Hello, world! I’m very excited to announce the release of my first book, Women Becoming, a 70 page collection that’s been years in the making. From the magical realist escapism of “I Know Why The Caged Crow Leaves” and the heartbreak of “Wisteria,” to the joy and rebirth of “Wishes” and the love shared in “Child of Light,” follow several unique female protagonists through their journeys of self discovery and rebirth.
One of the short stories in my book “Women Becoming” is available to read for free exclusively on Lesbians Over Everything, a website and collective I’ve been following since 2017. LOE is a safe space for lesbians to share their personal and fictional stories, opinions on LGBT media, and even gay bar reviews. I’ve previously written for their Every Woman I’ve Ever Loved category. I really recommend it if you’re a woman who loves women, like me.
I wrote most of “The Flood” directly after reading one of my favorite short story anthologies called “Queer Fear.” As little as I formally venture into horror with my magical realism stuff, I love reading it, so these stories were right up my alley. “Queer Fear” reimagines the gay and lesbian experience as if we were faeries, ghosts, zombies, haunted by the violence we’ve experienced in our pasts but finding power in the monstrous. Another story in my book, “Wisteria,” was heavily inspired by this collection.
I came up with the idea for “The Flood” while I was still closeted, but wrote after I was out. It felt very satisfying to revisit the fear I used to have it and turn into some disastrous art.
“Brujería” is a short story about two women who are mysteriously drawn to each other. Our nameless protagonist is a butch young woman who must navigate her sexuality through a sometimes grim lens. Along the way is the elusive Verona, a self described “bruja” who may or may not have put a curse on her. Read the rest in my short story book Women Becoming, available for $2.99 on Amazon.
We’re sitting in her friend’s back yard in the dark, at two in the morning, and it hits me that she drove us here high and drunk out of her mind. She got us here in her hoopty, the beat up Honda that she drives without a license, the radio bumping nasty rap, her son’s empty carseat behind us, and the carpteted seats reeking of swishers.
“I’m not trying to brag,” she said when she picked me up, “but I’ve never gotten a ticket or pulled over or anything.”
This girl must have guardian angels or something, I think. Her friend, out here in the yard, is also a Mexican in his late twenties, sitting across from us smoking a joint, rapping over some shitty beats he made on Garage Band. He really wants to fuck her, she told me as we got out of the car just minutes earlier, “but I let him buy me dinner instead.”
He doesn’t know that Verona and I are exchanging unspoken dialogue, where we sit: my hand around her hip, her blonde head on my shoulder, my hand sliding beneath the waistband of her jeans, fingers tracing the lace band of her underwear. Once, she brushes her lips against my neck, groaning so only I can hear her.
Her friend doesn’t know that she’s like this, that she sins, and I’m not even sure she knows it either. I wonder if he’d still want to sleep with her if he knew, or worse, if he’d want to even more because of it.
We meet for the first time outside the infamous, run down steamship in Verde Beach, the S.S. Barnes. I think I’ve seen her before as she sits next to me, on the bench at the bus station. Looks Latina, could be Filipina, ice blonde locks, pink lips, overweight, still hot. Her uniform shirt is ill-fitting, buttons pulled tight across her chest. Her name tag is pinned on crooked, looks like it’s going to pop off.
She doesn’t say anything to me at first, staring at her phone and puffing a cigarette roach. I think she’s just a co-worker I’m never going to talk to as I look upon the ship, thinking, shit, it’s so cold.The ship-turned-hotel, creaky and haunted, is always hiring waitresses for the holiday seasons, nine dollars an hour. It’s a shit job, but it’s something. Christmas presents for the kids. All but two of us are women, most of us struggling, at least half of us “queer,” from what I can tell, but I don’t talk to anyone when I’m on the clock.
“You look like that singer,” Verona finally says, from beside me. I look over, read the name on her tag, and watch as she blows a cloud of smoke, tosses the roach.
“What’s your name?” she asks me. I always take my name tag off as soon I’m off the clock.
When I tell her, she snorts.
