Rumpus Original Fiction: Greener


Cha Cha uses both arms to wave me down outside the sliding glass doors at the airport. She’s been looking for me since we landed, while I ran to the bar and sucked down two mojitos, flirting with the bartender in mangled Spanglish.

Cha Cha pulls me in for a long hug. “You smell like Brugal,” she says. Nothing gets past her—she can detect me down to the brand.

She wears cat-eye black-rimmed glasses, fitted dark blue jeans, and a shimmery silk blouse. Her hair is short, straightened, and frosted with caramel blonde. She looks younger than the last time I saw her, three years ago, in the house in Far Rockaway, when I helped her pack her shit neatly into the boxes she shipped ahead when she left.

“Tu ‘ta muy flaca,” she says. It doesn’t sound like a compliment. Her eyes run up and down my flat body, planning a makeover, wanting to fatten me up like she did during the summers I spent with her and my dad.

Her car, a baby blue Corolla, smells brand new. Her hotel concierge salary must be decent. Or, she’s got another man footing the bill now.

I pay attention to the shape of things beyond the car window—small concrete houses painted in bright yellow, green, salmon, aqua; the palm trees dancing against a cloudless sky. Not like Rochester, or Harlem, or Queens—no dark red brick or gray concrete, no heavy metal scaffolding, no gloomy figures wrapped like oversized mummies puffing visible breath.

“It’s pretty out here,” I say.

“Those shacks,? Cha Cha says. “Wait till you’re under one of those tin roofs during a storm. Your shit’s good as gone.”

We pass colorful buildings with neon signs: Cabañas.

“That’s where they take their putas and side women,” she tells me. “They rent them by the hour.” She looks across at me. “Don’t get any ideas.”

“I’m not here for men,” I say, even though that’s exactly what I’m here for—the men, the rum, the sun, to disappear. I’m newly single, ready to blow all ten of my yearly vacation days, lean and taut as a leopardess, and equipped with a bargain pack of trusted American condoms.

“Tomorrow you’ll meet my nephew,” Cha Cha says. “He’s at La UASD, in law school. He wants to be a politician. But not like these corrupt ones. No, he’s going to fix things around here.” Her fingers dance on the steering wheel. “This is something good to get your mind off el otro tipo.”


The other dude.

I met him in my early twenties, right after I graduated from City College. He was in his mid-thirties and worked as an electrician. His grandmother had recently died and he lived alone in the apartment they used to share in Sugar Hill. I moved in after three months.

When my friends from college visited, I felt adult, with our heavy furniture and real bar. I felt taken care of; he told me how to act and for once, I listened. No more pulling over the cab to throw up on the side of the street. No more snorting lines of cocaine off toilet tanks in Lower East Side clubs.

But then he hurt his back at work, a renovation of one of the apartment buildings in our neighborhood that would come to threaten our tenancy. His smile emptied, and I thought it was the pain.

Soon, he was falling asleep at the rooftop bar during my birthday party. He sold his Xbox on Craigslist, then his grandmother’s platinum watch.

By the time I found the syringe, the thirty-day notice was posted on the door. He’d been tearing up the rent bills and using the money we’d pooled for dope.

For the first time, I asked my dad if I could come stay with him in the Rockaways for a few weeks. That’s when I found out he’d sold the house and was heading to rehab in Westchester.

Gone—the old two-story house where I spent long hot summers, missing my friends upstate, breathing in the ocean spray that corroded the shingles. Two blocks from the beach, two blocks from the A train. Gone—the home salon where Cha Cha tilted my head back into her deep sink and massaged dead skin from my scalp with her fingernails.

“Come, I’ll take you to the real beach, the real sea,” Cha Cha had said. “The Atlantic, all it does is churn up the world’s shit.”


Cha Cha brightens when the defensive wall of the Colonial Zone comes into view. Over there, the first cathedral of the New World. Cristobal Colón. She says his name like she’s announcing the pageant king.

Cristobal built the first cathedral, monastery, convent, and university in the New World. Cristobal’s statue was in the plaza.

“They stopped celebrating Columbus Day at my job,” I tell her. “It’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day now,” I tell her.

She laughs. “That’s ridiculous.”


We pull up at her cream and white stucco and adobe building, its rooms and upstairs balconies facing the street. So she didn’t get the sea view she always wanted.

