Today was the day Mari could stop cleaning up after herself. Her soon to be housekeeper, Delia, stood in the middle of her living room, hands on hips inhaling the full 360 view. After the divorce, Mari decided she deserved a housekeeper. All she wanted was someone reliable. Mari was careless with her belongings and she didn’t want to be bothered worrying about anyone going through her closet, snooping through her jewelry or designer purse collection
“Thanks so much for coming. I just moved here,” Mari shared.
Delia dusted her comment off. “No problem. I work many houses around here.” She paused as a perplexed look crossed her face, “By the way, um, how do you say your name, Miss?”
Mari let a nervous laugh escape. She was unsure of which of the three ways to offer Delia. At work, her colleagues pronounced her name Mary like the Virgin. Her name was technically the abbreviated form of Marisol which was short for Maria de la Soledad which was in fact a version of the Virgin Mary. Her cousins, whom she never saw except at funerals because her mother decided they were on different life tracks, called her by the Spanish version, Mari with a miniature ‘r’ roll, which to her English-only ears sounded like Maud-dee. The third version, which was what she and her parents used, was a hybrid and sounded like Maur-ie, absent of any sound of her tongue tapping the top of her mouth as the language intended.
Too afraid of how she would sound pronouncing her name in Spanish to someone who knew the language, Mari offered Delia the third option.
As Delia tied an apron around her oversized t-shirt, Mari noticed her inspecting the walls she had carefully staged with the art pieces she accumulated during her first few years of marriage to Paul.
“Your pictures are very nice, Miss,” Delia observed.
The collection decorated her new space in a way that defied the bleached walls in her Beverly Hills apartment and the whiteness that extended beyond. The pieces were part of the divorce settlement; Paul kept the espresso machine, she kept the art. Her favorite pieces included original work by an up-and-coming street artist that her mother said looked like nothing more than framed graffiti. Of course it contained the obligatory Frida print and to round it out, a series of photographs of naked women in greyscale, their private parts hidden by obsidian ropes of hair thick enough to belong to a horse and wide stoic pre-Columbian faces with eyes that clenched your own if you stared too long.
Mari both loved and hated the photographs. Since living alone, she began speaking to them, mostly in defense of herself. “Oh shut up,” she murmured on her way out the door to work. “I think my makeup looks great,” she added to assuage her guilt from the twenty minutes she spent contouring her face the way the YouTube tutorial instructed her, sketching lines two makeup shades darker than her skin tone along the sides of her nose and around her jawline, slimming them to white girl proportions. Sometimes she couldn’t recognize herself in her before and after selfies. “If we didn’t have such fat faces, maybe I wouldn’t have to do this!” she explained to the silent women in the photographs. Their expressions remained static, their mouths muted allowing her to still hear echoes of her grandmother calling her pie face as a kid.
Even as an adult she had yet to embrace its roundness. Paul didn’t help by taunting Mari, teasing that she parece india, and never missing a moment to point out the nopal on her forehead that no cosmetic procedure could erase. The women in the photographs never spoke back even though sometimes Mari wished they would. Fill the silence she was now unaccustomed to living with.
* * *
Mari sat sideways on the edge of her sink, her nose nearly touching the mirror of the medicine cabinet as she did her makeup. Unphased by the clicking of her front door opening, she drew a perfect cat eye. Delia arrived around the time Mari was finishing her makeup every other Wednesday. She only had a small window to lob her weekly questions at Mari before she left for work.
“Hey Delia,” Mari said without losing eye contact with herself.
“Hi Miss.” Delia stood in the hallway watching Mari. “Very hot today,” she added, pinching the top of her shirt and making little pounding movements towards her chest to let the air in. It reminded Mari of the women at mass beating their chest three times, a gesture of unworthiness, a plea for mercy.
“Miss, where you work?”
“Oh I work at an organization where I help underprivileged kids in an arts program.” As the words came out of her mouth, Mari heard how her own comment leaked with condescension. She was relieved when Delia changed her line of questioning.
