The pulse between dimensions and the desert

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Praise for Rios de la Luz

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The Pulse between Dimensions and the Desert

“Rios de la Luz’s writing blows minds and breaks hearts. A sort of new and bizarre Tomás Rivera, Rios is able to blend the familiar of the domestic with the all the wilderness of the universe. Her stories will grab you in places you didn’t know you had, take you by those places to where you’ve always wanted to go—though you never knew how to get there. Buy this book and enjoy that journey.” —Brian Allen Carr

 

“InThe Pulse between Dimensions and the Desert,Rios de la Luz’s writing is electric and alive. It grabs you and pulls you into her universe, one that is both familiar and foreign, a place where Martians find love, bad guys get their ears cut off, and time travel agents save lost children. In this innovative, heartfelt debut, de la Luz takes her place as a young author that demands to be read and watched.” —Juliet Escoria

 

A Ladybox collection

 

Ladybox Books

10765 SW Murdock Lane

Apt. G6

Tigard, OR 97224

 

Copyright © 2015 by Rios de la Luz

 

Cover art and design copyright © 2014 by Matthew Revert

www.matthewrevert.com

 

Interior design by J David Osborne

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

 

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Where the names of actual celebrities or corporate entities appear, they are used for fictional purposes and do not constitute assertions of fact. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

ISBN: 978-1-940885-18-6

 

Printed in the USA.

THE PULSE

BETWEEN

DIMENSIONS

AND THE DESERT

 

Rios de la luz

For my sisters y las mujeres in my family.

Table of Contents

MARTIAN MATTERS

LUPE AND HER TIME MACHINE

CRAYONS

HAMMER

EAR TO THE GROUND

MORENA

CURLS

ENOJADA

TAROT

COLORADO

THE PULSE BETWEEN DIMENSIONS

AND THE DESERT

CHURCH BUSH

LA LOBA

LADY MESCALINE

ESMAI

ROSARIO

LAS MUJERES

SWEET GUM

LA REINA

MARIGOLDS

 

MARTIAN MATTERS

Saturday means a call from your abuela. She asks you if you have a boyfriend. It is a guaranteed question. Every single time. “Grandma, no tengo un boyfriend.” She insists that having a boyfriend means stability and better self-esteem. No man has ever put a hand on you because it sounds uncomfortable. You kissed a boy once, but the chemistry was forced and his excitement made you gag. He asked if you were okay then tried to kiss you again. You shoved him away and jumped out of his blue Sentra. He was embarrassed, so he spread rumors about you being queer. This was high school, right. He used the term queer with negative connotations. You use queer as an exclamation of who you are. Abuela doesn’t know. You might say something to her about it after she’s disintegrated into dust and can’t tell you that looking for a girlfriend is ludicrous. “Mija, what show are you watching right now?” You slept for twelve hours after binge-watching an historical drama about ghosts and black magic. You can at least tell her about your Korean telenovelas with enthusiasm.

 

 

You wake up from a dream and you think it’s real, right? You meet your soul mate in a planetarium on Mars. She’s a Martian, you’re a human prototype, but you go down on each other anyway, beneath the cosmic replicas in the tiny fortress that overlooks the pale blue dot called earth and the real stars birthing themselves and exploding into nothingness. You wake up and she doesn’t exist. You do, but you’re not really sure why. In other dreams, there is a lot of dark space. Shadows overtake the corners of your vision. There are three orenji koi fish that swim in the gray skies as you run through lush green fields looking for the Martian. She’s a continuous theme after you’ve fallen asleep. The continuity you experience in three dimensions is nine to five. In the next dream you’re hauling your TV onto a cliff and into the ocean. The three koi burst out of the sea and one swallows the TV. Its belly is bloated and it flickers on and off with flashes of a woman who is staring through to you. You wake up and realize you would never give up your TV.

Abuela says she will watch your Korean dramas when they are all subbed in Spanish. “Mija, are you looking for another job?” You used to work two jobs. Retail and banking. You were enthusiastic about the prospect of paying loans off early and traveling around by thirty-five. You quit retail on an impulse. A woman with puffy blonde hair yelled at you about a misplaced sign and singled you out by claiming the “ethnics” were messing up the country. You read an Urrea quote online that you wanted to say, but didn’t. You wanted to say, “Listen puta, my ancestors may have crossed a river to get here, but your ancestors crossed oceans to be here and you think we owe you colonizers something? FUCK YOU.” Instead, you took your apron off, threw it on the floor and ugly cried while she insisted on speaking to your manager.

