By 9:05 on Friday morning, I’m worried. I haven’t seen Roxana in over a week. She’s not the type to skip class.

The other students sit restlessly, unfocused. I want to ask Antony, Roxana’s neighbor, if he’s seen her. But not in front of everyone. Instead, I say buenos días, like I always do, to which they respond good morning in a flat and poorly timed chorus, like they always do.

When I ask if they have any plans this weekend, Berit, one of my quieter students, rockets her hand into the air. “I’m going to La Pilca,” she says in English. My rule is that once class starts, we have to speak in English. They hate it.

La Pilca is a rocky river forty-five minutes outside of town. People go there to escape the dense summer sun, often sitting for hours submerged up to their necks, letting the tepid water sap the heat from their bodies. I went for the first time with Miguel, a few weeks after I arrived in Peru. I wore a giant t-shirt the whole time, even in the water, immediately recognizing how many stares my pale body would receive if I revealed the stringy, impractical bikini underneath. Miguel tried to hold my hand under the water, which I did for a minute before acting like I needed to redo my ponytail so I could pull away. We kissed later, on the bench of his mototaxi, my wet shirt heavy and dripping onto his lap like sweat.

After Berit, another student, Edwin, says he will be working at his father’s mechanic shop this weekend. Then Victoria says she’s going to her little sister’s quinceñera.

They’re stalling, talking more than usual so we don’t start today’s lesson. I told them we’d be learning the difference between their, there, and they’re—a distinction they realistically don’t need to know. They’ll graduate in a couple months and get jobs as waiters or baristas or attendants at fancy hotels in the beach towns nearby, using enough English to earn tips from sunburnt tourists who come to Peru for surfing vacations. But my mom was a stickler for grammar. She once took a red pen to a family portrait I drew in kindergarten, telling me “mom” should be capitalized if it’s a proper noun.

I wonder what Roxana is doing this weekend. Maybe helping her mother cook for an event. Maybe taking care of her younger siblings. Maybe she, too, will escape the heat at La Pilca, dunking her long black hair in the water, so heavy when she emerges that she has to strain her neck to hold it up.

I’m hoping she tells me on Monday.


After sex with Miguel, cuddling is mandatory. My head rests on his chest, his heart in my ear.

“You seem distracted, mi amor,” he says, running a finger down my arm. “¿Estás bien?”

It’s hard to get used to his affection. Most men I’ve slept with would have died before calling me “amor.” But things are different here. After our first night together, Miguel showed up at my house with roses and chocolate. He calls me his reina, his querida. But Miguel doesn’t want to be my boyfriend. That’s just the way men here convince women to sleep with them.

My friends at home call him my Latin lover. They picture a man with sun-kissed skin and agile hips who whispers romantic things into my ear while we “make love.” I don’t know if I would call Miguel a Latin lover, but he is surprisingly tender. He goes slow, caresses my face, kisses me like he wants to taste my insides.

“One of my students hasn’t been in school for a few days,” I say in Spanish. I picture Roxana’s round face, her long black hair. “I’m worried about her.”

“People miss school all the time,” he says. “I didn’t go to colegio for a couple months because my dad couldn’t find work. She’ll be back.”

I gnaw on the inside of my cheek. I want to tell him she’s not the type to leave without talking to me. But I don’t want to act like I understand something I don’t.

“You’re so preciosa when you’re worried,” he kisses my neck. “Let me take your mind off it.”

He slides his hand between my legs, and I close my eyes, waiting for sensation to quiet my racing thoughts. But the room is too stuffy, his fingers too rough. I can’t stop replaying the last time I saw her—leaving the classroom, giggling at something stupid Antony had said, her braid swinging as she walked. She looked so much younger than eighteen that day, like the little sister of one of my students rather than a student herself.

I push Miguel away. He sighs as I pull the mosquito net aside and slip on a loose dress and a pair of sandals.

My house is small—one bedroom, a narrow sitting room with a dusty couch, and a poorly lit kitchen equipped with a two-burner stove connected to a propane tank. It rained earlier this evening, so the floor is littered with mugs and buckets to catch leaks from the gaps in the calamina roof. I have to weave between them to get to the front door.

Outside, I sit on the curb. There isn’t a drainage system for the streets, so in certain areas, the curbs are elevated three or four feet off street level to protect houses from flooding during rainy season. My feet hang off the sides when I sit.

