Nora

Lipstick. iStockphoto.com i i
iStockphoto.com.
Lipstick. iStockphoto.com
iStockphoto.com.

For Round 6 of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction where one of the characters tells a joke and one of the characters cries.

Everyone at your wake condemned your lipstick — especially your sister, Horencia. Uncle Ernesto, loyal to Aunt Horencia's caprices, tried to scrub it off with his handkerchief. "Your aunt was not that type of woman, Nora," Aunt Horencia scowled weeks later. Only me and Carmen know it was your idea.

Today I wore your lipstick — lipstick I bought for my trip home — for Dr. Jon. It's been weeks since I've seen him at the hospital, but my odds of running into him doubled with my dialysis visits. He looks like Father Alberto. I'll never forget that confirmation group retreat to Mazatlan. Father Alberto emerged from the water; his skin, golden, his shoulders, broad, his chest hairs wet; Maribel, Javi and I, sitting with blankets over our legs near the lifeguards' post, giggled, focusing on the same thing. For years, that bulge dominated my fantasies about marriage and I couldn't understand why women seem to dread it afterwards until I married Arturo. You warned me.

It's funny, though. I would gladly exchange the wheezing of these machines for that of Arturo's. My visits are spent staring at the frosted window; it reminds me of the window on your garden door. I miss your garden. I loved visiting you after school, finding you on the foot ladder pruning the plum tree and humming that song. But those glass flytraps of yours haunt me.

The last time we spoke, you found me lying down in your bedroom with a pillow over my face. "Save those tears for when I'm gone," you laughed. "How will you see me again in God's glory with teary eyes, huh?" I clenched it tighter and screamed until you left. I am sorry I wasn't by your side when you passed. Sorry I didn't cry. But I couldn't.

And I put you out of my thoughts for years. But now... now, I chew your ear off every visit. Now I'm scared. Sometimes I wish... I don't know what I wish for. Here I am, tethered to these machines, thick pale digits, crows feet, long laugh lines, open sores like polka dots, frizzy hair, and scarlet lipstick, a freak who hopes to get the attention of a doctor who in his nightmares wouldn't hump her, and for what? Only I know. Here I am, no kids, no house, and a husband who is where? Only God knows. This hospital ran out of funds and the lawsuits only managed to keep us here a month more. Then I'll be repatriated. I'm not even sure where they're sending me. All I know is that I can only take two suitcases. I only need one. Maybe not even that.

There is something that I wanted to tell you, something that has been bothering me for years. I broke your glass flytraps. You cursed your cat for breaking them. But it was me. You thought the traps were beautiful examples of Middle Eastern blown glass. But I would pity the fly inside.

"That's the law of life," you'd say. I hated those sayings, like "See you tomorrow, if God lends us life." Lend us life? Lend me pesos. I have no money for dialysis back home. And Mexico is not America. Now I can cry. But I promised myself no tears, so no tears. "I'll see you in God's glory," you'd say. I'll be honest with you: I don't want to see you. And I wonder if I can see without eyes. If I can't, but you can, look for me. I'll be wearing your lipstick.

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