Credit: Lydia Fu

I didn’t have the language for it at the time, but the uptick in limpias de huevo after I had accidentally left the photo of a semi-nude male model up on the family computer sat with me like a intervention. “Calvin klein underwear model” was the Google search that had betrayed me while I was in the bathroom jerking off. When I returned, he was still there, thumbs hooked under his waistband, his body propped up against an assemblage of lumber. I was hard in my Hanes. The plate of plátano rebanado delivered by her liver-spotted hands let me know that she had been there in my absence. She had seen.

She approached me within the week, waiting until I was distracted with my Nintendo 64. I was lucky that the ladies of Primer Impacto hadn’t already persuaded her into confiscating the system, adding it to her list of things that were del demonio.

My adventures with Spyro the Dragon were an essential escape for me as the awkward, gay kid in junior high—days when gym classes ran as long as the list of things I didn’t have in common with the white kids at Saint Viator: sunburns, athletic inclinations, summer trips to Lake Geneva. I wasn’t part of the Old Irving Park crew—I grew up in Avondale, the mention of which raised as many questions as the pronunciation of my last name, long before the beards appeared when Honey Butter Fried Chicken replaced La Finca on the corner of Elston and Roscoe.

Padre nuestro, que estás en el cielo, santificado sea tu nombre . . . She crossed the threshold, not bothering to knock first or say hello. She wielded an egg, tracing delicate circles through the air, processing forward with stooped back and a sheen across her lenses. My wide eyes darted back and forth between her and the TV as I mashed buttons and gritted my teeth. The treasure on-screen distracted me, her serape was already touching my bare skin, and so I gave in. The other dragons would thank me later.

I stared straight ahead, squeal-murmuring like the last air leaving a balloon as she ran the cold egg across my limbs. She paid special attention to my neck, gently carving switchbacks into the back of my skull, haunting my ears with her incantation. If I had been the only grandson, they would have taken me to see Father Alejandro with so much at stake. The egg was a mercy. Goosebumps stayed with me after she left, taking with her my vibras malas and the willpower I needed to defeat Gnasty Gnorc.

The next time I saw her, she carried on as if the encounter had never happened, as if nothing had been seen—no blessing needed absent a curse.  v