Originally published in Orchid: A Literary Review 2 (Spring 2003).
Consuela threw her TV out the front door, not caring where it landed. Trash, she said in Spanish, loud enough for her gringo neighbors to hear. The TV was square, a box of particle board and vacuum tubes from the old days of tin-foil rabbit antennas. The glass broke like a car backfiring; it sprayed into the narrow Laredo street. The wires from inside reached for images aborted into the dusty ditch, commercials that never had a chance to be born.
She screamed ¡Puta! and spat on the dust of the front wood step. She’d chipped the glossy red thumbnail of her right hand, and she stared at it for a moment. Then she snapped off each plastic fingernail in rapid succession, tearing the glue from her fingers, throwing the pile into the dirt. The nails interfered with her housework, anyway.
That hopeless, melancholy theme music from Young and the Restless ran in her head, and she grabbed her temples, pushed her naked fingertips into her eyes. ¡Ay, mi Dios! She refused American tongue now, she refused thoughts on mighty bedrooms and muscular young surgeons, dark and lithe and never sweaty, never premature in bed. No guarantees, she thought in Spanish, in her native Mexican. No hay promesas. No land of the free, no home of inheritance and chandeliers and polished mahogany dining tables.
No tropical nights with flowers like fists, with red like Technicolor, silk like gold. No convenient killings, no husbands that go thankfully missing when they get borracho and spend their wives’ dowries. How foolish she had been, to think an American soap opera could teach her anything, to think her life would change.
Americans said naïve, but that was a French term, stolen by the English speakers. America had her Spanish, too. And now her TV.
No, not true — America had only its shows, its mustaches and slick hair and caressing lies. The dusty alley street here in sad borderland Texas had her TV, the tires of passing cars taking the bits of screen into their treads and carrying them away, angels taking all her dead Children away. And tomorrow the trash men would come and take her TV, load it in the front seat of their dented, blue-smoke-blowing truck, and try and fix her TV. Tomorrow, the trash men would come.