Jesus Francisco Sierra

Profile 5


Jesus Francisco Sierra is currently working on his MFA in Fiction at Antioch University Los Angeles. He emigrated from Cuba in 1969 and grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District. He currently still resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although he has been a lifelong writer and storyteller, he makes a living as a structural engineer. His inspiration and most supportive audience are his adult daughter and son.  He is fascinated by how transitions, both sought and imposed, have the power to either awaken or suppress the spirit.  His work has previously been published in the Marathon Literary Review.

Twitter: @qbicheman 

About Evolution

         The car hit Cecilia right on 24th, near Folsom, where her parents lived. An accident like that would certainly mess with her looks. How do you come back from something like that? What happens when whatever you believe makes you, you, is taken away? I imagine what it’d be like for her to look in the mirror and not recognize her own reflection, or suddenly walk with a limp, or have a missing limb. It has to make her really look deep I guess, to see if she can figure out the person that is under her new exterior.

         The thought of it makes me wonder what it is that makes me, me. And I think of where I live these days, renting a room in a house, sharing it with a man and a woman in East Oakland, strangers both. I’m not sure what I’ve become, or why I find myself here. Maybe that doubt is because much of the world that shaped me is gone, and all the traces of my history are gradually being erased. My old neighborhood has faded into something that resides only in my troubled memory.  Troubled because I want to remember, but when I do, I feel angry. So I avoid it. But I remember Cecilia.

         Cecilia was loud, especially during sex. I remember the first time. I stopped in the middle of it and had to turn my head so that she wouldn’t see me laughing. And she snored too, which made me crack up the first time I heard her. I sat up on my elbows and looked over at her thinking, what the fuck? I had no idea that women snored but this bitch sounded like a wounded bear. Not that I ever heard a wounded bear or even seen a bear, (I mean a bear on 24th and Mission in San Francisco, yeah, that’d be a sight!) but I imagined that was probably what they sounded like.  But she was fine and I mean fine like really good wine fine, you know hundred year-old wine or something, the kind that costs a shitload just to smell. And speaking of smell, her scent was fucking intoxicating. The one thing she was good at besides sex and looking fine was smelling good.  She must have showered and perfumed herself at least five times a day.

         She was younger than me by about five years, barely legal. I wanted to show her off to my boys, just because they thought I wasn’t aggressive enough when it came to women. But I was just the quiet type that would rather let it come to me.  Some of my friends had a different girl every week, regardless of quality. In keeping with my wine theme, it was like they drank Ripple or Julio Gallo, or wine in a box. Anything was good enough for them. Their thirst was quenched with quantity. But not me, I waited and went only for the primo shit.  Only problem with Cecilia was that she had nothin’ to say. Unless we were fuckin’, I’d be bored as shit listening to her babble and rag on some other bitch I ain’t even met. I’d nod like I gave a damn and even shook my head some trying to seem disgusted (I assumed that’s what she wanted me to feel, disgust at the insensitivity of these unknown, two-faced friends of hers). I stared at her tits and waited to get hard again, because no one ever got me that hot. Ever.  All I wanted was to put a muzzle on her and fuck her brains out.  I always made up that I had something to do right after, work or errands for my uncle, because once I was done, she would want to cuddle and talk. But I just wanted to get outta there and go brag about it to my boys.  Sometimes I felt bad, cuz’ I wasn’t an altogether ruthless motherfucker.  Being that fine had to be a burden. Everyone wanting a piece of that ass, they couldn’t see past it. I was guilty of that. I mean she was young, I know, but still.

         I lived with my uncle back then, after my Mom died, OD’d on something. At least that’s what they tell me. They told me it was an accident, but I knew better. And my father? I never even met him. Didn’t know his name. Didn’t care. I heard he was some loser that got my Mom pregnant then got lost.  But my uncle though, he took care of me.

         My uncle lived alone and worked nights cleaning up the Greyhound station on Sixth Street. He took me with him one time, but realized that was no place for a kid so he left me home alone every night after that. We didn’t see much of each other but it was cool with me. He met Cecilia once and told me, hang on to her, she’s gonna be something, she’s smarter than you think. I wondered what he saw that I didn’t. He was an old man by then, what the fuck did he know. 

         I’m on my way to the hospital now. It’s been close to fifteen years since I last saw her or spoke to her. We stayed friends for a while after we stopped fucking even though we had little to say to each other. She wanted to keep on, but like my friend Jake always says, show me the finest bitch in the world and I’ll show you a guy who’s just tired of fucking her.  I turned out to be that guy. I just got tired of her. But sometimes I wondered if she got tired of me. 

