When I was a young girl living in Mexico City, I remember my abuelita, whom I called mother, would say to me, often after talking too much or too loud:
Remember, a woman should smell like flowers or freshly baked bread.
A woman should smell like oranges.
Remember, it isn’t enough to talk like a lady. Or walk a lady. Or smell like a lady. Or dress like a lady.
You must act like a lady if you want to find a good husband to take care of you.”
Twelve years later, I am walking under the starless skies of Mexico City, twenty four,
unmarried, traveling alone, holding a cigarette in between my fingers.
I have a pint of tequila hidden in the secret pocket of my overalls,
I take sips from it when I think no one is looking.
The peach fuss on my back shining through, illuminated by the streetlights.
The peach fuss which I refuse to remove with wax for any man.
The musician smiles at me as I drop a gold coin into his guitar case,
his eyes fixed on my exposed flesh.
I smile back, and shake my head because he doesn’t stand a chance.
He will never know what my tongue tastes like.
He will never know that I won that golden coin, along with exactly $500 pesos,
from the pompous boy from the Czech Republic,
after beating him three times at Gin Rumi.
This self-proclaimed gypsy boy told me that I tasted like the oranges
from his childhood home.
He drunkenly unhooked my bra with one hand and pulled me closer
to him, as if it were possible to be closer while sharing a twin mattress.
He covered my mouth to silence my moans
which made me want to yell out even louder.
So I did, waking the British man, sleeping in the bunk above mine,
who I didn’t really like anyway.
I blow out a large pink bubble from my mouth and spit out the flavorless gum.
I spit on the cobblestone streets, I leave my mark.
I am here, I exist. I will not be lost in between pages or history books.
or forgotten on dusty shelves of abandoned libraries.
I didn’t have time to shower in the hostel this morning
so I am wearing yesterday’s clothes,
stained with rum, stained with the blood of my wounded knee.
This time I grab a spliff from my cigarette pack and
I light it with my complimentary matches.
I finish the last of my tequila and belch so loud
that the even birds are startled,
with their feathers ruffled, they fly far away.
I yell into the streets at 4am. I yell like a lady.
I yell so loud I wake up the man sleeping on the bench,
covered with yesterday’s news and today’s regrets.
I walk like a woman.
I smell like a woman.
I talk like a woman.
And I act like a woman.
I have a lot of opinions, and I do not smell of flowers or fleshly baked bread.
I speak my mind in in a world ran by men,
and I would rather survive than act like a lady.
There is no time to iron my baby blue dress.
There is no time when every man I meet wants to swallow me whole.