Melanie Márquez Adams


Melanie Márquez Adams (Ecuador, 1976) was born and raised in the coastal city of Guayaquil. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies Nos pasamos de la raya/We crossed the line (Abismos, 2015), Microrrelatos de amor y desamor (Brevilla, 2016), Imaniman: Anzaldúa Poetic Anthology (Aunt Lute Books, 2017), and a flash fiction collection to be published in Argentina. Her short stories and chronicles have appeared in several online publications including prestigious Literal: Latin American Voices, New York-based ViceVersa and Chicago-based El BeiSMan. Márquez-Adams holds an MA in Liberal Studies and is currently editing an anthology of Andean literature in the U.S., titled Al Norte de la Cordillera: Antología de Voces Andinas en los Estados Unidos, to be published by New York-based SonicerJ this fall. To read more of her work, visit her at or follow her on Twitter at @melmarquezadams. 


The Color of Lakes


 “No. What’s your real name?” she asks without a trace of surprise, as though giving out a fake name is part of the routine.

“Umm… I am not sure I understand your question,” I answer, trying to buy some time. Panic sets in as I realize that perhaps, since the last time I went to college, new rules have been established in order to conquer student life in America. 

“It’s just that… Well, the international students I know… They usually pick an American name, because… Well, you know, their names are hard to pronounce.” She smiles and her perfect teeth are almost lost in the transparent skin.

I smile back. It is not the first time that someone implies that I don’t look like a Melanie. “Of course! You are absolutely right,” I tell her, shaking my head in agreement, perhaps a little bit too much, “but in my case, that is my real name.” I point to the card pasted on my bedroom door; pink flowers circle my name.

“Actually,” I continue, “now that you mention it, when I was younger, it was the people in my home country who had a hard time pronouncing Melanie.”

“Really?” She covers her mouth with her right hand as she giggles, her shoulders moving up and down. Her pointy chin completes the cartoon villain look.


During the first weeks, my roommate Lindsey waits to hear me roaming around the kitchen/living room, exhausted after my night classes, to come out of her bedroom. She offers me cookies and candy, items which have a permanent place in the bowl that doubles as centerpiece on the coffee table.

She asks all types of questions about the place where I come from. She wants to know about the weather, the food, and the music. More than anything, she longs to find out about the people in that distant corner of the world; what they look like and their way of life.  

Lindsey has never been outside her country. Actually, I don’t think she has ever made it beyond Tennessee’s neighboring states. Her fascination with foreign people began in a tiny rural school, where she met exchange students from both Asia and Africa.

Whenever she talks about those kids, her pretty blue eyes fill with tears. The first time I see this happen, moved by her pain, I ask her if one of them died.

“No. It isn’t that,” she tells me, wiping the corners of her eyes with her fingertips. “I just get really sad when I talk about them.”

She looks like the little girl in a movie I once saw, who kept crying inconsolable over a litter of cute puppies that she wished she could have kept, but only got to love for a few days.  


I don’t have a car yet and still don’t know a lot of people around here, so I spend most of my free time with Lindsey. We go to the only mall in town, to Walmart, and sometimes, we drive around, probing the mountains in search of a good hiking spot.

On a warm spring afternoon, we enjoy a walk through a wooded area. I am tickled to see so many feisty squirrels jumping around us. I tell Lindsey to imagine we are in the middle of a magic act in which all the squirrels turn into long, beautiful iguanas that would much rather stretch out lazily in the sun than run around like maniacs.

“Can you picture it Lindsey?” I wait for her to nod. “Well, now we are in my hometown!” I see her pupils expand until they become perfectly round blue balloons. 


Lindsey invites me to go to church with her. As it is Wednesday, I explain politely that my tolerance for sermons is reserved exclusively for Sundays. I don’t tell her, however, about my suspicions that the muffin baskets and jelly-filled doughnuts found in Baptist churches, conceal within their sweetness powerful Catholic detectors; that in the precise moment I walk through the door, an alarm will start bawling, bright lights will point at me, and a pastor will come down from the pulpit to escort me out of the building; that once we are out there, he will proceed to inform me that my image-adoring soul, will never make it to heaven.

Lindsey insists. “But it’s college night at the church!” she explains, “there won’t be any sermons. I promise you will have fun.”

I can’t imagine anything that has to do with church as something fun, but I can’t say no to the kitten face staring right at me.


We enter a large auditorium, brimming with teenagers and twenty-somethings. Up on the stage, five young guys wearing baggy pants, get busy with the equipment and wires. Before I can ask if we are at a church or a concert, the room goes dark. The stage lights up with neon colors followed by high notes of bass and electric guitars.

Lindsey closes her eyes and raises her hands, while her body sways to the beat of “How he loves us.” The melody is catchy and the lyrics are easy to follow. I soon find myself joining the young excited voices. My hips, which have not gotten a lot of dancing lately, shimmy on.


We meet for lunch three times a week at the cafeteria in the student center. We entertain ourselves searching for international students. Each time we are there, we try to get closer to their table. Amongst the group, there is one guy in particular - olive skin, dark hair, and yes, dark eyes too - who steals Lindsey’s attention.

Right before Spring Break, I give Lindsey a surprise. I talked to the guy from the cafeteria at a school event. His name is Javier and he is from Mexico.

“I knew he was Latin!” she screams. “You have to introduce us! Please, you have to!” She seems to be having a hard time deciding what to do with her hands, so she settles into a hectic sequence of clapping and hiding her face.

Lindsey tells me she has always wanted to have a Latin boyfriend.

“Why is that Lindsey?” I ask, half curious, half amused.

“They are just so sexy, so romantic…” She frowns, pausing to think what to say next. “It’s just that, white guys are so boring! I want something different… I want passion!” Her eyes sparkle, full of possibilities.


Six years later, as I peep into her Facebook page, I see that she is engaged to a guy that could easily pass for her brother. Our friendship did not survive the frictions of living together. I suppose the age difference did not help either, or maybe, some friendships are only meant to last one semester.

From time to time, I remember Lindsey and those simple spring days I got to enjoy with her, reveling in the discovery of my new surroundings. I wonder if she ever talks about the foreign roommate she once had. I like to imagine that she does, and that her eyes, the color of lakes in this place I now call home, suddenly fill with a rose gold sunset as she reminisces of iguanas, squirrels, and Latin boyfriends.