“Póntelo” said my abuela in her sweet yet intimidating tone as she reached for my neck with her soft hands that smelled of cilantro. She had gotten up at 7 in the morning to make fresh shrimp ceviche for my arrival. “Póntelo todos los días” she insisted. The minute it touched my skin I felt automatic guilt and moral obligation, the kind that’s imbedded in you when you’re born into an ultra-religious-grandma sings in the church choir- Hispanic family. I loved my abuela but I wasn’t too into the Rosario thing. Or the santos. Or the Virgen. I could feel the rosario strangling my mind with sin and repentance as she carefully placed it around my neck and the brown wooden beads hugged my chest. I wouldn’t wear this when I’d go back to New York. I loved my abuela but I moved away for a reason, to not disappoint her or mami with my actions or sins aka having sex and not being married yet. At my age, my grandma was already on her third child, had perfected every Ecuadorean dish out there and would wake up with perfect brown curls and red lips every morning.
They were so relieved when I told them about Ed a year ago, they secretly celebrated I wasn’t a lesbian. Shit, they even overlooked the fact that he had tattoos and piercings, abuela always said those things were del diablo. The plan for today was to go to Publix, my favorite place in this humid town where I no longer felt comfortable. “No te vas a poner lápiz de labio?” my mom asked before leaving the house. I never understood who genuinely enjoyed wearing lipstick to go buy toilet paper. “I prayed to San Antonio de Padua every night to put a good man on your path, un buen hombre,” mami added as she fixed my hair and forced blush on my cheeks. Little did she or abuela know that buen hombre broke up with me over text two weeks before flying here. I had somehow managed to hide a series of panic attacks from them in the past three days of my visit home, in fear of the worst: the talk about dying alone, how cats are vicious and mala suerte and how I need to move back home.
As soon as I got back to my small box of a room in New York, I put the Rosario down on my bed and noticed Ed’s drawing of me on the floor. Before leaving for Florida, I had a moment and threw everything he gave me to the ground in a fake conversation with him, the kind I’d been having every day with the ghost of him for the past two weeks, prepping for our future encounter. “It will always be the most beautiful drawing anyone has ever done for me Ed” I caught myself saying out loud. Had I become a viuda loca? Where’s my Rosario? Santa Maria mother of God help me forget this pendejo, I repeated 21 times. I always believed 21 was my lucky number, it was the amount of breaths I took after having the Florida panic attacks.