Two unidentified speakers have a conversation about the Marlboro Man. “Durango was his name,” says the first voice. She explains that her friend Romelia used to live with him. “You know her, in fact,” she says to the other speaker. “The real pretty one with big lips.” In any case, Romelia’s friend apparently lived with the Marlboro Man for a year despite the fact that the Marlboro Man was much older than her. “For real?” asks the second speaker. “But I thought the Marlboro Man was gay.” The first speaker is surprised to hear this, saying Romelia never mentioned this detail. “Yeah,” says the second speaker. “In fact, I’m positive. I remember because I had a bad-ass crush on him, and one day I see a commercial for 60 Minutes, right? SPECIAL. TONIGHT! THE MARLBORO MAN. I remember saying to myself, Hot damn, I can’t miss that.”
Cisneros provides no narrative context for this story. There are no visual descriptors, no markers of setting, place, or time. Instead, there are only two voices. And though these voices discuss a very specific cultural icon, their conversation manages to ramble in a circuitous manner. Latching onto the Marlboro Man, they gossip about whether or not the actor who played him was gay, and tell stories about a mutual friend. That they can cover so much conversational ground even when talking about such a specific thing indicates that these two women are good friends simply passing the time, perhaps spending the afternoon chatting on the phone and enjoying one another’s voice. In this way, Cisneros evokes a unique kind of love, one that is different from the kind the other stories in Woman Hollering Creek explore: platonic love.
The second speaker reveals that she learned from 60 Minutes that the Marlboro Man volunteered at an AIDS clinic in his later years before eventually dying of AIDS himself. The first speaker interjects here, saying the Marlboro Man died of cancer, not AIDS. She goes on to say that Romelia lived with him in the countryside, where the couple threw huge parties. Apparently the Marlboro Man was quite eccentric, liking to take his clothes off in public. The second speaker hates to hear this, since she used to have such a crush on him. “Well, yeah,” says the first speaker, “That is if we’re talking about the same Marlboro Man. There’ve been lots of Marlboro Men.” Eventually she says that perhaps the man Romelia lived with wasn’t the real Marlboro Man, “but he was old” and used to give Romelia hell, “always chasing any young thang that wore a skirt.”
The first speaker’s nonchalance regarding whether or not her story actually relates to the conversation about the Marlboro Man is yet another indication that the actual content of her back and forth with the second speaker matters less than the mere fact that they’re having a conversation in the first place. When she admits she might not be talking about the “real” Marlboro Man but then continues her story, readers get the sense that this conversation will continue regardless of its content, that the first speaker will keep telling her friend about Romelia, that the two women will spend the day talking and telling stories, reveling in the joy of close friendship, which so often centers around good conversation and intriguing anecdotes.