a cute little girl they call “Cachita,” I said almost laughingly. “You mean that you are a godfather?” said Pug. “Yes and my Mother is her godmother, so there,” I said hoping to end her doubts. “We did not have a party or nothing for the poor child; money is hard to come by,” I explained just to get her off the topic of my mother.
She opens her lovely eyes and suddenly says, “But Juni, I have money if you ever need something. Just let me know.” I just got quiet. This was another part of this youngster that continually unsettled me throughout our relationship, especially since I was getting used to the idea of one day getting married and having children with her.
I soon checked into Simeon’s car wash and he asked me to come by in a couple of days because he was going to have some work for me. In the meantime, I had asked my mother to speak to a dentist, a Doctor Ross, to see if he needed an assistant. He was really a mechanical dentist and I had my hopes set on getting a seat at this dentist’s shop so that I could continue working at something I really enjoyed doing.
This story continues.