John Paul made you do ballet. You imagine running your hand over the buzz in his haircut. You’re five yours old. You tip toe brown skin against the gravel as you drink from a plastic jug of grape juice drink and you thumb at your necklace, a tiny cross with a flower. You want ribbons choking your calves and pink pails and a velvet mouth. You want to play ballerina. Your family owns this five unit apartment complex you live on Clinton and West Avenue, mapped behind a 7-11 and adjacent to a bus stop. You’re friends with half the kids in the complex because they’re your cousins.
Except John Paul isn’t your cousin. You’re really glad that he’s not your cousin. Somehow you know that his name is two apostles sitting right next to each other, but he seems more like a deity to you because your five years old and he’s thirteen and wears black cotton tees in the summer. He’s half Mexican and almost six feet tall and has wide shoulders, and his mother’s a blue-eyed blonde that works the day shift as a 9-11 operator. You saw her once on Rescue 9-11, giving her testimony about how she became an angel.
You went with your cousins to visit John Paul in his mother’s kitchen. You sat on top of the kitchen table and kicked your skinny brown legs, listening to John Paul and your cousins complain about not having a pool to swim in. You said a pool will look ugly because there’s nothing that surrounds your apartments but concrete and gravel and grass and sidewalk. You felt a pain and trickle on your feet and you realized that you were kicking your legs over a sewing basket with needles sticking out. There were big balls of black and brown yarn that looked like rabbits in the basket, but you only felt the needles sticking out and cutting your feet. You thought you were screaming and you thought that your cousins were screaming and you thought they’d call 9-11 to save you, but John Paul carried you to your apartment in his arms. Your father drowned your feet in bathtub water. You flower a towel. Warm water.
You walk on your toes to keep your bandages clean. You watch yourself in the hallway mirror, your curly brown hair pulled off your face in a bun, and a headband pulls your eyes to their half moon slant. You roller ball perfume across your neck and your wrists. Make wet slits in rose oil flower. You imagine tulle white at your hips. You see how thick your thighs will grow. You bend. Touch hurt in your feet. Those needles. Tub Water. An offering.
Monique Quintana is the Senior Beauty and Wellness Editor at Luna Luna Magazine, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, Huizache, Bordersenses, and The Acentos Review, among other publications. She is an alumna of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the Sundress Academy for the Arts and has been nominated for Best of the Net. She blogs about Latinx literature at her site, Blood Moon and is a pop culture contributor for Clash Media. You can find her at moniquequintana.com