Pulse: One Year Later. “Requiem for Orlando,” by Lauren Espinoza
Mamá Clemen would rub sunscreen onto my arms every day before swim practice at Boy’s Club. Coconut smell permeated the air. She’d walk me down the street, around the corner to the pool.
Her hands and my mother’s hands made sure to not get any sunscreen
in my eyes as they carefully, fingertips like paintbrushes, moved across my face.
This act of touch I do to my girlfriend before we go to the beach. Forgoing
the spray-on for the lotion, I rub my hands over her repeatedly. I look over
every part of her. Not an object of desire, my hands must protect her from burning.
And in Orlando they were shot because of touch — hands up — protecting each other
they used their bodies as shields from the sun on the Florida coast. The sun,
the light from the automatic rifle — the lights that no screen can protect them from —
no lotion — no hands — their existence defined by touch and what it means to touch another,
the same as you — to see in a body laying next to yours — yourself — your clothes on them.
How the one time I borrowed Mallory’s bikini to go to the beach was the first time
I’d ever worn a bikini. How that is the difference between swimming and sunscreen and jumping down into an empty pool barefoot just to feel what your feet feel when they’re wet.
When someone asks you to get their back, hands you sunscreen, when you see the kids
nowadays just aiming the white powdered cloud towards their backs, we are no longer defined
by touch. We no longer bother to rub the sunscreen in; leave the sprayed lines
along a body — a blood spattered mark from the person shot behind you,
but you lived. The unprotected spots, that’s where you tan, you burn,
but where you were protected, a shade lighter, a place where someone took a bullet.
Sharks feed and the water runs red. Their teeth indeterminate what they bite into.
They do not see. Sometimes mistaking other sharks, the glint and flash of their flesh,
for a shimmering ball of tuna. This is how a gun works, not for food, only to run water
red. Walking along the beach sometimes things wash up bitten, but not swallowed whole.
They die, slowly bleeding. Like people, fish flop without oxygen trying to reach home, to touch
is to suffocate them. To reach your hand into their ocean is to cascade into a world not yours —
a place where you should not be killing. A place that should be for dancing, celebrating,
watching the moonlight glitter through on its path across the night.
But we are not fish — he not a shark in the smallness of this earth.
Lauren Espinoza’s poetry has appeared in New Border Voices: An Anthology, The Acentos Review, As/Us, Pilgrimage, Sinister Wisdom, and other journals. She is an inaugural member of the Letras Latinas Poets Initiative, the Workshop Assistant for CantoMundo, and is currently a Writers’ Studio Instructor and working on her PhD in Justice Studies at Arizona State University.
June 12th marked the 1 year anniversary of the Orlando Massacre, an attack on the primarily Latinx LGBTQ+ people at the Pulse nightclub. Last year, Anomaly created a space for writers to mourn and express themselves following this tragic ordeal. Anomaly has invited LGBTQ+ Latinx writers to come share this space with us, again. Whether you’re mourning, remembering, celebrating survivance, or seeking a space to heal with your poems and prose.