When you fell asleep, dreams trapped you in that god damned mall. You drowned the first night. The second night, you kicked the shit out of giant crickets in the food court. The third night, the mall melted around you and sank into a volcano as you watched the fish fly over you in the pink sky. Your TV was still in the belly of the chubbiest koi. The Martian came back. She waved and smiled within the television screen as the fish flew toward the coast.

 

You tell abuela that one job is sustaining you for now. The bank job is exhausting. You don’t speak Spanish as well as you used to, but you can help some of tu gente when they come in. The relief on the faces of the women you interact with gives you warmth. You can help them for a brief moment and they can remain strangers to you. You don’t know many people in this city. You’ve been staying alone in your apartment the past six months. You moved away so you wouldn’t have to answer your door in the town you grew up in. The chances of running into cruel assholes were high. In the town you used to live, you chose comic books over people. You chose music over people. You chose dreaming over people.

 

 

The Martian showed up in the background of a dream when you first moved to Oregon. She was taking a photo with a faceless person. She had her peace sign up and the camera flashed multiple times until you were transported into a space vessel. You had a phaser on hand as you rode up an elevator with blinking buttons on the ceiling and next to the doors. You snuck out of the elevator and space soldiers in ninja gear chased after you with laser guns.

The Martian remained frequent in your head. She isn’t real, and you understand this thoroughly. She isn’t real and you understand this with a heavy heart.

 

“Mija, when are you going to visit me?” You say “soon.” Abuela tells you she loves you and this is a fact. You can rely on her for that. Your body hurts. It all stems from your feet. You start a bath with no bubbles. You tell abuela to have a good night and that you’ll talk to her next Saturday.

 

The Martian wakes up in the core of her planet. She is born out of stardust like everything else. Her first dream is about a world of faceless creatures and three koi flying past her toward a pale blue dot in the black sky.

 

 

LUPE AND HER TIME MACHINE

The winter wind took Guadalupe’s breath away. This was the year it snowed on Christmas Eve in El Paso. She stepped out early in the morning, thinking about the bus route to the mercado. Crouched over, she regained her vitality. She hit her chest with her small fist and coughed out a curse. The cold was unforgiving. Lupe shivered and blew hot air into her shaking hands. Her supermarket visit was short. She stepped back onto the bus en route to her place. When the bus dropped her off on the corner of Figueroa and Pelicanos, she stomped into her turquoise casa. She dropped her paper bag full of produce and ran toward the round mirror in the hallway. The mirror showed her the seasonal cracks in her hands and lips. The dried blood in between crevices of senescent skin. The winter reminded Lupe of her inevitable biological disposition. Her position as abuela growing longer and longer with time. Focusing into the mirror, she saw dehydrated flakes of skin latching onto wrinkles in their final moments. She saw silver strands of hair overtaking her head. Lupe brushed through the peppered follicles and said her age aloud. She said her age aloud once more and thought about the day her grandchildren would bury her. Their faces burning from the loss, but their minds prepared to continue living. She shuddered. This was Guadalupe’s reason for praying on behalf of her family in the mornings. She lights all the candles in the house and pours a cup of coffee, then she whispers into the atmosphere and watches the candles wither into stumps.

Sometimes, Lupe burns from chile on her tongue, other times the burning comes from witnessing what her child Alma is going through because of an hombre with an ego deeper than the darkest blues of the ocean. They have found the strangest creatures down there and this man is no exception. He drowns in his machismo. He is strange to Lupe because he claims to love Alma, but he hits her. He leaves her marked up and brings her to Lupe’s house with no regard for what he does. Lupe cringes when he grabs Alma by the waist or interlocks his hands into hers. Every connected finger signaling a silent apology. Last year, Alma learned how to drive at Lupe’s pleading. If Alma learned how to drive, she could potentially drive away from that situation. This is what Lupe prayed for. Lupe has kept her opinions of the hombre to herself. The men Lupe loved withered physically and passed on or disappeared after a child started developing in her womb. She felt she had no room to speak.

