My father tried to teach me to love.
In Mexico, cooking a meal is the same as offering yourself, the kitchen a woman’s first home, an apron tied into a knot at the neck and then at the waist as though her second skin. But I’m not the kind of woman who always does what she’s told—don’t pick your skin, don’t talk that way, don’t open your legs like a man at the table. My hands have never known how to carry my people in the palms or lay my heart beside the food or serve my father’s plate and push in his chair before my own. To boil guavas after plucking them from their tree or to melt chocolate and chile into mole into chicken bone and learn to do without its sweetness.
Instead, I’m the daughter who chooses both halves of herself, who is made of two tongues but burns brown the arroz and brushes slight against the stove and finds my skin weeks later still peeling from a past heat. Neither my food nor my mouth has ever understood how to speak for me.
I never learned how to love my body the way white girls did, how to describe it in words that weren’t already taken—caramel and cinnamon, coffee and the kind of sugar my father has never believed in. As though I am meant to be eaten, swallowed and consumed. I was never told that my brown nipples were as beautiful as pink and my belly filled with food could round itself that way and my waves didn’t have to be the victims of heat. Never understood that my body was mine, that men couldn’t shame me, couldn’t see me and crave me, couldn’t touch me unless I said yes, couldn’t abuse me and blame me, didn’t own me even if we shared the same blood.
But so much of my father is myself. So much first belonged to him that it’s hard to remember whose body this really is. My eyebrows always wild, overgrown, my locks of hair so thick that just a few loose strands stop the shower from disappearing into the drain, my face that has always had its own mind and never learned how to lie. My fear of darkness, barren places, and hollows in the chest, of one dollar too little, of inhabiting the earth without wearing shoes, of lying down and feeling the ribs of the mattress through our bellies on the bed—what’s mine has always been ours.
He taught me to ache. To take desire as my birthright, to never be full, become satisfied, run away from the world without leaving my touch or both my names behind, braided into blades of grass, tattooed in the ear. Emptiness, his greatest fear passed down to me like inheritance.
Sofía Aguilar, originally from Los Angeles, is a Latina writer, editor, and senior at Sarah Lawrence College. Most recently, her work has appeared in Unpublished Magazine, Melanin Magazine, and The Westchester Review, among other publications. An alum of WriteGirl, she has received the 2018 Nancy Lynn Schwartz Prize for Fiction and is a three-time recipient of the Jean Goldschmidt Kempton Fund for Young Writers for her outstanding contributions to her college community. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @sofiaxaguilar or find her at sofiaaguilar.com.