Abuelitas are the worst. Tiny, embarrassed-for-you bodies of belonging, who clearly see your inchoate chameleon, liquor you at the corner store between the sunflower seeds and the saladitos, harangue you with their aggressive hands and mother’s-mother gaze, interrogating your eye color, if-this-why-that-ing the skin juxtaposition, sensing deep your unrooted mezcla already.
Pobrecito, they say, confirming you don’t understand, pinch your arm and slap your cheek in loving frustration through the crowded aisles and over-burdened shelves of the local while you mutter no hablo, or worse, poquito when you should have said poco though it takes years to know the little difference of little while they laugh their knowing laughs of your learned ignorance.
Dios mio their old grey hair rages at your lost culture, begrudges you because you are their own children’s willful decision to forget, to tuck heritage tightly in husks and holiday packaging, some masa nacimiento nativity candles smoothing over the bumps of difference with that slickened glide of assimilation and god forbid they ask you your name that waves the white flag of erasure, easing your entrance in some rooms prior to arrival but in others, a billboard for all the things they should never have allowed in generation-slow, glacial acquiescence.
Payaso, the abuela chorus sings as it always does while you giggle and humble-weasel out of her tight grip in your practiced performance of don’t-care-you’ve-been-called-that-so-much and awkward backwards shuffle out the mercado and when your best friend, whose parents wouldn’t let you in the house last week for being too brown, asks you what’s that lady going on about or do you know her you just say dunno and hold it somewhere small and deep.
Brook McClurg received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Columbia University (Fiction) and an MFA from Rutgers University-Camden (Nonfiction). Originally from Southern California, he currently lives in Lubbock, Texas where he is a first-year PhD student in the graduate English Department at Texas Tech.
Artwork by: Fabiola Padilla Garcia