Fingerprints on the Ultrasound Pics
By Monique Quintana
My son was born on Mexican Independence Day when I was nineteen. When he started school, he was often defiant. I took him to the foremost child psychologist in the Central Valley and told him that teachers at school said he was immature. He said, Your son’s five years old. What does that even mean?
I don’t know if T ever had decent sheets for his bed, but I walked to Target to get some before our son was born. Before the tunnel was built, you had to walk across the train tracks to get to the stores on Shaw Avenue. Once, I stood in front of a resting train contemplating if I could climb through it fast enough before it started up again.
T’s dad made albondigas with only the meatballs, no potatoes, carrots, or cilantro. Just the meatballs orbiting broth in oil and Italian seasoning. I always wondered why the Italian seasoning? He did have an affinity for diner-style Italian food, which he learned to cook from the military base when he was a marine in the late 70s.
He said he learned to make spaghetti from one of the base neighbors. Learned to put mushrooms in the skillet at the most opportune time. There were never meatballs in the spaghetti, just loose hamburger meat that T and I bought in giant chubs from the Save-A lot in the strip mall across the street.
I accidentally snipped my son’s fingernails too far, and his tiny finger bled out, and he began to cry incessantly. I couldn’t find any BAND-AIDS in the cabinet. There was no relief from the hot summer or the bedsheets sticking to my kneecaps’ undersides. T’s Tia Lola came and stood in the doorway with her honey-throat voice and told me if I ever needed help again, they were here for me. One day my son’s hands will grow until he can fend for himself and carve his own potatoes in octagon shapes. He’ll grumble about wheeling the trash to the street at dusk, but he’ll do it anyway. My son and his aunt Lola are family, and I am not, and I can’t weigh the difference between love and how the cheap caulking melts away in the little apartment sink.
Monique Quintana is a Xicana from Fresno, CA, and is the author of Cenote City (Clash Books, 2019). Her work has been published in Pank, Wildness, Lost Balloon, Okay Donkey, and The Acentos Review, among others. Her work has also been supported by Yaddo, The Sundress Academy for the Arts, The Community of Writers, and The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center. She was the inaugural winner of Amplify’s Writer of Color Fellowship and is a contributing editor at Luna Luna Magazine, where she writes book reviews, artist interviews, and personal essays. You can find her at moniquequintana.com.