“That sounds like Sasha Fierce,” she says, tossing her roach to the ground. “You know, like Beyoncé? I hate that bitch.”
Oh, God, I think, as I remember the moment she first caught my eye. She was the one who’d mispronounced the name of the featured wine last month. When the male chef staff had gently corrected her, she’d verbally torn them each a new asshole, in Spanish, for a full minute. I didn’t see it, but I definitely heard it coming from the kitchen. Everyone in the dining room did.
I know exactly why she didn’t get fired for it.
“Can I add you on Facebook?” she says now. She’s scrolling through her phone, getting ready to search me. I hate Facebook, but I also think this woman is very good looking: Catch 22. Something about the way her sleek, dyed hair frames her face, the way her clothes are too tight for her. I would soon learn that these details were on purpose.
So I tell her the name I go by on Facebook. I watch as she looks through my page for a full minute, then looks up at me suddenly, a spark in her eyes.
“You like girls.”
She’s paused her screen on a photo of me and my ex from high school.
“Uh, yeah,” I say. This is why I hate Facebook.
The bus finally pulls into the harbor across the way, and I stand in wait, eager to get out of here.
“I had a girlfriend in high school, too,” says Verona, and I look at her. “She was mean, she used to steal my make-up.” This is stereotypical of me, but I don’t know if I believe her story.
When I get on the bus, I half expect her to sit right next to me. She doesn’t. When the bus gets crowded, she plays her rap music loud from the speakers, not the headphones. Normally, I hate when people do that.
So I should’ve let her go back then, in retrospect: the fact that she asked me first, that spark in her eyes. But as our work went on, she kept sitting next to me at the bus stop. I should’ve pretended that I didn’t see it in her, or better yet, that she wasn’t the one who’d wanted to show it to me.
Months have gone by since that time in her friend’s yard, and we keep doing this thing, her letting me touch her when we’re both drunk, but only then. We’re down the street from my house, parked in front of the Catholic church, the only car on this side of the street. The streetlights are streaming down on us, illuminating her clearly for me.
I work at a different restaurant now, and she says she does too, but she won’t tell me where it is. It also turns out that she and her four year old son, who she calls Baby, live only a few blocks up the street from me. I’ve tried not to ask about Baby’s father when she mentions him, but tonight, as we drove home from the bar, she decided to tell me the story.
“He’s thirty six now. When I was a kid in Colombia, he kept hanging out around the house. He grew up with my half brother or something. We started dating and he tried selling me a couple of times. It turned out he was a pimp in charge of this huge ring.”
Suddenly, she digs through her purse, hands me a grinder and blunt papers.
“Do you smoke?”
I used to smoke weed when I was in high school, Adderall and mushrooms every once in a while, too. My ex-girlfriend and I did it all together. I don’t remember much of those years, but I remember well what the first hit used to feel like.
The relief that washes over you, the release of your conscious thinking. Things shift and colors change and suddenly, this woman in front of me, turning up the radio and dancing in the seat, is a person I’ve known my whole life, who’s always been here. The platinum blonde hair, the bronze skin, the well-endowed of it all, it all looks so familiar. I’ve dreamed of her or something.
The following is a YA short story about Hannah Black and Marina Ziegfield, black lesbians and childhood friends who must come to terms with internalized homophobia and their feelings for each other.
Derek Black and Richard Ziegfield were perhaps unlikely friends in 1990s suburbia, the former a blue voting, honest insurance agent, the latter a red voting, dicey divorce lawyer, but the connection between their two families was solid. Their only daughters, Hannah Black and Marina Ziegfield, would go on to form the bond of a lifetime, though it took a couple rough turns at the start. Despite this fact, they have always loved each other.
It’s an evening in January, 2016, when Marina realizes that she’s been in love with Hannah her whole life, and that’s why she’s such an asshole all the time. Marina holds her red cup full of Coke in the bay of her kitchen, watching as Hannah’s cousin’s friend, Yael Ashkenazi, relentlessly flirts with Hannah across the room.
