Nearing the equator, the sun rose at 5 and set at 5 and we ate dinner before the largest of the insects came out, put ourselves to bed under our nets by 7. Sound of dogs chasing a rare car, sound of the neighbor corralling a loose, bony cow. The spring splashing against a pile of smooth stones—it sounded like a man outside the glassless window. A poisonous-spined caterpillar crawling through. A gamboling toad. The finca cat, smelling of carrion, curling up on the edge of the bed, on top of the net, thin veil against dengue. One night world becoming smaller to make room for hers. With a headlamp, I picked ticks from the old brocade comforter. It sounded like a man.
Against the advice, I put my bare hands in the soil—planted and harvested and watered and pulled. And ate, in big raw bites. I caught myself like a butterfly come dark, pinned and preserved myself and let him think I was defused. Bolted the door. A gringa the Thursday market suspected for a concubine. An oblivious yoga teacher sharing snapshots of sloths. Appeared empty and blended into thin air, cast without roots. Imagined me wind-blown but never as the wind. Because there are things I have not known how to say until they were unsaid. Because there is a soft strength that dodges wrath.
Bleached blonde and burnt by the sun in the surf town, shuttled back up the mountain to the jungle on the back of a motorbike by the white man old enough to be my father, saying he wanted me to stay so he could get me pregnant. Un abrazo for the girl who doesn’t like to be touched. Because there has never been space to decide what we like. Because his faces live wherever we go, and they cannot taint every memory to claim it. I put myself to bed.
Smiled, swearing presumption would not subsume the journey. Leaned back and held the bike’s handles though he told me I could hold his waist. Not letting persistence overtake my body. I would tell a version of the story like a cover letter, like an advertisement for bottled happiness. Later, I would find my own garden and grow myself into existence. But for then, I weeded between the pineapples, each leaf another slit to the wrist, a test, reaching for the coconut freshly macheted from the tree and daring my preservation to swallow its sweetness.
Teresa K. Miller is a graduate of the Mills College MFA program and the author of sped (Sidebrow) and Forever No Lo (Tarpaulin Sky). Excerpts from her latest full-length manuscript, titled California Building, have appeared or are forthcoming in Berfrois, Crab Creek Review, Empty Mirror, Flag + Void, Fourteen Hills, Poor Claudia’s Phenome, and sparkle + blink.