Limon y Sal

Limón y Sal

A Dia de Los Muertos Short Story

The fragrant aroma of pork stewing with garlic and chiles stirred me out of my deep sleep. The best kind of mornings started like this. My stomach grumbled just imaging myself devouring a bowl of steaming pozole and munching away on a crunchy tostada.

I lay in bed for a few more moments allowing my eyes to blink and adjust to the morning light before I kicked the covers off and rolled myself off the bed, feet first. Ama always said I must have been a cat in another life because despite, flinging myself off my bed, I always landed on my feet. I felt a soft hum vibrate against my feet and I glanced down at my cat Gabriel, who lay curled up in his small bed on the floor. I had startled him out of his nap.

“Sorry, Gabriel but I smell pozole,” I apologized to my friend. I skipped in a hopscotch game all the way to my dresser and grabbed my socks. Normally I wouldn’t have bothered with covering my feet as I preferred walking around the house barefoot, but we were in deep fall and mornings sometimes felt more like winter. Touching my bare feet onto the cold hardwood floor felt like walking on melted ice.

I padded my way over to the kitchen in my pale pink socks and by the abundance of sunlight, already streaming in through the open curtains, I realized morning had come and gone; and I had continued sleeping. Just the way I liked it. Behind me, I heard the soft tip-tapping of Gabriel’s nails on the wooden floor as the ball of fur followed me. Given that he had a stronger sense of smell than I did, it was odd that he hadn’t bothered to escape my room until now.

I made my way over to the altar Ama had set up next to the window. Although Dia de los Muertos was a two-day celebration at the beginning of November, my mother liked to set up the altar at the beginning of October that way we could pay our respects for the whole month.

“Hola Abuela!” I waved at the framed picture of my grandmother. Ama liked to keep the altar right by the window claiming the natural sunlight was better for the abuelos something to do with crossing over into our world. I had tuned out the conversation when she had explained it to me preferring to contemplate what I would eat for lunch the next day instead.

Our altar was set up on a small table covered with a red knitted blanket Ama had created years ago but never finished. Ama had knitted it with two bundles of yarn before she had called it quits and decided the blanket was long enough. It wasn’t long enough to even qualify as a throw blanket, but we continued to use it to protect our tables during holiday altars.

On top of the fabric sat a framed picture of my abuela next to a tall sunflower. The picture had been taken shortly after her marriage to my grandfather, in the small town where they married. Ama said this town was particularly known for all the patches of wild sunflowers. Although, the official flower of the dead was la flor de cempasúchil, an orange marigold, sunflowers were abuela’s favorite, so it was only right to add a sunflower to her altar. The candle Ama lit for abuela was a dark purple as that had been her favorite color. It had been burning on the altar since Halloween. In case abuela decided to come early. And a bowl of salt in case unwelcome spirits tried to enter our home.

“Buenos días Selena,” Next to abuela’s frame was a picture of Selena Quintilla who was not a related to us at all but since Ama always played Bidi Bidi Bom Bom on Saturdays mornings, when my brother and I helped her clean I thought it was pretty rude not to invite her to our celebration this year since she always filled our home with sweet melodies.

The odd thing about our altar today were all the lemons surrounding the images of our loved ones. Some lemons were sliced open and placed on a plate with pan dulce while others were on the floor in front of the altar in a semi-circle.

“A fin ya te despertaste mija,” Ama scolded as she watched me from the stove. She stood peering over a large metal pot and with the lid in one hand and an equally as large wooden spoon in the other. “I need you to go down to the panderia, the one next to the library, and go buy some more pan dulce,” Ama reached into the pocket of her blue apron and pulled out a wrinkly twenty-dollar bill.

“Me? What about Ángel?” My brother was an early raiser and more functional in the mornings. In the mornings I sometimes got lost on the way to the bathroom which was right next to my room.

“I had to send Ángel on an errand. Your tio asked if we could pick up Luisto from soccer practice.” Luisto was our only younger cousin who lived in the same city as us. Tio Omar had put Luisto in soccer when he realized our primito was too full of energy and could never be satisfied with a coloring book. Now our uncle was hoping that his son would become the next Lionel Messi. Although after watching his game last week I wasn’t sure whether tio’s dream would ever come true. Luisto preferred to throw the soccer ball with his hands into the goal post rather than kick it. But Luisto was still young and had time to improve.

“Oh. Well, how did we run out of pan dulce so fast? You bought so much for tonight,” she had bought huge boxes of Pan de Muerto from the supermarket a few days ago, they were big enough to feed multiple families. Additionally, she had also bought a lot of colorful conchas too so the tia could drink with their cafe and chisme.

Ama clicked her tongue and let out a disappointed hiss. “AAH pues tu pinche gato,” she gave Gabriel the stink eye who in response swished his tail and continued to eye the pot of pozole as if everything was right with the world, “ate the pan de muerto I had set up in front the altar. So I had to put the ones I was saving for the party on the altar.”

Fucking Gabriel, he was the kind of cat that didn’t beg and preferred to swipe and run. Although we had both fallen asleep early last night, he must have escaped out of my room and gone to pick at the altar.

