Cold Tea, flash fiction by Ximena Escobar at
Sixteen Miles Out

Cold Tea

Cold Tea

written by: Ximena Escobar



I didn’t lift my head from the pillow, but I saw Maria’s hand pick up my empty glass, and then the steaming mug also entering the scope of my fixed stare– like a bare film-reel spinning the blank projection of my nothing future. She placed the mug on my bedside table.
“I don’t know much about anything…” She said. “But I think… I think you think… You’re alone…”
Her rough hand landed gently on my cheek, stroking it with hard flakes of skin; with cracks like her desert homeland where once there had been promise, fertility; but now was a dried ghost town; a rusty steel skeleton.
A silent tear surged in my eye, lengthening its way into my mouth. I just wanted to sink in my lover’s chest– the heart I reached for when he asked me what I wanted, standing right there where Maria was, and I reached for it; but just as my fingertips were about to brush the outermost edge of his cotton shirt, he trapped my hand in his and said ‘I can’t give you that,’ carrying my hand back to my bed like a cruel eagle, who doesn’t want its prey and leaves it for dead in barren lands.
“If I had what you had…”
I sensed her scan the room, searching for the words. A room she didn’t tidy anymore, because my mother told her I needed to learn a lesson.
“If I had all… all your wonderful… opportunities… If I had your… youth… you know? I wouldn’t waste a single day.”
Her pink uniform fluttered in the outskirts of my view-frame as she distanced herself from the bed. I heard the window opening; felt the fresh air enter the dense atmosphere, but I sank my nose in my pillow, as she shut her eyes to inhale the scent of spring like the new detergent my mother was buying, and I shut mine, to breathe in the last of his sweat in my sheets–I still smelled him, I never wanted them cleaning.
“Drink your tea, poppet.”
Her footsteps sank quietly in the carpet. A tired groan escaped her as she leaned on the foot of my bed, bending over to pick up my clothes from the faraway floor. I didn’t know I would never see her again.
She took my clothes, gently closing the door. I didn’t lift my head from the pillow; I didn’t know. I stood up quickly and locked it behind her—now my pillow smells of blossom; now my pillow is her apron on my cheek, like when I hugged her as a little girl.
As the Hoover lulled me to sleep from the other side of the door, my tea went cold.

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