in english, the word for worship is church. in spanish, it is iglesia. one sounds like weeping unbroken by stormwater, the other like the burning of a lover’s violence. on sunday, my mother works from eight to eleven. i do not see or speak to her. en domingo, my father drags me to church by the gold-bangled wrist. i listen to a sermon in a language still strange in my own milktoothed mouth. the man at the center of burning raises his hands. i map the suffering carved into his palm lines. perdonar y desterrar, he says, looking at me in the fifth pew back. i slouch in my seat to hide the shame on my face. my mother asks me to let go of her hand. i do not. she shakes me, rips the bangle from my wrist. i watch her stomp on the brakes and feel my seatbelt burn a diagonal line into my chest, cleaving me. i gasp, fish-mouthed in my above-water drowning. my ribs grow gnarled, split my stomach open, and dump the paint in me onto my mother’s leather seats. she yells at me not to dirty her bmw. my father sits me at his soccer field. i look up into the sun to wet my lashes. don’t do that, he says to me. it will hurt your eyes. i ask him to say it to me in spanish. he shakes his head no and walks away into the field, where a line of brown men spit and dance and laugh joyously. pinche cabrón, they call each other. i do not yet understand the heat of slang-syntax. i stare at the brown of my father’s calves where mine are a bony pale. my half-sister sits to my left. all of my sisters lately are made of halves. i’ve only met one so far, but i know the rest are nothing like me. my mother will give me a half-brother in a few years, or so god tells me. i am also made of halves. in one language, i weep. in the other, i burn.
on sunday, my mother asks me home for dinner.
en domingo, my father invites me back to his soccer field.
no, i say.
it means the same in both languages.
Elisa Luna-Ady is a soft-eyed Chicana from Southern California. She enjoys reading texts on revolution and picking fights with people. She tweets @astronomyhoe.