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With Love, From Tia Tania

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Preparation for my boyfriend’s long-awaited visit to the Dominican Republic required more than just a pedicure and bikini wax. He was traveling with friends and there was no way I could sneak him into my host family’s home, so I had to find a place for us to reunite properly. This was the perfect opportunity to investigate the possibilities of the Dominican's many clandestine sex cabañas.

  The Love of Being in Love

More trivia about the Dominican Republic: it is home to the oldest cathedral in the New World. The Dominican Order of monks still thrives, even as other orders have made themselves prominent and as the Evangelical Christian community grows every day. Fifteen pesos will buy you a rosary, ten pesos will buy you a sticker with a Bible verse or saying. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. If God is with me, who can be against me? May God bless you. Jesus and the Virgin stare out at you from bus stops: “Mary is perfect through her love for Jesus.” So even if my host sister washed her hands of the church after Communion, Jesucristo y la Virgen see her waiting for the bus. At night, they see the women hoping the next German tourist they drive off with will give them the money to buy school uniforms for the children, too.

* * *

Our cab driver had chosen the executive suite at a cabaña called Tia Tania. The Boy and I checked it out: there was a bar, a dirty hot tub, and neon lights in the ceiling above the hot tub. The bed was queen sized with only a fitted sheet. There was a huge flat screen over the hot tub, but surprisingly, we couldn’t find any porn. Tia Tania offered a selection of Spanish ballads, but we chose silence. I used the phone by the bed to order a Red Bull and a water. I heard a knock in the wall. The drinks, care package, and a bill appeared in a tiny cupboard. A hand slid through the door to take the cash. I took the drinks and put the money in the slot. The Boy and I sipped our drinks on the side of the bed and realized we were too tired for the romp we’d whispered about over dinner. He set the alarm on his phone for a half hour later, and we stripped down for the spooning we’d missed over the last two months. Once the alarm went off, we rolled over and got started. Our room was decked out in mirrors, allowing us to see ourselves from every angle.

* * *

My host mother has grown out of the her daughters’ music. She prefers listening to jazz standards quietly in her room, her sanctuary. She has a tapestry of the Virgin Mary on her wall and a cross above her bed. Divorced from her children’s father, she does not believe in love. I used to listened while she talked at dinner: “You have to think about your economic situation. Women here, it’s so hard for them to make money, even though they work more than men. If I’ve already been divorced, I don’t want to get married again to a man who might have less than I have. I might have to work hard, but at least my car is my car and my house is my house.” The divorce rate in the Dominican Republic is high; it’s rare to see a middle-aged couple out together.

I let it slip one day that I was upset with The Boy and she gave me a wait-and-see look. “He’s there and you’re here. You can’t be sure what he’s doing.” I was only annoyed that he neglected to call on our anniversary.

* * *

It seems the Dominican love of being in love lets them pretend they don’t care about sex. Only the newer music, the music for the lower classes, is explicitly sexual. And yet, a stranger’s simple, “May God bless you, mi amor” is charged with sex, leaving the listener naked.

The program allowed us to study at El Centro Bonó, a college chiefly for the education of future priests. Carlos was on the priest track. He was slight, beautiful, and aggressive. My phone vibrated constantly with text messages telling me how he thought I was beautiful, how he needed to kiss me to know if his attraction was real, that he would send a taxi to bring me to his house. I patiently explained that I didn’t want to because I was had a boyfriend. It’s just a kiss, he pleaded. Fed up with him for being so persistent and so attractive I told him he didn’t want to kiss me, he wanted to fuck me. He smiled and said no, that wasn’t it. It was a long time before he admitted to having had sex.

Once I was back in the States, I heard Carlos had switched to studying law.

* * *

We needed to get dressed. I called a cab on my tiny Dominican cell phone, somewhat embarrassed to explain where I was. As we started toward the door, I circled back. I stuck the towels, printed with the name Tia Tania, in my purse, as a keepsake.