45.1 Feature: My Mother Sees the Invisible by Gabriela Garcia

Jan 28, 2019 | Feature, Fiction Print

Her fiction and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin House, Zyzzyva, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. She was awarded a 2018 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, served as the 2018 writer-in-residence for Sarabande Books, and attended the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley as a fellow. She has an MFA in fiction from Purdue University, where she also taught creative writing.

The daughter of immigrants from Cuba and Mexico, Gabriela was raised in Miami and currently resides in Lafayette, Indiana. In her past life she worked in music, magazines, technology, and feminist and immigrant rights organizing.

My Mother Sees The Invisible

Men in masks, men in blue dickeys with grime stains like mud puddles gathering at the helms, men who tell my mother (at this, she covers her ears with palm-wisp hands that quiver): we’ve come to get you finally, you who’s been running all your life from Ese Viejo Joaquin behind your daddy’s house feeling up on that baby lamb, no idea what men can do, what men are capable of, winking at you, who giggled like she walked in on another day of butter-spread sunshine and grass-spackled adventure and you told me once, “This is what they are capable of: Holding a twelve-year-old girl down by a fistful of wild curls, twisted roots, her face snorting in the blood-rust dirt, her body blood and rust itself, because that’s how we learn to carry on and suffer, how we learn what it is to be a woman in this life,” and I’ll be the first to admit I can’t stand these proclamations of victimhood, especially when she’s seeing demons and devils and clawing at me like I’m not the one trying to mend these broken pieces of a woman, and I’m always the one who ends up having to restrain her by those wrists like about-to-snap tree limbs and call the men in blue dickeys to come and get her and watch that wild feral fear in her eyes as they carry her away, but like I tell those men, it’s not all bad–there are weeks when she can’t sleep, says in her smoky-hoarse voice that she’s just not that tired, and grabs her keys and drives to the store where I swear she screams like the day her daddy didn’t look her in the face as she got on that plane with her sixteen-year-old swollen belly headed from Pinar del Rio to Miami, screams before a pile of shimmery, sequined dresses and pearl necklaces and fat gold hoops with some poor underpaid sales attendant whispering security into her headset because my crazy old mother has ten credit cards, all declined, but she wants this gaudy, glimmering bounty so bad that I’m liable to show up and hand over my own ruined credit to see the light back in her eyes but it never lasts, that light, fading into fog as she sits before her cup of cold, black coffee staring into nothing for days, when I drag her in and out of bed and beg her to shower, when all she can do is lift the remote control to watch the weatherman point and prod over the bloated gun-trigger-shape of Florida with its thrashing hurricanes and flood waters and she’ll say “that’s me, disaster” and I’ll hate her and love her and wonder what invisible bodies are lurking behind the glow and void of a TV set, when those droning mouths will morph into fangs again, and she’ll curl into herself like a child, and I’ll have to turn to her and say as I always have, “Nothing’s gonna hurt you; nothing’s really there.”