Monthly Archives: February 2011

Maternal instinct nightmare


I am in my childhood home.

It is night.

The deck door, which accesses the living room, is open and the screen door is, stupidly, unlocked. When I see the man there, I know he is dangerous. I know he means harm. And I know that I can’t prevent him from coming in.

I don’t know who else is home other than Mariel, who is in my bedroom, asleep. I do not want the man to know this. He attacks me immediately and I fight back, which is futile. I manage, though, to pull him out to the carport, where he slings me over his shoulder. In the now-familiar trope of nightmares I’ve had since childhood, I open my mouth to scream “Help!” (though my current “helps” are in both English and Spanish), producing no sound. It has always been this way, wasting my energy on calling for help, never able to fully articulate the cry. Every 10 efforts produce a weak noise, which makes the attacker stronger; he knows he is in a powerful position. He also knows we’re geographically isolated; no one would help me even if I could make a sound.

I manage to pull free of him and make a run for the neighbor’s house, in indescribable agony over the decision to leave Mariel behind. Leaving her while I go for help is my only chance, I think, but what if he goes back inside? What if he finds her?

Next, I am in a Puerto Rican police cruiser with three officers: two men, one woman. We are driving past my parents’ house and I tell them “My daughter is there; please stop so we can get her!”, but they keep driving. They say we have to do the paperwork, that they can’t take any action unless everything that has happened has been documented.

What bothers me is that I wake up then, not knowing whether my choice to leave her was right.


Mariel’s flower


A woman handed the flower to Francisco, who, in turn, handed it to Mariel.

It was a fake flower, dipped in a blue dye with dried baby’s breath attached to the “stem” with florist’s tape. A small white bear was glued onto the base of the flower and the whole thing was wrapped in a sheath of plastic.

Inwardly, I groaned, annoyed by the fact that the “gift”–however kind a gesture–was going to become part of the detritus of our life, more clutter, more waste, another thing that will eventually make its way to a landfill, once all the novelty has been squeezed out of it.

But at the same time, the flower became an object upon which all sorts of emotions were projected.

You can’t see it clearly here, especially since the photo is sideways, but Mariel has the flower in her hand and she is tapping a stranger on the leg with it. While Francisco shopped for shoes, I followed Mariel as she approached shoppers to give them the flower. Some would look at her and smile, charmed and delighted, happy to take the flower, pretend to smell it, and then give it back to her. Some would take the flower distractedly if she insisted that they take it, then push it back into her hand. And others would ignore her completely, moving with determination and purpose toward a shoe, oblivious to the people around them, including the small child who barely reached their mid-calf, tapping them lightly on the leg with a fake blue flower.