Still, it’s a beautiful, light-filled condo, on the ground floor, with an open plan, so you can watch the huge flat-screen TV from the leather sectional, or from the bar stools at the island dividing the living room from the kitchen.

In the bathroom, where I strip off my sweaty clothes, there’s a shower with a glass door, a tub with jets, a bidet, and one of those stone sink bowls. Everything Cha Cha had wanted for the Rockaways house but couldn’t convince my dad to spring for. Things must be much cheaper here.

Even after a cool shower, I can’t stop sweating.

“Que calor!” Cha Cha shouts as she bangs around the kitchen. She stands over the stove, three of four burners going. I peek into the pots and pans—habichuelas bubbling in a soupy concoction, white rice, and some sort of root vegetable stew.

The last time I stayed with her and my dad was the summer before college. After my arrest, getting caught with a gram of molly at a party on the University of Rochester campus. My mom called it the “last chance at intervention,” but I knew she just wanted to make me disappear. After all, my dad was hardly home those months—always staying out after work drinking, sometimes stumbling in at four, sometimes not coming home at all. Cha Cha had cooked furiously, day and night, decadent and rich meals, as if fat and starch would insulate her from the disappointment. I started at City College that fall with a head start on the freshman fifteen.


I wouldn’t call Robin a friend—we got drinks together a few times after class—but she’s the only person my age that I know in this country. She did a Fulbright here after we graduated, and ended up meeting a guy and staying.

“We’re coming to pick you up in an hour,” Robin says.

I put on a pair of short black denim shorts and a red halter top, something I would wear on a summer night out in New York.

Cha Cha turns the volume down on the Miss Universe pageant. “Where are you going?” She has set up snacks and all the tools for manicures for my first night here.

“Meeting my friend. I told you about her.”

Her face falls, and I can see her doing the calculus of whether this battle is worth it. She settles on my outfit as the point of critique. “Oh, no no no no no no no. You better cover that culo.”

Next, I try a calf-length, spaghetti strap, white cotton dress and leather sandals.

This time, she just clucks her tongue.

“What’s wrong with this?”

“Nothing, if you want everyone to know you’re American.”

“Really?” I bought the white dress specifically for this trip, at one of the cheap boutiques on 181st Street, where Cha Cha used to take me for back-to-school shopping, knock-off Lacoste polos and Timbs.

“Why don’t you wear jeans and a nice top?” she says. “Don’t you want a nice pair of heels? I’ll show you some.”

“It’s a million degrees,” I whine. “I’m not wearing jeans. These shoes are comfortable—we’re going dancing!”

A horn honks outside.

Cha Cha stands up from her beauty queens—Miss Dominican Republic is a top contender. “Cash in bra. Keep your phone on. Don’t give your number.”

Robin emerges from the SUV’s passenger seat, air-kissing me against both cheeks. She looks flushed but mostly still pale, her Nicole Kidman-like complexion demanding wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts. Her boyfriend gets out of the car, too, and kisses my cheeks with his whole lips before opening the back seat for me. He’s tall and thin, with hips narrower than mine. He has on a black t-shirt and skinny jeans and leather shoes, and a short chain threaded with small wooden beads and a wooden cross hung around his neck. He has thick eyebrows and a nicely trimmed beard. His vibe is that of a drummer in an LA Christian rock band.

I climb in the spacious back seat, welcoming the cold blast of A/C in my face. Freddy speaks to me in unaccented English.

“First time here, Mara?”

I nod. “We going to one of your family’s clubs?”

“Another night,” Robin says. “For your first taste of the nightlife, I thought you’d like La Venezuela.”

“I don’t understand why,” Freddy says, and I hear a short history of a longer argument bubbling under the surface. “We can get free drinks all night at our disco. Or at least somewhere in the Zona Colonial, or a hotel on the malecón. Why do you want to take her to aquel lado?”

“I want Mara to get the authentic Dominican experience,” Robin said. “Merengue, bachata, salsa, reggaeton… not Top 40 put to bad techno.”

“It’s up to you ladies. I’m just here to chauffeur. Maybe Mara will find herself a tíguere.” He winks at me in the mirror. “You like bad boys, huh? A little trouble?”

Robin slaps his arm. “Shut up!”

I can tell he knows exactly what kind of trouble I like.


Robin and I stand outside the club while Freddy looks for parking. The ice in my cup melts and the Sprite’s run out, so I sip slightly watery, lukewarm rum.

