If You Want More Proof She's Not Puerto Rican
By Jenny Irizary
If you want any more proof she’s not Puerto Rican
she’s never made sofrito
I’m kidding; she’s never made it
but that’s not my cooking
base to care about.
All she knows is what a waitress told her
at that restaurant where my ex-sancha works.
We’re both married, children with other people
and she didn’t like me to begin with any
more than I liked her
always calling me Camello
head shape joke.
Emelia with her big forehead
from that little no-nothing place, Santa Ana de Michoacán
I don’t know how she thought she could say anything.
Anyway, I made up the lie to make her jealous
and she just asked what Emelia’s breasts felt like
how they moved when she was on top of me
this girl she wanted
a part of herself
not my problem and not Emelia’s
so I invited Emelia over and we hung out
don’t remember if we even had sex
but we remembered
things like knowing everyone who comes out
on Sunday night
knowing that you’ll know your children’s children
or it seemed like that then.
Stars straight down
the road uninterrupted by a break between land and sky.
Both of us were just museum
dummies come to life
to that güera,
a sculpture with real working parts
out of her mother’s old anthropology textbooks.
And she took all our jokes about it,
all of it,
her body our bodies
believed we hated ourselves
each other, when she was the one
who wanted to be anything but us.
I met some paísanos convinced they were
descended from Cortés
acting like having five cousins named Martin makes you the direct line
pureza de sangre
jaliciense that isn’t Olmec, Toltec, and all the other people that never get
their names in the history books the three of us read as kids.
That was the other
thing she thought
Emelia and I were uneducated like the people in her town,
when she’d never bothered to read even the aforementioned anthropology texts,
let alone anything written, I don’t know, by an actual Latino.
But we played up the story she read
in at a certain point
because it didn’t matter what I told her
how many times
yes, it’s possible to be Catholic and also proud of religions paved over by it
although I don’t believe
in that curandería shit
my brother dragging my dad to the cemetery
beer all over his atrophying diabetic feet
and then bathing him in the ocean.
Honestly more a vengeance taken
on the man that beat our mom right in front of us
because she was the one with the business sense
dreams we wanted to be a part of
the restaurant she’s forever planning
been planning since she lived in Santa Barbara as a teenager
more urbane than that güera Boricua is ever going to be with her small-town fear
of being found out to be more African and more Indian than me.
Or worse, just as much
martyrdom of the oppressed
superiority of the conqueror
just another woman who’s cried
to me if she could take
back 500 years
maybe we could be friends.
saying we’re family
or her being my sancha was the same as her getting off on Emelia being my sancha
hippie fusion Indian food and smoothies
and I’d rather have sofrito than that
although I’m not a fan of not-pizza, not-burgers, not-tortas, not-quesadillas
which is why I made those mayonnaise
and ham white bread sandwiches
gave her a plastic Dollar
Store Viking hat.
Not because she wants a horn like that to stick in all the women I can have and she can’t
(they don’t want to deal with her bullshit, either).
It’s that she’s not cosmopolitan
she’s a small-town whitegirl who happens to be part-Puerto Rican
a redneck who thinks she’s “above all of that”
because her mom was in some protests and her dad ran away from the fight
tail between his legs.
the names sticking stringy between
our family trees needling her
like her hair being coarser than Emelia’s
I just mean I may not be a Taíno dead
within 50 years of Columbus
or some torna atrás finds-herself-in-the-Orishas
because she actually didn’t have to know that she was anything but white
but I’m not as far from her as she thinks
other times I wonder if she remembers I
am me not her alter-ego.
That’s all I’m saying.