“Where are your parents from?” Delia inquired as she scanned Mari’s apartment filled with art featuring brown people and cookbooks entitled Latin Chic and My Mexico stacked in the kitchen, none of which translated into Mari being able to speak to Delia in her native tongue. She guessed this is what Delia had hoped or at least expected when she opened the door that first day to be greeted by a woman she resembled.
Mari was used to this question from all kinds of people, always having to explain herself, make herself less ambiguous. She had a prepared answer.
“Well, my family has been here for a long time (insert standard pause) but I’m Mexican. And Delia, please just call me Mari,” she insisted.
Mari had only ever been to Mexico once, Cabo for her college spring break trip her senior year. Her lack of proximity to Mexico, however, didn’t stop her from joining all the Latinx organizations on her college campus, some form of assimilated atonement.
“Ahh, so you Latina.” She nodded like she was proud Mari was like her with a smile that said, I knew it and pointed to herself. “¡Yo soy Guatemalteca!”
Mari smiled as she moved on to make her other eye feline. Delia apologized about her English. Mari reassured her. It would become part of their bi-weekly ritual that sounded like, ‘My English is not very good, Miss’ and ‘It’s great. My Spanish is very bad’ that made them both feel better.
* * *
The next week they moved on to their relationship history. For now, their interactions sufficed as Mari’s only courtship. She wasn’t opposed to dating per se. The rabbit hole of dating sites intrigued her, a world unknown to her since she and Paul began dating in college before the internet knew how to play matchmaker. She was fascinated with the idea that her phone and index finger could lead her to a person that was her second and God-willing last husband. Still, Mari feared the day when she could accidentally run into Paul mid-swipe session; see his face on the screen, photos that she had likely taken of him that his future second but probably not last wife would smile at and double click.
After dinner one night, her third glass of wine encouraged her to download a few apps. The next morning she was greeted by an inbox full of winks, hearts, and messages, more than a few begging to know her background or where she was from. The idea of digging through the profiles of men, none of whom she could see herself with, and whose faces were much more wrinkled than her own, overwhelmed her. “Enter a fake birth year to make yourself look younger,” a friend proposed. “Expand your preferences to include white guys,” another suggested. Their advice was buried between parenting advice on their group chat which Mari muted shortly after. Deciding she wasn’t that desperate yet, she deleted the apps. Instead of the repetitive back and forth of the same basic get to know you questions while cradling wet glasses with cocktail napkins or twirling forks around hand-cut noodles, she opted to play twenty questions with Delia.
“Miss, you’re not married?” The question sounded more like a statement, the why aren’t you part of it failing to be pronounced like the silent ‘h’ in Spanish.
Mari pictured Delia questioning why there were no men’s shoes anywhere to put away and how there was only one electric toothbrush that stood alone on the tiled bathroom counter she sponged down every two weeks.
Mari shook her head. “I used to be.”
Delia tsked, a sound Mari had grown accustomed to hearing from all the women in her family. The tsks all meant different things; tsk what an asshole, tsk his loss, tsk that’s so sad, tsk how will you get remarried at your age, tsk you have no kids to show for it, tsk, tsk, tsk. Delia’s tsk was thick with pity. “But you so pretty, Miss,” like it was a shame her good looks were going to waste without a husband. Mari wished beauty was the antidote for a lasting marriage. She would have nailed it.
“Another woman?” she asked.
“Kind of,” she hesitated. “It wasn’t just that. There were lots of things. It’s okay though.
For the best.” Mari meant it too. Now I can live my best life, she assured herself.
“What about you?”
“My husband died. Stroke. There were always other women but we married 30 years!” Delia proclaimed with pride. “He was from Mexico like you,” she said pointing to Mari.
“Delia, you know I’m not actually from Mexico.”
Delia waved off this off. “I know, I know. You know what I mean.” They both laughed.
