“Manhattan Beach House” by  Allen Forrest

“Manhattan Beach House” by Allen Forrest

Blood Paisleys, 1990

by Ursula Villarreal-Moura

Do you remember when drive-by shootings were an epidemic in San Antonio?

When in middle school every morning you'd greet your gaggle of friends by saying, "You survived the bullets, you nasty gangbangers," and they replied with quips like, "Yeah, I'm thug like that," or "I was wearing my Crips colors, fool." Only you were all twelve-year-old private school girls, scared by the local nightly news, sick by the body counts in the newspaper headlines. Some of you were Mexican-American; some of you were white. All of you were equally embarrassed by your uncivilized city as you were by your newfound period blood. Whenever an errant blood paisley stained a skirt or gym shorts, the group issued a warning to the victim, "Vato, you been shot near the buttocks. Get help."

Gangs were the rage, initiations were never-ending, and you were held hostage in the prime of puberty. This was before you began describing hip-hop as iambic, before you seriously considered the idea of leaving San Antonio, years before you developed your insulated New England daydream. The prospect of staying in your bloody city, well, that was a chalk outline you could draw in your sleep.

— ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN Emerson Review, 2013.

Rubric for Your New England
College Experience, 1998

Your gay friend introduces you to Adam, a blonde German with a last name that sounds like a torture weapon. Together they convince you to joyride with them to the frozen lake a few miles from your college. 

All three of you strip to your birthday suits and skate in sneakers on the dense ice of Lake Champlain. You have not shaved your legs or bothered with your bikini line in weeks. Still, you love nothing more than being nineteen and believing your life is a string of epiphanies. 

On the ride back, you all drink from a three-liter bottle of Pepsi and play Truth or Dare. Your gay friend dares Adam to drive with his eyes closed for half a minute. When he accepts, you lie across the backseat and pretend to be nestled inside a metal cocoon. 

Later in his dorm, you and Adam strip again. You tell him too much about yourself and your family. It’s been ages since you shared such intimate details with anyone except your gay friend.

Adam caresses your cheek and tells you about his ex named Story. You have no right to be jealous, but you flick his hand away and wish your name were equally as imaginative.

After kissing you passionately for a quarter of an hour, Adam tells you his housekeeper and your family are from the same country. Although he says this factually like a phone number, you are deeply ashamed.

You should have shaved off every whisper of hair. Your clothes are flipped inside out and the glow of the moon outlines them like scattered index cards.

If you're taking notes, remember this mistake and never repeat it.


“Seattle, Fifth Avenue, Skinner Building” by  Allen Forrest

“Seattle, Fifth Avenue, Skinner Building” by Allen Forrest


Ursula Villarreal-Moura was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her writing appears in Tin House online, Catapult, Prairie Schooner, Washington Square Review, and Bennington Review. More at ursulavillarrealmoura.com.