by Monique Quintana
Look, Crystal wants to cut her skin another color. She walks to the drugstore in Tower and sticks the most expensive blades up her sleeves. She does not have money to pay. Surrounded by mirrors, a million little eyes, she knows she can get away with it. She imagines a sales girl bent over a mirror, trying on a red lipstick, her long black hair falling in waves down her back. Her skin is white like snow. Crystal aches for the girl’s beauty. For her, it is the most enviable kind of beauty, the have-to-have kind of beauty. The store will be closing soon, because it is Sunday. On her way out, the beautiful girl smiles at her and waves good-bye, and she feels a sharp sting of regret, but it subsides by the time she makes it to the sidewalk. When she gets back to her house, she goes to her room, and lays the precious things on her bed. All the things that help her help herself. Purple lipstick, a lighter, and a razor blade, to make friends with her skin.
Look, Crystal wears her brother’s flannel shirt, so no one sees the matchsticks she makes on her wrist. He does not notice. He is in his room, thinking of girls. Things are easier to hide in the cold, in the fog and the mist. When Seth comes out of his room, they sit and eat with their mother and father around the table. Their mother says she does not like when Crystal wears boy clothes, even if it is cold, and their father says her lipstick makes her look like the dead.
Listen, there is a knock on the door. It is their friends from school. The sky is grey like their neighbor’s cat, the one that slinks around Crystal’s leg when she sits outside at night. All the kids sit on the porch and smoke. One of the kids is a boy with blue eyes, the only friend with eyes that color, another is a girl with a scar on her mouth, she has brought her sister who complains that her new bobbed hair is too short, and their other friend says that he likes her hair, as he drapes his heavy black jacket over her shoulders, and their other friend points to the sky, he says that it looks like crazy rain, that the trees speak to it, and they talk about the weekend that is passing too soon. They smoke, they pass a cold glass pipe in their fingers. They shiver, and then snow begins to fall. They cannot believe it is snowing. They cannot believe that it is falling on the porch, on the old treetops, and leaves, on the windows of the cars that are driving by. They cannot believe in this snow. They run in the grass, and into the street, and take the snow in their hands. It smells like delicate dirty snow, but it is still snow. Not enough to make a man or an angel, but it is still snow.
Look, Crystal plays alone. She feels the streets slip under her sneakers, and she prays they never go away. She watches her neighbors come out of their houses with buckets and coffee cups, like they can catch the snow and save it. But she knows this snow is not for keeps, and she makes her way out of the street, but the girl with the scar on her mouth grabs her by the wrists and they twirl in circles, the girl’s dark fingers come locked in her dark fingers, the snow at their feet, and she can hardly stand the way the girl’s hands feel, latched in hers, more cold and sharp and joyful than blades.
Monique Quintana holds an M.F.A. in Fiction from CSU Fresno and was the president of the Chicano Writers and Artists Association Fresno State (CWAA). She is a Squaw Valley Writers Fellow, and was the Senior Associate Fiction Editor of The Normal School literary magazine. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Huizache, Bordersenses, Mount Island Review, Lunch Ticket, Ragazine, and Madcap Review, among others. Just like all her characters, she was born and raised in Fresno.