The Hidden Porch
By Carolina Hernandez |
Genesis pressed her lips against mine slowly, and pulled her weight back up. Holy mantras rang softly in my ear, the gentle guitar of the church choir from the chapel close by played its ceremonial eucharist tunes. Her feet had been close to mine and barred in the ballerina shoes she had borrowed from her sister the night before. I could tell they fit her too small because the flesh of her ankles protruded against tied portions of the ribbon. The choir band continued to play from inside.
“We should probably go, Jodie,” Genesis stood and flattened the yellow dress she said made her feel like a picnic ballerina. Genesis wore what she felt the unconventional art of fashion wanted her to wear—olive green turtlenecks paired with black and red checkered bellbottoms, her mother’s prescription reading sunglasses and her father’s counterfeit Rolex watch, or even my St. Magdalene All-Girls Academy cardigan with detachable cuffs that she had purchased from the thrift store since she was a firm believer in frugal shopping. Despite Genesis’s snide remarks on plain fashion, I preferred the simple pants and a t-shirt or overalls which didn’t seem to bother her. As long as I had a pocket to place a small notebook and a pen for when I heard beautiful words or phrases, I was set.
“We’ll be okay here,” I reassured her, holding her hand and motioning her towards the illustrated shape of Argentina on the faded global map of the green porch. The shapes of the countries were beginning to fade thanks to years of students walking over the painted image where we had once formed straight lines in boy-girl-boy-girl pattern before walking into the halls of St. Bruno Elementary after morning assembly. I remember trying to cut in front of Emilio Cordova who ran past every boy for his treasured spot and took pride in walking behind Genesis every morning because it meant that he could play with her long hair without her noticing. Genesis hasn’t cut her hair since the seventh grade, and two years later I still can’t grasp all of it with my tiny hands.
“Come on,” Genesis put her hands on her hips and looked across the basketball court that lay before the church. “You know they’re all going to come out any second. No matter how good you think this hiding spot is, we should get up. My little sister gets antsy towards the final blessing.” She leaned her body towards the edge of the brick walls that held the green porch and the hallway entrance together, reminding me of when we used to play secret double agent together and peer behind doors or walls as we tried to remain unseen.
I shifted in my overalls and played with my shoelaces, glancing every now and then in hopes of catching her stare. Ever since the kissing started, we agreed to keep it between us until, as Genesis put it, “we were ready”; but we were only ever kissing. Our summer was full of its usual
occurrences—hunting for quirky hairpins that we could fashion our hair with, cutting images of clothes and barely-there silhouettes of skinny supermodels from high fashion magazines so that we can add them to Genesis’s collage, quizzing each other on which Backstreet Boy we would marry, and skipping out on mass together as we pretended to help Mrs. Finegold, a teacher who no longer worked at St. Bruno.
“You’ve been asking me to meet you here for the past two Sundays; I haven’t seen your mom in a while, and I think I should say hi—especially to Clarissa, I haven’t seen her in so long that she’s probably asking, ‘What happened to Jodie?’ with that little chin covered in boogers.” I ran my fingers through the front part of my hair and adjusted the “POW!” comic book style hairpin Genesis bought me for my birthday last year with her allowance. I never really understood the hairpin trend, but it had been something Genesis was fond of that I pushed my notebook aside and began helping her collect. There was nothing in me that would have expected wearing them past middle school. Yet there it was—my hair adorned with various hairpins she had picked out for me all at once because they made my big nose look more “girly.” Even after the haircut, I was surprised that my hair was still able to carry more than one hairpin.
“I’m pretty busy tonight, so I should go alone, and you can walk home again. Sorry. I haven’t been feeling well, you know, girls our age get periods and have insane hormones that make us feel shitty.”
After saying this, Genesis turned to look at me with that stupid innocent stare she tried so hard to keep on her face. It wasn’t real. What was real in that stare each time was the feeling that she convinced herself that I bought into it, and I had no choice but to run with it; if I had chosen to act against it, she would burst into a chorus of “you must be on your period!” My only other option was to shyly inquire, pose as the inferior and less-experienced friend who did not quite understand things so clearly the first time, find her unravel in her own act of convincing.
“Why don’t you let me see your parents? I want to ask them if they’re still throwing that quinceañera of yours! Maybe I can even ask my brother to sneak us some beer in those giant, gas-tank looking things like in the movies, and he can move it towards the kiddie table.” I wanted to see her unravel.
“Listen, I can’t. You can go home, I already said it! I’ll see you tomorrow or something,” she said, agitated.
She ran towards the crowd of churchgoers that flooded the basketball court. Families of three to five children and overly perfumed mamis and papis inched their way towards the green porch for some shade, the mamis clinging onto their impatient little ones who crawled under the pews during most of the service. I watched Genesis squeeze through the crowd as she tried making her shoulders smaller to pass through until both of her arms were touching one another. In the movies, the boy runs
for the girl who keeps saying no—he pulls her by the wrist and confesses his love for her until she is left with a burn-like mark on her arm because he wouldn’t let go. I didn’t run.
In the encroaching crowd, I could see Clarissa and Mrs. Jimenez purchasing a churro from the street vendor who had been stationed by the benches and not far from them, I caught a glimpse of Genesis’s long brown hair with its copper, untrimmed ends.
“You need to go home, Josie,” she gripped my arm like my mother did when I had gotten in trouble for something minor like not finishing a chore; it reminded me of always being told what to do and what to clean without my brothers receiving a single order. Her grasp tugged on my shirt until my bra strap peered out. I stared at her with hard eyes like how I stared at my mother.
“Genesis, let go! What the hell is wrong with you? Why can’t I see your family?”
My eyes softened at the sight of hers, and I grew desperate for answers. Meanwhile, dozens of people shouted for their compadres, their hermanos, and shuffled their way through the flux of us, squeezed their bodies by us. Genesis tightened her grip. Some weaved their way to shake Father Julio’s hand and were delayed, others shouted, “hijo, get your tio a churro, tambien!” from the other side of the court. The people and voices and bodies frustrated me, they all did things so contradictory from one another.
“You want the truth, chica?” Genesis lent her voice to the cacophony of Spanglish noise that usually would’ve sounded like a melding melody if I hadn’t been in a mood. “I can’t let my parents see you with that lesbian haircut! There, I said it. I can’t be seen walking around with a lesbian when I have to meet my chambelan.”
I pretended that the invisible weight I felt on my forehead was a cowboy hat whose brim shielded my weak eyes from the enemy I knew could pummel me. Genesis continued to hold on tight to my shirt, so I tugged.
“I thought you didn’t want to be near a lesbian-looking thing like me, so why don’t you let go and stop being a bitch?” Even though I had heard my brothers call my mom a bitch sometimes, I had never called her or any other girl one before. Genesis let go of my arm. Advertently, I adjusted my disheveled sleeve and concealed my bra strap. Genesis looked me up and down, seeming like she wanted to apologize, but I could tell she was already starting to convince herself otherwise. She was expecting me to apologize like usual. It doesn’t matter who starts the fight because I’m always the pendeja who says sorry.
My eyes lowered.
“It should take like a month for my hair to grow out,” I mumbled, walking away.
ENJAMBED | SPRING 2019