Lupe has four grandchildren from Alma. Fernando. Sandra. Benjamin. Noah. They are loud and expressive with their emotions. They are not afraid to cry or laugh. Their eyes show curiosity. Lupe sees this as a milagro. Their father is quiet and has never warmed up to her. He does not smile at her. He does not ask Lupe how her day was. He smokes and the scent lingers. Lupe has accumulated several migraines because of that hombre. He sits in spaces where he can be alone, usually outside or in the garage, but he’s not allowed in the garage anymore. Lupe told Alma that he has to keep out. She even threw her shoe at him one day when he tried to go there without permission. Lupe is working on something big. She cannot share it with her family, but Dios knows what she’s up to.

She whispers her prayer for the time machine before she starts working on it again. A pink bicycle helmet hides a French braid and electrician’s gloves guard her hands. Lupe chose to wear her favorite black dress with red and purple flowers embroidered to embrace her shoulders and chest. She chose a purple jacket to match. She bought the dress as a celebration of raising children who loved her and children who called her every day. Her time machine is an oval device that is one foot taller than she is and wide enough to fit a family of five. The bottom of the machine is flat. Lupe installed checkered tile into the floor embossed with the faces of saints. Santa Rosa. La Virgen. Santa Catarina scattered in between black and white. Lupe washes her feet before she steps inside. The front of the machine has a standard control center with a big red START button. Lupe was instructed to hang multi-colored LED lights around the dashboard. She created stained glass sculptures and hung them with vines. Sugar skulls are stacked in an interior shelf of the machine. Lupe placed them there for her mother, father, abuela and her brother Jose. There are empty shelves that Lupe is planning on filling with books she found in bargain bins. They announced themselves to her. ASTRONOMY. QUANTAM PHYSICS. THE MILKY WAY GALAXY. The outer shell of the time machine has embroidered geometric patterns of reds, turquoise and violets. She is almost done filling the entire outer layer of the egg with color. She wants the top of the egg to have an embroidered sun and the bottom, a crescent moon.

The science behind the machine came in a dream. She woke up to find formulas and photographs tacked into her wall. The photos clarified the formulas and sometimes, they even gave her the bus routes to take for supplies. It took the entire summer. A couple new moons into fall, Lupe finally figured out that she was making a time machine. Building the machine became fun. She attached tree roots and electrical wires together. She hung vines in the grid ceiling of the egg. The vines carefully looping in and out of the open squares and making their way down the sides of the machine. Lupe stuck photos of her Chihuahua Cuca inside and another photo of her and the kids. Alma was still in diapers. Blanca and Elena wore matching floral dresses. Angie held onto her gold pendant of a rose hanging from a yellow string. Lupe never smiled in photos, but she was happy.

Lupe prayed before bed. She prayed for her grandchildren and then for her daughters. She prayed for Cuca and then for the machine. Sitting in bed, Lupe felt numbness overcome her body. She woke up to the shadow of a tall red faun looming over her. It whispered into her ear. This would be the final lesson. The time machine will only work under Lupe’s command. She cannot pick where the time machine takes her. Lupe cannot stay within a chosen timeframe. She must come back. The red faun disappeared into a burst of gold glitter. Lupe braced herself and laughed into the empty space in her room.

Lupe stored forty-two pots and pans in the garage. She filled them to the brim with rose petals. They served as fuel for the machine. She grabbed a pot and dumped clumps of rose petals into the fuel opening. She stuck a cloth patch of a red rose on the START button. One button to shift her from a normal woman to a mad scientist. Lupe packed a small bag with a change of summer clothes, in case she went somewhere warm. She prayed. She pushed the button. She felt dizzy. She heard her kids. They were screaming excitedly at each other about the paletero. She heard her kids. They were calling out to her. Angie had a nightmare and told the other three. Now, they can’t sleep.

Lupe walks into their room. This was the room with the planets aligned above the bed frame. Lupe painted those planets one Sunday instead of going to church. She picks Angie up and takes her to her room. She picks up baby Alma next, then Blanca, then Elena. She carries them all into her room. This was the room with different colored walls. Pink for Alma. Purple for Elena. Pastel yellow for Angie and sky blue for Blanca. Lupe tucks herself into bed and tells the kids about the time she got lost at the swap meet. The swap meet was a weekend tradition for Lupe and her mom. Lupe wanted to look at the bins of beads on sale. She picked up each kind of bead, one by one, and carefully examined the itty bitty spheres as though they were worlds. She squinted at the beings on a silver planet and the bead flew out from in between her thumb and pointer finger. Lupe gasped and then got on her hands and knees to search for it. She can’t remember how long it took to find the silver orb, but she found it eventually. After finding the bead she realized her mother was no longer behind her. She was lost. She panicked and ran down the aisle screaming MAMI MAMI. She even lost a chancla along the way.

