¡Mamita Mamey!

By Catalina Barroso-Luque
works

I meet Nayeli in the kitchen. She is waiting in the darkness, perched on a stool, reclining on the kitchen counter. Half the lights are off, and I can just about make out the blue and cream patterned tiles under her arms which are the same color as the countertop’s stained pinewood frame.

I flip the light switch. Nayeli stands up. She then turns around and extends over the kitchen counter.

Nayeli is taller than me and muscular. She wears tight pink bodices under an oversized men’s jean jacket which gives her the appearance of having a broad back. I’d seen her before at another party. I was standing across from her and Victor at the opposite end of the terrace, peering at them behind a mass of swinging bodies, my eyes dancing side to side. I avoid looking straight at her. She stretches towards the topmost cabinet and my gaze dips into the white metal basket on the counter below. She opens the cabinet door and I am busy inspecting the thick white resin that covers the basket. She takes hold of a glass and my eyes are pinned on the fuchsia pitayas nuzzled next to an oversized papaya, two zapotes and a mamey.

There is a bunch of guavas touching the brown-skinned fruit. Round and dimpled. The color of canaries. I wander over and take one in my hand. Eagerly bring the guava near my nose to inhale its balmy odor. As I do this, Nayeli’s face lightens up, her cheeks take on the color of peaches, a soft smile hiding beneath a curtain of thick jet-black hair.

She softly places the glass that’s in her hand on the countertop. My fingers respond by pressing into the fruit’s plump middle. Pink liquid erupts from the pulp and onto my palm as the center finger pierces through its soft skin, Nayeli’s face glowing in silence, enthralled by the squirting sound of my finger prodding further and further in.

I then lift my arm above my head and notice she is following each of my movements, the black of her irises trailing behind my tongue as it squeezes itself through the parting in my lips. It moves outwards and up, reaching for my gleaming juice-smeared wrist. It then licks the small bony bump of the joint, the fat bit of muscle above it, the crack in the guava. Nayeli’s eyes trickling onto my forearm, glued onto the droplets of juice that reach the fold between my biceps, collecting at the elbow and dripping onto the floor.

Plop!

I lower my arm and open my mouth. My tongue pulls in. It swiftly escapes the weight of my jaw as it strikes down and cuts the guava in half, the muscle pulsing red with the sweetmeat—a mass of tiny seedlings swirling in the vocal cavity, twirling over and under my tongue. They conglomerate at the molars just as my jaw comes crashing down again, the cracked pips adhering into an indiscernible pappy mush, the guava’s fragrant flavor fading as the muscles of the mouth contract, the throat sucking saliva, pulling the mush from the top of the palate towards the back end of the tongue.

I swallow and salivate. Nayeli looks at me with a pleased expression. Her furry eyebrows form into arches, irises dilated into enormous black holes; my mouth wet with the thought of a mamey’s velvety flesh. The fruit’s brown skin. Its sandpaper texture, a roughness that is thicker than the fuzz on a peach. I imagine a knife as it moves from the top of the oval fruit and cuts downwards through the tough peal, pulling out to pierce the fruit again as it draws a second identical line two centimeters to the left. The right hand holding onto the mamey as the left index and thumb place themselves between the two vertical scores. Gently they pry the fruit open and extract a slice, revealing a creamy red interior that is soft like mousse, and there cradled in the middle, a huge ebony seed—black like a zapote, elongated like Nayeli’s eyes.

I can feel my face flushing with that dark vision, my spleen filling up with bile. It is hot and bitter. Sharp. Unripe. Green zapote is toxic enough to use as a fish poison. But the one in the fruit bowl is old and wrinkled, its dark green peel scattered with moldy brown spots. I reach over and turn it on its side. The zapote bursts with the most minimal of pressures. The moment I grasp it, the fruit tears, its soft insides spurting all over my palm, my fingers, the cream-colored tiles below, and this angers me. The kitchen counter is a mess! Everything is covered in a dark olivey-purple-brown muddle of memories, thoughts, voices from previous conversations: Victor describing Nayeli’s face, her almond eyes, her hazelnut complexion, and mine bound to his. Shock at the sight of their lips meeting. The scene lasting a short second, before Nayeli turned around and ran away from the party with her posse of gringas. And what I really want to do is punch her. Slap my zapote slathered hands across her face. Smear the dark pulp from her sideburns to her mouth, blackening each follicle of that soft brown fur before slapping her again; her cheeks turning beige, pink, lavender, the hue of a really bad bruise, as my palm smacks her again and again and again.

But instead I stand still, opposite to her, hands filled with sticky zapote.

I lift my head. Nayeli is embracing the papaya.

I must have been standing still and staring at my hands for more than a minute as I didn’t notice her pick it up. Her biceps are pinned to her chest, upper arms extended forward, hands holding onto opposite sides of the fruit’s round bottom. She seems impatient. Burdened by the heavy fruit. Her fingers drawing dark red indentations on the papaya’s soft marrow, manicured nails dug deep beneath the speckled yellow and green peel. I blink. A thin veneer of tears comes to distort my vision. Nayeli is ripping the papaya apart, one hand after the other clawing into the orange flesh, bright sponge-like fibers amassing in the underbelly of those pointed keratin sheets and she doesn’t stop until she reaches the fruit’s hollow interior, orange lumps littered upon her feet. The stomach of the thing glistens with tiny dark pearls: inky, round, marbled with mint, thousands of them attached to the fruit’s inner rib.

