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Fake Smile and Hysteria by A. Garza

from East French Press: Poetry Power Hour by East French Press



Fake Smile

“I have to pee.” I whispered to my cousin, Beatriz. Shhh, she hushed me. “I can’t hold it anymore. How long do we have to hide? Don’t you think he will be passing out soon?” Then
from the far side of the hacienda, we heard him bellow for her again. “No, no! He’ll find us and beat me. Please, Trini, just urinate in the corner of the room. I’ll clean it tomorrow. I promise we can leave the room in an hour or two, once he falls asleep.” There was a terror in her pleading eyes, so I tiptoed across the room, lifted my dress and squatted down to relieve myself. Thinking back on that day made me sad, several years passed, and I didn’t want to be sad today. It was my wedding day, after all. Yet, here we are in the same hacienda being treated by the same drunkard, my cousin’s husband. Amidst all the congratulations to Reymundo and I from our family, people praising Beatriz’s husband for his generosity in hosting our wedding, I could hear their sneers, “You know what they say about how they met, Alfonso and Beatriz, right?” “Was this before or after Beatriz’s father died?” Someone would hiss. “Oh, this was after he passed away, and the son had gambled them all into poverty. Anyway, like I was saying, after Beatriz’s mother went crazy and father died, Beatriz had to take care of her mother all alone, and one day as they were walking back from town down the caliche road to their home, Alfonso, who had at this point asked Beatriz to marry him several times but was denied each time, kidnapped her.” Guests gasped, quickly followed by a shush from the story teller, and fake smiles as I passed. How would Reymundo treat me in America once away from everyone I’ve ever known? Standing in the hacienda scared again, I want to hide as we did that day years ago, but this time because I will leave soon and face a new unknown with my handsome, hardworking new husband who I met only 8 months ago. Living in America only seems like a dream. All I can do is stand here, cheeks wearing a mask. It is my turn to give a fake smile.


“Vieja, vente” He was calling his “old woman” over in the next room. We were only in our thirties. I knew he meant it as a term of endearment to lighten the mood, but I was frightened. What I’d find in the next room, they all told me it would help, but whenever my brother, Miguel, came out of his sessions, all the spirits inside him were quiet even his own; he becomes like a walking corpse. “Trine” I can’t delay. They’re waiting. The men expect it of me. There is no saying no. Hysteria they call it. The anxiety pools inside me as a well gets pulled from, but there is no one to help me drink
the water; so I sit with my mouth open, the water goes in through my mouth and out through my eyes. My husband avoids the well because it is caused by his many yells. He apologizes later, hoping I understand, “Work is tremendously stressful. Passed up again because I’m Mexican.”
She had to hear him explain as he reached for her hand once his anger subsided. “Trine, vente ya.” Reality now snapping me back to the looming present. My name is Maria Trinidad, Mary Trinity, so everyone calls me Trine for short. I go by my middle name because where I come from you could throw a stone and hit three other people with my first name. It’s because we are all suppose to emulate the Virgin Mary - the perfect daughter, wife and mother all in one woman.
“Trinidad.” His voice changed. Anger was not far. A thought occurs to me - however impatient men get, though, no one calls them hysterical. Reymundo, rey de mi mundo, mi marido me llama. I walk through the door and catch static as I pass the men carrying out my schizophrenic brother,
Miguel, who usually constantly mumbled under his breath, now so eerily quiet.
“They say this new treatment works wonders, Trine. It’s called electroshock therapy.”


from East French Press: Poetry Power Hour, released April 25, 2021




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