Mother chose the dress—mint-green with puffed sleeves. White starched collar, electric-pleat skirt, lace socks that chafed my ankles. At the party, she made me kiss everyone: aunts reeking of Joy by Jean Patou, swaybacked uncles cradling beers, my grandmother smoking clove cigarettes between puffs of her inhaler. Someone was laughing loudly. Someone played a ukulele. From a far table, the rumble of mah-jongg tiles being shuffled by a quorum of matrons, their lacquered nails clicking, wreathed in cigarette smoke. Cousins wrestled on the scorched lawn. A small place behind my ribs felt tender, making it hard to breathe. I wanted most of all to lie in the pink shell of my room, a book within reach. Someone passed around colorful sandwiches in the shape of card suits: diamonds, spades, clubs. Someone carried a tray of fizzy drinks, handing them to the grownups. I imagined sneaking a sip and getting smaller and smaller like Alice, then crawling into Mother’s conch evening bag, the clasp closing overhead with a satisfied click. Mother whispered a greeting to a woman in a floral print kaftan. I vanished into their murmurs and shadows, a cloud of camphor and carnations.
Copyright © 2021 Angela Narciso Torres
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.