How It Happened

Angelica Esquivel

Sometimes, I think I invented the memory. It feels like a fiction, like something I saw in a movie once. There was a bullet and it left a gun in a flash, flew into the soft flesh of a twenty-something girl. It pierced her abdomen and she bled out in a matter of minutes. I think a song played while it happened, one that the girl often sang. She was like a flower—como la flor—the fabric of her jumpsuit blossoming violet when she danced and I didn’t understand it, how she could glide across the floor even though she was already dead.

Red and blue—mostly red—an ambulance arrived in a shriek, but she was already dead. She died when she was sixteen. Yes, I am certain that it happened this way. Some boys she knew since preschool, one of them named after a city in Texas, burst into the house where she lived with her boyfriend. They knocked down the door, didn’t they? And they produced a gun and demanded money and drugs. Later, they said that they only meant to scare her, that it was an accident when the bullet erupted from the gun and struck her in the leg.

In the aftermath, people whispered that if her boyfriend had called an ambulance instead of driving her to the hospital, she would have survived. They said that when he picked her up and carried her to the car, it had only made her bleed out faster.

The last time I saw her feels like so many years ago, and with each passing month, the memory melts more and more into a dream. We were sitting around the bonfire one warm summer night. Our friendship was just blossoming, though the mutual friends that introduced us pointed out that we could have been related with our similarly pointed chins and thin black hair. This was the second and final time we ever hung out. She rolled a joint while I sipped at a beer, trying to familiarize myself with its dark bitterness.

“Are those new glasses?” she said as she licked the joint wrapper. “I really like them.”

“Thanks,” I said, letting her try them on. In their drunken stupor, people kept tripping into a hole in the lawn. I remember lying in the grass after a spill, watching the stars spin and twirl in the sky. This is how it happened. “Amor Prohibido” came on the radio.

She passed the joint to her boyfriend and sang out, “Ohh, woahh, baby!” She spun and twirled towith the rhythm of the Tejano music, her voice floating up and away, velvety smoke, and she hasn’t stopped singing since.

Angelica Esquivel headshot

Angelica Esquivel is a Xicana artist and writer. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in publications such as Crab Orchard Review, Cream City Review, Gordon Square Review, Chestnut Review, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. She studied creative writing at the University of Michigan, where she received three Hopwood Awards and the Quinn Prize for Best Creative Thesis. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and emotionally needy dog.