Dulce Silencio

I wrote this for a writer’s challenge on another site. The theme was Peppermint and this is what happened when I started writing… it’s short now but it’s kindof haunting me, there might be more to tell. In the meanwhile:

Dulce Silencio

My grandmother smelled like a grandmother: like maja soap, like thick dry powder coquettishly caked on, like hairspray holding her hair in an old lady wave, and like peppermint. My mom smelled like juicy fruit and cigarettes but my abuela was always peppermint and polvo.

My abuela liked to spoil us grandkids. She’d make us arroz con leche that always made me gag so I’d slip it onto my greedy cousin’s plate. She made forbidden café con leche that we drank with our pinkies in the air, with plenty of cookies and giggles. She let us eat guayabas off the tree in the yard till our tummies ached and we flopped down under the tree, staring at the clouds. And in her big black purse you always found Chiclets in their cheery yellow box. She would count out two pieces and place them in greedy little chubby hands.

We would suck the peppermint coating off and compare pallid squares. We’d crunch down on them and try to nab more. We’d see who could chew the longest before the stale gray lump was discarded. My cousin would swallow her gum but I never could.

When candy was scarce these sweet little squares were quite a treat. And later, when we had quarters we hoarded or pilfered for trips to the colmado to get junk, the little chiclets were quaint reminders of when we were REALLY little. We’d never turn chiclets down, that’s for sure.

Graduations, parties, dinners, visits to her house where I’d stick to plastic covered furniture and listen to AM talk radio with her: the years can be measured in yellow boxes of gum shared.

As the years passed and we changed, silly reminders of childhood kept the connection. Talking to abuela had become a perilous affair.

I periodically got fits of intense guilt for not visiting more often, not calling more, and I would steel myself and drive the hour and half to her house. Any discussion of success was subject to comparisons with my cousin who was taller, thinner, faster, prettier, but never smarter.

Stick to the weather my mom would say through a haze of menthol smoke. Keeps you out of trouble.

Weather, the flowers, the news. No politics. No relationships. No controversy. No liberation. No dreams.

Abuela met my lover. Abuela ignored my lover. My lover shrugged it off. I seethed.

Abuela raved about my cousin’s boyfriends. When did I say I was going to get married. “No abuela, that’s just not for me.” Skirting around the edges of Out until inevitably my picture in the paper made me bold, made me reckless, made me broach the subject avoided for years.
I wait till we’re sitting, I pop squares of gum in my mouth out of habit.
“Abuela you know I’m gay right.”
Abuela sits up straighter in her ugly floral housedress.
“De eso no se habla” We don’t talk about that.

I bite down and let the happy taste of peppermint fill my mouth making the silence easier to swallow.



  1. I, for one, loved reading this (again!) and would love to hear more. In fact, I think that your autobiography/memoirs would be fascinating.

    ~ FR

  2. Yalitza Said:

    It is fascinating. Specially to see how the people we love is the first to label us when we do something they don’t aprove of. As quickly as they loved you you fall from grace and once again you become a stranger in what you thought a known land. I have a grandma like that too, even though my situation is a little more trivial, my grandma said to me to my face that she hated people with tattos and she would not speak to me again for quite a whilewhen i proved her that a tatto does not make a person useless scum and then told her that i had one. The Human Mind is soooo complicated.

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