);

MICROWAVE OVEN by Estrella del Valle (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

Don’t say my name, don’t say my name, when you know I have died, don’t say my name.

-Roque Dalton

I don’t know how it happened. I only remember walking in the woods with my strawberry basket. I wanted to pick a lot of strawberries on the way because my grandmother likes homemade cakes. She used to make them before she bought her house and had to spend many hours outside. She made them with egg white foams. The secret is to beat yolks and butter well, first yolks, then butter, and whip it for a long time, pour in the mixture of flour and milk. Finally make half of the egg whites fluff up. It’s easy, no? She cuts the sponge cake horizontally in thirds with a thread and on the first layer she puts walnut custard, made with real walnut, strawberry jam, made from natural strawberries, not the kind you find in a supermarket. Then she puts the last layer, which she bakes in the oven. She starts decorating it with meringue. She makes a lot of figures, roses, leaves, and faces. She can even put the birthday person’s name with one hand. She’s an artist. I kept walking, looking for strawberries for her cake, but I didn’t find any. That’s why when I saw you coming in. I thought you were a doll, dressed up like that, so elegant. You even look like Ken, Barbie’s boyfriend. Then I thought you came for my grandma’s cake. But I know that man sent you here. Well, tell him no. I’m tired of playing house. Like I said, I’m sick of playing husband and wife. I lost interest in cooking a long time ago, after the day when I was so hungry I went to look for strawberries for the cake and couldn’t find the woods anywhere. Nobody knew where the woods were. I was tired of asking directions, so I left and walked along Broadway, from West College to Seventh Street. I kept walking with my basket until it became dark, and I didn’t know how to get back home. When I realized I was lost, I thought about going back the same way, but I hadn’t left breadcrumbs because with this husband we never had enough bread to put into our mouths. When we got married, my dad told him, “Take good care of my little princess.” That’s what my dad told him, but he didn’t even listen. I walked to Seventh and arrived at St. Vincent Jewelry Center. I wanted my princess tiara to go back to my house, to my dad. I went to the tiara display counter with my empty basket. The saleswoman and other women stared at my tattered clothes and bleeding toenails. I was bleeding all over the blue carpet, my blood, which wasn’t blue like the carpet, kept oozing. I don’t know how it happened, the lights went out, then screams came. I don’t remember anyone coming to my rescue with his sword and white horse. Only you have showed up here, with your doll-like face, your well-ironed suit, and your CD on your back that repeats the same promise you’ll never keep because he doesn’t want to see me. I want you to know this once and for all. I don’t need him anymore because the doctor, who likes me, told me if I continue to be a good girl, as I have been, he’ll buy me Barbie’s microwave oven, with its flour and all the dishes for the cake.

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