I picture my grandmother centered in a black frame and dressed in ebony blue — which isn’t really blue at all. She’s sitting on the porch of her stone house, her bottom plump and flat on the seat of an aged white wicker chair, splinters
s pec kled . . . .
. . a c r o s s th e
r . . . ock .. …. . . . . .
f l o o r ,
. r esembl i n g … . .
.. . c o
m e t s . . . . . . .
. . . . . .. ….
I stand beside her, legs out of frame, thinking of red lipstick and the large jar of pennies below the framed portrait of Jesus in the kitchen. (Will he scold me if I sneak the pennies to my pockets to buy the lipstick at the corner store?) My grandmother, her hands on knee, looks beyond me, thinking of dams and levees.
Having dressed myself that morning alongside my grandmother, I too am wearing darkness—an eggplant-colored dress la vecina says is too dark for a girl my age, for this desert landscape and its heat.
But we like this, my grandmother and I. Only the painted impasto gold of daylilies in the background pulls to the surface.
her and I
Steadily, my grandmother draws a dark wood pocket mirror from her breasts and tells me I am not to touch it without her permission before she lifts it up to my face. “Agárralo,” she instructs, and I hold the clammy mirror with both hands, hesitant of the weight she is offering me. A fly lands on my nose and I watch it pray in the mirror’s reflection as my grandmother pierces my ears with the dull ends of pearl earrings.“The only problem with daylilies is that they only bloom for a day,” she says when she’s done, hands bloody. “So, you have to come back and bring new flowers.”
“I’ll bring new flowers,” I tell her, waiting for her eyes to meet mine in the mirror.
Had you asked me the other day, I would have told you I’d still be waiting for my grandmother and I to make this return felt, to resurface our dark selves through the bloom of new daylilies. But today I realized we are bound to this fixed moment, its black frame—our portrait still a memory turning fiction.