December 6, 2022
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
I was a child who didn’t understand feelings. Not truly, not in any simple way.
I was never sad or happy or angry. I was I’m So Excited or I’m Raindrops Keep Dropping On My Head or I’m The Red.
When I was a teenager, I was never “going through things,” I was Ch-Ch-Changes. It was never simply hormones, it was the Time Of The Season.
My mother never understood at first—she had tucked away that cassette tape the same day the old bruja gave it to her. She had only asked for her child to be blessed with music. The bruja only grunted, went into her back room for an annoyingly long amount of time, and placed the black plastic into my mother’s palm. She asked for fifty dollars, and when my mother attempted to argue, the bruja only shushed her and said, “Cada vez que ella lo necesita.”
Whenever she may need it.
I found it when I was eight, lodged in between a stack of old photo books and dried wildflowers. It had no label, no box with song titles, no wear at all. I stuck it in my boombox and it called me a Curious Thing. As the minutes ticked by, the tracks of curiosity then uncertainty continued, with no click of the gears signaling the end of the tape. There was never a need to flip it, the other side never called.
The next day, when my mother and I were dancing in the kitchen, it played tracks of a more jovial nature, and we were Dancing on Sunshine.
Later that evening, when my father called and told my mother he was not coming home again, the tape played Everybody Hurts and Landslide. It kept playing until my mother’s lips kissed my forehead, her tears flowing, until she pressed stop on the ending notes of Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel).
And so it went.
Through first love (Hands Down) and first heartbreak (Missing You), through quarter-life crises and loneliness (Don’t Get Around Much Anymore), a marriage (La Vie En Rose), and the last kitchen dance I had with my mother before I had to suddenly say goodbye a mere five days later (Your Song).
The tape never wore, never skipped…until I could feel my own daughter deep in my abdomen. The button fought the push, resisted to play.
But I need you, I pleaded to it, pleaded to my mother. I don’t know how to do this without you.
When my daughter was born, and I begged for her anthem, I finally did what I never had to—flipped to the B-side. A new start rang out, just for her, the notes filling the empty space with another mother’s last words: I Will Always Love You.
Coral Rivera is a Puerto Rican fiction author currently residing in Oklahoma. She has two published novels and specializes in genre-bending adult fiction, usually with dark, mysterious twists. She was raised between the island and Orlando, Florida and incorporates the magic of her culture in all of her works. She is currently working on the sequel to her most recent novel, a collab project about witches, and a paranormal-adventure-romance based in 1960s Puerto Rico. You can find her @: www.coralrivera.com.