our muddled selves

conducting her nightly ritual, she searched the full length mirror in her bedroom for tranquility. as expected, she saw the disarrayed bed behind her and her absence in the reflection. she had suspected for sometime now that she was perhaps one of those ghosts who didn’t know that they were one, which would explain why her reflection never appeared in the mirror. she would understand her her lack of memory, and the specific memories that haunted her in this afterlife would bewilder her: a last look of herself on her wedding day to an unknown partner, a moment in elementary school when she pooped in her dress during a test, and her little brother’s smile.

she walked up to the mirror, and with the wind of frustration she punched it. shards of glass jumbled on the floor and slit her hands and feet, thrilling them with the high of stings. feeling content with evidence of consciousness, because she believed that ghosts couldn’t feel, her figure began to emerge from a lost realm. but when she looked down at the rose-colored shards and didn’t see her face, only the white ceiling above her, she crushed the pieces and bloodied her feet even more.

unknowingly, her body began to fade away again, surrendering to a reality she fought her best to control.

desperation

an expectation affirmed by memories of
broken, glittered pavements that once led to
fates that promised a happy ending.
we sometimes find treasures in the wreckage–
passionate urges to fold into ourselves
and flirt with addictions that offer us
temporary solace. whether they overwhelm us
or liberate us, we still feel helpless
like those battery-operated puppies
street vendors sell, except the switch is damaged
and we can’t stop our automatic, mechanical legs
from running into the wall.

inconsequential decisions

I briskly walk up to the front desk of The Oakland Tribune, re-adjusting my glasses one last time. With my brown leather briefcase in hand, I smile widely at a young man sporting a comb-over haircut. I pause. He doesn’t seem to notice my arrival as he continues to vigorously type on an Apple computer. “Hello, my name is Cecilia Vargas. I’m here for my one o’clock interview.” He nods without looking up. “Go straight down this hallway, and turn to your left. There’s a sitting room and you can wait there.” I mutter a thank-you as pleasantly as I could, and head down the hallway.

As I turn to the left, I see the large sitting room. There are several long, suede black couches that stand out against the white walls. Several bamboo plants are scattered across the room, the tips of their stalks as tall as the crystallized floor lamps that stood right beside them. A few glass coffee tables were placed between the black couches, with magazines sprawled out on them.

On the center couch sits a middle-aged man dressed in a khaki suit. As he hears the click of my heels come closer, he looks up from reading a Reader’s Digest. “Hello,” I say pleasantly. He redirects his gaze to his magazine, then nods. I sit on the couch across from him, and fold my hands on my lap. While crossing my legs, I look around the room. “Are you here for the interview?” I ask. He nods again. Guess he doesn’t befriend the enemy, I say to myself.

I decide to skim his outfit, and I noticed that the bottom of his shirt, near his navel, is unbuttoned. He isn’t wearing a shirt underneath, and I see the coarseness of his body hair. I raise an eyebrow, and shift my gaze up to his face. Still engrossed in the magazine, he turns the next page. I pick up a Times from the coffee table in front of me, and place it on my lap. While reading it, I cross my arms and lean back on the couch. Should I say something about his shirt?

Minutes pass. I am still reading an article about the wage gap when a woman steps into the doorway, clipboard in hand. “Cecilia? Come with me to begin the interview.”

I stand, smooth my pencil skirt, and follow the woman to my interview.

❂❂❂

After my interview, I head to the restroom. Inside, I set my briefcase down and sigh. I think she’ll call back. It went pretty well. Looking in the mirror, I smile, and I notice red lipstick staining my teeth.

I hope she notices his unbuttoned shirt, I mutter vengefully as I grab a paper towel.

not misnamed

I use to wonder
if I should have been named
something that reminds me of the nopales I eat every morning,
sautéed with tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and chile.
A name with the smoky scent of tortillas I flip
on the comal. A name that illustrates the Mexican sun
breathing life into the Sonoran desert and
small, purple cactus flowers.

My name is Julie
Julie because my parents heard it on television
once and thought it was prettier
than cactus flowers. You see, my skin,
as deep as L.A. sands,
and my hair, as dark as burned corn husks,
confuse people.

I introduce myself,
and strangers say “Nice to meet you, Julia.”
I tell them that it’s only Julie
and they apologize. They say
they thought they heard me say Julia.

I think they heard Julia because
they think I don’t look like a Julie.

beast

i met a beast
who had fur that looked and felt like tree bark. rough,
raw, and broken.
its eyes
seemed like dull pebbles. so small, so unbreakable.
when it ate, it only ate dead things,
recycling limp rabbits and stiff gerbils in its stomach.
its gaze, heavy and studious
prickled my skin, rose my arm hairs.
i ran away.

i met a man
whose words i ate
like cold watermelon slices on a hot, august day.
he worked long hours at his 8am-5pm office,
cracking his knuckles as he typed in his small, unorganized cubicle.
this man looked like the man in the white, pale cubicle next to him
and like the man in the cubicle after that
and the one after that.
this man
pissed on his neighbor’s bushes
purposefully shat all over the toilet, his bathroom’s white linoleum floor
and touched himself in front of his children
who he didn’t think noticed.

i saw the beast again
under a streetlight, on a Wednesday night.
it looked alone, sad?, aloof.
i didn’t think
it should have been the one
alone.