When I get lonely—I want my mother. I want her to cut my belly open and pull out a newborn version, toss away the bloodied carcass of an unrecognizable self. I want her to dive into my chest, fight the grip around my heart, and proudly proclaim my heart belongs to her. I want her to find the mouth of the river inside, threatening to burst and drown me, and sing until the waters still. When I get lonely like this, I want my mother; but I am afraid to ask for her. Afraid my longing for motherhood will create too large a ripple, waves exposing unscabbed wounds. Afraid neither has learned to swim in the vast ocean of our grief. Afraid voicing my desire for her will reveal the chasm between us as too deep, too wide, to find each other again, or, for the first time. Today, I am lonely, and I want my mother without her knowing I need her. I speak to her in a language safe for both of us: cooking. Madre mía, how do I make arroz con leche? Her carefully crafted instructions and a mándame foto, her offering. A photo of the overly sweet milky rice, my offering.
1 cup (128g) of washed rice
2 (256 g) cups of water
2 whole canela sticks
3 cups (384 g) of milk
1 can (397 g) of Lechera
2 fistfuls of raisins
Wait until loneliness has settled in your belly, carved your lining and made itself a home. Bring water with the canela sticks to a boil and notice your heart’s palpitations as the waft of the spicey scent envelops you. Pour washed rice into boiling, canela sweetened water, and allow the mixture to simmer until you recall how often your mother makes arroz con leche only because you love it. Throw raisins in the rice pot so they soften like a heart before the hurt. In a separate pot, combine milk and lechera and heat, but do not let it reach a boil. Pour warm lechera milk over rice and stir as you imagine your mother serving you arroz con leche after being away for so long. Her warm smile, her tired eyes welcoming you back. To garnish, tuck your yearnings for your mother between the soft rice and the sweet milk. Eat until full.
Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez is an immigrant of Juarez, Mexico and raised in Cicero, IL. Her work has been published in Huizache: The Magazine of Latino Literature, Hispanecdotes, Everyday Fiction, Acentos Review, Newtown Literary, So to Speak: A Feminist Journal, No Tender Fences: Anthology of Immigrant and First-Generation American Poetry, Longreads, Lost Balloon, Reflex Fiction, and Strange Horizons. Sonia’s writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Microfiction. Sonia lives and teaches in New York City.