Short Stories & Poems
I am a mother of two and only twenty-seven,
working as a teller, cashing checks, and making deposits.
The cowboys come in with large, white, prestigious envelopes
and the ragged hippies with wads of cash.
Between each customer, I glance at the powdered mirror
sitting a perfect ninety-degree angle behind the monitor
cracks and lines form between my brows
That is all I am able to see.
No specs of white beneath the nose.
The hours are long for my feet compressed in shining heels
but I feel safe away from my kids.
On Fridays, I fill my canteen with gin and tonic.
and wait for the clock to strike three
when the fellows come in and flirt with me.
The cheap gin keeps me away from the reality
of the waves of the male oppression
while I smile and sit behind that counter.
The old lady the town calls The Spaniard comes in
right before closing time.
Often keeping the bank open past five just so she can make her daily profit deposits.
I escort her out, set the alarm and lock the door behind me
We often light a cigarette together.
She tells me about her life in Spain.
The economic crisis left her no choice but to marry an American man.
We chatter with laughter.
I watch her fragile gestures swinging her scarf from side to side.
How she flicks her cigarette with class
and reaches into her purse to finds the scent of Chanel
that will disguise her nicotine habit.
My mother who stays home watching over my children
and desperately awaits for me
finds excuses to come to me
and reminds me of the role I am meant to live
The high school prom queen who never felt her zip code
the golden daughter who’s greed and unworthy desires
left her chasing The American Dream.
Before setting myself and my three-year-old on fire, I began a slideshow. The slides are located deep inside my head, and my nerves are the engine that gives life to every image. They come sharp, like the moment I witness my cousin’s cutting or when I saw my sister’s sweat pour onto my grandmother’s apron as my mother held her knees wide open, hoping the baby would come before my sister gave up entirely. The baby never came, and that night my sister left. She left forever. I was secretly envious, and I prayed that she would take me with her. I was just seven years old at the time and still five years away from the possibility of death at childbirth.
My sister’s glorious moment never came for me. When Asad was born, to my disgrace, he came quickly and steadily. He was here to stay, and so was I. Watching him grow up inflicted the worst pain I’ve ever felt.
Once, in a moment of freedom, I tried dropping him off at the police station, where his father played cards and plotted out which newly bleeding victim would be his next prize. I let go of Asad’s hand and left him, there, in a pile of dirt outside the jail cell. I had practiced my endurance for this very moment by running barefoot in the mornings. When I felt the last touch of Asad’s middle finger, I began running. I ran as fast as my heart could carry me, off the coast of Somalia and straight into the Indian Ocean, I went. Failing to recognize that I was not the swimmer required to end this journey, I felt my head pulled back as the fisherman grab my hair and pulled me onto the shore.
What next, I thought to myself as my cheek rested on the white, hot sand. I laid down in what began to feel like the most comfortable position. My breath, in harmony with the waves covering me from the waist down. It felt like the duvet cover the peace corp volunteer left behind after her stay in my village. The times I spent with her brought me the most joy. It was the joy I harness to give me the strength to pull my head back onto my knees and the courage to stand on my feet one vertebra at a time.
When I returned for Asad, his big brown eyes had not failed to drown in salty tears. He prolonged his gaze straight onto the bleeding feet. Frightened by my eyesight, he counted the number of steps it took to returned home. “One, two, three to be exact,” Mommy.
The days that followed were majestic. I was free to love Asad. The second my feet touched the water; I knew I had made a mistake. This time there would be no one pulling me back from the end. I planned the ceremony at 19:30 as the sun began drifting. I dressed Asad’s gown in cooking oil and my own in the gasoline I had stolen from my neighbor after his trip to Dar es Salaam.
As the slideshow ended and before Asad started his regular evening crying routine, I rushed to the corner of the two, and only, dirt roads in the village. It was at that intersection where Asad and I stood. With a calm and gentle smile, I held the matches I found on the ground, two years ago. I swiped one match against a sheet of sandpaper. Nothing. I swiped another. Nothing. I swiped two more. Nothing. No flame. It was the last match I swiped that sparked the beginning of a new life for Asad and I.
Her name is Felix. Her insight is the weight of gold. Like Socrates she travels speaking from the creation of animals to human language. Supply and demand is her strength.
She moves with passion gently. Through air and smoke. Like a tulip that dies in the fall. Her intellect is posed in time. The window of her childhood is present. Like blood running through her fingers.
She looks up. Only down when she looks at herself.
She buys the sun she travels to. The soil she walks on roots her. Breaking through the gravel she stands.
She speaks. They listen.
She signs. They frame.
She talks. They judge.
She forgives. They resist.
She loves. They hate.
Her name is Felix.
Most will travel forty one years and thirty seven days to reach Lady Liberty. Her welcome is warm. Liberation is what they search. Full of dreams to come true. She’ll lure the lonely with desperation. No one reaching for peace will live on her land. She’ll take all that is free and leave everything of value for them to carry on.
She’ll stamp a passport.
She’ll lift her sore with heart and strike without one.
She’ll seduce the poor; tempt the rich and ignore the course.
Her name is Lady Liberty.
Her name is Ester. She stands on stage. No applauses. Lots of light. No claims. Lots of dreams. No waking.
Like a broadway actress washed up by vanity. Persistent is her abundance, modesty is her lacking.
She’ll dance alone.
She’ll survive the storm.
She’ll wake in happiness.
She’ll ignore the wrong.
She’ll birth a shooting star.
She’ll move towards the moon and she’ll land in Mars.
She’ll step with sound and suffer with touch.
She’ll fire. Her aim is strong and her target is weak.
She’ll defend to no end.
She’ll stand before a judge and ask for justice.
Her name is Margaret. Like a flower in the dry desert, her privilege leaves her with much desire. She takes what she wants but never wants what she needs. She knows the depth of the sea but not the distance to the bottom.
Her fragile imagination leaves her in solidarity and little deed. Surround by her state of comfort. Her lips are desperate for moisture. Her skin hopeless by touch, and her nails in despair of scars.
Her name is Katina. She does not let me light her cigarette, except once. When she was distressed. We both were. It was a black SUV that caused our distress. It was a Sunday evening. Food, wine, family, children, and dancing. The evening came to an end as soon as Katina started screaming.
One-shot, two shots, three shots. Katina’s sons ran into her house. Wounded. I ran after them. Pulled back by my pants “Lisa” stop. I hate that name. I hate the man for pulling me back. Though, I hate most males for pulling me back. This time it was different. This time two young men needed help. They needed someone to help hide their guns and drugs before the police arrived. Before they are criminalized. Before they enter into our institution of hate. They are no longer children, they are young men. Beautiful young men being initiated. Initiated into their lives with glory.
Katina and I held each other. She let me light her cigarette for her.
Her name is Chela. She spreads her legs wide. Only for roses and never for thorns. She lives in solitude and full of championship. Her tongue moves with delicacy and her hands with a specialty. She will thrust her hips but only stroke in passion.
Her heat will raise.
Her temper will seymour
Her inspiration is female.
Her vision is male. Her name is Chela.