The goldfish landed on the living room carpet with a loud thump. Dominic thought it would have made more of a splat sound, but no. He watched as the goldfish flopped around wildly. Its tiny black eyes darted back and forth. Dominic heard a small breathy noise—its gills. The carpet absorbed what little water was left for the poor fish.
There was a frantic fury of footsteps coming down the stairs. Dominic’s mother, Monique, steadied herself as she looked on in horror. Dominic sat calmly next to the shattered fish bowl and a dead goldfish.
“Wha-what happened?” her voice trembled with the mixture of anger and worry.
Dominic continued to stare at the goldfish lying lifelessly on the carpet. Monique picked up her son and carried him into the kitchen. She checked his hands and bare feet for cuts. The six-year-old was fine.
“I’m not mad honey,” she looked him in the eyes as she explained. “I just want to know what happened? How did the fish bowl break?”
But Dominic wouldn’t answer his mother. He didn’t know how to tell her that he had knocked the fishbowl over. Curious, Dominique had tested whether fish closed their eyes and went to sleep when they died.
“I’m almost ready!” she calls from the bedroom door. He knows already that means she’ll be another 20 minutes. He wonders if you can call it a habit when it’s every time. Doesn’t that make it genetic? The same way her brown hair and green eyes are pre-programmed into her so is the lack of consideration for other people’s time.
He stares at his watch and reaches for the television remote. The game’s tied, with only 15 minutes left to go.
She sticks her head out from the bathroom door. “Don’t even think about turning on the game, Leo!” she yells.
He shoots her the finger, from behind the couch.
“I saw that!” she answers. “Turn off the god damn TV!”
He gets up from their shabby couch. “Now honey, you know you gonna be at least another 20 minutes in front of that mirror before you even ready to get out the door. Why can’t I watch the god damn game on the good damn TV while I wait for you?” he asks.
“I’m almost ready!”
“No you’re not and I’ll prove it.” He walks over to their bedroom and discovers her only half dressed with no top and only her first layer of makeup on. She tries to cover what he’s already seen before.
“Get out you!” She grabs the heel she’s wearing and throws it at him. He ducks and walks back to the living room, with her right behind him. Still angry she reaches for the other heel and lugs it at his head. He ducks and the heel flies over his head barely missing him by an inch. He’s ready to yell at her once again when he sees her face. She’s put her hands over her mouth, pointing behind him in terror. He slowly turns. Her $2,000 Christian Louboutin heel is lodged deep inside the LED screen of the TV.
She takes a seat in the back of the room. It’s the one closest to the door. A couple of members steal a glance out of the corners of their eyes. She realizes she’s still wearing her coat inside the well-heated room. It’s the fireplace and the wool rugs and all the exquisite furniture. They don’t have those where she’s from.
The girl next to her turns and says, “I like your hair by the way. You do it yourself?”
“The color?” she asks. “Oh, no.” Perhaps it does look strange for a girl like her to have blonde hair. Forest told her to never do it, to never dye it blonde, but she ignored his advice. “What do I care what men think?” she told him. What she meant to say was, “What do I care what you think?” It wasn’t his fault that he was a man.
She fidgets with the zipper on her snow coat. She can’t take it off in front of everyone. She feels all of their eyes on her, watching her movements, waiting for the moment when she betrays herself. ‘It’s my skin and my hair,’ she thinks to herself. A pale skinned blonde girl doesn’t belong at a meeting for Hispanic students, but ‘I do,’ she pleads internally. No matter how hard she tries to starve her hips their ample shape remains, defiant. It’s not like she wants to erase her Hispanic genetics. She just wants to slowly disappear into herself, like the pattern on a snail’s shell. Her hope is to one day wake up and find herself back to the body she had as a child, prepubescent.
Hunger hurts, but in the empty hole, she stuffs the memory of that night and all the other horrible nights since then. At this point, the sordid memories make up her body and soul. She’s broken and they know it.