The sunsets are always prettiest after a storm. I watch the sky turn from gray to purple to pink against the silhouette of the Andes Mountains, the colors of the fading day reflecting on the puddles that stretch across the street. I think of Roxana and wonder what kind of house she lives in, if she’s looking at this sunset, too. If she lives in one of the few two-story places in town, with real windows and tiled floors. Or if she has dirt floors and windows with bars and screens. I wonder what she helped her mom cook tonight.

I hear the door open behind me. I don’t look over as Miguel joins me on the curb. He puts his arm around me, and I lean into him, smell the obnoxious amount of cologne he wears, the smoke clinging to his clothes.

“You drive me crazy,” he says, squeezing my shoulders. “Pero te quiero.”

I look up at him and wonder if, in a different world, at a different time, if I had come here years ago instead of right now, I would love him, too.


Before the teaching program, I had never been to South America. Most of my conceptions about living abroad came from a novel called Expat. The main character, Clara, slept with tons of guys while traveling in Argentina. Clara frequented love hotels in Buenos Aires you can rent by the hour. She danced in discotecas until 6 AM and then ate empanadas in 24-hour cafes before inviting a stranger into her bed. She snorted coke on a park bench and fucked a guy in the back of a taxi. She was apparently beautiful in the right way for Argentinian men—small, pale, dark eyes.

I hated Clara. Even though I knew I was supposed to feel bad for her, she seemed like the type who enjoyed chaos. The kind of girl who created havoc because she liked the rush of pulling herself back from the brink of disaster.

At the end of her stay abroad she realized she was pregnant. But she wasn’t ready for a baby, and abortion is illegal in Argentina. So she started to drink. She drank and drank until she woke up one morning with blood running down her legs. She was so relieved she could cry.

A miscarriage, she said tearfully to friends at home. When she got back to the US, she joined a women’s rights activist group.

God, I hated that book.

Wouldn’t she be sad? I imagined Clara watching the blood drip into a dirty toilet bowl, knowing something once alive inside her was now dead. I’m sure she felt relief. But it wouldn’t be that simple.

People get sad in different ways, I suppose.


Miguel and I go to the discoteca on Saturday night. It’s one of the few places I can forget where I am. The huge warehouse space and pulsing lights are equally as numbing as any New York City club.

I’ve even gotten used to the stares. Men turn to look at me as we make our way to the bar. I don’t have any illusion they are staring at me because I am outrageously beautiful. Here, my light skin and hair that flashes silver in the strobe lights make me stand out. They’ve never seen anything like me outside of television or billboards. It makes them want to fuck me.

We’re here early, so no one’s dancing yet. In an hour, the platform in the middle of the room will be filled with dancing couples, hips moving in unison like they’re connected with invisible string. Groups of men stand around tall metal tables surrounding the dance floor, trying to look comfortable but failing in the way only groups of men at a club can.

I feel the music pulsing in the back of my throat as Miguel orders me a trago.

Girls here aren’t supposed to get drunk. Men say it’s for our protection, but it’s all about control. Miguel has learned that a) I don’t like it when he tells me how much to drink and b) I’m much kinkier when I’m drunk. So he buys me trago after trago, clinking his glass with me and yelling salud over the music. Before long, we are kissing on the dance floor like drunk teenagers at prom.

Miguel is a great dancer. He was in a dance troupe when he was a kid. He would perform at school events, dressing in traditional garb and slinging his partner around to the beat of guitarra y cajón. In the blue lights of the discoteca, his movements are quick and smooth, like a minnow weaving against the current.

I love dancing with Miguel. Perhaps it’s the familiarity—there is no awkward decision between looking into his eyes and staring at my feet, no second thought about whether to press my body against his. It’s probably the only time communication is seamless between us.

After a few songs, we take a break to get another drink. While Miguel orders us beers, I make my way to the bathroom. As I weave between dancing couples, a face catches my eye in a shadowy corner where the strobe lights don’t reach. Roxana.

It’s every teacher’s worst nightmare—running into a student, drunk at a club. If it were anyone else, I probably would have grabbed Miguel and run. Instead, I change course and make my way to her table. She looks up as I arrive. Her hair hangs loose around her face, and she’s wearing a flowy beaded top and acid-washed jeans. Beside her stands a man drinking a beer. His hair is slicked back against a drastic part and his left ear is pierced.

