Mami or Mommy?

"REVECA" I hear my Abuelita yell  down from the top of the stairs in her thick Spanish accent. But I'm not about to put this Nintendo remote down. I'm too close to beating bowser in this Mario Bros. game. "RE-VE-CA" her voice is louder and angrier and I know if that old lady comes down these steps to get me, it's going to be chancletaso city for me. 

I pause the game and toss my head back "QUE?!" 


I jump out of bed and run up the steps to the second floor of our Brooklyn apartment. Abuelita is leaning on the half wall that surrounds the steps watching me come up. When I reach he top she grabs me by the arm with her stubby, too strong for its size hand. 

She wags a salchicha sized finger in my face "Mira, remember what I told you. You don't get in any car with her, and you stand where I can see you through the window, you hear me?" she looks toward the window "You go, say hi, and come right back, dinner is almost ready." She looks at me and there's something behind her eyes, a warning, I'm not sure of what, but it makes me nervous. Then again, this old lady always made me nervous with her strict ways. 

The front door swings open and my cousin Augie walks in with 6 of his teammates in baseball uniforms. They must have had a game today over at McCarren park. 

"Wella, we hungry"

"Hay ven papito, come eat."

It always amazed me how he got away with being so disrespectful. If I came in after school and said "Wella, I'm hungry" she'd pop me in the mouth. One, for thinking I'm grown and calling her Wella instead of Abuelita and two for talking to her like she's some kind of slave to my stomach. Augie is the boy though, boys can do no wrong in the eyes of old Spanish women.

He ruffles my curly fro as he walks past me to get to the dining room. I push past his friends to get to the door and run as fast as I can down the set of 5, then 13 steps to get to the street. I look both ways before crossing the street and running into my mothers arms. She lifts me and spins us around before finally putting me down. I'm dizzy, with love, and because she threw my equilibrium off. 

She leans up against the U-haul truck that I thought was an ambulance at first glance. "Hi mommy! I missed you so much. Where have you..."

From the corner of my eye I can see a tall dark man approach us. I stop talking and push close into my mothers side. Even at the tender age of 8, I could sense peoples energy. This man gave me the "ick". It's what I felt when I knew, this wasn't someone I wanted to be around. This man, gave me the big ICK. 

"Hello Rebecca" his voice thick with intention. What that intention was, I wasn't sure yet.

My eyes were drawn up to the big ugly mole in the middle of his dark deeply creased forehead. It grossed me out and that made me feel bad so I quickly looked away before he noticed.

"Becca, this is my friend Tye" my mom said.

I smiled politely at him and said "Hi".

"Your moms told me so much about you. She never stops talking about you, she loves and misses you so much." somehow he made it sound like an accusation "She wishes you could live with her."

Normally, this would make me so happy to hear. I've begged and pleaded with my mom to take me to live with her and my two younger siblings so many times. Her answer was always the same though "I can't take you from your grandma, it would kill her". My response was always the same "I don't care if it kills her, she's so mean to me, she always hits me for everything, please mommy, take me with you."

She never takes me though, I belonged to Abuelita who raised me since the day my 16 year old mother gave birth to me.

But now, here, with this man, it's different. I stand very still, very quiet.

"Would you like that?"

Did I miss something? Did he ask me a question while I was trying to telepathically tell my mommy that I don't want to talk to him? I want to talk to her. I can't say this out loud because respecting my elders has been beaten into me all my 8 years on this Earth. So I didn't dare be rude and tell him to get the fuck away from me like I really wanted to. 

Why wasn't my mom getting my message, aren't moms supposed to have a sixth sense about this stuff? I see it with TV moms all the time. 

I open my mouth and all that comes out is a shaky "Huh?"

Without warning he lifted my stiff body up and placed me on the hood of the U-haul.

"I said, wouldn't you like to go live with your mom?"

I look at my mom and simply nod because it's all I've ever wanted.

But mostly, I wanted her to get this man away from me, even more than I wanted to be with her right now. I stared down at her, hoping she'd read it in my eyes. She just smiled, this stupid, unnatural smile, and nothing felt right. 

I turn and look back at my apartment window, there was my Abuelita. I gave her a worried look but she just stood up and walked away. I guess I was on my own.

I try to jump off the hood of the truck but he catches me mid-air.

"Lets go for a ride."

"Please let me go" I say in barely a whisper.

"Don't you love your mommy?"

I look at my mom begging her with my tears. Still, nothing, just that stupid smile.

He opens the truck and tries to put me inside when suddenly I hear a loud THUD!

Tye drops me and I run as fast as I can across the street and into my Abuelitas arms, who was waiting for me in front of the building. When I look back at the U-haul, my cousin Augie and his friends were slamming their baseball bats on the side of the truck, running after it until it, along with Tye, his mole, and my mother were out of sight.

Abuelita got my message.




Rebecca/V Lopez/Valentina
To pseudonym or not to pseudonym...