From The Many Lives & Times of Aransa de la Cruz
Aransa forgot what it meant to be alive when she first found out her mother died. Because Celia de la Paz was undocumented, Aransa could not prove that her mother’s remains were amongst the ashes. And because none of her bosses would affirm that any Celia de la Paz was under their employ, Aransa understood that the only evidence of Celia de la Paz’s existence was the emptiness left behind in her soul. So, Aransa learned that even a lifetime of work could mean nothing in an instant, that the story of one’s life can dissolve in the face of larger, sweeping narratives. The truth, Aransa, is that death has no voice.
Consider the many times when Aransa, a child, would be silenced by her mother against speaking out against the wrongs in the world. Once, a boss underpaid Celia the agreed upon rate for cleaning their house. “You should say something,” Aransa logically posited. “Ay, mas problemas,” Celia responded. Another time, police came to ask questions regarding the suicide of Aransa’s next door neighbor, if they knew anything. They did, the family of Celia, Aransa and Tomás sitting silently in the living room as their neighbor screamed to themselves in the parking lot. “No, no. I know nothing,” Celia said to get the police out of her life. “Why didn’t you say anything about last night?” Aransa asked, Tomás too scared to do it himself. “¿Y que? So they can take me? You want to live con un foster family and be separado from your brother?” And another time, Aransa asked if she could put her mother’s name on car loan applications as a co-sign. “Que no, hija. I’m sorry pero they gonna look a mis taxes and they gonna find something to kick me out. Ya sabes los gringos.” This was all summed up in one quote Aransa’s mother shouted at her once for trying to register her mother to vote for a school project. “¿Por qué siempre quieres involucrarme con el mundo? The world no care about me.” It took many years for Aransa to realize that she didn’t inherit her mother’s paranoia because she could see herself as having of rights.
As it turns out, Aransa’s mother was right after all. How can you fight the largest entity in the history of the humankind, especially if it didn’t consider you a real person at any point? “Your mother cannot be proved to have existed at the time of the tragedy,” the government essentially said in its pristine letterhead. “My mother existed,” Aransa could say to some faceless government worker in a phone call. “Not according to our records,” they’ll say in a calm voice. “She did.” “She didn’t.” Turtles all the way down, as they say. Aransa doesn’t even have enough money to pay her rent comfortably, fuck a lawyer.
Forever forward, Aransa inherited the burden of her mother’s non-existence by going to work, returning home, and sleeping, alive yet not as everyone else searched for their relevance in the new epoch.
Aransa did a few things to stop herself from dreaming. She cut back on her sweets and smoking, though she immensely enjoyed the lingering taste of Coca-Cola and cigarettes on her tongue; stopped watching Italian horror films where blood was bright, bright red; she changed the cellphone contact from ‘Mom’ to ‘New York,’ in case a call came in. She figured that if such a thing were to happen, Aransa could imagine something like the Empire State Building or a large slice of pizza on the other side of the line and not the bald corpse of her dead mother yawning from her last sleep.
Aransa loved films. When she finally thought about why, she figured it was not as a critic but out of love of a primordial solace she found in even the worst movies. In New York, they were a rare treat as tickets ran at least the price of three cheap yet filling vodka tonics she would drink alone while her mother slept (Aransa would invite her mother to a movie as a way of reconciling a fight they’d had the day before, and she would respond with a “sacate.”) Alone, Aransa found comfort in sitting in a tight chair, everything slathered in darkness, a story playing out before her eyes. It was a light, the only light, which rested on her clothes and on her face whose characters lived in a universe somewhat like hers where in two hours many lifetimes, crises, hungers, laughter, sobriety, flaming cars, forbidden kisses, intimate whispers, songs, bullets, careless tears, passing chimes, soaring mountains, and all their friends came into being, only to end in blackness and the names responsible for all of it.
Continuing this tradition in her present, Aransa went to a shoddy theater that closed down when she first left Houston but on her return was opened again. It had no real name, just “CINEMA” stamped out in white, fluorescent letters. Each ticket cost $1.50 and Aransa would buy many, even to knowingly terrible movies, and sit in a torn chair whose revealed cushion was always the color of exposed fat from a deep cut and she’d wait for another life to flash before her eyes to recount to herself later to keep her occupied when trying to fall asleep.
The New Age
A man with an empty face sits at a table with a steaming plate of scrambled eggs in front of him. He walks over to a window to look at the moon chunks that crashed on Earth months ago. The moon chunks glow like clean skin. He chuckles at the people who fell in love and prayed to them for the unborn. The man with the empty face checks on the tomatoes he is growing in the living room.
He shaves and nicks his chin but is not worried.
Flashback: a memory of when he nicks his chin shaving the year before. He walks into his job and a co-worker hassles him about how the newer shavers had an update that “didn’t do that anymore, you know.” “As much as anything else,” the man with the empty face says, “don’t do anything anymore, I mean.”
The man with the empty face goes outside and passes all the altars of moon chunks. He steps over the meditating acolytes. He does so with a frown. Someone died from praying without eating.
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© Reyes Ramirez