When so many things wanted to make Mari crawl out of her own skin, Delia had a way of putting Mari at ease. Even in her lonely one-bedroom apartment in the whitest part of the city, with Delia she was home.
“You know my name is a flower from Mexico. Como la flor. We have in Guatemala too but its national flower in Mexico. My husband explained this when he first met me.”
Mari clapped her hands, “Como la flor!” she exclaimed. “I love that song.”
“You listen to Spanish music, Miss?” Delia asked with such expectancy that there was no way Mari could not disappoint her with her response.
Mari dismissed this idea. “No, just Selena. And everybody knows that song. Anyways, I had no idea dahlias came from Mexico,” Mari responded relieved to change the subject from the collapse of her matrimony. “They’re beautiful. You know you can get them for cheap at Trader Joe’s.”
Unsatisfied with Mari’s answer, Delia wanted to know more. “Miss, was your husband Mexican too?”
Mari was the only one of her college group who had married someone Latino even though they had all met their sophomore year when she joined the Mujeres Unidas club, the same year she started dating Paul. Her friends recognized Paul’s red flags from the beginning, almost impossible to miss like the scant fully ripened jalapenos whose skin transformed from green to crimson. Big little things like how he always made Mari leave parties early even though she loved dancing until her overcrowded toes demanded she remove her heels and dance barefoot. Or how with nothing more than a jagged glare he would slice her rants against the latest article from the campus conservative publication in half without saying a word.
The Mujeres Unidas girls accepted her even though her upbringing was nothing like theirs and she missed half of their inside jokes, unable to relate to their shared childhood memories about Sábado Gigante or Walter Mercado, some caped astrologer who their moms relied on for weekly horoscopes. Still, Mari was the only who had a full wedding with a never-ending mass and a reception where she was introduced by her new Spanish surname. Most of the girls had white husbands which Mari considered contradictory to their whole existence but she kept quiet because who was she to talk.
“Yeah he was,” Mari replied.
Delia placed her palms over the middle of her chest as if Mari’s heartbreak had been transplanted into her body. The fact that Mari had been married to her own kind made the divorce seem more devastating to Delia. Mari detected a newfound sympathy in Delia’s eyes. From that day on, she knew Delia would call her by her name. She would no longer be ‘Miss’ but Mari to Delia.
* * *
When Mari got to work, she googled the flower and discovered Delia was right. Dahlias were indigenous to Mexico, used by the Aztecs to treat all types of ailments. They were also related to the sunflower which Mari’s full name Marisol was often mistaken for even though the proper name for it was Girasol. She made a note in her calendar to stop by the store before Delia’s next visit.
On a Tuesday night two weeks later, Mari’s calendar notified her to head to the market on her way home. She hoped dahlias were in stock. She wanted to give them to Delia as a gesture for taking such good care of her apartment, making her transition to singledom easier.
She left them on the kitchen table next to five twenty-dollar bills. Delia was the only reason Mari ever went to the ATM these days because she didn’t accept checks. Mari knew better than to ask questions and it made her feel good to think that she was being an ally to Delia given her status.
“Those flowers are for you,” Mari shouted from inside her bathroom when she heard Delia let herself in the front door.
Delia carried them with her as she walked towards the bathroom where she found Mari every Wednesday morning.
“Dahlias like me,” she said smiling holding them up to her nose even though they lacked a scent. “Very beautiful. Not necessary but thank you,” Delia said as she watched how Mari tilted her head in front of the mirror as she applied her makeup, her way to question her appearance.
As if she could hear Mari’s silent self-critical voice, Delia added, “You look great like always. Don’t be late for work.”
“Ahh thanks Delia,” she replied. “I have an important board meeting today that’s been stressing me out. I just want to make sure I look okay for it,” she said as she leaned closer into the mirror to examine the fresh white strands sprouting around the baby hairs that lined her temples. “I can’t wait for it to be over so I can come home, have a glass of wine and an edible.”
Delia appeared confused.
“You know edible…like weed you can eat.”
Delia laughed, “Ah okay.”