Roxana seems excited to see me. She embraces me and I turn my face away to hide the alcohol on my breath.

“Where have you been?” I shout into her ear. “I’ve missed you in class.”

She grimaces and glances at the guy beside her. He lifts his beer to his lips.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to come to class anymore,” she shrugs and looks away. Sometimes I forget how tall I am compared to people here. Roxana is at least six inches shorter than me, standing on her tip toes to speak into my ear.

“Why not?”

She doesn’t respond. The music continues around us, switching to a popular salsa song. The girls in the club scream in recognition.

“I want you to come back,” I say.

She nods, “I’ll try.”

There’s something pitying about her expression, like I’m an adult who still believes in Santa Claus.

“I should go,” she says before extending her cheek for the customary farewell kiss.

Maybe it’s the alcohol, but I feel a wash of sadness spread through my chest. I know something is going on with her, but the specifics elude me. No matter how hard I try, I’m just a stupid gringa who will never comprehend her world.

“Bye, Miss,” she says. I’d like to believe there’s a hint of something there—embarrassment, maybe, or regret. But she turns away before I can identify it.

I back away slowly and make my way to the bathroom. Before I go inside, I look back at them. I watch as the guy finishes his beer and gently grabs her wrist. I watch as she follows him out of the club. I watch as she gets swallowed by the dimly lit street and low black sky.


In Spanish, embarazada means pregnant. Which is confusing because it sounds like embarrassed. I was telling a story the other day in class and accidentally said I was pregnant when I meant to say I was embarrassed. My class freaked out. Even after I realized what I said and corrected it, they couldn’t stop laughing.

Usually, my Spanish slip-ups are funny. But there’s also something isolating about being unable to understand people or feel understood.

When I first met Miguel, I barely spoke Spanish, and his English was even worse. We were at a party organized by a teacher at my school. I thought Miguel was cute—taller than most Peruvian men I had met, with thick black hair and the athletic body of a swimmer. At the party, we sat in a circle and passed around huge bottles of beer with a single glass. Miguel sat next to me and poured my beer.

I was pretty drunk by the time Miguel offered to walk me home. When he tried to kiss me outside my house, I told him he didn’t want to get involved with me because I was a slut. Puta, I told him, pointing at myself. He grabbed my hands and told me never to say that, looking around to see if anyone had heard me.

“But I’m a slut,” I said to him in English. My tongue felt wet and loose in my mouth. “I used to sleep with tons of guys.”

He smiled, unable to understand me. “Your English is so beautiful.”

After that night I started saying things to him in English I knew he couldn’t understand. Things that weren’t true.

“I’m a criminal,” I told him once as we walked home from a late dinner. “That’s why I had to move down here. I was on the run.”

I told him my parents abandoned me when I was a child. That they left me in a laundromat and waited for a stranger to find me.

“I almost had a baby,” I said once, the words bubbly, fragile. “But I killed it. I took a pill and got rid of it.”

I tell him all sorts of things. He always laughs and reaches for me, saying he wishes he could understand me. Sometimes it feels like I’m playing a cheap trick on him. Messing with him. But then I wonder if this is the reality of relationships—selective telling, selective listening, both parties only divulging what they want to tell, only hearing what they want to know.


Roxana used to come to my house once a week for extra English review. I offered it to everyone in class, but she was the only one who came. At the beginning, I would print out a children’s story or short news article in English for her to read. But after the first few weeks, we started talking about other stuff. She told me how her mother started a catering business after her father died, and how she helped raise her younger siblings.

Sometimes, we’d go to the big open-air market together. We’d walk through the stalls and review how to say all the food we passed—chicken, tomatoes, squash, avocado. Then I’d buy ingredients and we’d cook together. She’d teach me how to cook a Peruvian dish, and I’d show her how to make chocolate-chip cookies or meatballs.

She asked me about my life before the teaching program. She was surprised that I left home for college when I was eighteen and that I moved to Peru after graduation.

“Don’t you miss your family?” she asked, her eyes wide.

She was even more surprised I studied psychology—that I didn’t have a degree in something that would qualify me to be her teacher, like education or English. When she asked how I ended up in Peru, I talked vaguely about the difficulty of finding a job after college, how the program would cover my costs and defer my student loans. The truth—that my decision was based on naïve escapism—was too embarrassing, too silly and frivolous to explain.

