Author: Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Melissa Lozada-Oliva is a writer, bookseller, and real actual pirate living in Boston. She has previously been published in The Write Deal, Sidelines, and Jaded Ibis Productions. Follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.

you’re at a job interview being shown around the office and your black thong underwear is on the floor.

it is from last monday
it is from the last time you wore these pants
your black thong underwear just fell out of your pants

THREE VOICES GO OFF IN YOUR HEAD AT THIS TIME

the first one is your mother’s voice
from that time you peed yourself at your cousin’s birthday party in 2001:
meleesa you cannot hold it in joo weel get an infection and die next time jus open your mouth and say something

the second one is the imaginary bear
wearing a tutu that you dream about sometimes when you’re anxious
the bear says:
leave it. when the office manager finds it say nothing.  pretend like it fell out of the fax machine. maybe it did. maybe it’s actually someone’s scarf, ha-ha.
this bear laughs a lot

the third voice is your own  making this sound:
errrglkaaasssssgooooo

you pick up your old underwear
try to stuff it in your pockets
realize that you have no pockets

you try to recall how you got here.
you were at an interview for a job you didn’t want
your eleventh interview this summer

you were wearing pants with lint stuck to both knees
like little children you are afraid to have one day
it was professional enough
you borrowed your sister’s shirt
because the iron burned a tortilla-shaped hole in the one you were planning on wearing
it was professional enough

the woman showing you around the office is the CEO’s daughter
she is put together and smells like citrus
she is professional enough
what is the word for taking bathroom breaks at your retail job to cry
is bravery supposed to feel like your guts want to slide out of your nose
what is it called when you want everything to go well because if it doesn’t then essentially
your immigrant parents’ citizenship doesn’t matter.
how do you not
feel an old pair of underwear nestled in your fucking pant leg i mean shit

they offer you the job
but you still cry on the train ride home
because even though it is the  eleventh and most successful interview
you do not want it

what is the word for being lucky enough to turn something down
what does it mean if you don’t care where your heart is
as long as you can put money in your savings account

is adulthood your pants —
wrinkled but ready?

is your black thong underwear your heart —
somewhere on the floor of a corporate office floor?

hoping it hasn’t been too obvious
hoping it’s only you who’s noticed it
hoping that you have figured out that it’s always been there
even if you couldn’t feel it
hoping you won’t stare at it too long
won’t let too much time pass
before you reach out
and grab it

You Know How to Say Arroz Con Pollo But Not What You Are

If you ask me if I am fluent in Spanish I will tell you
My Spanish is an itchy phantom limb: reaching for a word and only finding air
My Spanish is my third birthday party: half of it is memory, and the other half is a photograph on the fridge is what my family has told me

If you ask me if I am fluent I I will tell you that
My Spanish is a puzzle left in the rain
Too soggy to make its parts fit so that it can look just like the picture on the box.

I will tell you that
My Spanish is possessive adjectives.
It is proper nouns dressed in pearls and bracelets.
It is are you up yet. It is there is a lot to do today
My Spanish is on my resume as a skill.
My Spanish is on his favorite shirt in red mouth marks

If you ask me I will tell you
My Spanish is hungrier than it was before.
My Spanish reaches for words at the top of a shelf without a stepping stool
is hit in the head with all of the old words that have been hiding up there
My Spanish wonders how bad is it to eat something that’s expired
My Spanish wonders if it has an expiration date
If you ask me if I am fluent in Spanish I will tell you that

My Spanish is the smell of Windex, the tearing of paper towels, the flushing of toilets, the splash of a mop
My Spanish bites on a pencil in the corner of a classroom and does not raise its hand
My Spanish cancelled plans with you so that it could watch movies
My Spanish is my older sister’s sore smile at her only beauty pageant
My Spanish is a made up story about a parent who never came home
My Spanish is a made up story about a parent who never came home and traveled to beautiful places and sent me post cards from all of them
My Spanish is me, tracing my fingers along every letter they were able to fit in  
My Spanish is the real story of my parent’s divorce
Chaotic, broken and something I have to choose to remember correctly
My Spanish is wondering when my parents will be American
asking me if I’m white yet

If you ask me if I am fluent in Spanish I will try to tell you the story
of how my parents met in an ESL class
How it was when they trained their mouths to say
I love you in a different language, I hate you with their mouths shut
I will tell you how my father’s accent makes him sound like Zoro
how my mother tried to tie her tongue to a post with an English language leash
I will tell you that the tongue always ran stubbornly back to the language it had always been in love with
Even when she tried to tame it
it always turned loose
If you ask me if I am in fluent
I will tell you
My Spanish is understanding that there are stories that will always be out of my reach
there are people who will never fit together the way that I want them to
there are some letters that will always stay silent
there are some words that will always escape me.