I remember Fadilah, wanting to pronounce her name as if it were Spanish, like a dental sound escaping my lips, somewhat restrained. And how she would say my name, Margarita, her voice caught in the squirm of her lips. I remember how I would do anything to hear her say my name over and over again, each time with me praying she would let it wiggle its way out of her lips and onto mine.
A few months later I realized it was love that made me fascinated by the sound of her voice. Something in her eyes, the way she always lingered on my face when looking through a room, made me realize she loved me too, it was real. It was up to me to convince her that her religion did not hate her for it. I sat in the park telling Fadilah the shari'ah lives and breathes, Allah's law can be changed, I've studied this, while Fadilah's mother cursed the treetops. Her mother shunned our love, it disgusted her. I can almost see her picturing us together, naked, her face crinkling in disgust. She looked as if she'd be sick.
Then Fadilah stopped talking to me, and in my sorrow I went out to the bar where Latinas go when they want to forget their troubles and find new ones. The men's stares tumbled down to my chest, my slurred giggles leaping passed my lips into a strange new face, one of drunken machismo. I didn't know him, and wasn't thinking like myself. But at that moment I'd wanted to try what everyone thought was right. So I did, clumsy and unprepared, but he was too far gone to notice or care. I woke up the next morning to him snoring, disgusted by this hairy man beside me, and that I'd let myself be a whore now, and not just a dyke.
Once I'd realized how I would pay for my mistake, I tried to get ready for it. I'd held my niece, her diaper wet, wondering why mi hermana adored the stench, the squish, of motherhood and hoping I would feel only the disconsolate silk of unblemished, flowering flesh. Later I went running, limping uphill, hoping to let air escape but feeling a bubble trapped deep in my belly.
Mama told me religion would save me, she'd seen it before, how people could fall in love with the right person if they prayed hard enough, that I could find this man, and if he was a good hombre then he'd marry me and learn to love me to. See, she says, everybody has to learn to love the right person and Jesuscristo helps us realize who it is through miracles, like the one growing inside me. I'd spent a month praying to Jesúscristo, mi Señor y Salvador, and wanted what Mamá thought was right. But I'd wondered where the love is during dawn, my tires rolling down asphalt.
And now a doctor examines me, stares at me while I talk to him, but says I'm fine, says the baby is okay. He sends me down the hall to a therapist anyway. They, the doctors, want to make sure that I understand what is involved, what I'm doing, that keeping this baby is the right decision. It's a free clinic for those without medical insurance, and I'm surprised they offer all these services. Sometimes I think they don't want me to have this baby. And that's why three months later the therapist asks me to talk again, to make peace with my memories. So I tell her the pieces that are left, the pieces that haven't been pushed out of my head by the growing baby.
I tell the woman doctor, her mouth gaping slightly, about my lover, Fadilah, and how I'd tried to convince her to resist what I couldn't. And I would pay for this with a little girl who would love me unconditionally. I knew it was a girl, could feel the Lord's message to me. I would spend years raising this baby alone, remembering hours with Fadilah, blending our names until our tongues numbed and our lips bled.
About the author:
Cheryl Chambers is a fiction writer and poet. Her work has been published most recently at Salome, Opium, and The Hiss Quarterly. Her poetry is forthcoming at FRiGG Magazine.
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