Monthly Archives: September 2016

if i decide so


By Edyson Julio


A mouth is not a gun. A mouth can’t ward off punches or unwrap black hands from a throat—her mouth no less. I was defending my mother. She couldn’t defend herself, she never could. My mother needed strong arms to hit him. My mother needed weighty legs to kick him. God gave her words instead of a thick fist.


In exactly two days, December 4th, 1998, I’ll turn 22. If I decide so. I’ve been locked up for three years now. Last month, the 15th of November, marked my third year. Dates are sacred here: they’re indicators that the world outside hasn’t ended without saying one last goodbye. That maybe the sky is waiting for me to watch it once more, or that the rain wants to kiss my skin before the clouds dry. Sometimes I toss water from the sink into the air above me, and let it fall over my head and shoulders. If I close my eyes fast enough it feels natural, like rain. But sometimes the droplets just get stuck to the ceiling. When they drop I’ve already opened my eyes, and realized the guards outside are laughing at me.

Exactly two months ago, October 4th, they moved me into the box. They said Pablo Neruda was contraband. I passed it around and let others read it with the intentions of starting a revolution, they said. I guess love isn’t allowed behind their walls.

These walls. These walls. They’ve been learning me. Crying at me. Begging me to pull them down and get back home. But Mamí’s probably long gone. Making love to the man that ruined me. Caressing the back of his neck with her wrinkled palm. Rounding her fingertip over the bullet wound on his abdomen. So what’s left of the place I loved, other than the forks that she cooked with, or the scrub she rubbed over her face? What’s left of the place I loved, other than the walls that kept it all secret, and the pretty makeup she dusted over her lids?


Today, December 3, I’m going to write Mamí another letter. I don’t know where I’ll send it this time, but my faith tells me it’ll get to her. This is it, the one she’ll look for, by virtue of it being December alone. Mamí always had the best birthday parties for me. When I turned eight, she hired two clowns. At 13, we traveled on a plane and she bought me Kafka’s Metamorphosis. She read to me in that broken English. My 17th birthday was the finest. Mamí gave me fake eyelashes, and lied to the bouncer at the club. The music was loud, and old men were interested in my body. She taught me how to flirt that night. On my 19th birthday, she broke the rule—let my father come back home.

Tomorrow, December 4th, 1988, will be the third birthday without her. Just me and these walls. A sliding door keeping me from the rain. Sink/toilet. This mattress that tries to hug me at night.


Edyson Julio is a native of the Bronx, and a graduate of the Hunter College MFA Program in Fiction, where he was awarded a Hertog Fellowship. His writing has been featured in The Bronx Anthology and The Scofield Magazine. He currently teaches justice-involved youth at CASES, a non-profit organization, and is working on a collection of stories.

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By Torrey Paquette


David and Lucinda are waiting for the bus together in the triangle below Canal Street. David looks at Lucinda who looks at Ralph, who is also waiting, checking his watch, pacing and waiting. They are all nervous, especially David and Ralph. Lucinda is less nervous by about 3 degrees, if nerves are to be measured like the temperature. Ralph is bilking his family out of millions as we speak; David, whose ethics aren’t as elastic, is also doing something wrong, but it is less wrong than what Ralph is doing. Lucinda is being a bit of a fidget, putting her hand in her purse, thumbing the bristles of her hairbrush; fingers-on-bristles calms her when she is being goosey. She is often being goosey. She stole this brush from an old friend years ago because the rigidity of the bristles lent it a certain sexual frisson, and then she lost it and had the worst time finding an adequate replacement. When she finally found it again she asked her then-husband did he remember the brush she lost a few weeks ago? No, he said and she said: Well, I found it anyway. David is asking Ralph for the time. David has a wristwatch that Ralph can see, but David is just making conversation. Ralph is giving him the time and David is thanking. They are all three hating each other. Lucinda decided when she woke up that she does not like this day. It is a pointless day. Ralph hasn’t thought about day liking or not liking for a while, mostly because of the bilking. David, the biggest in the group, is sweating and juxtaposing swear words with safe words that rhyme: cockthesock. Is it really hot or really cold? They don’t know, but it is one of these things. Ralph, who laughs at crying children, is mentally adding and subtracting and arriving at figures he likes, but, later discovering he carried a seven instead of a crucial two, will find that they are inflated. Ralph is a monster. Lucinda is opening her eyes wide and then squeezing shut and then opening like this o – o – o – o as if she repeatedly cannot believe what she is seeing but it is just a tic and she is believing everything she is seeing. David and Lucinda and Ralph know they deserve what is coming to them. They have visited zoos and wondered what the animals are thinking. They have been to towns they wish didn’t exist. They have forgotten things they promised to never forget and remembered things they never thought they would. They are wondering: is Elton John’s Rocket Man the same spaceman as David Bowie’s Major Tom? They are terrifically terrible these three; they are scared.


Torrey Paquette is a television producer for “Charlie Rose,” the PBS interview program. He began writing fiction while attending Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Currently, he is working on a collection of short stories.

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