by María Alejandra Barrios Vélez

This is what Mami gave me: a golden brooch in the shape of a beetle, one single hoop, a sweet tooth, a migraine predisposition, un periquito that has lasted fifteen years, a terrible taste in men—a slightly better taste in women—a love letter from a forgotten pirate, twenty bucks, a love for tarot and this Walter Mercado person, the urge to bite my nails, a huge void in my stomach that wants to consume itself and myself and all my future children, a ranchera craving for when he leaves, un bolero craving for when she left, infinite colors of drugstore eye-shadow that are blue and emerald and bright green that look oh, just terrible on me, but oh, so lovely on her—Mami gave me a song that I can’t remember the words to, her job at the diner, the keys to a yellow car that won’t start and an old Nokia phone that doesn’t have her number in it. A godman parakeet that only remembers her name.

This what I gave Mami: her first migraine, a hair loss problem, a smoking habit, her first chocolate ice cream cone, a memory of a good French movie in an outdoor cinema, at least three mediocre Mother’s Day cards, her fifth car accident, the realization that she didn’t want children, the realization that she loved me—at least she thought she did, she did her best, she really did—her first gray hair, the first time she said “I hate you” to someone who wasn’t a man and a good reason to finally flee.

This is what we gave each other: a night after work looking at the stars in the desert. Picture it: cicadas, crickets and all that crap—Mami pointing at the sky, telling me before she had me she wanted to look at stars for a living, be an astronomer, show humanity that the stars had been here through it all, that they were strong and constant but not reliable and at times, volatile, but they were here, here, here and they would still be even when we were nothing but dust. Picture it: Mami pointing at the sky, the night before she left for good and saying, in her raspy-ever-soothing-caramel voice: “Isn’t that a shooting star?” and “Make a wish! Do you see it?” before the meteorite disappeared and I lost it, too. Dust particles glowing in the sky on their way to burning.

María Alejandra Barrios Vélez is a Pushcart-nominated writer born in Barranquilla, Colombia. She has an MA in Creative Writing from The University of Manchester and currently lives in Brooklyn. Her stories have been published in places such as Hobart Pulp, Reservoir Journal, Cosmonauts Avenue, Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, Shenandoah Literary, Vol.1 Brooklyn, El Malpensante, Moon City, Fractured Lit, and SmokeLong Quarterly. She was the 2020 SmokeLong Flash Fiction Fellow and her work has been supported by organizations such as Vermont Studio Center, Caldera Arts Center, and the New Orleans Writing Residency. She’s currently at work revising her debut novel.


Photography by: Guille Pozzi