“Tetragrammaton” by Rebecca Gross

There’s no tree that can’t catch on fire, especially when we’re talking
about using aerosol cans and firewood to ignite dry branches. We actually
did that at summer camp – fifty 16-year-olds unsupervised! Can you
imagine? We actually did that! Caught trees on fire! In a California
drought! Can you imagine? No, there’s no tree that won’t catch on fire.

                                                           •••

Olvera street in October is either kitschy or appropriative – ¡You tell me!
The last time she was at Olvera Street in October was the day her dad
died. Sweet, it smelled sweet: Sugar skulls and churros, other gawky
eleven year-olds, round women wearing traditional Mexican garb. What
she would do to be able to bury her face in their breasts and cry.

It hadn’t happened yet, when she was at Olvera Street – the death, we
mean. But it would happen later that afternoon. It would happen and she
wouldn’t be normal; everything would be on fire, in some kind of way,
forever.

She bought Mexican Jumping Beans as a souvenir; an unknowingly
morbid memento to memorialize the worst day of her childhood life. What
makes them jump? She types each letter carefully in the darkness of her
room as she listens to the “tap tap tap” of the jumping beans in their
plastic box.

W-h-a-t m-a-k-e-s M-e-x-i-c-a-n J-u-m-p-i-n-g B-e-a-n-s . . . j-u-m-p ?
[return]

“Seed pods that have been inhabited by the larva of a small moth…It
‘jumps’ when heated because the larva spasms in an attempt to roll the
seed to a cooler environment to avoid dehydration and consequent death.”
If you’re wondering if it had already happened – when she did this google
search – the answer is Yes. It happened earlier that afternoon. And she
was in shock. And she couldn’t not read this and imagine her father:

Spasms. Consequent Death. Yes, she was in shock, as she would be for
some time.

The fire burns behind her eyelids as she listens to the beans. Anxious pain
gathers in the soft part of her throat, a consequence of grieving or a
premonition of what was to come? There is no google search that will
answer this question.

She recalls a nightmare she used to have, and the feeling she would wake
up with in her shins. An eerie, weak feeling, one of complete inability to
successfully defend herself; yes, this was how she felt. “Nothing is
absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves,
everything flies and goes away.”

Except the jumping beans. Those would not fly away. They would never
grow wings, become their full adult selves, be free to be. They would
remain trapped, forever destined to spasm, thirsting for hydration.
What was she trapped by? Her own mind? Her heavy, weighted duvet?
Fear?

“She half encloses worlds in her eyes, / she moves as the wind is said to
blow,” she drinks in a sip of sleep. She swallows the shock and lets it
grow branches through her veins. Green leaves gather vibrant in tufts on
top of her head, out her ears, along her tongue. She grows anew. She is
fresh. “I am who I am,” Embers rise from her wiseness maniacally.

 

 

Rebecca Gross (she/her) is a writer, editor, and researcher living in Los Angeles. Her writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Los Angeles Review of Books, Entropy Magazine, Stone of Madness Press, Mineral Lit Magazine, Variant Literature, and Teen Belle Magazine. Gross curates and self-publishes a zine called All Female Menu (Twitter: @allfemalemenu; Instagram: @all_female_menu). She is also an English Literature M.A. Candidate and Teaching Fellow at Loyola Marymount University where she focuses her research on embodied trauma in diaspora literature. Find her at rebeccagross.com or on Twitter: @becsgross.

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