“Hello baby,” says one man from a group standing nearby.

“Ssssssst. Ssssssst,” says another.

“Wow. Princesas. Muñecas.”

I giggle; Robin rolls her eyes. “Where’s Freddy?” she whines.

Six or seven young men approach us. Tight white t-shirts, tight blue jeans, shiny black shoes. Chains with crosses, rosary bracelets. Pretty, clean-shaven faces, immaculate eyebrows.

One of the boys who has a perfect little line shaved through an eyebrow starts singing. “Buscando una visa para un sueeeeeeñoo.” The others laugh.

I nudged Robin. “What’s that? ”

“Juan Luis Guerra. ‘Looking for a visa for a dream.’”

“What, we’re the visa?”

“We’re the visa. Gross, right?”

“I think it’s funny. Do you think they’d be able to tell that I was American if I wasn’t with you?”

“Probably not, except…” She points to the ink peeking out from the scoop in the back of my dress. “I’ve never seen a local woman here showing tattoos.”

“Sounds like you hang with bougie bitches, though. What are they saying now?” I ask.

“They’re asking why I speak Spanish and you don’t. Because you look Dominican.”

“Soy una mezcla!” I shout.

Roars of laughter. “Queeeeee?” “Qué dice la rubia?”

“Rubia? Why the fuck do they keep calling me blonde?” In my high school Spanish textbooks, the word rubia appeared next to someone fair-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed.

“Yo no soy rubia!”

“You do have light hair though,” Robin says, and I realize with a shock that this white girl understands the racial situation better than I do.


The disco, called “House Drink,” has A/C blasting, but the hot bodies crowded inside overpower it. Almost all the women have straightened hair and wear blue jeans and heels. Freddy hands me a cold Presidente with another wink.

I step to the periphery during the merengue and bachata songs, watching Robin more or less keep up with Freddy. She doesn’t look half-bad, she’s having fun, laughing and throwing her hair around.

I think of Robin in college. I don’t remember her having any boyfriends—her unibrow, crooked front teeth, and long nose deemed her undesirable in a sea of New York beauties. Now a good-looking, well-off guy is head over heels for her. I try to let myself be happy for her.


The next morning I wince at the sun streaming through the blinds. Roosters scream; a man just outside the window shouts, “Aguacate! Aguacate!”

I sit up, untangle my legs from the sweat-soaked sheets. I’m still wearing the white dress, and it has a few mysterious stains—grease? Rum?

“Dios mío. You look like hell,” Cha Cha says when she sees me.

“My head’s killing me.” I splash water on my face and take some Tylenol from the medicine cabinet.

“We’re going to my sister’s. You can meet Victor.”

“Can we go tomorrow?”

“What’s wrong with you? I thought you’d have that binge drinking out of your system by now. I told her we’d be there by eleven, so you have time to eat something and get yourself together.”

I sit at the tall chair at the kitchen counter, and bury my head in my forearms.

“Here. mangú,” she says, pushing a plate at me, full of mashed plantain, plus salami, yucca and fried eggs.

“I can’t eat this much.”

“Just eat.”

As the grease replaces the alcohol in my blood, I peek at my phone screen through one eye, and see a lot of messages from JESUS MI NOVIO.

Klk amor mío?

Esposa, que tal?

Te mando un beso.

Bueños días amor.

Dime amor esta pensando en mi.


Cha Cha sucks her teeth. I didn’t notice her perching over my shoulder. “I told you not to give out your number to these tígueres.”


Her sister lives out in the barrio, a forty-minute drive from Cha Cha’s. Dogs, cats, and chickens wander dirt paths at the edges of the road.

“We’re almost there,” Cha Cha said. “See how the wires up there are all crazy?”

She pinpointed the cause of a previously vague sense of disorder—the electricity poles placed at random junctures instead of evenly spaced, the wires strung between them crossing sloppily over our heads.

Who the hell is Jesús?

Little snatches of last night come back: the face I locked eyes with in the mirror on the wall. The tall, strong man who took my hands, spun me out, and yanked me back with such force I had to hold him tight to keep from reeling to the floor.

“The government only puts up the electricity closer to the city center,” Cha Cha says. “People out here do it themselves. What’s supposed to be for twenty households goes to a hundred and fifty. Bunch of thieves.”

“Sounds smart to me.”

“Except the power always goes out.”