         After that, I’d run into her on the street sometimes and ask her how she was doing. It was all one-word answers: good, cool, great, okay. I’d ask her, what she was up to these days, again short, abbreviated answers: work, same, nothing much. Like she was bored or something. The longer answers came only after I said things like, you still look great. She’d stand taller and say things like, yeah, thanks, you like this dress? I’d of course have to keep going, yes it looks great on you, like everything you wear baby, always fits just right. She’d roll her eyes and say things like, oh yeah, I never thought you noticed since all you ever wanted was for me to take it off.

          One time, she asked me about my uncle.  She hugged me after I told her he’d died. I inhaled her scent, like a cool night’s breeze at the edge of the ocean. I remembered what he’d told me about her and I said, You know, you’re smarter than you think Cecilia. At hearing that, she pulled back and smiled at me differently, as if she was seeing me for the first time.

         I’m working on it Manny, she said.

         I did notice that she wasn’t bringing up her friends as much. Another time I saw her on the street, she asked me what I thought about what was happening in Central America, with the guerrillas and all those people getting massacred. (Like I gave a shit what was happening that far away.) I got what she was doing, trying to lead the conversation back to “us” as if there ever was an “us.” 

         She shrugged, like giving up sort of. You should care, she said.

         She kissed me on the cheek and I watched her walk away. I wondered then what would become of her if she ever lost her looks.  That’s why I decided to come see her at the hospital.

         My boy Jake told me about her accident, he’d read it in the paper and remembered who she was. Hey bro, he said, remember that bitch you used to bang way back in day, fine ass hell.

         Cecilia, I said.

         What was her last name? He said.


         He said, Oh shit, it is her. Check it out, I think she was run over by some drunk dude.

         No shit, I said. How do you know?

         Saw it on the news last night, I was pretty buzzed when I heard it, so I checked the paper again this morning and there she was.

         Jake kept on. She was run over by a car on 24th, the motherfucker hit her square when he ran the light, almost killed her, broke a shitload of bones, really fucked her up.

         I hate hospitals. They scare me. My uncle never liked hospitals either. He used to say that’s where people went to die. He died at home, but still, the thought of it sticks with me, because he was all I had. He didn’t own the place we lived, so after he passed I had to move eventually.

         I go to the information desk and ask what room Cecilia Marino is in.  The elderly lady sitting low behind the counter looks up and tells me she is on the fifth floor.  I sit in the lobby for a while. To my surprise, I’m a little nervous. I think about what I might say to her. I’m sure she’ll be shocked to see me and the sight of me will likely stir up some old emotions, but I know what will lift her spirits. I’ll tell her she looks good despite everything. I’m sure she still likes to hear that.

         I take the elevator and realize I should have bought some flowers. I meant to do that, but I stopped for a beer at El Rio and forgot about it. But then I think, she ain’t dead. Flowers are probably not the right things anyway. I find room 546, the door is open but I knock anyway. A tall good-looking white dude dressed in a tailored wool suit, (I hate to describe him that way because I ain’t no fag or nothin’, but the guy seems like he could go a few rounds) stands in front of the curtain shielding the bed behind it.

         Yes, he says.

         Is this Cecilia’s room? 

         It is, he says, and you are?

         I’m a friend of hers.

         He looks at me strange, as if saying, I don’t know you fool.

         I catch on, so I say, I haven’t seen her in a long time, but I heard about the accident on the news. 

         He nods, still a little confused it seems and then steps back pulling the curtain to the side.  I walk in, there is a kid sitting in a chair by the window, about six or seven years old.  His eyes are fixed on the television that hangs from the wall at the base of the bed. The sound is low.

         Cecilia, lies on the bed, tubes are sticking out of every part of her body. Above her head are monitors with all sorts of different color lines and lights moving across the screens, some straight ones, some jagged ones and an incessant beeping. Her eyes are closed, like she’s sleeping. 

         I remember seeing all of this when I visited my uncle in the hospital. I remember how scared I was that he might die because of what he used to tell me about hospitals. I remember the far away look he gave me when he reached for my hand and how skinny and weak and cold his hand was.  Sometimes I wondered if he feared living like this, more than he feared dying.  I understood that feeling.

         Cecilia has casts on both her legs and one arm. She also has her head bandaged. She has stitches across her jaw, bruises everywhere and her nose is huge, swollen I guess like she broke it or something. I can’t make out her body, but she certainly seems bigger than the last time I saw her. She is snoring, though not as loud as I remember. Something in me stirs.

         The tall dude says, I’ve met all her friends, but I don’t think I know you.

