Stalking Josefina Lopez

Fourteen years ago, the creator of Real Women Have Curves dumped my ass

I do—now. I remember approaching strange women and pleading with them to go in and talk to Josefina and my astonishment when a couple of them did it. I remember at a certain point beginning to somehow enjoy the absurdity and drama of the situation, the sheer awfulness of it (did I mention I was 16?). I remember deciding to go in after her because I couldn't see what I had to lose anymore.

When Josefina speaks again on the tape, she is stepping back from the memory, analyzing it clinically. "What it was, ultimately, was you were very co-dependent. You really wanted to be with me all the time, and I really, really enjoyed your company, and I thought you were so creative. But sometimes I felt intimidated by you because you were so tall. You were six-four with the boots on, and I think when you got angry with me . . ."

She doesn't complete the thought, but she doesn't have to.

"Yeah," I say, with a startlingly false laugh. "I was pretty psycho in those days."

"I just felt like you needed so much from me, and I couldn't give you all that. And I also felt like I didn't necessarily deserve all these compliments you were giving me; it's just that you desperately wanted love. And so I think the unattractive part was that you were very intimidating to me. I felt like if I didn't say the right words, if I wasn't so careful with your feelings, I'd see the wrath of you. That's what made you unattractive to me."

It's as if years of grime have grown over my memories, and now that it's all suddenly been wiped away, I am amazed and appalled by what is revealed beneath. I feel a ghastly pity for Josefina, for what she must have gone through that day, for all the resentment I've sent her way in the years since. I've always seen myself as the victim in our breakup, but while I still think she could have handled some things better (telling me I wasn't attractive to her did not get the job done any better than telling me she didn't love me would have), I see now that she was just a fucked-up kid herself, and if I backed her into the ladies room, demanding to know why she didn't love me, how can I really blame her for anything she said?

My long-cherished hatred for Josefina having dissipated in minutes, our conversation becomes actually casual instead of a pained attempt at casual, our laughs are genuine as we discuss her new baby, antidepressants (we end up agreeing that we were simply too psycho for each other) and the strange paths our lives have taken since last we saw each other. I ask her, not with envy but with genuine curiosity, why she thinks she's on the brink of such success when so many of her LACHSA brethren are now flipping burgers in downtown Palookaville. It's clear from her response she has given the issue some thought.

"I never felt entitled to anything," she says. "I came to this country as an undocumented person, and I never expected anything to be given to me. Nobody was writing roles for girls like me, and I said to myself, 'We can quit now or we can do something about it. If nobody's writing roles for large women, then you must write them.' Otherwise, go be a statistic because that's exactly where I'm gonna end up. People would expect me to get knocked up and on welfare. And so there was something inside me that said there's a need for more writers because it's not right that only pretty or skinny girls get to fall in love or have sex onscreen. There was this fury, and I think that's what has driven me. And I think a lot of artists go into the arts because they want love from an audience, and of course I wanted that, but I wanted something more. I wanted dignity and respect and to represent Latinos in a realistic way."

Shortly before we hang up, I make the mistake of delving back into the old murk one last time to ask about her side of the Confetti Story. For once, it's her memory that's failing, although she says it sounds like something she would do.

"I think it was because every time I saw you, you were so serious and intense. Comedy is about extremes. You were a tragic character, but there was something so comedic about how tragic a character you were. So when I saw you being so serious, it just made me laugh, and I wanted to say, 'Hey, smile—the world has not ended!' It was me trying to shower you with some magic."

Obviously her shower of magic didn't have the desired effect, but I can finally see that it was not the act of baffling cruelty I've always seen it as. At call's end, we wrap up some loose ends and part ways on good terms. I tell her I'm happy for her success, and I think I actually mean it. Will wonders never cease?

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