There’s some in the kitchen cabinet, in case you know, you need to take one home to unwind.”
Even though technically it was a drug, it was legal, no different than the bottles of wine Mari always insisted Delia take home with her. Delia swatted her offering away..Mari was disappointed her generosity embarrassed Delia.
As Mari was grabbing her pre-packaged lunch from the freezer on her way out, Delia hovered behind her. “Can I ask you a favor? I hate to ask.”
“Sure anything. You name it.”
“I need you to sign this form saying I work 100 hours….for health insurance.”
“No problem,” Mari said as she scribbled her signature for Delia. It was the least she could do she figured.
When Mari arrived to work she checked her unread texts including one from Delia, “Good luck at the meeting!”
Mari held the phone to her chest and closed her eyes to add Delia’s well wishes to her list of personal power mantras she told herself before facing a room full of bored older wealthy white women whose charity of choice happened to be Mari’s arts organization.
* * *
Delia sighed while she watched Mari get dressed. “Look at me. I’m getting fat,” she said as she grabbed her pansa with two hands to demonstrate this to Mari.
Mari’s lips made a smile tight enough to keep the discomfort from tumbling out of her mouth. The pansa rolls Delia held in her hands prompted Mari to pinch her own flesh under her shirt. Since the divorce Mari committed herself to defying time and genetics, just another version of social protest she liked to tell herself as she took big dips out of her dwindling divorce settlement to pay for a personal trainer and “procedures” (non-invasive ones that didn’t require a knife). Mari found Delia’s chubbiness endearing but she still questioned if she could ever look in the mirror without being disgusted at her own pockets of fat accumulating beneath her belly button.
“You’re fine,” Mari said to reassure Delia about her pansa size, but also herself. Still, she couldn’t help but to ask, “Have you tried walking? You know, get your steps in.”
“Sometimes but too busy with work, my son, my granddaughter…” Delia reached into her back pocket for her phone to show Mari photos of her son’s daughter. In the first, she wore nothing but a diaper and was caught mid-laugh reaching towards whoever was snapping the photo. The other was a mall picture where she sat tentatively on Santa’s lap, not smiling, but not crying either which seemed like a win to Mari. “Her baptism is next month… maybe you come? Big party,” she emphasized with her hands.
Mari nodded and hugged Delia pulling out her phone to capture the event details. “You want kids?” Delia asked. Mari imagined Delia wondered this often when she removed her occasionally stained sheets or when she caught a flash of pink from the First Response box in the trashcan.
This was a question that Mari had an answer to but it wasn’t as prepared as the ‘where are you from?’ response. She blushed.
For years, Mari lied to everyone, including her mother, telling them that she was just waiting for Paul to get promoted to partner before they started trying to which her mother always responded the same way, fearing for Mari’s egg longevity.
“But why? Children are the most wonderful blessing,” followed by, “and you can’t afford to wait much longer.”
“But Mom, Paul says we can’t afford for both of us not to work so we need to be able to find some way to pay for a nanny before we get started.”
Mari’s mother shook her head. “You just want to keep drinking mimosas,” she said throwing her head back and tilting an invisible glass into her mouth.
The truth was Mari couldn’t get pregnant. Her psychic was the first one to predict the blockage, followed by her fertility specialist, the one she found by researching the doctor to the celebrities in town who were all giving birth in their mid-40s. According to her doctor, her blockage was more than spiritual, but also physical, small muscular spheres he referred to as fibroids that littered her uterus leaving no room for a baby. Mari blamed it on the universe. Paul blamed it on Mari which meant if it was Mari’s fault it was actually the universe’s fault by process of deduction. But Mari kept all this out of her conversation with her mother. She didn’t need to know her female troubles which translated directly into her marital troubles. She worried she would find Mari at fault too, blame it on her being barefoot all the time, the cold floor chilling her ovaries over the years.
Mari appreciated that Delia even asked. Didn’t assume like most people. Didn’t ask when or why not.
