Rosa Boshier



Rosa Boshier is a writer whose work spans multiple genres. Her work can be found in publications such as Entropy, The Rattling WallNecessary Fiction, and New Delta Review, and staged at LA/LA Pacific Standard Time and The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Art. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at The California Institute of the Arts, where she also teaches Latinx Studies.

Excerpt of Landings




Picture Valeria, maybe a little thinner, a little younger, certainly not hardened yet. Her long dark hair matches the broad strokes over her eyelids.  She’s a social smoker, nothing like the chimney she would become. She accentuates her angelic shoulder blades with backless shirts, traps her long legs in tight pants, always in tacones.

She’s 18 and moving from the dirt beaches of Cali to Bogotá. She’s probably never had to wrestle with a scarf before. Sweaters are foreign objects too. She’s beginning at Universidad de Bogotá in the Architecture department, just like her father had done. As she leaves, heavy carpetbag crushing a shoulder, she calls to him, Papi, ya me voy.

He inches towards the rail at the top of the stairs. Lets hope you make something of yourself. His head disappears. She walks out and closes the door on that life.

Through leaky hallways and stained desks she finds her way to her first class, and to Arturo. Arturo saunters in, hair slicked back in a ducktail, proud face riddled with acne. Everybody knew The Mata family, even in Bogotá. They were one of the most prominent of the northern, emerald-studded set. Ranchers. Originally from Catalunya several generations back. Valeria spends most of the class tracing the comb tracks in his hair. She’s struck by his sharp profile, the slow-release smile, the island swagger. Callous hands from working on the family farm, loopy handwriting learned at George Washington School, where he discovered American diplomats, TV dinners, and Marilyn Monroe. Summers spent lolling in a hammock, spitting out fish bones and watching the ocean lap the feet of indio children at play.

They get married as soon as Arturo finishes his degree and Valeria abandons her studies for a life by the sea. Arturo tends the family farm while she sets up shop as an envied ama de casa in one of the family’s estates. She masters a haughty switch, and doesn’t leave home without the lace gloves she never wore—why hide the diamond anchoring her hand?

Arturo is affectionate in those days. Parading her like a parrot on his arm to the coiffed clientele of Club Colombia. Nothing gives Valeria more pleasure than to feel her back burning with jealous as Arturo wraps a strand of her glossy hair around his finger during church.

Her hair is Arturo’s favorite attribute. He loves to preen her, slowly pulling the pearl-studded brush that belonged to her grandmother through her hair. He inhales the smell of her shampoo, lets it fill the gapping pores of his face.

Like many boys, his childhood lessons in humiliation were conducted by his brothers. They hid in the bushes as he tenderly groomed the horses. They wrote maricón in felt tip over his F. Scott Fitzgerald collection. He was a forever resident of the back of the truck. An added appendage to his mother. But Valeria opens the road to masculinity. Her creamy skin, cutting eyes, and red lipstick quell the criticism of his hermanos. There is nothing they could say that her looks cannot remedy.

During summer he grows furious at the frizzy ends of her hair. Why don’t you take care of yourself? It’s your only job. He tugs at her hair like it’s a loaned toy he wants back. Bound to his hands, Valeria tries to shuffle away discretely, only to be yanked back once he discovers her furtive escape. They sit talking through the fight, him winding her hair tighter against his palm, her wincing and explaining that she had just wanted a bit of sun.

She discovers early on the indicators of his pleasure—hands grasping at the bed frame, sputtering with effort, then letting out a soft but high, eeee! just before completing the manliest of duties. Afterwards they lie panting and stiff next to each other.

She weathers his eccentricities in exchange for public praise. One fit of hair pulling for two days of handholding in the town square. He can lather her in baby oil and watch her skid around the house if he pecks her on the check in front of Eugenia, Valeria’s enemy that week. They live in this quid pro quo until Valeria gets pregnant.

