by Rios de la Luz
Saturday means a call from your abuela. She asks you if you have a boyfriend. It is a guaranteed question. Every single time. “Grandma, no tengo un boyfriend.” She insists that having a boyfriend means stability and better self-esteem. No man has ever put a hand on you because it sounds uncomfortable. You kissed a boy once, but the chemistry was forced and his excitement made you gag. He asked if you were okay then tried to kiss you again. You shoved him away and jumped out of his blue Sentra. He was embarrassed, so he spread rumors about you being queer. This was high school, right. He used the term queer with negative connotations. You use queer as an exclamation of who you are. Abuela doesn’t know. You might say something to her about it after she’s disintegrated into dust and can’t tell you that looking for a girlfriend is ludicrous. “Mija, what show are you watching right now?” You slept for twelve hours after binge-watching an historical drama about ghosts and black magic. You can at least tell her about your Korean telenovelas with enthusiasm.
You wake up from a dream and you think it’s real, right? You meet your soul mate in a planetarium on Mars. She’s a Martian, you’re a human prototype, but you go down on each other anyway, beneath the cosmic replicas in the tiny fortress that overlooks the pale blue dot called earth and the real stars birthing themselves and exploding into nothingness. You wake up and she doesn’t exist. You do, but you’re not really sure why. In other dreams, there is a lot of dark space. Shadows overtake the corners of your vision. There are three orenji koi fish that swim in the gray skies as you run through lush green fields looking for the Martian. She’s a continuous theme after you’ve fallen asleep. The continuity you experience in three dimensions is nine to five. In the next dream you’re hauling your TV onto a cliff and into the ocean. The three koi burst out of the sea and one swallows the TV. Its belly is bloated and it flickers on and off with flashes of a woman who is staring through to you. You wake up and realize you would never give up your TV.
Abuela says she will watch your Korean dramas when they are all subbed in Spanish. “Mija, are you looking for another job?” You used to work two jobs. Retail and banking. You were enthusiastic about the prospect of paying loans off early and traveling around by thirty-five. You quit retail on an impulse. A woman with puffy blonde hair yelled at you about a misplaced sign and singled you out by claiming the “ethnics” were messing up the country. You read something online that you wanted to say, but didn’t. You wanted to say, “Listen puta, my ancestors may have crossed a river to get here, but your ancestors crossed oceans to be here and you think we owe you colonizers something? FUCK YOU.” Instead, you took your apron off, threw it on the floor and ugly cried while she insisted on speaking to your manager.
When you fell asleep, dreams trapped you in that god damned mall. You drowned the first night. The second night, you kicked the shit out of giant crickets in the food court. The third night, the mall melted around you and sank into a volcano as you watched the fish fly over you in the pink sky. Your TV was still in the belly of the chubbiest koi. The Martian came back. She waved and smiled within the television screen as the fish flew toward the coast.
You tell abuela that one job is sustaining you for now. The bank job is exhausting. You don’t speak Spanish as well as you used to, but you can help some of tu gente when they come in. The relief on the faces of the women you interact with gives you warmth. You can help them for a brief moment and they can remain strangers to you. You don’t know many people in this city. You’ve been staying alone in your apartment the past six months. You moved away so you wouldn’t have to answer your door in the town you grew up in. The chances of running into cruel assholes were high. In the town you used to live, you chose comic books over people. You chose music over people. You chose dreaming over people.
The Martian showed up in the background of a dream when you first moved to Oregon. She was taking a photo with a faceless person. She had her peace sign up and the camera flashed multiple times until you were transported into a space vessel. You had a phaser on hand as you rode up an elevator with blinking buttons on the ceiling and next to the doors. You snuck out of the elevator and space soldiers in ninja gear chased after you with laser guns.
The Martian remained frequent in your head. She isn’t real, and you understand this thoroughly. She isn’t real and you understand this with a heavy heart.
“Mija, when are you going to visit me?” You say “soon.” Abuela tells you she loves you and this is a fact. You can rely on her for that. Your body hurts. It all stems from your feet. You start a bath with no bubbles. You tell abuela to have a good night and that you’ll talk to her next Saturday.
The Martian wakes up in the core of her planet. She is born out of stardust like everything else. Her first dream is about a world of faceless creatures and three koi flying past her toward a pale blue dot in the black sky.
Rios de la Luz is based in Portland, OR & this story is from her first collection, “The Pulse between Dimensions and the Desert” which will debut on March 11th 2015. She is currently an editor for redfez.net and runs Ladyblog. You can follow her on twitter @riosdelaluz.
Art by Hannah Faith Yata