Told in a series vignettes or “probaditas,” Empanada lures the reader in with the familiar smells of a tejan@ home – homemade flour tortillas on the comal, roasted serrano peppers, freshly cut lime and cilantro.
Anel Flores deftly captures love, loss, and familia while creating a space where tejana lesbianidad can flourish and grow.
Empanada is a self-published work and available digitally for purchase via Amazon.
My Buela’s body is folded over. She’s captivated by the naked Mexican TV stars mounted on the wall. When she is not looking at the TV she questions the soap-sponge looking mashed potatoes on the tray rolled up against her weeping breasts and hospital bed. Buela’s food is close enough to eat without spilling on her baby blue gown or accidently pulling loose from the cords taped to both hands, up her nose, down her throat and in some places under the blanket. After the commercial break, the Sábado Gigante jingle speeds up Buela’s heartbeat, and her heart machine finally reaches normal. Thalía, dances desnuda in a pink chiffon body suit across the TV screen and Buela’s eyes shine like the telenovela star. Her dancing attire is a square chunk of glitter between her legs, under a flower print sarong, and two sparkly stars pasted on each of her baloony breasts. When did Sábado Gigante become a drag show? She dances without wiggling; but while her body continues to shimmy across the small screen Buela’s upper body shimmies a little too.
My Buela thinks Amanda Miguel is Walter Mercado and Don Francisco is Amanda Miguel because of all the makeup and satin all three of them wear. I am pretty sure I wore less makeup and satin to my sister’s wedding. Right before the Dr. Something walks in the electric keyboard beats of Amanda Miguel’s canción speeds up her heartbeat again. When he walks in, he doesn’t look at her but only up and down the numbers and red, white and yellow lights of the blinking machines. Buela doesn’t look at the doctor because he is not nearly as pretty as Amanda Miguel, but instead remains whole-heartedly entranced in the TV lure. Dr. Something looks down at me in the chair behind Buela and with a forced crinkled eyebrow and pouty lips says, “Every time her heart stops or slows down, she loses a little bit more of her memory. Don’t be alarmed if she calls you by someone else’s name or calls for you when you are right in front of her.”
I tell Dr. Something in my most serious and butch voice, hoping he will take me seriously this time, “She’s always calling me by another cousin’s name, Dr., I am used to it.” I fake a little chuckle, instead of a giggle for fear of being too childlike or girly in front of the doctor. I want him to see me as the one he should talk to for more serious things. By the time I awake from my mini stage, the back of his white coat escapes out of the room. At the door, he pauses, holds his hand on the edge of the doorway, looks back at me and says with his forced wincing face, “If there are any problems, please call the nurse.” He is such an asshole.
We are alone and I stand up from my chair beside her bed, impatiently waiting for her to notice me. My eyes follow along the side of her body and stop at her feet wrapped in what look like baby blue earphone cushions. Her toes rub against each other, twisting up and down to the long ballad beats of the TV concert. My eyes are alive on her body wiggling with the beats, reminding me she is still alive. I skip her calves and thighs because they have become so thin I can’t find them flat and lost in the bed and sheets. A collection of her bones forms the contour of her body. I have stood beside her for at least a whole minute and she still hasn’t noticed me. Annoyed, I fidget and rock my feet from side to side; I accidently run my shoulder into one of the stainless steel fluid stands attached to her right wrist. She startles and turns her head to look at me so fast you wouldn’t know she was dying. With a huge smile that looks too much like Mami’s and mine, she yells like I am in the kitchen at her house and she is in front of the TV, “Miiiiijjjjjaaaaa!” I sigh in relief that she knows who I am. She motions me to walk toward her with one hooked finger. I move in, bring my face up close hoping to smell the sweet Oscar De La Renta perfume I remember, but am disappointed by a pasty rubbing alcohol scent instead.
“Mira ella mija. ¿Como se llama la novela she comes out in?”
Buela looks around to see if anyone’s there; examines the empty, square, soap-bar shaped bed to her right, pans the room for chismosas and checks the door for the nurse who hasn’t come by for at least three hours. Sure everything is safe and all the call-button lights are off, she tucks her chin into her chest and whispers what I feel will be a huge secret into my ear,
“But I heard she was one of those Les-beee-annas,” pronouncing each letter one at a time for emphasis.