illustrations by ana carolina maciel
Your girlfriend, Rosa, has brought a rooster home. It’s squawking between her slender fingers. If Rosa weren’t a woman, you might feel like an old-timey wife. She’s like a breadwinner bearing fresh meat. You consider, for a moment, that this rooster is your dinner. But it’s 2019, you live in the suburbs, and you don’t think Rosa likes killing animals.
The rooster’s name is Chico. Rosa says he’s muy guapo. Rosa says that Chico will bring good luck to the house.
You’re not superstitious, or religious, at all. You’re a twenty-five-year-old atheist who believes in consciousness. Rosa, however, is a forty-eight-year-old Catholic. She assures you that you have a soul, that your soul is the color blue, and that God will still love you even when you deny Him. She prays for you, she prays you find peace.
“A rooster is good luck,” she repeats.
You know how Chico makes your girlfriend think of home: The farm she grew up on, in rural Colombia, where Papá would chase the chickens because it made his hija laugh. She has told you how the animals on the farm brought her comfort, how she misses the mud-tipped feet of the strutting animals.
You want to be understanding. She understands you. In a world where you’re defined by who you “do,” it’s nice that she defines you by your soul. (Even though you don’t believe you have a soul.) So, if a rooster roostering all over the house makes her feliz, you don’t complain.
“Okay,” you tell Rosa. “We’ll get a cage for him.”
You don’t realize that the cage will be in the corner of your bedroom.
At five in the morning, Chico is done sleeping. He’s ready to come out of his cage.
Your girlfriend lights up and jumps out of bed. You lie there, watching her. She coos at Chico with a gentle, “Te quiero!” She feeds him baked oatmeal.
You feel jealous.
Her delicate hands stroke his strong neck and back. She says your name but keeps her eyes on the rooster. “By the way,” she tells you. “My son is coming over.”
“Oh. Good.” Not good. Not good.
Her son arrives for dinner, right at seven o’clock. You smile, even though you hate him.
Rosa’s son has slimy hair, slicked back like a mobster. He’s a nauseating man-child, but he’s the diamond of her American Dream.
When he visits, Rosa dotes, as if he can’t walk. She makes him empanadas: his favorite. While Rosa is in the kitchen, he sits beside you. He taps your thigh. “You’re too pretty to be gay.”
“Come on, baby. You like me. Come on.”
You assure him repeatedly, you’re not interested.
“Fuckin’ dyke,” he whispers.
You say nothing.
The next day is your uncle’s birthday. You step outside to give him a call. Because Rosa is cleaning Chico’s cage, you’re happy to be on the front lawn: it’s better than being inside, while the rooster’s loose.
“So, how’s that…woman?” your uncle asks.
“Rosa? She’s fine.”
“She’s too old for you, honey. You know that, right? She’s too old.”
“What’s it to you?”
“I’m just sayin’! You could get some young, hot thing. Why her?”
You find yourself shaking. He doesn’t understand what your girlfriend’s been through, or what you see when you look at her.
You want to tell him how Rosa lost everything when she came to America. You want to tell him how her family abandoned her when she divorced her abuser. You want to tell him how badly she was beaten when she said, “I’m a lesbian,” and how she refused (and still refuses) to be scared into submission.
She’s amazing, you want to scream. Look at her now! Look at our home.
“Well. Anyway,” you say. “Happy birthday. See you soon.”
It’s not worth it, he’s not worth it, not by a longshot.
You discard the conversation, heading back into the house. The moment you cross the threshold, you step in a stream of Chico’s shit.
It’s eleven o’clock at night. You and Rosa are in bed. An ungodly noise keeps you from falling asleep.
It’s Chico. Again.
He won’t stop cock-a-doodle-doo-ing. He never stops cock-a-doodle-doo-ing. You’re so tired, so frustrated, so fed-up with this nonsense, you want to pack your things and go, right now.
You almost consider leaving…
Then, Rosa pets you.
And nothing else matters, because she’s there.
“I hate him,” you admit.
“I’m sorry. But he’s mine.”
“I know, Rosa. I know.”
“Pero…eres el amor de mi vida.” But…you are the love of my life.
She’s yours, too. Of course, she’s yours.
Yes—Chico is in the corner. But you try not to focus on that. If you close your eyes, you can reach for Rosa, and you can pretend it’s just you and her.