As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Mónica Teresa Ortiz – Fiction

One Night in Chile, an excerpt

you wrote tequila
messages & everything incarcerated
inside. spells
from unearthly sprite.
i want to steal you
away & lock you
in a cage.
look at you forever.
i see you everything.

The day she left, the gladiolas in the apple jug were dying. It had not yet been a week that we put them in there, half filled with water… but it doesn’t matter… the petals so dead and wilting, their corpses scatter across the table top. I guess they die so easily because they oaren’t planted anymore, not growing and not rooted and not connected to the earth; disconnected from the soil, from the dirt. Gladiolas are meant only to be alive for a very short period of time anyway and the ruby coloring peels off the petals like paint off my old house. Outside, even though it is just September, I can see lightning in the not so far distant, flickering across the sky up north, probably closer to Lockhart rather than Austin.

I’m not afraid of lightning or thunder. The sound or the sight never bothered me all that much. I was so used to watching it as a kid growing up near Amarillo off Highway 385, at the bottom of Tornado Alley, that I just can’t imagine being worked up about Zeus’ toy. Those streaks of light were just a regular part of the spring and summer season in the Great Plains. I mean, I guess I could have been afraid of it, seeing as how I knew somebody who was struck and killed by lightning. When I was in middle school, the high school boys’ varsity basketball coach, got caught out in a thunderstorm, out somewhere in eastern New Mexico while he was camping, and lightning hit him. Killed him instantly. The new gymnasium was named after him. The hardwood floor even bears his signature. Folks still tell stories about him, many of the men in my town remember playing for him. His career spanned 30 years. I never met the man, but I wondered: what are the chances of being hit by lightning?

The same I’d reckon as being eaten by a shark… like the 500 plus men devoured by the biggest shark attack in recorded history – sailors from the USS Indianapolis, whose ship sank after being hit by Japanese missiles, and the 800 something men plunged into the Pacific waters, without boats, without rafts, just with life jackets, hoping to be rescued. Instead, the sharks circled.

Both shark attacks and lightning related deaths are pretty uncommon occurrences… but it doesn’t diminish their nightmare factor. The chances are better of the woman you love, the woman you would take that obsidian knife bought from an Aztec Indian selling trinkets at Teotihuacan and harvest your own heart for, shoves her shit into a bag, calls a friend you hate, and tells you she’s leaving.

You can’t stop her.
Observe how the gladiolas rot, disintegrating back to atoms.

a tree, years rose
round me.
leaves drift
away like dead
skin, digging graveyard
near roots. Unable to jump
on the wind

Your feet planted in cement floor. Pupils and irises fixed to the rug by the door, where once, her nose bled so deep and so long, sunk into the fabric that her DNA could never have been removed. Your mother wove that rug on a loom in your backyard, and you couldn’t let it be thrown away. Those stains watch you now, like the eyes of Argus Panoptes.

Stand in the kitchen, propped up against the kitchen sink where you more than once hoisted her up onto the edge of, swallowed her like the ocean you sometimes are, and you watch her throw tee shirts and those frayed combat boots with broken laces into the black duffel bag you once took on your trip to Mexico City, your arms crossed, not a single fucking word dropped from your lips, not even as she hugs you good-bye and waits for you to ask her to stay, not even then, and you watch her, without a single tear ducking out of your eye. The chances of her walking out that door, across that threshold, out of your life for good, are better than you being hit by lightning. Better than being ripped apart by frenzied sharks driven by blood in the water. Better than putting a rifle into your mouth and pulling the trigger. Those are your chances. Those are your chances.

Monica Ortiz headshotMónica Teresa Ortiz lives and writes in Austin, Texas. Her most recent work, a short fiction, ‘The Girl with Her Hair on Fire,’ appears in 2013’s Rebeldes: a Proyecto Latina Anthology and also has several poems forthcoming in Huizache #3.


One Comment on “Mónica Teresa Ortiz – Fiction”

  1. Sarah Maria Medina

    October 14, 2013

    I love seeing and listening to this piece. I love the black and white film.

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