Once Valeria is pregnant, Arturo can no longer watch in pleasure as she writhes under the heat of Mamita Chucha’s hottest chiles or braid her hair so tight it pulled the skin of her forehead back into a look of perpetual surprise. Their games are given up for the health of the baby.

The larger with life that Valeria gets, the more time Arturo spends with the horses on the ranch. He leaves a scribbled note, fuí a la granja, and isn’t back for weeks. Valeria’s only company is her fearful servants, who cower under the thick lash of her tongue. They scatter any time she enters the kitchen, giving rise to Valeria’s most familiar cocktail of feelings: anger and sadness.

One day she feels her belly hard under her knobby fingers and knows the child will be making its way into the world soon. Alone, her shape ever-expanding, she paints the baby room peach. Tilting on a rickety wooden chair, drinking in the echoes of her brushstrokes in the empty room, she looks down and wonders what would happen if she fell.

On the night she gives birth, one of her hired hands rushes her to the hospital. Another speeds off to fetch Arturo from the farm. Under bare light bulbs, surrounded by middle-aged nurses in perfectly pressed uniforms who look about the age her own mother would have been, she gives birth to her daughter. The alien being comes out of her, barely crying—curious, then indignant. The child shrinks back as Valeria holds a teddy bear up to her moist nose.

But then the child’s face shifts from judgment to pain, turning a violent blue. Valeria calls for the nurse. What is happening to my baby? 

The child gasps for air. The doctor rushes in and thrusts a mess of tubes into her. Hours later the thing, somehow so much smaller, lies heaving in a glass dome. Valeria put a finger to the child’s chest. Llevo tu corazón en mio, she says, and sings her a song that comes from she doesn’t know where.

Arturo sends flowers to the hospital. Chocolates wait for Valeria at home. But in Minerva’s first month of life he never once comes to see her. In the drafty halls of the house Valeria hears the maid sigh, Por Dios, the child could have had 12 toes for all Don Arturo knows. 

Over the following days the child gains color, turns from blue to pink to golden brown, like the cycle of a day. As life lifts in the little being, Valeria turns her thoughts to more pressing matters. She realizes that she has been calling the child “it” for far too long.

By now, Valeria has caught on that living in fiction would be key to her survival.  She learns to reinvent the unbearable and bring the hoped-for into being. So she scours the streets for signs of her child’s future greatness. The kind of name that would put a swell in her chest and pinch her shoulders back.

Hunting through Getsemani she catches a glimpse of herself in the window of a bookstore. After pressing back her hair and smoothing her dress she notices another pair of eyes staring back at her from one of the books on display. A stern redhead with an olive wreath around her temples. Valeria walks into the store and whips open the book. She reads about the mortal mother who, though swallowed whole by her Greek god lover, fashioned weapons for her child from within his belly. The child emerged from his body, whole, adult, and with swords glinting. Minerva, the goddess of knowledge, the goddess of battle, the goddess of strategy.


Valeria visits Mamita Leti, Arturo’s mother, every week. She leaves the baby with the nurse and Arturo in his study and Valeria joins the stream of immaculate ladies in wide-brimmed hats sauntering down the narrow cobbled streets. How they keep them intact, Valeria does not know. Accustomed to city fashion she wears all black: blouse, sunglasses, and leather boots. She clips the corner at Calle Santa Teresa, gives the horse and carriages of Plaza de Atuana a wide berth, and completes the morning journey to her mother-in-law’s house.

Mamita Leti, she sings, one of the few times that her voice changes inflection. She pushes a door that opens into the courtyard. Teresa, Arturo’s younger sister, pokes her head out from behind a pillar, then scurries away. Valeria shrugs, striding to the kitchen to unwrap the pastries she has brought as she waits for Mamita Leti to descend.

She hums to herself over the slow thud of Mamita Leti’s footsteps overhead. They shake the room in a friendly earthquake. The caged canaries coo in loving recognition. I’m coming for you my babies! Mamita Leti hums back from the hall.

