Isabel Quintero


What You Listen To When Your Parents Drink Until 3 A.M.

 

Your mom never drinks. Well, hardly ever drinks.

When she does it’s Margaritas and shots

on Fridays at her compadres’ house. Taking long drags

of secrets she doesn’t want you to know she has.

Your dad is sometimes there and sometimes not.

It doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t and this

is how it has always been. On the other side of the house,

you and him (him him–not your dad) spend the night

in his bedroom. It smells like teenage boy–

like Three Flowers, Hugo Boss, and feet. No one comes

to check on you–ever. This, you think, is strange

because your mom is worried that you will spread

your legs for someone soon and you’re afraid

that day won’t come fast enough. You lock

the door just in case. Your friend Melissa gave

you Boyz II Men’s II during 7th period science.

She had gotten it for her birthday but her grandma didn’t like her

listening to music by black people so she gave it to you,

her only Mexican friend. You wouldn’t have to hide it,

like your copy of Doggystyle which you keep between

your mattress and take out only when you’re feeling

brave enough to test your parents’ hearing. On nights

when you both are sad (you and him–not you and Melissa),

you lay on his bed while “I’ll Make Love to You”

is on repeat. You sing the words until your parents stop

laughing. Neither of you really talking because what’s

there to talk about? The song says it all. This, of course,

is before either of you make love. Before he shows

you the used condom he keeps under his bed as proof

that someone loved him. No, you won’t touch it,

but you understand why’d he keep it. 


On The 91 West At Green River At 7:30 A.M. On A Tuesday

 

One time I thought I was in love, 

but it was a sliver of the moon crashing 

into some farmland in the midwest;

it looked so beautiful

I forgot the sky had broken.

 

One time I thought I was in love

and the boom shook my windows,

shattered glass on the floor–stardust twinkling

in what was left of the moon.

 

One time I thought I was in love 

and I got married. 

 

One time I thought I was in love, 

but I was drowning in the Pacific.

You watched me from the shore as you evened out your tan

and sipped your stupid Coke. Wet laughter plugged my ears.

 

One time I thought I was in love,

but it was just some guys with rifles 

dragging me out of bed.

they dumped me in a mass grave,

their voices sounding more and more like my grandmother as my eyes began to shut.

 

One time I thought I was in love, 

but it was just the national anthem.

 

One time I thought I was in love, 

but it was just my car that had run out of gas 

on the 91 West, right at Green River, at 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday.

 

One time I thought I was in love, 

but it was just that I’d left the beans on

and burned the tortillas;

I was a bad Mexican.

 

One time I thought I was in love, 

but I realized that you'd already left. 

 

One time I thought I was in love 

and I thought I had learned a new language, 

but instead it was Pig Latin. Just backwards words

trying to create a drawl in my mouth;

the accent and lisp fighting each other for meaning.

 

One time I thought I was in love, 

but it hurt 

and I didn't want it anymore.

 

One time I thought I was in love, 

but it was just leftover menudo.

 

One time I thought I was in love, 

but it was just the rumble of planes 

spraying crops. The poison looked so much like snowflakes

I stuck my tongue out to catch one

and died.

 

One time I thought I was in love, 

but I was hungover,

clinging to the headache

of your nakedness. 


BIO

Isabel Quintero is a writer born, raised, and residing in the Inland Empire of Southern California. A graduate of Cal State San Bernardino, she sits on on the board for a non-profit literary arts organization, PoetrIE. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces from Cinco Puntos Press, her first novel, is the recipient of several awards, including the 2015 William C. Morris Award for Debut YA Novel and the California Book Award Gold Medal for Young Adult. Her work can be found in Huizache, As/Us Journal, The Acentos Review, The Pacific Review, and others.