Marina is overtly jealous, watching Yael take Hannah’s hand, admire her rings, and why won’t Marina just officially come out already? It’s not like anyone at school is convinced, the more she fails to turn off her Snapchat location when she’s out with a known lesbian from another school. But Marina’s dad is conservative and an alcoholic, the “fun” kind, or at least, it seemed fun when she was young, the do-it-all dancer he became when severely inebriated.
But the older Marina gets, the more she realizes that her dad is slowly letting things go, that there are broken parts of her childhood that she’s been blocking out. This year, the mortgage hasn’t been paid up for several months, for no reason other than that Richard Ziegfield loves staying up for four days straight, work-crazy manic, destroying things in his path.
Marina knows her mom started sleeping with someone else years ago to avoid the oncoming storm, that behind closed doors, they act like strangers who just happen to live together, so this is what Marina has also learned to do: avoid the truth and act like nothing gets to you.
Some things really get to her, though. Things like Yael’s not even that good looking, generous inches shorter than Hannah, and why is she wearing a suit jacket, a full on bow tie, and black dress shoes to a house party? With no socks? Didn’t Hannah’s cousin say she goes to Bridgerton, the most prestigious high school in Chapel Hill?
Some loaded preppy girl, as if Marina doesn’t sometimes secretly wish she was one of those, shouldn’t be swooping in on Hannah during this, their senior year. This was the year that Marina always thought, if she and Hannah dated, would be the start of the next two most important years of their lives: where are we going to college? Where are we moving to? If you pick the dream house, I get to pick the campus. We’re staying together, no matter what.
While Yael and Hannah’s cousin talk up ahead, Marina takes the chance to finally grab Hannah’s ear. Nudges her best friend in the side with an elbow, grinning, says,
“So why’s this chick dressed like she’s going to the goddamn opera, am I right?”
Hannah snorts, playfully swats Marina’s elbow, then says in her ear, low,
“I think she looks good.”
It takes two more months, of Hannah and Yael going on dates, of Marina trying to be nice to Hannah’s new good friend, but never really able to let the snark stay off her tongue, of Marina and Hannah continuing to stay close, though Hannah’s phone is off, often, when she’s with Yael, before Hannah and Yael are full on girlfriend and girlfriend, out and proud, all over Instagram.
Marina knows she didn’t shoot her shot hard enough, or ever, really. She could’ve been honest, sat Hannah down on the old tire swings where they’ve spent hours, some nights, in Hannah’s front yard, and told her how she felt, straight up, no bullshit. She could’ve confessed that she wants more than friendship, wants to love Hannah for the rest of her life, wants to be gay and out and proud, but she’s afraid her father will think it’s stupid, or a phase, or maybe even hate her, for political reasons.
She didn’t say any of it, because Hannah should be free. Free to choose what she wants and how she wants to spend her life, without having to feel guilty for Marina’s insecurities.
Marina knows the old adage: if you love something, let it go, if it’s meant to be, it will return.
She just doesn’t know if Hannah knows how much she loves her.Continue reading
I Cannot Say Your Name, But
I Would Tell You What She Looks Like
Lesbians Over Everything is a platform for women who love women to share their stories, heartbreaks and triumphs. A few months ago, I contributed to the segment “Every Woman I’ve Ever Loved,” a space for accounts of women who’ve moved us. The following is a concept I’d had in mind since 2015.
I would tell you what she looks like, but I can’t. She asked me not to. As a writer, it’s frustrating to be told that I can’t describe a subject, but I suppose I can tell you where we were the last time I saw her, when, and why:
The Firestone train station on the Los Angeles Blue Line, dim stone, chipped archways, and lingering smell of urine. Ten a.m. on a rainy February. She was returning some of my things. Our relationship was over.
I arrived at the platform long before she did, knowing that she was showing up late and making me wait for her on purpose. Sitting on the hard concrete slab that served as a bench, bored, I watched the rain fall on the empty tracks. This could be a scene from a romance novel, I said to myself, the trains are a symbol here, of her leaving my life, of my having to move on, or of the rapid, slapdash pace at which we modern humans live. And the rainfall, maybe, a symbol of my misery.
