- Vol. 09
- Chapter 03
The year Dad lost his job,
I wore kelp capes, swam west to the edge of the earth,
learned buoyancy alongside seals until my skin grew barnacles, briny mists swallowed me.
It didn’t matter that the sharp spears of deportation aimed for our slippery scales.
Here was better than there, so, I endeared myself to the salt and sea of Alta Califas,
papaya-colored garibaldis, anemone-decorated legs of wooden piers, gentle nurse sharks sweeping sandbars. After all, the ocean was in my chromosomes. I didn’t need an online test to confirm that.
Dad didn’t believe in God, you see?
Instead, he believed in the sea: in ships that took people away from dusty border towns and deserts—from la migra—to distant lands, like the sandstone cliffs of Orkney where mariner lore of selkie-folk refused to rust.
My Toltec father had caught one such lovely creature many moons ago, on a midsummer’s eve, in New York City: a pretty little lassie that vivified him, hair laced with the scent of a Scottish primrose, capillaries resounding a Norse drum.
The aurora of my zygote.
You should know that there are no directions for such a recipe. It mixes where it wants to, and resists where it doesn’t. It flops like a fish on sand one year, and sprouts primitive appendages the next, like a baby Cipactli. Some of us take longer to crawl onto land.
Yet, in the fluid whispers of water, everything is remade.
Like Tangaxoán’s daughter, the Purépecha princess, who—my Abuelita once told me—is now the mermaid of Lake Zirahuen. She swims through ancestral myths, thicker than mole poblano, vilified like the rest of us; for her tails, her voluptuous breasts, her sorcery and serpentine braids dark as star-nets.
Yes, the year Dad was fired from his job, harpoons flung in our direction. As a half-this, half-that, I found myself returning to the amniotic soup of our bathtub, to remake myself—in magic, in turquoise, in the lexicon of quiet. Before hegemony’s genesis, the hunts, the shunning of the Finfolk. Before “them”, before “us.”
* Alta Califas: “Upper” California
* La Migra: Immigration law enforcement agents
* Cipactli: The first animal to crawl onto land from primordial soup, according to ancient Tenochca culture.
* Abuelita: Word for Grandmother in Spanish
* Mole poblano: Mexican chocolate and chili sauce.