by Victoria Buitron
When we leave everything in the United States, and move back to the country I was born in, I don’t think about the little things. Tiny lizards hissing at each other in the moments before sleep envelops me. To leap from my bed and shoo off crickets plastered on my window. Slithering reptiles on my pillow. In just a few months, I sense when an iguana is on the roof, the strides heavy-footed as if it’ll fall through and land in my room at any moment. The feral cats’ steps feel more like leaps, unless they’re mating, and then all that can be heard are shrill screeches. These sounds—needing to live among these animals—won’t cross my mind until it’s happening. How the constant of a decade’s silence in a distant place will prevent a good night of sleep. The buzz of mosquitoes loud enough to keep me up until first light. In the first weeks, their bites ooze on my skin, the scabs itchy long after they have taken what’s needed. I learn to breathe under the covers—not allowing a spot of skin as bait.
A pigeon makes a nest on the air conditioner sticking out of my mother’s room. She doesn’t want to disturb its peace, even when it wakes her up before the jarring alarm. But everything changes when she rouses one day covered in red blotches, and the trail of insects leads to the nest. She enlists the man who isn’t afraid of walking on our roof—the one that throws rank mangoes from up high while I hold an old towel with an uncle. Sometimes the mangoes’ skin is almost the color of tar, all rotten. The man takes home the just-fallen ripe ones that managed to remain intact. The rest are removed to deter the pulp from cooking under the sun and prevent tiny holes from forming on the tiles so rain doesn’t stain our walls. His task on that day is to shoo the pigeon and destroy the nest, but he goes a step further. Our maid makes pigeon broth for dinner. The air conditioners are sealed off at the top, so no other creature can make a home, so there’s one less thing to interrupt our sleep.
Look at that butterfly I say, moments after I’ve put on my pajamas, my mother making her way into my room. That’s not a butterfly she says. A moth, perhaps, but her rush tells me that I’m wrong about that assumption too. A man appears, but I don’t remember who—maybe an uncle, or a man from outside of our gates. He uses a broom to snatch it from the wall, throws some cloth over it, and carries it to our yard for it to fly into the darkness beyond the trees. My mother holds my hand as we see the distinct wingspread, the pointy corners of its flap, and after I gasp she tells me it’s going to be fine, but I don’t know if she’s talking about them or us. I wonder what it says about me—confusing bats for butterflies.
Victoria Buitron is a writer and translator with an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University. Her work has been featured or is upcoming in The Citron Review, Bending Genres, Lost Balloon, and other literary magazines.