Digging with the tip of one of her fingernails, Nayeli dislodges one of the small black jewels from underneath its translucent thread and approaches me with a calm measured pace. The tension slowly poisons my muscles as she moves closer. A confused expression taking over my face. My cheekbones are raised. Brows pinched. My neck stiff. Nayeli’s extended finger is a centimeter away, pointing at me, a seed balanced on the edge of a fuchsia acrylic tip.

My tongue comes out to meet it. The onyx kernel swaddled in saliva, the pip’s gooey casing amalgamating with the watery liquid secreted by my mouth as it pulls it deeper in. I press softly on it with my back teeth. This bouncy rubbery texture is so surprising. I bear down on it a little harder. Rub the seed back and forth between my molars. Unearth its rough insides. My face muscles scrunch up, distorted by the bitter thought of Victor recounting how he took her to the same bar he’d taken me when we first met, La Faena, a cantina in the City Center, and the gross liquid secreted from inside the crushed pip with its disgusting horseradish taste spilling onto the tongue and glutting over my papillae.

I spit it out. The crushed seed hits Nayeli in the face.

It takes her a couple of unfazed seconds to react.

She brushes the inner edge of her hand against her cheek and gracefully wipes the spat of papaya off.

With quiet confidence, she then brings the bottom edge of her palm near my mouth.

I think she expects me to lick it. It smells like vomit—who does that perra think she is!

I flick her hand off and lunge towards her. Jerk the remaining bits of the papaya from her hands and swing my left arm rapidly in the air, smacking a handful of fruit in her mouth, face turning bright red, lips smeared orange and brown. She retorts by going straight for my hair, her sticky fingers diving onto the web of frizz that hangs from my head to my elbows. I fling a second chunk off papaya. Smother the slimy pulp onto her straight locks. She tugs harder on mine, yanking a couple of hairs as she does this and I scream,“¡aaaaaaaauuuuuuu!,” comes tearing through my vocal cords, the shrill exaltation vibrating my facial bones in a breathless sweep, all while her acrylic nails are caught on my curly knots and our legs are jostling against each other. We swing backwards onto the counter. I try to stay afoot. She loses her balance. Folding forward, my arm loosens its grip. Nayeli takes advantage of the situation and pushes me off with two hands, her muscles erupting with an awfully unfeminine strength which lands me on the ground, dark juices splattering all over my thighs!

My white jeans are soiled with a swarthy mix of zapote and papaya, legs speckled like the interior of a pitaya, overcast by a constellation of birthmarks and moles that look like a vanilla pod’s black seeds. And Nayeli makes nothing of this; knowing that my ass is on the floor, she directs her attention to her hair. Tries to get rid of the bits of papaya pulp by combing her fingers through it, the gooey orange tendrils clinging to individual black strands, nails spreading the coral pastes further into her glossy locks. She is huffing frustratedly. So engrossed in what she is doing that she doesn’t see me get up and hurl a fist towards her stomach. She bulges. I grab onto her hair. Twist it into a ponytail and walk backwards, dragging her along. “¡Ay, ay! ¡Ay!” she screeches as her right arm swings over my neck. It clasps on. Tightens its grip. I continue to pull back, but her body creates a counterweight to mine, the force ultimately leading me to a panting stop. I am gasping for air, her left hand aiming at my face, her acrylic tips now scoring vertical lines from my cheek bone down to the jaw. “¡Aaaa!” I scream as the heat presses in on me, I can feel it beating against my eardrums, sweat gathering at the top of my forehead, eyes welling with salt and a web of minuscule red veins which feel like they are about to pop.

I let go. Step back. All I want to do is cry. The abrasions on my cheeks are beginning to burn. My face is ablaze with a turbid mixture of tears and mascara that have bled into the fresh wounds. I hold onto the countertop’s wooden frame behind me, clutching to stay up, my heart pacing under Nayeli’s glaring stare.

She shifts her gaze. Lifts her chin. Corrects her disheveled posture. She rolls her shoulders down and takes a deep breath before turning around and walking out of the kitchen.

I see her step over a browny orange pile near the doorway, her hair caked in fruit.

A couple of minutes later Victor walks in, says he’s been looking for me.

I am down on all fours, cleaning up the papaya chunks from the kitchen floor. I hear the chink of the glasses in Victor’s hands and suspect he’s got the bottle of rum.

I direct my attention towards the floor. Too embarrassed to look up, I focus on marks left by my fingers as they sweep fruit pulp off the tiled floor.


Special thanks to Paula Lopez Zambrano for her coments and Isabelle Gressel for providing proofreading support.

Catalina Barroso-Luque is a Mexican artist and writer. She constructs narratives, hosts intimate events, draws, performs and directs. Her present work is informed by cultural aesthetics of excess, Mexican Baroque architecture, melodramas and female/femme relationships. Catalina is also working on a bilingual series of short stories based in Mexico which explore animality, sex and gender stereotypes; these include the recently published Berta Esmeralda (Gutter Magazine, Aug 2021) and Bestia Taurina(MAP Magazine, Jan 2021). Further upcoming projects: Deslices with Daniella Valz Gen for Desbordes/Undoing Borders, post[s] (Universidad de San Francisco de Quito, Dec 2021); Xaxalpa, published in Bricks from the Kiln V (London, Jan 2022); and R22.2 commissioned for Radiophrenia Live-to-Air (Glasgow, Feb 2022).