bruja at heart

‘magic is of the devil, and the devil is not invited into our home’. you remind us, your children, of this as my sister burns red candles and mixes her scented oils. i laugh. as if these things were magical. to spite you, my sister lights a black candle. ‘you are opening doors, inviting energies you don’t know how to handle’, you hiss, like a cat who is being threatened by the unknown.

you head back to the kitchen, where you resume boiling rosemary and herbs. the subtle, fresh, woody scent drifts throughout the apartment, almost warming it. you place the concoction in front of us. it is a soft shade of pink. ‘it’s the lemon. good for your immune system’, you explain, smiling. ‘i put some rosemary in a cup for you, by itself, so you can pour it over yourself in the shower. it cleanses away the bad spirits,’ you add.

i think your notebooks are one of your prized possessions. they are crammed with information about vegetables, fruits, clays, vitamins, herbs, oils, and their healing properties. you know what foods are good for the heart, what herbs alleviate colds, and what can make them worsen.

knowledge is power. you healed your own bleeding wound, with no scar to tell the tale. i still remember when i burned myself on my right elbow, and how you healed my burns. egg whites are useful–they help prevent scarring. my grandpa had skin cancer, and you sent him a package full of vitamins, clays, and herbs. he survived the cancer and he’s been healthy ever since. you remind me of this when you notice me taking ibuprofen or dayquil.

‘i don’t have any money, but in my will, i’ll make sure each of you gets a notebook’, you’ve joked.

my sister collects scented oils, lights candles, and draws the symbols she sees in her dreams in her notebooks. you’ve caught her, and you’ve told her that she is doing the devil’s work. we are catholics, and the priests warn against magic.

i laugh. it’s funny because you are magical, mother.

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the women who wear shawls

we attended mass at an old, large cathedral. its outside is a light beige color that is heavily decorated with carvings of angels and saints. its steeple, incredibly high and wide, displays sculptures of the virgin mary and jesus on its upper tiers. the church’s grand stained-glass windows are unclean, the images they attempt to illustrate indiscernible. the large, round cupola is the only element speckled with hues of burgundy, navy, and deep purple.

the inside of the cathedral intensifies its gothic design, the tops of its walls lined with more angels and saints. square spaces are carved inside of the walls, where life-size statues the virgin mary of guadalupe and other saints are placed in each one. lit candles lay at their feet, with folded notes that ask for the health of a loved one, blessings, the happiness of the dead, a wish. stone columns align the edges of the nave, and the mahogany colored pews situated between them. the alter’s background is embellished with gold, ornate depictions of divine icons and paintings of jesus ascending into heaven. there are an overwhelming number of red flowers that fill the alter, and the tall, white candles flicker beside them.

despite the air conditioner, women are fanning themselves with white church pamphlets. an infant begins to cry, and the older women who wear white or black shawls turn their heads towards the noise and shake their heads in disapproval. i find these women the interesting. they are seated up front, with other families and couples seated behind them. they sing with the choir in compelling voices of learned wisdom, wear rosaries around their necks, and raise their hands the highest while the priest recites a prayer that professes their unwavering faith.

the priest announces that mass has ended and that we may go in peace. everyone mumbles a thank you, father, and makes their way to the exit. the families who were sitting in the back are already in their cars now, driving away—they had left a few minutes ago when the end of the hour struck.

after 10 minutes everyone has left, except for the older women who are now kneeling at the feet of jesus, the virgin mary, or a saint. praying. they touch the feet of the divine and bow their heads even lower, placing their heads behind their clasped hands. before leaving, they make the sign of the cross.

who are these women, the ones who always wear shawls to mass despite the heat? why do they judge the unintentional disturbances of those around them, and recite prayers so loud that the voices of the other families are muted? do they want god to hear them and no one else? do they raise their hands higher than the height of those next to them so they can feel heaven on their fingertips? … they intrigue me.

mamá

i will hold onto the image of your nightly ritual and will cherish it for as long as i am remembering you. i sometimes watch you as your lay your back against our black suede sofa, the cheap older one. your dyed hair, black like a panther’s fur, is tied in a loose bun with a hair tie you’ve found on the floor—sometimes the hair tie is a lime green, a teal blue, or a glittery orange. your eyes are closed, your dark brown eyelids relaxed, and your toffee-colored hands rest on your lap, holding onto one of the many rosaries you collect. sometimes you use the bright pink rosary that has white glow-in the dark beads which was given to my sister at her first holy communion, other times you use the rosary with the wooden beads a vendor gifted to my brother because he figured that my brother needed god more than the vendor needed two dollars. as you murmur the hail mary prayer in spanish, you feel the softness of each rosary bead.

 

you look so snug and comfortable in that pale pink robe that you’ve had for as long as i could remember. the belt was lost in the laundromat, so you now use an incredibly long shoe lace that you tie into a bow at your side. on your feet, you have on those bright yellow sandals with the tiny red flowers and everest green leaves. at your feet lies our cat, basking in your peacefulness. our cat’s eyes are also closed, and her body is laying on one side, her head resting on your leg. you both are there for usually ten minutes. sometimes fifteen. afterwards, you play with our cat for a while. every creature needs a dose of affection, you’ve said to me. then, you come to our bedroom and turn off the lights.