Mis amores, I was so scared. I thought your grandma disappeared. Lloré y lloré. I cried until I reminded myself that your abuela was probably searching for me too. Me calmé. I asked some grown-ups if they saw a pretty woman with long red hair and a black dress on. A lot of the men said yes, and I followed their pointed fingers in the direction of tu abuela. When we found each other, she didn’t curse me. She embraced me. I will always remember that moment with tu abuela. If you four are ever scared, let me know. Let me know and I will embrace you. I will carry you in my arms until you fall asleep.

 

Lupe sat still in her time machine. Her hands trembled in pace with the acceleration of her heart. She pushed the cloth rose again. She heard Vicente Fernandez echoing in the background. She heard a car screech as it struggled to start.

 

Lupe is standing in front of an hombre she once loved. He is living downtown with another woman. Lupe needs funds for Alma and the kids that aren’t his. She wants to provide them with more. The kids grow and grow and Lupe can’t keep up. Lupe is in a white tank top with a black bra on and a red skirt that flows against her body in the desert wind. She has a gold necklace on with pendants representing her four girls. She puffs out her chest and holds Alma on her hip. The other three are in the minivan. She demands compensation for the baby. She slams her fist against his front door and tells him to come out and face her. The coward cracks the door and tells her to get the fuck out of his vida. The coward walks outside, sticks his chest out como un pajaro, and calls the child illegitimate. Alma doesn’t belong to anyone. He shouts these words into Lupe’s ear. He shoves her. He keeps shoving her until she’s on the ground. Alma is screaming. Lupe sits herself up, cradles Alma, kisses her forehead, looks up at the coward and tells him that she will see him in hell.

 

Lupe wanted to get out of the machine. She wanted to punch the coward in the jaw. Even if she broke her wrists, it would be worth it. She pushed down on the cloth rose again. She heard dance music playing at her brother’s wedding. She heardSabado Giganteblaring from a TV.

 

She hears Angie and Blanca fighting. Angie calls Blanca’s skin ugly. Angie spits at Blanca and shouts at her to stay out of the fucking sun. Lupe grabs Angie by the hair and slaps her in the face. Don’t you dare say that shit to your hermana. ¿Me entiendes? Angie shouts that hitting her won’t deter her from telling Blanca how it is. She chases after Blanca. They go down in fists. Lupe struggles to pull them apart from each other. Little Elena and Alma press their bodies against the door where Angie is now locked inside. Lupe prays frantically as she sits in the machine. She stumbles out of the machine and her past freezes. She opens the door to get to Angie and she hugs her. She steps back out and holds onto each one of the girls and asks them to forgive each other.

 

Back inside the machine, Lupe slams her palms against the rose patch. She doesn’t want to time travel anymore. She wants to see her grandchildren. She wants to tell them silly stories and make them paletas in ice cube trays with toothpicks and horchata. She lands in her garage. She shuts the door to the egg and crawls into her house. Lupe crawls into her living room and clutches her phone so hard, she thinks she hears it crack. She calls Alma and tells her to bring the kids and leave the quiet man at home. Alma hesitates over the phone, but 30 minutes later, she rings the doorbell with the four kids lined up behind her.

Lupe makes hot chocolate for the kids. All of the candles are lit. The kids sit in the living room and watch TV. Lupe runs into her room to gather more pillar candles. She places them throughout her shelves and on the tables. She lights them and asks Alma to help her grab some more. Alma gathers candles and tells Lupe to stop being weird. Lupe tells Alma she is sorry. Tell me if you are afraid. Let me know if you are scared. I will pray that you tell me. Lupe hugs Alma and expects a limp reaction. Alma hugs Lupe back and Lupe’s sleeve becomes a dark pool of her daughter’s tears. Alma is so silent, it frightens Lupe. Alma cleans her face with the bottom of her shirt and goes back into the living room to sit with the kids. They sit together and laugh at cartoons. The kids start to drift into sleep. Lupe helps Alma carry the kids into the van. She ensures they are secured properly by their seat belts and tells them one by one that she loves them. They leave and Lupe keeps the candles lit. She walks into the garage and opens the door to her machine again. She washes her feet. She steps into the colorful egg. She sits in the middle of the machine and falls asleep. In the morning, she decides to time travel again.

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