         I used to live in the same block as her. I moved to Oakland a long time ago and we lost touch. 

         I’m her husband Max, he says and extends his hand out. 

         We shake. He has a strong grip, like he’s trying to show me something but I could give a fuck, it doesn’t impress me.

         I’m Manny, I say but I don’t smile.

         So you’re Manny, he says as if he knew me. She’s always saying how you helped her find herself.

         Look at that, I think, she does remember me.  Oh good, I say.

         That’s Max Junior over there, say hello to Manny, Junior. He’s a friend of Mommy’s. 

         The kid waves but doesn’t look away from the television. Cartoons are on.

         How is she? I ask.

         Well, you can see, she’s sedated right now, but not very good, we’re just thankful she wasn’t killed.

         Hearing this, the kid looks away from the TV and glances at his mother, a pile of white sheets, casts and tubes. He stares at her, like I used to watch my uncle in his hospital bed when he slept, making sure I could see his chest heaving up and down, making sure he was breathing, and alive.

         Max says, I’m sorry, but she’s under medication and she’s probably not going to wake up any time soon, I’m sure she’ll appreciate the fact that you came to see her.

         This Max dude seems all right to me even though it feels like he wants me to get the hell outta here. Makes me wonder what else she might have told him about me. He’s almost too nice of a guy, the type that would have had his ass kicked a few times had he grown up in our neighborhood back in the day. But not today, Maxes like him have taken over and changed the whole thing. Pussies. 

         I ask him, what was she doing down on 24th anyway? Does she still live there?

         Actually yes, says Max.  We (and he made sure he emphasized the “we”) live next door to her parent’s old house.

         Her parents still alive?

         No, they died.

         They weren’t that old, right?

         No, not at all. Cecilia took it hard, especially when she graduated.

         (Graduated? Am I in the right room?)

         Really, when did she graduate?

         Five years ago, he says.

         From where?


         USF? Get the fuck outta here! Oh shit! Sorry Junior. How did she pay for that? That’s an expensive school right?

         Max nods and says, law school is not cheap but fortunately she hooked on with a great firm and she’s pretty much paid off her loans.

         (Law school? Are you fucking kidding me?)

         Max must have noticed my surprise. Yeah, most people found it hard to believe that she’d end up a lawyer, but she says that she learned a lot at a young age, in fact, that’s often when she mentions you. She laughs and says that you used to tell her she was smart. It’s a joke between us, no offense, sometimes I tell her she’s not as smart as she thinks she is and she always says, that’s not what Manny thinks.

         I feel a certain emptiness, a sense of loss creeps up inside. I remember the last time I saw her before today. She was wearing glasses and carrying a backpack. 

         What, you going camping or some shit? I asked her laughing, white people do that shit you know. 

         She smiled sheepishly. No, I’m back in school, she said.

         I remember thinking how that would be a waste of time for her, she’d barely made it out of high school.

         We’re studying evolution, she said, her eyes wide. Have you ever heard of Darwin?

         Didn’t he use to live on Shotwell? I said.

         She laughed and shook her head. I laughed too, not really knowing why. She said, You’re always messing around Manny, you ever take anything seriously?

         I really did think Darwin lived on Shotwell. I wasn’t sure what was so funny, so I said, I’m thinking I’ll be serious when I’m dead.

         Evolution, Manny, Darwin is the one that came up with that theory, you know, survival of the fittest.

         Oh yeah, I said. As if I knew.

         It’s about evolving and adapting, in order to survive.

         Ain’t nothing wrong with the way things are, I said, and I’m fit, I think I’ll survive just fine.

         She gave me a half smile. I gotta go, she said.

          You look good, I said.

         Thanks, you do, too, Manny.

          Yeah, I thought, I do. And I stood taller.

         I watched her walk away, she’d put on a little weight but she was still fine.

         I tell Max that I hope she recovers and that I’ll pray for her, which feels weird coming out of my mouth because I ain’t never been religious.  But it sounds like the right thing to say. And I mean it too. I glance at her once more, wrapped in white, bundled like a newborn. A clean new beginning I guess. A rebirth.

         After my uncle died, I took over his janitorial job at Greyhound. All these years cleaning toilets, dealing with other people’s shit, drinking and talking the same crap to the same people at the same places. Comfortably mired in the same unchanging world. Sitting there, without moving, staring at the horizon and thinking it beyond my reach. She might have lost her looks, but my uncle was right, she’s much more than that now. Some might say more than me. But I remember Darwin again. I’d looked him up since then. I suppose I may not be the fittest, but I’ll survive.  I know that now, when I look at her.

©The Acentos Review 2017