Amá/Amparo Montenegro Reyes Quotes in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Olga’s friend Angie comes running in, looking like she was the one hit by a semi. She’s beautiful, but, damn, is she an ugly crier. Her skin is like a bright pink rag someone has wrung out. As soon as she sees Olga, she starts howling almost worse than Amá. I wish I knew the right thing to say, but I don’t. I never do.
Amá just shakes her head. “You know, Julia, maybe if you knew how to behave yourself, to keep your mouth shut, your sister would still be alive. Have you ever thought about that?” She finally says it. She says what her big, sad eyes were telling me all along.
How could I have been so dumb not to notice anything? But then again, how would anyone have known? Olga kept this sealed up and buried like an ancient tomb. My whole life I’ve been considered the bad daughter, while my sister was secretly living another life, the kind of life that would shatter Amá into tiny pieces. I don’t want to be mad at Olga because she’s dead, but I am.
My body feels like it weighs a thousand pounds. I picture my mother’s face streaked with tears and dirt, my father bowing his head in defeat. “And Olga? What about Olga? She was . . . She was ...” I can’t get the words out.
Tía Fermina clasps her hands to her chest and nods. “See, mija, that’s why I want you to know. So when you and your mother fight, you can see where she’s come from and understand what’s happened to her. She doesn’t mean to hurt you.”
I can’t look at Amá without thinking about the border. I keep picturing her screaming on the ground, Apá with a gun to his head. I don’t think I can ever tell her that I know. But how do we live with these secrets locked within us? How do we tie our shoes, brush our hair, drink coffee, wash the dishes, and go to sleep, pretending everything is fine? How do we laugh and feel happiness despite the buried things growing inside? How can we do that day after day?
“I understand that it hurts, believe me, but this isn’t about you. […] Why would you want to cause your family more pain?
“Because we shouldn’t be living lies,” I say. […] “I’m tired of pretending and letting things blister inside me. Keeping things to myself almost killed me. I don’t want to live like that anymore.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Forget it.” Part of me wonders if Angie is right—who am I to do this to my family?—but I hate this feeling, like the weight of this will make my chest collapse.
Angie wipes the tears from her eyes with her palms. “Some things should never be said out loud, Julia. Can’t you see that?”
“What do I do with this?” I say to myself aloud. “How do I bury this, too?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, how am I going to keep this secret? Why do I have to be the one living with this shit?”
“Please, don’t tell your parents. Olga never wanted to hurt them.”
“Why wouldn’t I? And why should I listen to you?”
“Sometimes it’s best not to tell the truth.”
How can I leave them like this? How can I just live my life and leave them behind? What kind of person does that? Will I ever forgive myself?
“We love you, Julia. We love you so much,” Amá says, and presses some money into my hand. “Para si se te antoja algo,” she says, in case I crave something when I get to New York. “Remember you can come back whenever you want.”
I pull out Olga’s ultrasound picture from my journal before we land. At times, it looks like an egg. Occasionally, it looks like an eye. The other day I was convinced I could see it pulsing. How can I ever give this to my parents, something else to love, something dead? These last two years I combed and delved through my sister’s life to better understand her, which meant I learned to find pieces of myself—both beautiful and ugly—and how amazing is it that I hold a piece of her right here in my hands?