She constantly asked me what I thought of Peru. In the beginning, I told her how hard it was to adjust to the heat and the language struggles. Gradually, I told her how I was falling in love with our town—the warm hospitality, the emphasis on family, the raucous parties that blasted music late into the night. How my students both frustrated and inspired me.

Once, when we were walking home from the market together, we passed a girl who looked a little younger than Roxana. Roxana waved to her as we passed, but the girl turned away.

“Do you know her?”

Roxana frowned, “She lives in my neighborhood.”

“Why didn’t she acknowledge you?”

She paused before answering, “She’s been acompañada.”

As we walked, Roxana laid it out for me.

Girl meets boy. Boy is usually a couple years older, a couple years wiser. Maybe they were neighbors growing up and one day he noticed the way her body started to strain against her clothes. Maybe they went to school together. Maybe he saw her on the street and called out to her. They start meeting in secret because the girl’s mother wouldn’t approve. He’s too old for you, she would say. You’re too young to date. He only wants one thing from you.

But the girl doesn’t care. She says she’s going to see friends after school, and instead she climbs on the back of his moto and doesn’t return until late at night. Eventually, the girl gets pregnant. When her parents find out, they say, choose between us and him. And what do you think the girl says?


After class on Monday, I corner Antony again and ask him where Roxana’s boyfriend lives. By now I’ve put it together that Roxana has dropped out of school because of the guy from the club. Acompañada.

Roxana’s boyfriend lives on the opposite side of town, in a brick house with a wooden door and a restaurant in the front room. A lot of families convert the fronts of their houses into restaurants rather than getting separate commercial spaces. They’ll cook huge pots of stewed chicken or lomo saltado and sell the food for seven soles a plate.

When I step inside, I don’t see Roxana. Tables with colorful tablecloths scatter a dirt floor and a picture of the Virgin Mary hangs from wire on the exposed brick wall. The room smells like simmering garlic and onions, raw peppers. A thin woman with graying hair stands in a corner, fanning herself with a piece of cardboard. She looks up when I enter and tells me to take a seat anywhere. It’s early for lunch, so there’s only a lone man sitting at one of the tables, slurping a bowl of soup.

“Is Roxana here?” I ask her in Spanish. When she doesn’t immediately respond, I continue, “I’m her teacher.”

She squints at me. Roxana’s boyfriend’s mother, I assume. She calls for Roxana and tells me to wait.

When Roxana makes her way through the curtains, I get a glimpse into the rest of the house. A kitchen, dining room, and bedroom partitioned off by curtains. Past that, an open backyard populated by roaming chickens.

“Miss,” she says. She looks tired. A sheen of sweat coats her round face, and she wipes at it with her sleeve. I motion for her to sit down across from me. “¿Qué hace aqui?”

“I came to see you.”

She sits down heavily in the chair across from me. She’s wearing a stained apron, her hair pulled back into a braid at the nape of her neck.

“Did you move out of your mom’s house?” I ask.

She nods, fiddles with the strings of her apron, eyes trained on her lap. I can tell she doesn’t want to talk. Maybe she’s embarrassed, or thinks I’ll be mad she stopped coming to class. I take a different approach.

“Who’s the guy?” I say it like I might to one of my girlfriends, trying to convince her to dish. I want her to talk to me the way she used to. Like friends.

“His name is Esteban.”

“Why doesn’t your mom like him?”

She bites her lip, her gaze fixed on the floral tablecloth.

“C’mon Roxana, talk to me.”

She finally meets my eyes. “She thought he was disrespectful.”

I nod, urging her to go on. A man selling yucca from the back of a donkey passes outside, his salesman cry disturbing the quiet. She waits for his call to fade down the street before she continues.

“Then she found out about the baby.”

I swallow, try to keep my expression neutral.

“How long have you been pregnant?”

“Five months.”

My God. She’s been pregnant the whole time I’ve known her. She’s naturally gordita, and always wears loose shirts, so it makes sense she was able to hide it for so long.

“Do you want the baby?”

Her eyes widen. “Of course.”

I wonder if she had a choice. Probably not.

“So you’re happy.” It comes out more incredulous than I intend.

I want to tell her she could have confided in me, that I could have helped her. But I wonder what I would have done if she had. I don’t know if I could lead her into that particular darkness.

She nods, a small smile on her face. “Yes, Miss. This is what I want.”