Good morning Doña Leti, Valeria teases in playful idolatry.

Mamita Leti hobbles to Valeria, thick ankles trembling, and gives Valeria a warm squeeze on the shoulder. Ay, my calves are killing me, she says. She props her buttocks up on a kitchen stool. You are my only relief.  She puts a hand on Valeria’s cheek.

Valeria kisses Doña Leti’s hand and gives her a small plate with a pastry on it. Toma.

My favorite. Thank you, mija, Mamita Leti says, biting into a flaky pastelito de guayaba.

It is no small pleasure for Valeria to be called mija, the most affectionate word in the dictionary, she thinks. Her own mother had died when she was young. Her father barely remembers her name.

Have you seen Teresita? asks Mamita Leti.

Valeria rolls her eyes, Hiding.

Mamita Leti giggles to herself. Now, tell me, how is my son behaving?

Valeria nods a little too vigorous. Busy with work, she says, and the farm, she adds, without looking directly at Mamita Leti.

Ah yes, the farm. The boys always loved the farm. Particularly Arturo. Mamita Leti says. She slips into a thought. Valeria folds her arms and politely waits for Mamita Leti to rejoin their present moment. Mamita Leti perks up again. And Minerva? Why haven’t you brought her?

She’s sleeping, Doña Leti. I did not want to wake her.

Fair enough, Leti says, idly rubbing a knee. Why you named her that old lady name, I will never know.

Still intoxicated from Mamita Leti’s affection, Valeria hums so loudly to herself as she enters the house that she doesn’t hear the strange noises emanating from the nurse’s room until she reaches the living room. A strange heaving, like someone in illness. A panting such as the mad suffer. She pins herself to the wall and slides forward to the nurse’s doorway. Should she walk in? Was the nurse sick? The heaving turns higher, distinguishably the voice of the nurse. She was having some sort of attack. And then, an unmistakable second party: a signature eeeee!

Valeria bursts in to see the nurse with hands on the wall, bent over, the meat of her buttocks folded over her thigh. For a moment, Valeria admires her—the curves of a Greek goddess, strands of light, curly hair falling in front of her terrified eyes that still held a hint of pleasure. The S curve of her waist as it meets the flesh of her rump. The neat pleats of her skirt touching where her thighs began. Arturo slowly extracts himself and walks past Valeria into his study.

Valeria’s hands fling against the nurse’s face. The nurse careens across the room and falls to the floor. Valeria kneads the tip of a black leather shoe into the nurse’s bare stomach.

Lo siento, Doña Mata! The nurse scampers through the oak doors to begin the trek back to her village.

Valeria packs her carpet bag and leaves the house, carrying the crying newborn under her arm. In the study, Arturo wets a finger and turns another page of his novel.

Valeria drags herself to Mamita Leti’s doorstep. I’m not quite sure how to tell you this, she says, then proceeds to relay every detail to her mother in law. Mamita Leti jingles the ice in her tea and looks out at the lagoon. With his father it was maids. Only every once in a while, you understand. She sips her tea. Arturo did always love his nanny. Valeria holds the baby closer to her. Mamita Leti continues. The two of you can stay here as long as you want, naturally. It would be nice to have more youth around here. Teresa acts likes she’s 12 going on 32.

I thought things would be different after the baby, Valeria says, and Mamita Leti runs her fingers slowly down her knees. So did I.

Valeria makes her way to the guest room, lays the baby on the bed and goes about setting up her possessions, amulets from her old life—a photo of her mother, a little jar containing a lock of her grandmother’s hair. She places them on the mantelpiece, then sits on the bed, staring at them as she rubs the baby’s belly with one hand.

A few days into her stay with Mamita Leti she runs into Doña Maria while leaving the house. Quality time with your mother-in-law? Maria inquires.

