“I brought my wife, Ella, to Machala, her first visit to my childhood home.”

by Gabriel Calle

His name, Juan Carlos, dressed in purple and red chalk on the brick wall of the panaderìa on the corner of Boyacá y Junín, thick as lipstick. I pictured my own Juan Carlos, his burned brown skin, and light gray eyes. Years ago, he made me his on an inky night in the banana fields. There were no stars, no moon to watch us. I told Ella, he was my lover too, my first. She heaved into my ear, he didn’t make you his, he roughed you into something rotten, something unnatural and close to dirt, un-nameable. A familiar anchor tugged, on hearing this. A heavy piece of rouged iron hanging off my chin. She sounded like my mother the humid morning I revealed to her the true palette of my soul.

I dragged pieces of left over chalk across his name, and felt his voice humming in my chest. He told me, more than once and often enough to stick, that I was so good at pretending. Ella watched with a filthy curl of lips smeared on her face, how could you keep this from me all this time? It goes against everything I believe. How could you not know? Ella, I’ve known the moment you kneeled in deference to a book.

We crossed cobbled Boyacá, wandered through the stream of childhood memories living in the slum mercado, where Juan Carlos helped his father sell sweet chaquis. We navigated through Machala, banana capital of the world. I introduced her to the fields I worked as a boy, the house by the river made of palms trees sinking in the slick mud.

She would later seethe in bed, he raped you; he took advantage, you were only a boy; he ripped you from innocence. She fought against sleep. Mosquitos buzzed in our ears. I could feel their sharp probes, could feel my pulse swelling in their bellies. Hot sweat trickled down our groins and when I threw an arm around to bring her close she threw it back.

At the panaderìa, the following day, we savored pan de yuca, burned our silent tongues on café tinto. But his name still dressed the wall in fresh bright chalk, wet and slick from the heavy breath of the Pacific. Someone had scratched a heart in shimmering black around his name.

Gabriel E. Calle, a former Marine, is a poet and fiction writer. His work has been published in the online magazines Under the Bed, Ash and Bones, eFiction, and is forthcoming in the online magazines 3Elements Review and The Bookends Review. He can be reached by email at lordmservant@gmail.com

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “I brought my wife, Ella, to Machala, her first visit to my childhood home”?

    16 years ago, while livμig in Machala, Ecuador my young friends and their relatives (the entire macho, population of South America) were against the idea of sexual preference. A man was born to love a woman, a woman born to love a man. There could be no other options. They told me a story, these friends. Many years before I showed up to live amongst them, a man was found sleeping with another man in the cacao fields. They were hung by the neck that same day. This story is my response to that story.
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