I imagine her sleeping on a tiny mattress with Esteban, crowded in the same room as his siblings and his parents. I doubt she has her own space anywhere in this house. I imagine her bent over a stove, her fingers rubbed raw where she holds the knife.

“You can call me, you know, if you need anything,” I say.

She nods, but there’s something faraway about her gaze, like she already stopped hearing me.


The months before I moved to Peru, I drank most nights. Usually vodka, to save calories. I was having trouble sleeping.

They sell beer here in big, 40-ounce bottles. When Miguel doesn’t come over, I’ll get a few beers and sit out on my curb and watch the sunlight fade through the gold liquid in my glass. I’ll polish off a few before bed. It helps the heat seem less oppressive, the loud sounds outside my open window less jarring.

Sometimes I’ll see my neighbor looking out his window at me, an expression of concern or curiosity or disgust on his face. I suppose it’s odd for him to see a young woman drinking alone on the curb.

His vigilance makes me want to repeat a prank I started pulling around the same time I started drinking to fall asleep. I’d clean out bottles of Windex and fill them with blue sports drinks. Then I’d go on the bus or the subway or walk around the neighborhood and drink out of it. It was a game, to see what people would do if they thought I was slowly poisoning myself.

I kept thinking of different ways to fake people out. I took an empty vodka bottle and filled it with water and slugged from it on a park bench. Strawberry milk out of Pepto Bismol bottles. White Tic Tacs from an Aspirin container.

The funny thing was, most of the time, people noticed and did nothing. They’d stare at me, frown, and then turn away. I could have been poisoning myself, destroying my insides, dying slowly in front of their eyes, and they would have done nothing.


Over the next couple months, I see Roxana in flashes. I spot her once at the market while I’m buying chicken from a woman with a bandanna tied around her head. But by the time I look up again, she’s gone. Another time, I see her distinctive braid flying from the back of a mototaxi. But she’s going in the opposite direction. I don’t go back to that little brick house with Virgin Mary on the wall. I think about it, but something keeps me away.

At the end of the year, my school holds a graduation celebration. The girls in my class dress in colorful floor-length dresses and the guys rent white tuxedos. Each class plans a número artístico to perform after the ceremony. At my students’ request, I help them learn the words to “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion and choreograph a dance. I record the performance on my camera like an overzealous mom, laughing and singing along with them as the music swells from a boombox under the stage.

My thoughts drift to Roxana during the performance. I imagine her dancing alongside the other girls, silver heels clicking on the wooden stage. But even in my imaginings, it feels unnatural—her absence such a constant I can’t picture her here anymore.


Miguel and I are eating lunch at a ceviche restaurant when the call comes.

A small but urgent voice on the other end.

The baby is coming. Please come. Please come.

“I’ll go with you,” Miguel says, motioning for the server to bring the check.

“No.” It’s a knee-jerk reaction.

“I want to go.”

“She doesn’t want you to come.”

He laughs. “I’ll stay in the waiting room. She won’t even know I’m there.”

“No.” I say again. I don’t know why I’m so adamant.

“Why don’t you want me to go?”

“This isn’t about you.” I put my phone back into my pocket, avoiding his eyes.

“Nothing in your life is about me, is it?” I’m surprised by the sharpness of his tone. Miguel has never been angry with me before.

“That’s not fair.”

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m too dumb to understand,” he lowers his voice. “But you could at least give me a chance.”

I feel a panicky, empty feeling sink between my hip bones. “I have to go,” I say.

He says something indistinguishable in Spanish under his breath. Then he stands and turns towards the door.

As I hear the boom of his moto starting, I feel a tug of loss, like his moto is connected to my breastbone with a bungee cord, straining to pull me behind him on those barely paved roads. But as the sound fades away, the tug is replaced by relief, so bitter it burns the back of my throat.


I slept around a bit before I came to Peru. I’m not addicted to sex or anything like that. Just false intimacy. It’s like playing house. You can act like you’re in love with none of the consequences. All the reward, none of the risk.

With one guy, I ordered pizza at 2 o’clock in the morning and we had a competition for who could sing an Alicia Keys song better with a mouth full of pizza. With another, when we were brushing our teeth side by side, I reached over and started brushing his teeth with my toothbrush, and he did the same to me. We sat in front of the mirror, staring at each other as we brushed each other’s teeth, trying not to cry from laughing.

