Lessons on Becoming Full Grown

Monica Rico

          after Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Young, my father painted my room pink & I thought

this is what little girls do. I screamed

when my brother said he would cut my hair.

I didn’t mind dresses when jeans were too hot & green

was my grandmother’s favorite color.

She was mean. I told everyone I knew

football players practiced ballet. I read

a ballerina lived off a piece of cheese & six ounces of milk.

This hardly means a thing now,

my room white and decorated in shadows. A half dead

crabapple. I haven’t danced

in years. My instructor drank herself to death.

She came to class in casts and covered in bruises.

I thought it was from dancing. I thought she practiced so hard she fell. I can still smell

the leotards & tights, sweet with sweat. How they laid on the body then & didn’t pinch.

How the older girls

told me my boyfriend would be lucky. Tap shoes with a heel in silver.

It ended so quickly. My mother tying up my hair & filling in my lips with red.

She tried hard to tame it, wrapped it in plastic bags with hot oil.

I wrapped my Barbie in electrical tape. There are pictures. I cut my own hair

& I know, it looks better long. Who am I kidding.

When I married, I didn’t want to believe

this was the best I would ever look. My mother

took off my glasses & told me I was pretty.

Metal dug into my chest & I stepped on my own ridiculous hem.

My armpits red from the chafe of lace & I can’t believe you

wore white. Once,

I dressed as a white girl. Spent $20 on the costume:

plaid skirt, sweater vest, with my own patent leather Mary Janes.

I straightened my hair. My boyfriend

kept smoothing my head with his hand. Next to me,

a guy pulled his fingers apart & stuck his tongue between them.

My boyfriend said it was like kissing someone else.

It was supposed to be a joke

like when my father couldn’t get my brother to shave. He took out

the razor’s blade & let me froth the barbasol on my face.

Slowly, I went across the delicate stretch of skin beneath my chin

& up to a swath of cheek. Look, look how easy this is.

I saved my upper lip for last

& curled it taut over my teeth, angling my face. Oh

how I wanted to do this every Sunday before we washed the car, before

my father closed my hand & said, Like this, otherwise you’ll hurt

yourself when you punch somebody.


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