Madari Pendas

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

The phone trills on the iron table. Her gum pops & smacks, she swallows before speaking.

I pound at her door until my knuckles peel.

She massages my hands, strained from typing. Rubbing my love & life lines with her knuckle.

She crashes Noche Buena, tired of hiding, tired of playing roommates.

Taking my waist, we drunkenly cumbia until Abuela demands we leave. We miss la caja china.

Are you ashamed of me? She vomits in a planter on Calle Ocho.

Night drives down the JFK Causeway, Brickell & Downtown lights make us stop & park.

Every errand done together, in a pair. I think in we, instead of I.

We chase Daisy down Homestead's sunflower fields, picking sandbur seeds off her paws & fur.

Daisy ate a toad. It's not long before Daisy's eyes close.

In San Martín, she slips under the water, grinning, & I watch the clouds fiddle across the sky.

I catch her gaze following the other women down the shore.

After a workshop, she takes me to the bridge, & repeats you are a good writer.

I bring her my stories, piling them at her desk, hopeful.

Near the Negresco, she bites my earlobe & shows me: my name on her shoulder. Forever babe.

The saucer misses me, shattering. I can't sleep till she comes back.

When I don't get enough aid one year, she sells her Volvo & slips the money under my pillow.

My friends call her uneducated when they see her in her uniform.

She spells words on my stomach with her tongue. When I guess wrong, she dips into the inkwell.

Ana is no one. Ana is no one. Ana is just a friend.

In Knauss Berry we pick strawberries. Each time she bends, comes up, I'm relieved by her return.

On the side of i-95, I walk, thrown out, thinking I can still see her.

For my 23rd birthday she bakes a vanilla-wafer tart, her cheek slashed with flour & sugar.

Does she bake for Ana?

We spread Daisy's ashes at Bark Park before sunrise, she flicks her wrists like a curling wand.

Someone is to blame for this.

She forests the bed in jasmines. She plucks me out of my sundress.

I pretend like I gave her that mark on her neck & thigh. I pretend.

I forget it all as she slips the ring on. Her hazel eyes never break contact. She cries, then grins.

She insists I can keep it. I hang it on the keychain like a suicide.

Pink-perfumed letters still come. Life in Maine is cold, but the crab is good. I miss you, xoxo.

On their wedding day they both wear white starched suits.

Six years later, the lines are shaky and broken, a trembling cursive. One last letter.

It still begins with dear. My new partner asks me to burn it.

Do you hate me? She writes. I still think of you whenever I bake. I'll be in town on the 3rd.

Over the range I'm surprised how quickly paper turns to ash. I am.

Madari Pendas is a Cuban-American writer and visual artist. She received her MFA from Florida International University, where she was a Lawrence Sanders Fellow. Her work has appeared in Craft, The Masters Review, PANK Magazine, and more. She is the author of Crossing the Hyphen (2021).