The only downside to false intimacy is that the charade must be broken sooner or later.

With one guy, it ended because we made eye contact the whole time we had sex. It felt different than the other times we had hooked up. Like we had exposed pieces of ourselves neither of us realized were there.

With another, it ended because reality intervened.

“Are you sure?” He said after I told him. It seemed like he had been inching away from me the whole time. “Are you sure it’s mine?”


The hospital is dim, hot, with faded yellow walls and hallways that smell of body odor and disinfectant. The front desk staff look for Roxana’s name on a wilted notebook. They lead me to her room, where she lies on a bed with sweat soaking her hair. There are two other women in the room, one who appears to be sleeping and another with a group of people around her. No one sits beside Roxana’s bed.

“Miss!” she exclaims when she sees me, relief flooding her face. “¿Cómo estás?” I reach for her hand. “Where is Esteban?”

She looks at the door behind me.

“I don’t know. I’ve been calling him, but he’s not picking up his phone.”

I look at her makeup-less face, so small against the white pillow. I’m reminded, again, of how young she is.

I think of myself, doubled over in pain on the toilet, waiting for a text that never came. Moving through my life with this secret gnarled up inside me no longer but feeling like something worse had bloomed in its place.

“Should I call your mom?” I ask her.

She shakes her head furiously. “She won’t talk to me.”

“What about Esteban’s mom?”

“I don’t want her here.”

“Are you sure?”

She squeezes my hand as a tear swells in the corner of her eye. I take a deep breath. “Está bien,” I soothe, wiping the sweat from her forehead. “I’m here.”


Eventually, they move us to our own room, away from other prospective mothers. Roxana’s eyes are moons of white, so wide I can see the rounded edges of her eyeballs.

“¿Dónde está Esteban?” she asks for the hundredth time.

I check her phone again. No messages.

“He’s coming.”

I wonder if, as she faces the reality that Esteban may never come, she wishes she had made different decisions. If she wishes she had stayed in school, gotten rid of this baby quietly. Moved through the rest of her life like the past few months never happened.

“I don’t know if I can do it, Miss,” she whispers as another contraction paralyzes her. Her legs are propped up under the sheet.

“Yes, you can,” I say firmly.

“Distract me.”

I stare at her dark brown eyes, slanted towards the middle. The freckles on her nose from the sun. “What do you want to hear?”

“Tell me about your boyfriend.”

I remember Miguel’s face when I told him not to come today. The disappointment. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Don’t lie.”

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

She raises her eyebrows. “Do you love him?”

I grimace and shake my head.

“Why not?”

A doctor enters the room and lifts the sheet covering Roxana’s legs. I wait until he leaves to answer.

“We have an expiration date. I’ll leave in a couple months, or a year, and I’ll never see him again.”

“You can love him and not know if it’ll work out,” she says, squeezing my hand. “It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”

An image of Esteban flashes in my mind. Sitting in a bar or playing in a soccer game. Screening her calls. Disappearing.

I look down at her. She’s smiling, as if consoling me. I realize that she thinks she knows more about the world than I do. That, despite our age difference, she believes she understands something vital about adulthood that I do not. It strikes a nerve.

“You know Esteban’s not coming, right?”

The words tumble out of my mouth before I can stop them, before I have time to register the anger and hurt in her expression.

She snatches her hand out from under mine and angles her body away from me under the sheet.

“Roxana, I’m sor—”

“I don’t need you,” her voice cracks. “I can do this on my own.”

I don’t know what made me say it. Maybe the hopelessness I feel when I look at her. Or maybe something else.

I step back from her bed and look down at her bedside table, where a few brochures about childbirth sit, scattered. One shows a smiling mother with a chubby baby nestled in her arms. Underneath the picture, “The gift of giving birth.”

In Spanish, to give birth translates to dar luz. Literally, “to give light.” I imagine this baby’s life stretching before her. Her first steps, her first words, her wedding. I wonder if it will be dimmed by what ifs. What if Esteban had been there. What if she’d never been born. Every happy moment outlined with loss. But then I consider what Roxana said. That loving Miguel could be right, even if it hurt later.

Roxana curls into herself as another contraction seizes her. Then she reaches out her hand. When her fingers close around mine, I sit beside her, ready for the crush of pain now and then, after, the sweetness of its release.


Taylor De La Peña