Often confused for a white girl walking down Western. She glares at everyone, defying them, enticing them, beckoning them all to define her, confine her into one box and packager her as a gringa, as a yuppy, as the gentrifying white girl that she isn’t, coming to take away all the brown in this city and erect condos in a grave yard city of used to be culture and community. But she is not white girl 'cause she's Puerto Rican, right? But she is white girl 'cause she talks "right" and isn't curly hair and dark dark brown for you, right? But she's not white girl 'cause she grew up Chicago, Spanish, and Humboldt Park, right? But she is white girl 'cause light skin means Spanish blood and Europe and money, right? She is not white girl for you today, though you’d like to turn her into one because she listens to punk rock and indie bands. She listens to so much more, she is an island and country and world of music and words and ideas and beings that you could never comprehend. She is whatever you want to paint her light brown skin to be.
At the Puerto Rican parade she is fire red eyes burning through the chest of a drunk man in the moon light. He is pressing up on her. Telling her she has a nice ass, how’d she get “that Puerto Rican ass” and oh she’s fine. How’d she get that Puerto Rican ass? As if her ass could be the rounding off of ocean and earth, the scent of suffering and smiling, migrations and identities mixed and confused slavery, vulnerable and seductive violation, governments, religion and politics of an island so far away. And sex, all about sex and eroticizing everything about her, even her short haircut that looks like a boy’s for his fantasies. He is drunk and you can see the center of her earth steaming out her eyes, molten hot core, her being, every sense of dignity, indignity, right and righteousness erupting from her clenched teeth and eyes. She blinks a calm dismissal at him and motions to tell him off with her fist.
And now she isn’t Puerto Rican ass anymore. He looks at her light brown face and through his drunken eyes thinks she’s Asian. “What the fuck you doing here Chinita?” Dis the Puerto Rican parade not China Town. Get the fuck outa Humboldt Park.” And now her fire storm is swirling, swarming brush fire destroying Chicago for a second time. She has always had a bad temper. Tonight there was enough alcohol and empanadas stuffed in her to let out the worst in her. And she steps up to him. She becomes years of oppression, of woman not speaking against the piercing eyes of men like this. She becomes a movement, a liberation unto herself. And she raises herself off the ground. She is not a tiny girl anymore. She grows wings and horns and calls upon the spirits of ancestry, the dead of her world to eat this little man. Devour him within his own lust and ignorance. Turn him into his liquor breath vapor, to evaporate with an offering y un baño. She washes herself of his sticky words, wipes away his stench and sex. And she is stronger than he is.
We pull her away from him before this becomes something worst. We try to calm her and distract her. We pull her away from him before she erupts, implodes and we have to explain to the city that we aren’t feminist terrorist planting bombs at parades to prove a point. We aren’t always indignant and militant. We don’t hate these men or every man. And we pull her away wishing she could have hit him. Wishing we weren’t all cowards. Wishing we didn’t have to fear for her safety and ours and the possibility of inciting a race and class and sex and everything riot in the middle of a nice summer night.
We’re back at her apartment and she’s a yuppy to this confused neighborhood for you and everyone again. And we listen to Celia Cruz and and then some Sleater Kinney and eat some left over chicken wings and drink Coronas. Her fire smothered once again. We should have let her go off on him. We should have let her speak loudly that she is not an object or an ideal, she is not the embodiment of anything other than herself. Why must she be the revolution, why must she be everything that the world isn’t, all the time. Why can’t she just go to a parade, laugh and not be aware of every influence and consequence and negotiate between her class, sex and race for you.
Those words stuck in her head as we drink the rest of the night away, trying to forget ourselves and the world. “Get out of Humboldt Park.” Get out of her Puerto Rican self. Get out of the home you were raised in. Get out of your sex and skin and education. Get out of your class. Get out of your orientation. Get out of your music and books and friends. Get out of your ideas. Get out of yourself, your hair, your eyes, your ass. Get out of this world because we don’t know where to put you. What part of this city to segregate you’re kind to. What kind to?
She sleeps and has a nightmare about grass around her on fire rising up over her. And the ocean is just out of her reach. And her reflection is out of reach. And the fire smells like a drunkard, and whispers, “Get out. Get out. Get out, now.” But she can’t and she screams.