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.