“Maybe someday,” she replied knowing her age didn’t afford her this luxury.
Delia nodded. “A lot of work,” she said referring to what Mari assumed was children but also interpreted as motherhood. “I can help. I clean houses and take care of babies many years.” Mari heard this as an offering.
Mari repeated, “Maybe someday,” because that was the only thing she could offer back with no husband, no boyfriend, and no eggs on ice. Usually as she slipped on her heels with the front door half open, Mari shouted a goodbye and thank you to Delia. Today she couldn’t
leave without embracing her.
In between stop lights, she pulled out her phone from her purse to message her, “I’m sure you are the best mom, Delia,” she said with a hint of envy that remained undetected via text. “And grandma!” she added. “Although you look too young to be a grandmother.”
Mari watched her phone to see if Delia would respond. Within seconds, three dots danced on her screen as Delia typed, “U will be a great mom too.”
The following week Delia reminded Mari about the baptism. Mari could tell she only half believed that she would actually make it. “I’ll be there, I told you,” she paused. “I’m honored to even be included. Let me help with something… maybe I can cover the food?”
Delia shook her head with a defiant no and put both hands up to halt Mari’s suggestion. “Already taken care of.”
Mari considered what an appropriate offering would be that wouldn’t reveal too much to her assumptions about Delia’s financial status. “Okay, what about the cake? I can just order it and have it delivered to the house.”
Delia considered and agreed to which Mari patted her hands together satisfied to be useful for once to Delia, “Great!”
* * *
Mari beat Delia and her family to the church where the mass would be held for the baptism. She wore a work blazer over a fitted dress that threatened to reveal more than what was appropriate for church. She planned to remove it once they got to the party afterwards. Delia always complimented Mari for her shape, making her hands in the form of an hourglass each time she saw Mari get ready for work. Usually Mari preferred more modest dresses or skirts but this was Delia’s event and she knew she would be safe to set her self-consciousness aside even it was only for the day.
When Delia arrived she beckoned for Mari to join the family in the two pews reserved for them. Mari sat next to his son’s girlfriend, two seats down from Delia. The mass was in Spanish but Mari could follow along well enough that she whispered the prayers in English. Delia kept glancing over at her to make sure she was okay amongst all the Spanish speakers. Mari smiled back each time to reassure her. This was the first time Mari had been to mass since her divorce.
She thought that being married in the Church should have shielded them from their demise, but by the end it didn’t matter that they took their oaths with a rosary dangled around both of their necks as they bent their heads, any hope of resurrection strangled out of their marriage after Mari couldn’t get pregnant.
They got to the part of mass to prepare for Eucharist where they all repeated prayers by heart. This was Mari’s favorite part. As she had done every Sunday since she could remember she recited, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but just say the words and my soul shall be healed.” As she spoke the words, they took on a different meaning as she thought of each time Delia entered her home. What had she done to deserve Delia? It was Mari who was unworthy.
After mass, they gathered in a backyard that belonged to the godparents of Delia’s granddaughter. Mari watched Delia greet each table as if she was a bride bouncing her granddaughter on her hip as the guests cooed at the purity and cuteness of the newest member of the Catholic Church. Delia had been planning the party for weeks. Mari was impressed at what she had been able to pull off and the number of people who showed up who she assumed were there mostly for Delia. Mari couldn’t imagine this many people gathering for an event that she threw. Her wedding alone was less than 100 people and mostly family from Paul’s side of the family whom she never met. Mari had somehow managed to rally a crowd even larger to fit in a backyard. Guests sat at round plastic tables covered in white tablecloths Delia told her she found for cheap in the fashion district with mason jars filled with pink carnations resting in the center. Each time Mari prepared to make her way from her seat to Delia, another person grabbed her, an invisible receiving line of guests formed waiting to get their hug from Delia. Meanwhile, Mari resigned herself to making frequent trips to the self-serve bar and buffet stations. No matter how many times she went back, steam still emerged from aluminum trays full of white rice, black beans, and chicken and new bottles kept appearing at the bar once the tequila dwindled to its lowest point in its bottle. Delia, miracle worker, found a way to feed multitudes as if she could turn water into wine and five loaves and two fish into a surplus.
