violence inside us

JJ Peña

it’s a tired-ass afternoon & i watch my cousin jasmine cook sopes. she doesn’t trust me to help in the kitchen because i make inedible lava-lamp meals. she shreds cheese one moment & then gasps the next: did you hear? jeremy’s going to jail. i tell her no. i don’t think of our cousin jeremy, ever. when i was a kid, he used to rape me. he’d get on all fours & pretend to be a dog. he’d bark & lick my legs. then, he’d push me to the floor & mount me. i used to try to drown him sometimes, when we went swimming, pulling his legs to the bottom for as long as i could. what happened? i ask. & the story—jeremy beating on his wife, in front of their four kids. his hands even pounded against his sister momo when she tried to break things up. momo’s not like jeremy’s wife though. momo’s like one of the thick oat trees in their backyard, hard as shit even a gunshot can’t pierce. momo fought back, hitting him in the stomach & cussing him out: you think it’s OK to hit a woman? to hit the mother of your kids? to hit me?  jasmine finishes the story in a huff & adds, can you believe how much violence a person can have inside of them? & i think about one of my last memories of jeremy—a family party, jeremy shoving me against a wall as i walked to the bathroom, whispering, faggots get their wrists broken, & how later on, he’d find me, grab me by the hand, lead me to his room, close the door, drop his pants, drop to his knees, & beg, i want you. please, be inside me.

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