Valeria doesn’t like her tone. Yes. She’s unwell. Head cold. Valeria snaps.

Funny. She was one of our strongest voices at church yesterday.

After a restless night, listening to Mamita Leti shift in bed above her, Valeria returns home with Minerva bundled close to her chest, feeling smaller in the marbled hallway. She walks past the study, making sure to step into its pool of light. Her figure casts a shadow across the study’s door. But Arturo doesn’t stir. An hour or so later she hears Arturo’s somber footsteps and the soft thud of the front door. Gone to the farm. Welcome home, reads the note on the dining room table when she wakes up. She puts his things in the spare room and moves the baby’s white crib next to her four-poster bedroom. She starts locking the bedroom door at night.

Over a game of checkers and Cuban rum, Arturo would later joke that it was false advertising. For all the tight clothes and sharp words, Valeria was far less the aventurera than her fashion and smart mouth let on. Her mortal fear of sin colored even the most innocent interactions. A peck on the cheek tormented her for days. A brush on the thigh brought her before the cross for hours. After repenting, she cursed her Catholic reflexes, sending her right back to the altar.

When her piety wavered enough to allow an intimate moment, it was peppered with questions: Is this better than with other women? Do I look ugly in this light? Arturo, ever the romantic, could only mutter Cállate, flaca, as he grappled with his one and only responsibility in the exchange. Afterwards, her eyes flit from the roof to his face, to the mantle piece to his face, then down at her own gangly legs. He lay with arms at his sides, eyes closed, snoring. She placed a thin hand on his chest. He swiped it away.

When he wasn’t at the farm, Arturo frequented bars outside The Walled City, chock full of gamblers and women with loose teeth. He rented boats, fills them with friends and aguardiente, and disappears for days. He had grown accustomed to Valeria’s complacency, so is shocked that, when she found him naked with the next door neighbor, she musters the gumption to throw a lamp at them. He felt the slightest bit proud of her.

Weeks after giving birth, body still swimming with hormones, delirious from lack of sleep, Valeria opened the door to an unused closet instead of the bathroom and found Arturo packed into her cousin. She reached for the hat rack, but Arturo was feeling less generous. Hago. Lo. Que. Quiero, he said through gritted teeth as he wielded his belt.

Afterward, Valeria sat on the stone ledge in the garden letting the pressure open and close her cuts like gills as she shifted weight on her thin buttocks.  She traced her fingers around the glossy petals of a flamingo flower, trying to recall its Latin name. In these quiet moments she felt it possible to recede into the vegetation, that if she inhaled hard enough the surrounding vines would be sucked in, wrap around her nose and brain, eventually make her part of them. Then she heard the baby crying and steadied herself as she stood up.


On Easter Sunday, 1962 the Mata family lines the first pew at St. Ignacio. The wooden panels locks in the cool air pulsing up from the stone floors. Every word of the sermon echoes. Mamita Leti closes her eyes and runs her rosary over her nose. Her left fingers turn white over her son’s arm. Her right hand rests in Valeria’s lap. Minerva plucks at the yarn hairs of a porcelain doll. After mass, Arturo rubs Valeria’s arm and gives her a weary smile. Voy a confesar mis pecados, querida, he tells her, loud enough for his mother to hear. Valeria touches the bruises on her stomach. Mamita Leti nods, then reaches for Valeria’s extended arm to guide her down the church steps.

The plaza is raw with Spring. Flowers peep between cobblestones. The palms had grown from serving plate-sized to rowing oars, their glossy sheens as mirrors. Valeria strokes the tender fuzz of a Lambs Ear, then picks a sprig. She reaches to drop it in her purse, but realizes it isn’t there. Dejé mi bolso en la iglesia, she says, reluctant to leave the day for the artificial night of the church. Vuelvo. Mamita Leti nods, barely listening as she mutters prayer from the back seat of the car. Minerva continues to tease her doll’s hair.

