dark lord of the rainbow
When you’re nine, your grandmother tells you the story about the Rainbow Ballroom to scare you. She tells you the story while she makes you a Shirley Temple right before bedtime. She uses a tiny glass jar instead of a cup. The way the story goes, she says, there was a beautiful girl who met a beautiful man at the ballroom He asks her to go on a moon lit drive. Your grandmother tells you this is where she goes wrong. She should have stayed there with her friends. She’s lucky her mother let her go out in the first place. Your grandmother drops a cherry in your soda and you watch the fizz come up the jar like amoeba. That should have been enough fun for her, your grandmother tells you.
The girl looks down and sees the man has hooves where his feet should be. The girl is never seen again. You ask your grandmother how she or anyone, for that matter, could possibly know the man had hooved feet if the girl had completely disappeared? Your grandmother doesn’t answer your question. She just shakes her way out of the kitchen and into her garden.
Your grandmother takes you to visit your aunt’s house in parkside, and while your grandmother’s talking to her sister in the kitchen, your cousin invites you to her bedroom and under her pink canopy, puffy like clouds, you sit on her bed and tell her about the beautiful man with hooved feet. Your cousin is seven years older than you and has Spaniard skin and hair that is three shades blacker than your own. She tells you she lost a job at Macy’s because she showed up to the interview with chewed up fingernails speckled with polish and her own teenage blood. Yes, she tells you. She sticks her finger in the dimple on her face. There was such a man with hooves where his feet should be. Everyone knows the story because the beautiful girl danced all night with him. She came home with the rain in her hair and blisters on her feet and tequila in her mouth and then your cousin taps your throat with her fingertips and they begin to burn there like three sticks of copal.
You imagine that the woman has curly hair like you and is dark like you. That she irons her hair before she goes out, the way you do now. You imagine a disco ball with green and yellow lights. You imagine that the woman wears a red polyester dress that feels like silk in your hands. You wrap the dress around her breasts and ribs and her empty womb. The beautiful man finds her and asks her to dance. He smells like pricy cologne and leather and his hair is slicked black over his ear lobes and his skin is scorched by the right kind of sun. He speaks to her in Spanish. You don’t know how to speak Spanish, so you imagine this woman can only understand his words half way or that she hears his words in reverse, that she reads his intentions on his fingertips as they run up her back. The woman leaves with the man in his Chevy Malibu. The air is warm and slow bleeding with rain. Fingers fall on skin. The buildings go by in dark and blue and trees and dust. She looks down at the gas pedal. She looks down to where his feet should be. She knows. The moon tips over his hooves and sighs.
Monique Quintana is a contributing writer at Clash Media and Senior Beauty Editor at Luna Luna Magazine. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno, and her work has appeared in Huizache, Bordersenses, and The Acentos Review, among other publications. She is a member of the Central Valley Women Writers Color Collective and teaches English at Fresno City College. You can find her on Instagram as @quintanadarkling and on Twitter at @quintanagothic.