The afternoon sun faded into shadow but the guests all remained as the music grew louder. When she still believed Paul was her perfect match, Mari dreamed up a scene much like this one. She gulped down her fourth margarita which bloated her with sadness. Being here caused her to mourn the times when she and Paul shared aspirations to raise brown prep school babies whose first Communions and college graduations from a school listed in the top five of the U.S. News and World Report they would celebrate by drinking too much tequila and hiring a mariachi band. Here she was doing some version of what she imagined she should be doing with Paul.
“Are you having a good time?’ Delia’s son asked as he popped open the tab to a silver and red beer can. He had mostly kept to himself watching as his mom played host.
Mari nodded. “Abel, right? Congratulations.”
“I’m glad you were able to make it. Really means a lot to my mom that you came. Oh and thank you for the cake. It looks beautiful.”
“Of course. There’s no way I would miss it and happy to help. Your mom is really something else… to pull off a party like this. You’re really lucky.”
“Salud,” Abel offered pushing his beer towards her plastic cup. “Cheers!”
Delia interrupted their toast. “You hear this?” she asked. In the background Mari heard a familiar voice singing. “Como la Flor!” Delia exclaimed pulling Mari from her white plastic chair to drag her to the dancefloor. Mari didn’t resist. Instead she danced her best cumbia as the mini strobe lights next to the DJ flashed rainbows over Mari and Delia, their bodies swaying to the left and right in sync.
“You love this song!” Delia yelled over the music.
“I can’t believe you remembered that!” Mari shouted back. This was better than any party she would have planned with Paul.
When she arrived home, the fertility tracker on her phone alerted her that her cycle should have arrived. She dug around under her sink to locate her stash of home pregnancy tests. The underwear around her ankles held Mari captive as she sat on the toilet waiting for an answer to emerge from the yellow stream she released onto a white stick. Although Mari wasn’t “dating” in the conventional sense, she still prayed for two lines. She knew conception was unlikely but Mari believed in miracles. After all, she had purged Paul from her life and fibroids from her womb, making space for the supernatural. Before Delia, Mari would have never considered this desirable. But she knew her eggs were dwindling and the ones she still had likely rotting… so what if she became an unwed mother? Besides, now she had Delia to help. Like all the other tests she had taken for the past two decades, a singular line emerged. She knew she should be relieved but her eyes began to swell, wet with disappointment.
* * *
Some weeks Mari left for work early missing her exchange with Delia. She tried to plan it so there was time for their catch up and to give any specific instructions about which things to wash or what food to throw out. Today wasn’t one of those days. While mulling through her inbox at her desk, Mari’s phone lit up with a text message. Mari panicked for a moment wondering if she had remembered to turn the alarm off. The message wasn’t from Delia.
“Hi, this is Abel,” followed by three dots. “Delia’s son.” Mari was confused.
“Do you mind checking on my mom? I guess she was hungry and had some cookies from a bag in your kitchen. Said she started feeling sick after that.”
She imagined Delia’s alarmed call in Spanish to Abel. Her panic morphed into remorse when she realized Delia didn’t feel comfortable enough to call her directly. Mari watched another three dots dance on her screen while she took mental inventory of the snacks she had in her kitchen. She didn’t even eat cookies since she had decided to liberate her diet from gluten.
“I would go but I can’t get off of work,” Abel said, inserting a prayer emoji to punctuate the end of his sentence.
Mari pulled up her calendar to see what meetings she would have to reschedule. “Sure, headed there now,” she typed. As she drove home, she continued to be perplexed. It wasn’t until she was at a stoplight a block from her place that she realized the only cookies she bought these days were edibles of the finest craft cannabis varietal.