I thought this even though I wasn’t at all miserable. In fact, when she arrived and sat beside me, giving no hello or warning and wearing sunglasses in the rain, the moment was void of romance or sentiment.
Awkward and terse, making a strained effort to not make eye contact, she held out a plastic Target shopping bag at me. Is she seriously wearing sunglasses? I thought, taking the bag and almost laughing, though there was absolutely nothing funny about this moment.
Once the transaction was finished, she stood up, cleared her throat.
“Can you do me a favor?” She pitched her voice down to its deepest register, the way she often did when we fought. “Don’t make me a character in one of your little stories.”
She walked away, that line serving as her goodbye, and I realized that if there was a way to make me feel miserable over a break up, well. That was it.
She read all of my stories. She knew that writing about the women who have moved me, hurt me, or shamed me in the past is how I process things, how I really move on. If I can turn a random, painful situation into a meaningful narrative, write about our ending in another time and place, whatever pain I feel is worth it in the end. Was she taking my process on purpose?
The train arrived just moments later. I got on and tried to keep my mind from plotting points, coming up with idealistic character arcs for she and I. Though it went against my self imposed nature, I saw everything around me just for what it is, and not what it represents:
It was blindingly white inside the train. The light bulbs above me buzzed dull and monotone. The teal linoleum floors were sticky, and sweat and body odor permeated the steel seats. Rainwater slivered down the grey sides of the windows, whizzing and flowing in time with the moving industrial scenery. Immortal by Marina and the Diamonds played in my earbuds, the singer’s deep voice echoed and ethereal. She crooned of love lasting forever, earth’s end in fire, and seas frozen in time.
The song reminded me of her, of nights we spent in the dark, feeling like I’d finally found a love that was eternal. This was the part she didn’t want. Me romanticizing what was really a relationship wrought with fighting. Memorializing the details of her person would give it proof. Does she not want to be remembered for her wrongs? I assume she will always remember me for mine.
I looked down at the Target bag tied tightly shut in my lap, the logos redrawing images of drops of blood on white cotton pads. I opened the bag, curious as to why she tied it shut, and was overwhelmed by a sudden remorse. Everything inside of it smelled like her now, her skin, her house, her warmth and those nights. Will any of the following identify her? Aveeno lotion, men’s pine deodorant, faint hints of dust and cigarettes, burnt cinnamon incense. My t-shirts, lingerie, even the books were imbued with her scent. They weren’t just my things anymore.
Soon as the scent tinged my nostrils, my eyes watered instantly, stinging, without my permission. Tears fell, out of place and too late. I was out of the moment constantly when we were together. Always plotting the next thing, focusing on what I would write down about our hypothetical future on some date. If we got there. Fixating on both of our pasts, blaming our disharmony on our families, childhoods, society, anything.
Her scent brought her within my grasp, but not close enough, and all I wanted was not my obsession with future or the past, but a present moment:
It’s November. I’m lying on her bed alone in her room, naked, waiting for her to come home after work. I am blissful and content. I press my cheek to her still wet pillow, inhaling her sweet conditioner, that way her skin smells. Stare at the cracks in her window blinds, the chipping ceiling, the piles of her clothes, the various trinkets on her desk that haven’t been so much as nudged out of their “place” in over a year. I have existed in this room, I have loved in this room. It’s broken, and she often leaves me here alone in it. But it’s home.
I traveled further and further away from that home, as the train passed through Compton and Watts in the rain. The more miles I put between us, the more I knew and understood her intention: from now on, I can see the room in my mind’s eye, but she does not want me to have the privilege of imagining her there.
The temporary time travel, her scent on my things, overwhelmed me the point that something like miserable was going to be the next stop on the train. By that time, though, I had exited it. Moved through the Willow street station at the end of the Blue Line, walking the path back to my own space. In my solitary bedroom, I sprayed everything in the bag she gave me with my own perfume – heavy, syrupy, saccharine – suffocating the portal that pulled me back into her.