EXCERPT FROM ADRIANA PARAMO’S MY MOTHER’S FUNERAL
Childhood. Innocence. Trees. The beats of a slow cumbia meander from the house and into the backyard where the little girls chase each other. Carmen and her younger sister Gilma climb an avocado tree, its branches heavy with oily fruit. They are carrying a guanábana they found on the ground. A crack opens the soursop’s spiky skin, and its white pulp oozes milky juice. The girls chew on wads of the creamy, fibrous flesh, gargle it in the back of their throats, and then cough it out, pretending it’s phlegm. They’ll get a good whipping if their mother catches them perched up in a tree, acting like men. So they decide to pretend to be grown-up women. They sit cross-legged on the tree branch, smoke imaginary cigarettes, and drink from invisible teacups, pinkies in the air. When this game gets old, they shine up four black soursop seeds and make earrings, which they stick onto each other’s earlobes. With the rest of the seeds, they make spitball bullets that they shoot out of the tree like crazed cannoneers.
Food. Family. Home. Carmen’s mother is teaching her and her two sisters how to make tamales. They found themselves gravitating toward the kitchen so often that they declared it the only place of the house where they truly felt at home. Her mother cooks pork skin and ribs. She uses the gelatinous fat removed from the pork to make the guiso and fries onions, garlic, and saffron in it. When the guiso is ready, she mixes it with the rice, peas, and corn dough. On the table Carmen and her sisters lay out plantain leaves for wrapping the tamales. The two of the sisters tie them with twine. But Carmen ties hers with red and blue ribbons sprinkled with glittery dust.
Women. Water. Blood. Carmen stands by the river with her two sisters and her five daughters. They bend their naked bodies over the rocks and wash their wombs and their hearts.
“Who has the bloodiest of all?” one of them asks.
“Carmen!” they shout in unison. The women embrace her, and one of her girls begins to sing. But mid-note her sweet contralto becomes an angry howl. The other women join the howling, and so does Carmen, who seems to be the angriest of all. Soon they hear voices of other women crossing, naked, the cordillera. By the time
the sun sinks into the horizon, the water is thick and scarlet, and there is not a single silent woman. Or one who isn’t angry. Or one with her womb and heart intact.
Earth. Love. Tears. Carmen wraps the letter in a plastic bag and puts it into a small lacquered box. He told her it was from China, but she knows it’s a cheap knickknack he probably bought at a bar, either before or after passing out. On the day he leaves her for a younger, prettier woman, she takes the box outside and sets it on the ground. It’s Wednesday and rain is beginning to fall. All day she looks out the kitchen window, watching raindrops bounce off the box. From her bedroom at night she imagines the box in the rain. The weight of the life contained inside the box is beginning to bury it in the ground. On Sunday after church, she buys a hand trowel and digs a hole at the center of the earth. She places the box at the bottom and covers it with wet soil that smells of magnolias. She doesn’t tell anyone, but whenever he looked at her, she felt transported to Mohammed’s heaven, lightly engulfed by opal and topaz.
Adriana Páramo is a Colombian anthropologist winner of the Social Justice and Equality Award in creative nonfiction with her book Looking for Esperanza. Her writing has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Los Angeles Review, Consequence Magazine, Fourteen Hills, Carolina Quarterly Review, Magnolia Journal, So To Speak, Compass Rose, and Phati’tude, among others. Páramo has volunteered her time as a transcriber forVoice of Witness, a book series which empowers those affected by social injustice.
This week’s Wardrobe Best Dressed was selected Nicole Oquendo. Nicole Oquendo is an Assistant Editor for Sundress Publications, and the Nonfiction Editor of Best of the Net. Her most recently published essays and poetry can be found in DIAGRAM, fillingStation, Storm Cellar, and Truck.