by JJ Peña
2nd Place – Flash 405, April 2020: “Change in Perspective”
my grandmother’s name tastes like chilled coca-cola whenever my dad mentions her. i can’t conjure her the same as him. when i remember my grandma, i think of our last phone call the day before she passed, where she told me in-between sobs, i don’t want to die. my dad tells me i should take refuge in the good, that i can’t dwell on sadness: it’s all about your heart. your grandma’s a gentle roar in there, remember that. he used to cry over her death like me but grandma told him not to be sad. she came to him in a dream, in a silk nightgown, with shooting stars as eyes, telling him, look at me. this is how i want you to remember me. i’m happy. ever since then i’ve wondered if the dead give goodbyes. maybe that’s why my sister woke me at three in the morning sobbing, dreaming about her ex-girlfriend, she was facetiming me from her car. she looked so beautiful. her eyes were a pond of stars. she did that for me, so i could remember her this way. my sister didn’t have to talk about the other way: how we found her ex-girlfriend dead in the back seat of a car, plastic tied around her ex’s head, eyes shut, jaw slack, tongue falling from mouth, inching away from the death already cannibalizing her insides.
I needed to step away after reading this piece, allowing each compact moment to fully settle in my bones. The surprise, the quirk in this narrative, is that the narrator is the one who is most removed from the action. However, in this micro essay, we are given so much—the description of the grandmother being my favorite—that readers are reminded that death impacts everyone differently. That it is quite possible for the observer to feel the impact of a death or loss as deeply as the one it directly effects.
JJ Peña is a queer, burrito-blooded writer, living and existing in El Paso, Texas. His work appears in, or is forthcoming from, Passages North, Split Lip Magazine, Into the Void, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere. He has an MFA from The University of Texas at El Paso.