Of Colored, Dignified Tongues Conference:


Trinidad Escobar

Image: Trinidad Escobar

Image: Trinidad Escobar

The bottom of his grey-blue shirt, untucked and stained with beer, grazed my shoulder as he passed by the dining table. His footsteps down the wooden porch creaked and ached. The door to his forest green Jeep Cherokee coughed close. He must have left the car running the whole time because I never heard the engine start. His tires crackled down the driveway and turned the corner of Falcon Drive.

Beth was laughing with our friend Tasha in the backyard—their clapping and guttural laughter echoed down the hall. I considered letting Beth know her mom’s boyfriend had left and that that meant we probably could not go to Golf Land later that afternoon, but I was not sure what to call him since Beth never addressed him in front of me, and I had never had to address him myself. 

The music warped and stopped. Emily’s SWV tape had jammed in my Memorex boombox, and they did not eject it. My Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese was beginning to look like neon orange glue. I suddenly had no appetite, and felt the urgent need to rinse my mouth out with cold water. The kitchen sink was exactly two steps away from me; but at the time I thought that kitchen sink water was only for washing dishes, and that bathroom sink water was for peoples’ mouths. I scooted back my chair, but I did not get up right away. I waited a few seconds thinking nothing. I crept over the oily linoleum, down the hallway with the grey carpeting sprinkled with cigarette burns, and froze just before Ms. Carl’s bedroom. 

The wallpaper was yellowed with tiny tulips that lined the hallway from the ceiling to the floor. I pressed my cheek against it and listened. Ms. Carl’s sobs were like a stream of water pushing gravel together. Her voice, hoarse from smoking and chirpy from teaching toddlers all day, was stifled by a pale blanket that looked like it was stolen from a hospital cot. She was seated in a dark brown wicker chair that was normally to the right of her nightstand. It was displaced to the far end of the room, askew, facing her closet mirror. 
Her back was hunched over like someone reading a good book. The wiry blonde of her hair appeared black from behind, and grey in her reflection. The fat from her breasts and her pillowy gut filled the chair. Ms. Carl pushed her cane down into the sinking carpet with her right hand and with her left wiped her wet face with the blanket. I pulled at a peeling piece of the faded wallpaper and rubbed my hair against the ridges of the doorframe. The grainy feeling of my hair against the hard surface soothed me. 

I had seen breakups in movies, watched Ross get dumped numerous times in Friends, and even mediated my own friend’s fights (who knew that homies could break up?), but I had never seen one in real life. It felt like my pasta was stuck low in my chest, in that place where your liver sits, that place you never pay attention to until you experience the in-between of half-full and hollow. I tugged at the wallpaper trying to come up with sympathetic words to share with Ms. Carl. I recalled a lesson our science teacher assigned to the class about various birds found in our area. Each student got a different bird. Beth got the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, which was perfect since Beth was gorgeous and talked a mile a minute. Tasha got the Wild Turkey-- she was pretty insulted. I was assigned the California Condor. At the time, there were less than 30 California Condors in the wild. A female and male would pair up and raise their baby until it almost reached adulthood. They would focus on that one child together, and they would often stick with the same mate their entire lives. My parents had been together for over thirty years. I never imagined that people fell in love, and then one day decided not to be together. Were white people different? Did white people just give up easily or walk away from promises they made on their own? Or are all Filipino parents unhappy, stuck in marriages they no longer wanted, but stayed because tradition was a sort of trap? Were my mom and dad together because of Me and Megan? Were my real mom and dad together because of their 9 children? What could I say to Ms. Carl? Was there hope for her with her youth nonexistent and her health in decline? Could someone in the world care for this woman with a dejected past as evidenced by her many frown lines and scarred body? As a witness to her solitary suffering, I believed that I was responsible to take her in my tiny arms, and tell her it will be okay, that she was not doomed to loneliness, that she had something to look forward to because my parents, and all Filipino parents, stayed together for life—even if they hated each other--that her now ex-boyfriend smelled like beer and lemon Pledge anyway.

I took a step into the room. The floor moaned under my K-Swiss shoe. There we were, two bodies in a mold-ridden room, inhaling the same dirty air, silent. I took a breath which I am sure was wheezy or labored like a clogged whistle, but no sentence followed. Not a single word left my body. And Ms. Carl never looked up.

Trinidad Escobar participated in the Of Colored, Dignified Tongues: Writing Conference in Spring 2013 as a featured reader. Trinidad studied creative writing at SFSU. Her poetry and drawings can be found in various literary journals including Rust & Moth, Solo Cafe, The Womanist, Mythium, The Walrus, {m}aganda Magazine, Red Wheelbarrow, and the anthology Walang Hiya. She does work as a disability-rights advocate, and draws and inks comic books. You can find her work at www.escobar.bigcartel.com.