Valeria wedges her body between the doors. She squints into the darkness, sipping in the church’s must. She takes off her shoes and wades into the rising cool, padding down the aisle. As she grabs her purse, a candle chimes and echoes as it hits the ground.

Padre? she bleats as she approached the confessional. But instead of the Padre Mañuel’s large head, two pairs of eyes blink at her like stray dogs caught in a garbage raid. She peels open the curtains to find Arturo and Anabela, barely 14 years old, entwined in the holy box of wood and crushed velvet.

With Mamita Leti, arms folded, watching in the corner, Arturo returns to the guest bedroom and packs every sweater he owns. He says he’ll move to the family villa in Bogotá to clear his head, but he never came back.

Every year Minerva received a letter on her birthday, with the big blue stamp from the city capital, until, one day the stamp changed. I’ve moved to America, he wrote, Don’t worry, I won’t forget you.

Maybe he’ll send me a case of Pepsi, Minerva shrugged, before pressing the letter into a ball and throwing it over her shoulder to be consumed by the street’s hungry mouth.

When Arturo first left Valeria wandered bloodlessly through the house, a sleep mask permanently pressed against her forehead. She drank until Arturo’s eyes blurred in Minerva’s head. Once she got to the other side of a bottle she could not recognize them as his anymore. Minerva developed the habit of shielding her eyes from her mother as she mumbled goodbye to the lump of bed sheets in the morning.

Wine-stained glasses littered Valeria’s nightstand. Cigarette trays covered the floor. One night Valeria came into Minerva’s room and began ripping out the pages of Minerva’s books. So you think you’re better than me? she slurred. Minerva returned from school that day with a deadbolt. Valeria hovered in the the hallway as Minerva furiously twisted an elbow to fix the thing to her door. She stopped and swayed in front of Minerva hard at work, then sniffed in approval. They both knew this was for the best.

Shopping was Valeria’s only comfort. On Saturdays, she tore the sheets from her wiry body and headed to the square. But no amount of jewelry and fresh bread could suffocate the town whispers. Every weekend brought a different insult—Anabela goaded her in the bakery window with the sexy sweep of her broom, Señora Velasquez suggested that single women should not wear pearls.

Minerva began rising before her mother, making the rounds to the bakery, the frutería, buying the coffee, always sure to pick her up a special treat. At first Valeria was angry that Minerva co-opted her weekly ritual, but soon trembled in anticipation of her café con leche in bed.

Though Anabela was the walking equivalent of salt in the wound for Minerva, her family’s bread recipe couldn’t be beat. Anabela grew into a smoldering Athena, thick honey thighs, hair streaked by the sun. Rumor had it her family achieved the particular texture of their bread from an age-old custom of adding fresh drops of blood from the prettiest female relative. Minerva swore she saw tiny cuts on the tips of Anabela’s fingers once as she handed her a loaf over the counter. Say hello to your mami for me, Anabela would say with a wink.

After the family’s fall from grace, Mamita Leti receded further into her house of canaries. Young Teresa, convinced that the rooms of the house would become fewer and fewer, hid a stack of books in each. She prepared her reading spots like bomb shelters, cushioning cabinets and adding reading lamps to broom closets to ensure she’d be comfortable in exile.

Valeria and Mamita Leti only talked about Arturo’s final indiscretion twice. When Valeria ran to Mamita Leti’s house, eyeliner making road maps of her face, Mamita Leti was sitting in her rocking chair with all the lights off. You will keep the house, of course, she said, and squeezed Valeria’s wrist. Valeria felt the wetness of Mami Leti’s tears in her hand. They sat together in the dark.

The second time Mamita Leti ever mentioned the affair was on her deathbed. I’m sorry, mija, Mamita Leti said, turning to Valeria, the mechanics of her jaw twitching and popping, I should have raised him better. Again that little word, mija, held its unmanageable weight.


© The Acentos Review 2018