Alma (Dominican Girlfriend) – Junot Diaz
Published in 2007 in The New Yorker
“This is a challenging and aggressive treatise on one couple’s obsessive, but ultimately doomed, love affair. Right from the outset our narrator is clear about the couple’s incompatibility: “Alma is slender as a reed, you a steroid-addicted block; Alma loves driving, you books; Alma’s nails are too dirty for cooking, your spaghetti con pollo is the best in the land. You are so very different—she rolls her eyes every time you turn on the news and says she can’t “stand” politics.” They have nothing in common. She, he tells us, is passionate and unpredictable and you sense that, despite himself, our hero can see no hope for the relationship.
We are shown in gory detail how Alma’s vociferous sexual freedom and appetite disarms him and seduces him in equal measure. He is lost as to how he should feel. In the midst of their passion our narrator has lost control and his pride is all that he has left to reaffirm some semblance of control over the situation. Our storyteller keeps pushing Alma away until finally he pushes so hard he drives her away for good. His protestations are hollow and his motivations not as he describes. He has had an affair and yet does nothing to hide it from Alma, quite the opposite he details it in a journal she is able to find and read. His poor excuse that he is making notes for a novel feels as pathetic to us as it surely does to her. Who’s he trying to kid? He wanted out but he didn’t have the strength to make the break himself.
This is a subversive take on the age-old theme of ‘can’t live with, can’t live without’ that leaves us guessing throughout at our narrator’s true motivations. He is an unreliable witness to his own tale and it is for us, the reader, to judge what is real and what is false. A clever piece of storytelling full of distractions.”
The SHORT TALE Review 2016