Tag Archives: Latina

Little Things

14 Jun

Your little hands are folded over your plump short legs, your feet flat on the ground; you sit on the concrete steps outside our room with your inquisitive face tilted up towards the sky. Your eyes stare off into the distance, past the rusted chicken wire thrown on the ground, past the tree that bends against the neighbor’s chain link fence, past the abandoned cars left on the hillside… Past all the decay that dominates our view- what do your little eyes see?

The sizzle of the hot oil in the pan makes you turn and your chubby cheeks ride high on your face as you smile at me when you catch my eye. I throw another taquito de papa into the pan and you giggle at the hiss that follows. You stand and smooth over your pink, orange, and white polka dot sun dress and steady yourself against the doorway as you lift your small leg over the entrance.

“Mami? Esta bien?” I look down at you and see your concerned face. How can an infant know that something is wrong? You have only been on this earth for a few months and you have been able to pick up on the sadness that hangs from my face.

“Claro que estoy bien mi amor.”

“Comer mami?” I motion for you to stay away from the stove but quickly lift you up in my arms when I see your eyes sadden. You point at the taquitos inside the pan, and inhale the delicious smell of the tortilla, quezo fresco and papas being fried.

I hold you tight in my arms and kiss you; trying to erase any of my sadness that has touched you.

“Lets rub noses! Like the Eskimoses!” You smile and kiss my cheek as I sit you down to eat on your highchair.

I stretch my aching back and look around at the small room: the sofa and kitchen table three feet from each other, the refrigerator, stove, and your high chair competing for the remaining scarce space, and down to my swelling belly that grows with impatience.

Dinner as A Family

10 Nov

She walked home with her eyes to the ground looking at the cracks in the side walk. The cracks seemed to break off into an endless network of spider webs interrupted only by a wad of black bubble gum that had long ago been bonded onto the cement by the footsteps of Boyle Heights.

Her chest felt tight as she took in a breath that was painful to swallow. She observed the apartments around her; the homes that were unkempt and seemed to sag with poverty. Everything seemed gray and old. As she came up to her street she shook her feelings of sadness and walked up the steps to her home with a weak smile on her face. Her little sister looked up from her Sleeping Beauty marathon and gave her a beaming smile that made the corners of her own mouth creep up higher. Her little mini-me was always lifting her spirits.

Her mother was lying on the couch, her tired feet swollen from a full day at work of standing and taking endless orders from pushy nurses and doctors at her job as a grill cook at the hospital. She studied her mother and felt a pang of guilt and sadness for her. How many dreams of hers had been shattered over the years? Her mouth was slightly agape but it didn’t diminish the prettiness of the delicate mouth that always had the faint smell of coffee. Her face was slack deep in a tired sleep.

She waived at her brother and other sister as she made her way into her room that she shared with her older sister. She put her backpack down and sat on the bed. She looked up and sighed as she stood again. She unbuttoned her maroon checkered skirt and slipped it off being careful to fold it and place it on her cupboard for the next day. She pulled off her shirt and folded it neatly on top of her skirt. Now that her sister was in high school she had two skirts all to herself and she made sure she took careful care of them. She pulled on an oversized t-shirt and her only and favorite pair of jean shorts.

The mirror on her headboard stared back at her. She studied the girl on the mirror and admired the pretty legs that the girl had tucked underneath her. She had smooth light caramel-colored skin and almond-shaped eyes that stared back at her with hunger. Stop it, always day dreaming. There was no pretty girl in that mirror just her own image searching for something better.

“Maria! Que no hay nada de comer?” Always yelling, couldn’t he act civil to her for once instead of demanding everything. Every word that her father directed at her mother always dripped with insult and anger.

Before her mother was up from the sofa having been shaken out of her sleep by the gruffness of her husband, Lorena walked to the kitchen and began pulling out the tortillas and salsa so that her father would leave her mother alone. She tore off a piece of the Foodsaver mailer, turned on the one burner that sparked to life on its own and quickly used the paper to turn on the other three burners on the old stove. She heated the beans and the carne con chile. She warmed up the tortillas and as soon as the food started to simmer she pulled out plates and served her father. As she placed the salsa and tortillas on the table she called to her father that dinner was ready. She served him his place being careful not to serve him too much or not enough and wiped any splashes off the plate with the corner of the dish towel. She laid his plate down just as he slammed the metal front door and walked inside.