My phone buzzes again: How are you mami?

Jesús again? No. Freddy.

There’s a memory threaded to the Presidente that Freddy handed me to the later parts of the night. Weren’t he and Robin glued together on the dance floor all night? Wasn’t I preoccupied with Jesús, trying to keep up with his salsa until at one point he wedged his bulky thigh between my legs and I stuck to him, letting his strength carry me around the dance floor?

Then I remember that Freddy dropped Robin off first because she lived closer to La Venezuela.

But what words did we exchange after he dropped Robin off? Was I absurd? Vulgar? Sentimental? Is the “mami” in his message flirty, or just friendly? Aren’t he and Robin together right now? Was the kiss I remember real? What about straddling his lap in the driver’s seat?

“Anyway, I guess some power is better than none,” Cha Cha says. “Where I grew up, we didn’t have shit.”

“Near here?”

“Up in the mountains. Jarabacoa.” She points ahead. Way in the distance, the dark outlines of dense shapes.

I realize I never asked her about her life back home, and she never talked about growing up here. The only stories I heard about DR were about her and my dad’s luxurious vacations here. She didn’t say much about her family, either, though I remember going with her all the time to Western Union to wire them money.

Cha Cha’s sister’s house is the nicest around, even in the complex of small houses. It has a little metal gate surrounding its small front path and tiny but neat yard of dry-looking grass.

People sit on white chairs in the front yard: a heavyset woman and a pot-bellied man, both on the late side of middle age, a younger man and woman.

Cha-Cha exchanges big hugs and dozens of kisses, and then starts introducing me.

“Se fue la luz,” says Cha Cha’s sister.

“Ay Dios. Y con esta calor,” Cha Cha said. “Hace cuánto se fue?”

“Hace como dos horas,” the young man, her nephew, answers her, but his eyes are on me. He’s a little short and stocky for my taste, and his nose looks like it has been broken and not set back quite right.

Cha Cha’s family’s conversation is too rapid for me to follow, but at some point they are all looking at me and laughing. Cha Cha’s sister is on a comedic rant, gesturing broadly. The others laugh so hard they look fit to burst.

“Translation?” I ask Cha Cha.

“She didn’t expect you to be so fair. Because they’ve met your father and he’s moreno. She says your mom’s genes must be strong. And when you and Victor get together her grandkids will come out blond!” Cha Cha shakes her head, but she is on the verge of tears.

Victor, I’m sure, will share in my embarrassment over this discussion of babies within an hour of our meeting. But he just stares at me intensely, studiously, like he is trying to decipher what my face could mean. Then why not find a real gringa, someone more like Robin? Maybe I am the closest he can find.


When I go inside to help with bringing out glasses of lemonade, Victor corners me.

He has nice eyes. I can tell he normally wears glasses but has taken them off recently—just how I look in the morning right after I switch to contacts, dull rings right around the eyes.

I decide to try to make an impression, if not as an eligible bachelorette, at least as a decent human being. I’m sure Cha Cha’s family has heard what an asshole my dad was to her over the years. Maybe I can redeem him. If he even deserves redemption.

I have to ask Victor to slow down at least ten times before I understand what he’s telling me about his university. His studies have been interrupted again, this time by protests against the construction of the new lighthouse to commemorate Columbus, which would use up tons of the city’s electricity, causing even more outages out in the barrios. The National Guard has been shutting the protests down with tear gas and rubber bullets.

His stories of resistance help distract me from my pounding head and stomach, and make his crooked nose and dark-shadowed eyes more sexy. I like to know that young people here are stirring up the shit Cha Cha and her generation hold onto. I give him my number and tell him to let me know about the next protest.


Jesús’s persistence over text is nothing compared to the intensity with which he courts me after I finally respond. He stops by to say hi in the morning while I buy avocado from the street vendor, wearing a tight button up that shows his bulk. Cha Cha goes to work, and he comes to pick me up on foot for coffee. He calls me again to meet up to walk along the malecón after he works an impossibly short shift doing who-knows-what. Having three dates in one day speeds things up, and we say “Te quiero” by day three.

Robin thinks I’m moving too fast. “Three days?”

“Nine dates! And we still haven’t had sex. That’s a record.”

“What does he even do?”

“I don’t know. I can’t really understand. Maybe security?”


