by Mónica Teresa Ortiz
You forget about the other girl. For the night. For the rest of the summer. And you don’t notice her again until the upper part of her bare arm brushes against yours, next to you in the backseat of the van. She clears her throat and asks you not to kill the ladybug crawling along your wrist. (Later she will clarify that it was a winged ant and that she wanted to touch your hand the whole time she sat beside you.)
Later that night, you run into each other at a gay club. It is loud and the lights scream off and on. These motions alone could cause a seizure, just as easily as the extended ten minute remix of Britney Spears the DJ spins. You have to get away from the mob and the dance floor tiles that alternatively light up like rainbow-colored landmines.
You go outside. She goes with you.
You tell her about how you might still be in love with Eurydice. She doesn’t flinch. (She does not love you and she does not know you. You don’t know she believes in polysexuality. To her, jealousy only exists in Shakespeare and that never ends well. Just look at Othello and Desdemona.)
Her eyes adjust to see past the cages that cross your heart, protected by ribs and flesh and blood, but not tonight, and not with her. She just listens and asks for a Marlboro Red in exchange for listening and you smoke together in silence. The club is on West 4th street and its Saturday night, so the entire place is going loco. But the two of you huddle together on the velvet couches on the back patio. You might as well be alone in space.
You leave the bar and your friends behind. She follows you. She wants to go swimming. It’s 3 a.m. Neither of you has swimming attire. She recommends an unlocked pool in an apartment complex near where she lives. The pool belongs to no one either of you knows, but it’s open and empty. The apartment complex emits a blue fairy light on the surface of the water.
She does not hesitate.
With no warning, she peels off her skinny black jeans and her purple top.
She is waifish, shaggy short black hair concealing her eyes.
She is near naked.
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Stripped down to her bra and panties, the innominate bones above her pelvis jut out just enough to remind you how much you miss stretching your thumb across that part of a woman’s body. It’s one of your favorite body parts. You know the medical term but you forgot how it feels to press your palms against them to lift a woman up, to kiss her, to let your tongue do all the talking.
It has been so long.
Come on, she says.
It is just you and it is just her and it is just the clapping of the water against the concrete.
You unbuckle your belt and let your pants collapse around your ankles. You hate bras and aren’t wearing one that night and you are too old (or too cowardly) to strip in front of this girl who watches you. So you leave the pearl snap shirt on.
She jumps into the water.
You keep standing above her.
I wish I could see the world through your eyes, she replies.
All you would see are empty rooms. And all the ghosts, you say.
(There is a thing you read about recently, a thing scientists call transgenerational scarring. Scientists trained one generation of mice to be averse to the scent of cherry blossoms. The offspring of that generation demonstrated similar distaste for the smell. As if the memory itself offended them. And the sperm of those offspring reacted to that. Indigenous people call it a spiritual wound, one inflicted upon your soul, upon the soul of your ancestor. A trauma from before you were ever born. Psychologists refer to it as genetic memory. Carl Jung wrote about a collective conscious. Whatever the actual name, you know it’s real.)
She moves away from the wall of the pool. Swims to the middle.
You getting in?
Then it happens again. The ghosts. You cannot see them. But you feel them.
in the gutters
she smiles at me
my great grandfather
Your great grandfather was murdered in the Mexican border town of Acuña in the state of Coahuila. He was sleeping with another man’s wife, and the husband stuck a knife in his back on a dark April night in 1930. He died face down in the mud. No one knew where he was for days. Your grandmother doesn’t even remember him. You reach behind you, touch your lower back. There is no physical map of this. But you first kissed Eurydice in Acuña. Like you had done it before. Like it had happened in another body. In another time.
A queer’s transgenerational memory.
Imprint on your DNA.
Or is it Eurydice’s footsteps behind you?
You and her made love in a pool on a night the summer before.
Her footsteps moan behind you.
Eurydice lives in that fourth room of your mind – the one that looks just like a country bar with taxidermied bison heads and an empty floor, except this one is in Mexico and the jukebox plays Los Tigres del Norte. The replica of the place you first danced with her. She’s still wearing her father’s black Wranglers, too big for her small waist, and those rusty red cowboy boots.
But that’s just in your head.
It’s just a memory.
She’s just a ghost and she can’t touch you.
None of them can.
No one is here but you and the girl.
You like her eyes.
They look like bluebonnets swimming against the wind.
Her skin is white like magnolias beating against the late August heat.
You hadn’t realized how much you liked flowers or seasons until you met this girl.
You hadn’t realized how much darkness you lived in.
You jump in the water.
But you don’t kiss her. Not that night.
And not because Eurydice is listening.
This is a memory you want.
This is a memory you choose.
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