His cheeks seemed to hang off his face and his eyes were darker and smaller than usual. She knew that he was probably on his 12th beer by now so she quietly asked him if he needed anything else. He muttered something under his breath to no one in particular and she walked back into the kitchen before he could come up with anything.

They always sat to dinner together in silence. Everyone with their faces down averting their father’s eyes so as not to catch his attention. As she scooped some beans onto her mouth with a piece of tortilla she could feel his eyes on her and she focused her eyes on her food making sure she made no sound as she chewed.

“Que chingados es esto? Si no vas a cocinar bien mejor ni cocines!”

Always complaining about his food- why couldn’t he just eat and shut up? She hoped that her mother would ignore him and as the silence continued for a few seconds she started to relax and feel a sense of -,

“Porque no te callas? Siempre tomando con tu bocota.”

“Ay, pendeja. Estupida! Porque no te callas tu? Siempre en el telefono con tu hermana en vez de estar cocinando.”

Her eyes started to water as she swallowed hard. The ball in her throat precariously bobbing up and down; threatening to reject the beans she had stuffed in her mouth. She couldn’t look away from her plate. Her little sisters and brother looked frantically around them until their father finally got up but instead of going to bed like she had been telepathically urging him to do; he let his body fall back onto his recliner with a big oomph.

“Quitame los zapatos!”

She ran to get his sandals and took off his shoes. She brought him the remote before he could ask and pushed the lever back so he could rest his legs and concentrate on the Spanish channel broadcasting the news.

Her sister helped her clear the plates and shuffle their siblings to their room before any more arguments could erupt. She washed the dishes and put the food away in the fridge. She studied the salsa and beans to see if they could stand another day before covering them and putting them away in the fridge as well.

When she was sure everyone was asleep she took out her books and started on her homework. Around midnight she heard the bolt of her parents bedroom door turn so she quickly turned off the light and pretended to sleep. As the toilet flushed and the water swished down the drain he went back to bed and locked the door behind him. She waited a couple of minutes and then turned the light back on and started on her homework again. Between homework she read and wrote and pushed her eyes to stay open until they would doze off around three. The nightmares would not come if she stayed awake long enough.

Baby oil, barbies, and purging

9 Nov

Do you think the mind has selective memory? The electrician that wired my nervous system must have been a self-taught handy man because he got everything backwards.

Every now and then I concentrate on my younger years and I try to summon a pleasant memory but only flashes of scenes appear; so briefly that I question whether they happened or if I read them or saw them on TV and wove them into my fabric of childhood recollections and dreams.

Like the spark from two cables when you hot wire a car, they get my engine running for a second before they turn off and the reality is ignited again.

My father sits on the floor of our one bedroom duplex on Winter St. as my mother sits on the sofa with her legs encircling him.  I smile up at this rare treat of affection that they are exchanging.  His bulging arms and shoulders relax as my mother massages baby oil onto them – trying to ease the pain of a double shift of standing in front of hot oil, boiling pots, and the suffocating heat of the oven.  

My sister sits next to me, a cardboard box – our toy box lying between us – its contents spread around us.

My mother caresses his dark black wavy hair leaning in close to him.

I focus on my Barbie’s head, trying to squeeze the head of a Black Barbie onto the body of a White Barbie; I study the nude plastic doll and look down at my own four-year old frame and I arch my round tamale feet hoping they will look as elegant as the doll’s.

I turn back to my parents but they are bickering, the sweet moment of peace broken as anger rises in their faces and turns to pushing.

My father storms out and my mother turns to me and my heart catches in my throat as I see her desperation reaching out for help, slowly drowning in the sea of her eyes as the flicker in them dies down and she locks herself in the bathroom – gagging sounds trying to purge the disappointment that won’t go away.

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