“Okay, Ama let me just go put on a sweater and some shoes. Is that why you put all those limones in front of the altar?” Gabriel, the cat, was not easily spooked but, for some reason, he was not a big fan of lemons. I had a theory, that he had stolen a lemon from the kitchen and stashed it under my bed for safekeeping thinking it was sweet like mangos but after sinking his teeth into it, he was disappointed by the bitter fruit. There was some truth to this theory because I had found a moldy lemon under my bed once with suspicious-looking teeth marks in the flesh.

“Apurate mija, I let your brother take the car, and the bus is coming soon.”

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Wonderful Women, Mujeres Maravillosas

I think my new tattoo is haunted.

Either that or my little sister was getting creative with the inspirational notes. I had woken up early to wash my face in the bathroom when I noticed the words Mujer Fuerte scrawled across my mirror in red lipstick.

However, this elegant cursive lettering could not have been created by my sister. As much as she practiced calligraphy her writing remained as messy as our parakeet’s food bowl. It could have been mom. But mom wasn’t the kind of person to leave surprise messages.

I pressed my finger into the waxy writing and dragged it down expecting the pigment to follow the trail I was creating. But it had dried matte just like this red lipstick I had bought on impulsive last year and then lost quickly after.

I wouldn’t have thought this was a result of my new tattoo but ever since I got the image of Frida Kahlo on the inside of my arm I’ve had this weird feeling pooling deep in my stomach. It was similar to the feeling I got after visiting abuela’s gravestone on Christmas. A sort of comforting spiritual energy.

Contrary to what my mother believed this tattoo had been concocted in a sober state of mind. Although my emotional state was a bit questionable. I had just caught my boyfriend Diego making out with Ashley, a freshman from our history class. After punching his drink out of his hand and flipping him my luckiest finger I had driven to the closet tattoo shop in the area.

Clearly, Diego had gotten the message because I didn’t see a text from him after that. I did receive a text message from an unknown number that read “I’m so sorry I didn’t know!” with crying emojis. Although I was trying to keep a tough face I did feel worse knowing Diego not only played me but this poor girl too.

I felt mad for Ashley. She was intelligent and kind. And she had a smile that inspired poets, full of light and contagious. Ashley kind of reminded me of lighting bugs in the way she flashed her smile at everyone. And from what I overheard Ashley was looking to date around while she was in college. It was wrong that Ashley smiled dimmed a little after the whole incident.

It made me want to punch another coffee out of Diego’s hand for ruining someone else’s happiness.

I hadn’t even known what tattoo I wanted. The anger I felt at Diego was simmering in my veins, but I wanted to get something for me. Something to remember that I was not going to let the end of this relationship also be the end of my happiness. So while I waited to get tatted up I did a quick search on for cute tattoos. I first saw a tattoo of a calla lily done beautifully up the arm with the flower blooming on the bicep but then a flash of red made my eyes leave the flower and travel to an outline of Frida. The tattoo was only of half of Frida’s face and devoid of eyes but Frida wasn’t known for her eyes. The tat had her unibrow drawn in a thick line that resembled a bird in flight and her hair was in an elegant up do style and framed by two beautiful roses. So of course I went with that one.

 

I stared at my mirror one last time. As weird as it was I was unable to contain the smile that managed to slip onto my lips.

 

After that, I started dreaming of Frida. In my first dream with Frida, she had loaned me one of her flowy dresses and we danced and twirled in the middle of the street. Men shouted at us from their windows, but Frida didn’t seem to care. So, I didn’t either.

After that first dream, I began to dust off the dresses I had shoved in the back of my closet. Once puberty hit I became self-conscious about wearing dressing always worried that I have a wardrobe malfunction. But after my dance with Frida, I had forgotten how amazing it felt to not have my legs confined to jeans.

I had more dreams of her, Frida showing me how to put on lipstick, Frida adorning my head with a crown of flowers, painting alongside Frida.

The dreams became more vivid and the messages on the mirror continued. I began to feel better. After my initial breakup with Diego, a small root of sadness had intertwined its vines into my heart. But the daily messages from Frida began to make me feel confident in myself. I began to pour more effort into my appearance not to show Diego what he was missing but for me. People noticed. I forgave the freshman girl, Ashley, and we became friends.

“You’ve changed Rosa,” Ashley commented to me one day after lunch while we touched up lipstick in the restroom.

“Have I?” I raised an eyebrow at her through the mirror. Our gazes met, and she gave me a slow curling smile. The kind that made my belly feel like it was harboring a tequila worm. I hadn’t expected this new crush to form so quickly but as I continued to hang out with Ashley I could not stop myself from liking her and wanting to flash her my own light inducing smile.

“Yeah. You’re more confident. You’ve started to match your clothes, and now you’re wearing lipsticks. When school first started your style was more about comfort and I never saw you talk to anyone. It’s not a bad thing,” Ashley tossed her lipstick into a pocket of her school bag then flashed another smile at the mirror, although she was checking her teeth for her lipstick, I like to believe that smile was for me.

“Actually, I have a little secret.”

              “Yeah?”

              “I think my new tattoo is haunted.”