When she arrived at her place, she found Delia on her couch giggling at a talk show in Spanish. “Why you not working?” she asked.
“Your son texted me. He said you weren’t feeling well?”
“I feel fine,” Delia replied waving Mari off. “You should be at work with the kids. Just taking a break. Don’t worry. Go back to work. Kids need you. Probably makes you feel good, like mom.”
“Abel said you had some cookies. How many did you have?” Mari asked trying to shove both the worry and annoyance out of her voice.
“Two or three?” Delia guessed. She shrugged. “I was hungry and you never cook so no other food.” She picked up the remote to change the channel to another show in Spanish with some adult clown running around making other grown-ups laugh. “No cook, no clean, no nothing for Miss Mari,” Delia said aloud mostly to herself pronouncing Mari’s name the white way that sounded like Mary. “Miss Mary, Miss Mary,” she repeated laughing hard enough for a snort to find its way out of her nose.
As she watched her housekeeper stoned on her couch Mari’s eyes fixated on Delia’s moist hairline. They traveled down to the gray circles of sweat that Delia’s armpits had spilled onto her t-shirt and finally landed on Delia’s pansa on which her hands rested. Mari felt her mouth go sour, a wave of repulsion breaking inside her.
The only word that came to mind was one Mari remembered her mother calling her when she whined about the tennis lessons her parents mandated. Ingrata. For a brief moment, Mari could speak in Spanish which was as miraculous as if she possessed the ability to speak in tongues. She didn’t know what was happening to her, didn’t recognize the sound of her voice as she turned to Delia and spat the word out as if she was releasing the demon inside that currently inhabited her. “¡Ingrata!” she yelled pronouncing it perfectly, the flap of her tongue tapping her palate as the language intended.
Hearing Mari speak Spanish only made Delia laugh harder. The humor of the situation sucked all the air out of Delia said in between gasps for air, “Now you speak Spanish?”
Mari couldn’t take her eyes off of Delia’s stomach as she giggled. She forced herself to not find this loveable. She envied Delia’s carefree state and for a moment Mari considered joining her and eating a cookie herself. Instead, she marched towards her bedroom and locked the door. She grabbed the remote to elevate the television volume loud enough to silence Delia’s laughter. A few hours later, she heard Delia let herself out.
She was disappointed Delia didn’t even text goodbye which made Mari cling even tighter to a list of offenses she blamed Delia for. If only Delia had thrown some crumbs of remorse towards her, Mari would have forgiven her. Delia who made Mari feel safe, confident, Delia who was so dependable, Delia who should be grateful.
As the days inched closer to the Wednesday when Delia was scheduled to return to Mari’s place, annoyance melted and anxiety settled in. Mostly Mari missed Delia. In between their visits, her phone would usually blink all day with text messages back and forth between the two of them. Pictures of Delia’s granddaughter, helpless questions from Mari about how to remove a stain, complaints from Delia about her son or Mari about her stress at work. What if this was the end? Her heart’s throbbing quickened as she questioned if Delia would return. She had to fix it.
She would text Delia, she decided. Apologize. Offer her a raise. On the car ride home from work, she played the song they danced to at the baptism party, “Como la Flor,” an ode to Delia. She smiled remembering Delia’s shocked look as Mari kept up with the rhythm of her cumbia. When the song arrived at the end of the chorus, Mari turned up the volume to sing even louder, wailing along to the words, “Ah-ah-ay, cómo me duele.”
Dayna is a third generation Angelena whose writing explores the role race, ethnicity, and class play for Latinx diasporic communities when they are generations removed from the immigrant experience. Themes of racial and cultural ambivalence, authenticity, and assimilation permeate her work. She is currently completing her novel, The Battle at St. Martha’s, which tackles the adolescent identity politics of a privileged Chicana in prep school. She is an alumna of Voices of Our Nation (VONA) Summer Workshop, Tin House Summer Workshop, and a graduate of Stanford University. Her writing is featured in PANK and The Seventh Wave.