Two Flash CNF From JJ Pena

Two Flash CNF From JJ Pena

Two Flash CNF From JJ Pena 1920 1280 JJ Peña

he left a lullaby humming in my ears

my mother asks over the phone if someone’s won me over yet, like i’m
a winning lottery ticket: have you found a boy to bring home? she doesn’t
believe my bad luck, that i only find boys who leave me with belly aches.
she says i’m too choosy. mijo, she lectures, some boys look like carcachas but
have good hearts. you have to give them chances. just look at your sister janice. she
found a good man. esta feo, but he’s good to her. 
i don’t humor my mom. i’ve
tried dating moby-dick guys with lucky-strike smiles & it never works.
i’m not gonna give up, settle for less. & then i start telling her about diego. a
summer fling who i swear fell from the stars—freakishly tall with a lion
mane for hair—who i followed on dangerous adventures. we once
climbed an abandoned building & shared cherry cola kisses under the
moonlight, while praying the old beams beneath us didn’t cave in. when i
was with him, mom, he left a lullaby humming in my ears. the first time it happened,
i remember thinking, you were preparing me for this moment. you were singing me his
song when you cradled me to your chest as a baby.
my mom goes silent. i wonder
if i overshared. if she’s gonna make fun of me, say i read too many
romance novels, that i write too much about love. sometimes she goes
on smoke breaks in the middle of our conversations, & i picture her
doing this now, contemplating our talk in the backyard. i used to imagine
she thought about my dad while smoking, a man whose name wasn’t
always a rotten tuna melt in her mouth, a man she once thought she’d
spend eternity with. when she finally speaks, my mom says, mijo, it’s good
you learned that lesson, no olvides eso
. don’t forget the people we hold inside.

 

*

 

cursing myself for trusting signs

my date’s orders pineapple soda from the waitress. he’s wearing a selena
quintanilla shirt. a good signs i plan on telling my friends after our date.
i place my order with the waitress—5 tacos & a limonada— & then we
both critique the salsa & chips the waitress just placed in front of us. the
sauce, he says as he dips a chip, is kind of like a slinky. watery. he takes
a bite. smacks his lips. doesn’t taste that bad though. nothing like my
salsa, he beams. i dip & bite, prepared to judge him. the salsa’s good, but
angry. too much spice. it doesn’t allow the other flavors to grow. you
know how to cook? i ask, envious of anyone who can create food that’s
tasty. across from me, he leans back into the booth a little, grins big: i
mean, i’m a line cook. i know what i’m doing. i immediately imagine him
snorting cocaine while slicing onions in a metallic kitchen. line cooks,
according to my cousin momo, who works in a kitchen, all live out of
backpacks & have drug-showers playing behind their eyes. it’s the only
way, she says, to make it in the kitchens. i don’t ask my date if he’s into
drugs. i decide that’s a future cyber-stalking endeavor. instead, i change
the topic—maybe you can cook for me one day! ha. ha. strange question,
have you ever been followed by a stranger before? this old man wouldn’t
leave me alone the other day. i thought i’d have to murder him. cook
something in his kitchen & feed it to him. my date. stops a little too fast.
a fake laugh, probably. nah, he says, no one’s done that to me. i’m sorry
that happened to you, but can you really blame the guy? look at you. i’d
follow you if i saw you in the streets. i pretend his comment’s flattery &
put more chips in my mouth, cursing myself for trusting signs, which, at
the end of the day, are stories for pajama parties, where your friends &
you like to believe there’s possibilities everywhere, in a shirt, a word,
even in mud.

Header photo © S. Schirl Smith.

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