– Fierce Fiction by Miranda McClellan –
Finalist of the 2020 Dreamers Flash Fiction and Nonfiction Contest.
My therapist is worried about me because I never wear anything but sweatpants. Llevo un buzo for the third week in a row. I tell her, “Leslie, if there was something to worry about, you’d know because I’d just stop showing up.”
Life is not good, but it isn’t too bad, it’s my normal. What I feel no es nada original. But “normal” is a labeling phrase, fraught with expectations – that I only know how to dash – and está en nuestra lista de palabras prohibidas. I shouldn’t use this word, and I shouldn’t say “should”, if I want to stop comparing myself and be happy. Finally. But who can be content while they are wasting borrowed time?
“Tell me about your family.” It’s Leslie, probing, again, trying to make sense of my crying fits.
Let’s start with mi mamá– Dio la luz a un niño muerto, my stillborn older brother. That little light returned unused tomy mom, puesme la dio a mí. So, I’m alivewith second-hand time, pre-plotted with the expectations for a boywho couldn’t live it. Regifted for me, who doesn’t want it. Leslie scoots the tissues box closer as lagrimas racedown my cheeks.
Have you ever thought of self-harm? “No.”
Have you ever thought of harming others? “No.”
The answers were so rehearsed I almost believed them myself. No one knew about those bouts of cutting in middle school back when emo was a lifestyle, not just statement eyeliner. Everyone I knew tugged down their sweater sleeves during uniform inspections and secretly listened to My Chemical Romance in the stairwells.
“Do you think the lack of sunshine has affected you?”
When I’m convinced that Leslie likes me, I slowly release the secret into the air. To start, just a drop to see if she can handle the flood to come.
“Actually, these northern winters are good for me…” …because no one asks about the scars beneath your winter coat. A turtleneck is a sign of sophistication even if beneath it I practice strangulation of the only person I want to be, who I can’t be, la persona que tengo demasiado miedo de ser.
Leslie asks, “Cecilia, why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I just wanted the pain to finally become a memory.” Isn’t this the benefit of getting older?
El hermano mayor quien nunca fue except in the heart of my parentswho had planned my brother’s whole life ahead of him so that he could live the “American dream”. The dreamthat had been growing like a weed inside my father’s brainsince he stepped off the Boeing and onto US soil.The dreams for the doctor son and the beautiful daughter melded into one and poured all over me until I couldn’t breathe. Drowning in expectations until all I heard was the ringing in my ears:
“¡Me estás volviendo loco, Ceci!”as the hands came down to grab my arm and shake me to my senses for not conforming a la chica quien nunca seré.
“Between sessions, I feel…” Nada. “…Numb?”
There’s Leslie again with that concerned face.
How can I feel sad when there is a beautiful girl like Jasmine? White and rare and beautiful, como un diamante amarillo, that studies geology and is on the climbing team. How can I feel happy knowing she would never want me? She is the type of girl my brother would have married, el tipo de chica que habría hecho orgullosos suegros de mis padres, the type of American daughter they dreamed about. So different from me that I shouldn’t have expected anything.
“Tell me about her,” Leslie says.
I let her drag the story out of me, aunque hay tanto que ya quiero olvidar. All my answers are half-truthsas I try to convince myself along the waythat I have always been exactly as I hope to be instead of who I was hace tres semanas: Drunk.
Estuve un poco borracha en una fiesta.
I saw Jasmine, dancing with a group of friends. I made my way over to her, jiving in my jeans, and she recognized me from our lit class. The circle widened, conmigo adentro por fin. Someone passed me a joint. I puffed and passed it along. Jaz danced with me and I gave her a twirl thinking aun el pelo en sus brazos es rubio. At the end she placed herself in my arms, swaying, grinding her back against me. I felt my heart blooming out of my chest in time with the base line and her behind as she bent forward and slowly curved back up.
We took two shots together and then she led me down a hallway. I was going back with Jasmine and she opened a little room for us. There was a small couch and a stereo and a man waiting.
“I found this hottie,” she said, hands around my waist. Me? Hot? “I found this hottie…for us.”
Us was Jaz and him.
He assessed me, up and down, like my father when I show him my work. Mira, Papá, a lo que he hecho, look at who I have become.
“I meant thicc in the ass only,” the man laughed.
I noticed that Jasmine’s hand was resting on my love handles. I’m sure she gave him a look that said “Don’t be mean” as I slinked out of the room quickly, quietly to go back to being unseen.
In my room, alone, me quite los vaqueros rápidamente. I shed that person I almost was. I put on my sweatpants.
“That was three weeks ago,” I finish, staring at the floor.
Leslie’s looking at her clock. “We’re out of time.”
I’m out in the hallway, shuffling with my backpack on scheduling my next appointment. I’m a regular at the campus clinic. Suelo regresar with a new story to tell.Next time,todavía, I willbe wearing sweatpantswhile I ask myself the same question:
“Shouldn’t I be over all this by now?”
About the Author – Miranda McClellan
Miranda McClellan is a Texas native who bravely weathered Boston winters while studying at MIT. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Spain 2019-2020. Miranda currently works as a software engineer.
*This story by Miranda McClellan is a Finalist in the Dreamers 2020 Flash Fiction and Nonfiction Contest. See the full results!
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