The taxi turns on a side street, and Jesús is standing on the corner. When the cab driver tries to overcharge me, Jesús argues fiercely with him in rapid-fire dialect, and something in me goes soft.

Jesús’s mom is toothless but full of heart, and beyond glad that her son has brought me home. She makes me a morir soñando, a cold drink of orange juice and condensed milk. I understand very little of what she says, but learn that Jesús’s father is in Miami, and they’ve been trying to get a visa to visit, and eventually to stay.

I wonder again whether I am a potential path. But Jesús says he has no interest in living in the States. He asks instead if I would like to come live here.

Jesús brings me across the street to an empty house, explaining it’s his aunt’s, who’s away. We make the bed with the linens his mother hands us in a neat stack. There’s something ceremonial about it all.

After we use up the three-pack of Trojans that I brought, he takes out more. When I think I’ve had enough exercise for a week, I sink into a light sex-induced trance.

“Tu tienes nuevas pilas,” he whispers in my ear. It sounds sexy, and I ask him to repeat it to get every word. New batteries? He is the one still fully charged.

The next time, we can’t go back to his aunt’s house so we take the crowded bus to the beach. We wade off into the water where he fucks me against the waves, deep enough that he has to hold me up to keep me from choking on salty water. It feels right, the way his body swallows me up, the way the music thumping from the beach and the heat seems primed for this kind of consuming love, the kind that makes you forget you ever had a past or future, the kind you disappear into completely.


On Friday, Jesús is working, and Freddy and Robin invite me to a night at Freddy’s family’s discoteca, where all the hottest local DJs are playing sets.

Freddy hands me a little round blue pill with a flag icon imprinted on it. He takes his eyes off the road to turn back at me and wink, and I pop the pill without question.

We run into a blockade in the road near La UASD, where police are stopping every car, and making some pull off to an ominous, poorly lit side road. Up the street, I see a military tank, and smoke. A few people run by with bandanas over their mouths, holding hands to their burning eyes. I remember the text I got earlier from Victor about the protest happening tonight, which I’d ignored to go out with Robin and Freddy. Cha Cha had said to watch out for the radicals, not knowing her nephew was among them.

Freddy chats with the officer, puts a bill in his hand, and makes a U-turn, escaping the chaos.

Soon, the E has me in my own time zone, the techno beats on the neon dance floor moving through my skin to my nerves and firing up a network of light in my blood. I dance with Robin, I dance with Freddy, I dance with both of them at once. I feel like my head will pop off and confetti will come shooting out.

I am chugging water at the bar, soaked in sweat, when I see Jesús’s face in the mirror. The image of him lurking over my shoulder.

I spin around, and he kisses me, pressing his puffy lips firmly into mine. Electricity shoots up my spine. He says something I don’t understand, studying my eyes. He swipes a sweaty strand of hair from my face. Then I realize he is in uniform. He’s wearing army fatigues, with a Dominican flag patch on his arm. His little badge says Guardia Nacional. I’ve been fucking a soldier? Who probably only moments ago was spraying tear gas into crowds of student protestors, where I should be?

Freddy comes up behind us, puts one hand on each of our shoulders, and invites us in English to come sit with him and Robin and have a drink. The last thing I want is to sit down, but I let Freddy guide us to a booth. The E makes my scalp tingle and my foot taps restlessly against the floor. I pick little flecks of dead skin from under my fingernails. Jesús puts a heavy arm around me as we sit down, pulling me towards him possessively.

The club’s blue light highlights all the differences between Freddy and Jesús. Freddy is lighter skinned, what Cha Cha would call “indio,” and his LA drummer hair is straight and long. He wears an expensive-looking black T-shirt. He speaks more formal Spanish, and peppers his speech with phrases in English. Jesús is darker, “moreno,” and has a fade with the hairline at perfect right angles. He speaks no English, and his Spanish is inflected with Dominicanisms.

Freddy asks Jesús where he’s from and smirks when Jesús answers. I feel protective over this tall, muscular man, and I slip my arm through his and rest my head on his shoulder.

Freddy turns his smirk towards me. “So where do you guys go to hook up? He takes you to the cabaña?”

I feel Jesús’s bicep go tight. “Qué?” he asks, then raises his voice, his clenched jaw squaring his face. “Qué dijo él?”

Robin, eyes wide as stars, chimes in. “It’s a joke. Es una broma.”

