Poem by Liz Ramirez & Art by Katerina Bukolska
by Liz Ramirez
the same summer you promise yourself
you’ll be good this year, no
more dating coworkers this time around
she shows up in your section
with those black and purple box braids. the
other Dominican girls all give
off that same kinda vibe—(you wonder now
why you never wondered
why so many of the girls who came from the DR
and Columbia were gay. and hot. those accents.
still, you have to ask.
you’re not confident enough yet reading the signs
tight rash guard with long sleeves, boy lifeguard trunks
those bicep tattoos.
you pull Maddie aside to make sure
under your breath
and she laugh-hurls her yes at you.
every unscheduled day, Lorena finds out where
you are and comes to your section.
she bikes seven miles from common
street apartments to sit on a stand and scan for
twelve hours, just to see you
in the corner of her vision
running around hectic in the sun
green shirt, khaki shorts, radio
you lend her a whistle, tell her to keep it
she flirts with you in Spanglish
she bites you, hard, the first time you kiss.
the other girls from the DR share
cramped two-bedroom apartments
six to a unit.
Lorena stays with five men. they all go
outside when you arrive, leaving
the living room for you two to down
tiny bottles of fireball on the couch mattress and
read from her notebook covered in
tiny precise Spanish. this you only half
your manager took you to the deck
above section one that day, pointed to where Lorena
sat on a stand. you have never been so certain
you’re about to be fired. again.
keep an eye on her, Sarhece
says. problem employee.
swear to god in that moment
her goodbye kiss scarlet-letters
a friend in ops services tells you she
regularly misses her shifts
goes to the wrong section
to be near you.
she hides behind Spanish, curses
him out not knowing he can understand,
somehow she makes everyone
angry, and yet
she writes you love letters in Spanish
picks you the tiniest flowers
calls you corazoncita linda before she
hangs up the phone at night.
by the time Jeremiah outs you
to Scott at the square, Lorena is already
calling you before paperwork is even signed,
making you send her pictures
every morning, so she
can see you are where you say you are.
sometimes you lie.
sometimes she still bites you.
you forfeit your chance to say anything.
try as you might you can’t make
yourself say anything mean to her.
it’s not like central Texas was a haven for
“rebellious” butch black women
with an attitude and a
deceptively exceptional grasp of English
to begin with.
by the end the boys from the DR all seem
to know. she must have told them.
one of them whistles at you suggestively as
you walk through the park.
nothing has ever tasted worse than
what have you done. I lied: there’s one thing:
et tu, brute?
if it was a boy you’d block him, tell him to fuck off
make fun of him that night to your mom and sister.
but now? all your mother needs is another reason
to hate lesbians. all your friends need is
a reason to start shit-talking her. all you need
is an opportunity to start defending
and it isn’t that
the ending isn’t bad. it is.
you cry. she lies. she says she cheated
but tenderness doesn’t cancel out.
and three years later when her
name pops up on a Facebook friend
request you still have that picture she sent you
cradling the baby turtle they found in the river that day
her hands those strong blunt calloused fingers cupping
the little passenger, quarter-small
with his nose upturned, reaching for the warmth.
Liz Ramirez is a graduate student and teaching assistant at Texas A&M University, where she studies English with an interest in abolition literature, representations of chronic illness, creative writing, and creative nonfiction. IG and Twitter: trapezoidette.
Katerina Bukolska is an artist, mother, and educator from Prague. Her work has been shown in exhibitions in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, New York, and Spain.