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it feels / sometimes / as though everything / everything / everything / is just going to shit / but yesterday i bought / old spice deodorant / for the first time / gentleman’s blend / and i dont even know / what it smells like yet / havent taken it out of the package / but having something for me / that says gentleman on it / makes everything / everything / everything / feel just a bit more manageable / and i stocked up / on pilot g2 gel pens / the kind with ink that flows like blood / like benediction / and im brewing a doubleshot / of café bustelo / even though it is 3pm / because fuck you / my day starts when i say it does / and ive nabbed the last two / strawberry teacakes / and my parents arent around / so they cant comment on the everything / everything / everything / i am always doing wrong / and yesterday not one / but two of my friends told me / unprompted / that they love me / and sure im still a little / too scared to say it back / (can i even still love?) / but if two different people / can choose to love me / and i can wear mens deodorant / and write garbage poetry / with my favorite pens / unbothered / and taste the strawberry icing / of a toosweet teacake / melt on my tongue / chase it down / with almostbitter espresso / then maybe everything / everything / everything / is not as shit / as i thought it was.


i can’t focus for shit–never have been able to– can’t dedicate myself to one thought one task one life at a time– the girls in the cubicle next to mine are hugging, i think, i can’t see them through the walls but i can hear that extended high pitch whine that girls always do to accentuate a hug. i don’t know if i ever did that– i always sort of just went numb, let myself be enveloped, consumed to an extent, felt the embrace (told myself i liked suffocation). ‘you really think elena’s gonna pay for tolls in her audi’ one of the girls is saying, and then a third voice laughs with them, a boy, and a tow truck drives by carrying eight totaled cars. i wonder if any of the people driving them died. is that too morbid? i’ve always been too morbid.

‘now you’re a rican’ the boy says– when i leave i’ll have to double-check and see if any of them look boricua, not that there’s only one way to look boricua but i can tell, trained by family and blood, but none of these girls sound like ricans. they sound like the girls in middle school, the ones who bullied me and celebrated on columbus day and were so proud that their great great great great fucking grandparents (who really weren’t all that great) came over on the goddamn mayflower, saw columbus get stiff for a manatee with their own eyes. all three are laughing now, something playing on their phones– something with a voice that drips with a beautiful brusque accent on a speaker clearer than i could afford– i don’t think the woman in the video is telling a joke. her dark voice drips honey from the phone over, and over, and over,

and the girls that now are ricans are calling each other “gorditto” in the whitest harshest voices i’ve ever heard. they think it means sexy in spanish, according to the boy who is their friend who took a semester of spanish in high school. i have spent my whole life trying to be okay with being who i am but these girls have a friend who took a semester of spanish who has dubbed them rican– i straightened my hair til it was burn stiff and apologized to white teachers for using slang and i still put filters over my photos on instagram to make my skin look a little less brown. i can’t trace my heritage past the grandparents who left puerto rico so my parents and tíos and cousins and me could grow up white and have a chance to be taken seriously– who knew all i needed to be boricua was a friend who took a semester of spanish in high school– who knew it was that easy? who knew it was that fucking easy?


n.l. rivera is currently an undergraduate student in New Jersey. Their work has been featured in several publications, including Miniskirt Magazine and Avant. One of these days they’ll develop a strong sense of identity, but in the meantime, he’ll keep writing poetry and listening to podcasts. Online, he tends to lurk on Twitter: @nrrrivers.

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