Jesús stands up from the table, yelling. Freddy stays seated, smiling, taunting him in English he knows Jesús can’t understand. I flinch as Jesús calls Freddy all kinds of gay—maricón, mariposa, mama guevo. Freddy, standing up, switches to Spanish, suddenly sounding more like Jesús. I can’t understand anything but the words in English: “green card.” This again?

Jesús loses his shit. He lunges at Freddy, easily getting him in a headlock. There is something satisfying about seeing Freddy’s neck wrapped in Jesús’s huge bicep. But in seconds, two huge security guards appear, grabbing Jesús and dragging him towards the exit.

He stops struggling long enough to lock eyes with me, expecting me to follow. I don’t follow. I need time to process the buzzing in my brain.

It doesn’t feel right to go back on the dance floor with Robin and Freddy, who are sucking down cocktails and acting like nothing happened. I hide in the bathroom for a while, then call a cab to take me back to Cha Cha’s.

There she is, still up watching TV, and try as I might to rush past her to the bathroom, she stands and gets real close to my face.

“What the hell is wrong with your eyes?”

Still pulsing with the last chemical bursts of euphoria, I tell her everything, not just about the E, but also the soldier from the barrio I’ve been seeing without her knowledge, and Freddy.

My drug-induced sense of empathy and well-being allows me to imagine that when Cha Cha tells me to take a shower and go to bed, she’s letting me off the hook.

But when I wake up, I hear the sound of a Skype call coming in from the other room, and then I hear the muffled voice of my father.

“Mara, come out here please!” Cha Cha calls out.

She’s sitting cross-legged on the couch, painting her nails purple.

“Is that my dad?” I mouth to her, hating how put together she looks, in her silk pajamas and hair in rollers, while I wear a T-shirt and shorts, my hair so tangled a dreadlock is forming in the back.

“We’re working on things.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Mara!” I hear him from her iPad screen.

I sidle over to sit next to her on the couch.


“I hear you’ve been acting disrespectful.”

He looks a lot better than when I last saw him, his eyes less swollen, his puffy face slimmed down. Golden brown, like he’s been getting some sun.

I refuse to let him make me feel like a misbehaving teenager. “I’m just having fun,” I say. “That’s why I came here.”

“Well if you’re going to act up, you can come back to New York.”

“And stay where?”

“Let me speak to your stepmother.”

I turn the screen away. Doesn’t he realize I’m still sitting right here? “I’m moving into a new apartment in two weeks, when I get out of here. I’m staying clean this time. Can you keep her until then?”

Memories from my childhood and adolescence flood back—all my parents and Cha Cha’s conversations about what to do with me next. How I’ve always been a burden, a problem child.

“I’m grown now,” I say, but they ignore me.

When they hang up, I ask, “So you’re going back to him?”

“I didn’t say that,” Cha Cha said.

“Could you really be that stupid?”


“I mean, you’ve been ignoring the warning signs for what, ten years? My mom tried to tell you. Remember? How he blew the savings? And now the house!”

“He’s been going through a lot,” she says quietly, looking down at her freshly manicured nails. I’m not used to her speaking softly. Usually when I raise my voice, she raises hers in turn.

“And of course he didn’t use any of the money from the house to pay my mom back or replenish my tuition fund. He used it to go to rehab in Westchester with a fucking Olympic-sized pool. And then I guess to buy your clothes and Botox or whatever. What about your car? This place? Did he sell the house for all this? Or do you have another American sugar daddy?”

The look on her face tells me I’ve struck a nerve. She slaps me hard across the face.

I feel the tears coming. “It doesn’t hurt,” I say.

What I mean is it isn’t the slap that does it. It’s coming down from E and remembering how my father taints everything he touches. The support he’s given Cha Cha that he’s never given me. How Cha Cha is no longer my ally in resentment. The empty-smiled man who couldn’t take care of me, whose cloud of gloom followed me here. The fact that I can’t love a three-times-a-day man like Jesús, or live up to my own righteousness. I can’t be sure whether the men like me for real, or for my light hair and citizenship.

Cha Cha wraps me in her arms. “I know, I know.”

I let her hold me because she’s the only one who’ll never let me me disappear.


Rumpus original art by Mike Tré.

Alex Watson is a fiction writer and poet from Syracuse, NY. She’s the executive editor of Apogee Journal, a publication providing a platform for historically marginalized artists and writers. She’s a lecturer at Barnard College. More from this author →