top of page

        Three Demaris Cortéses showed up at their friend Jackie’s house to talk about what to do about Carlos. They also came to her place in the Bronx that afternoon in December to talk about being three Demaris Cortéses, or rather three women who all used to be one Demaris Cortés.

        It was the Taina Demaris who rang the bell and stood closest to the door. She had been the first to emerge from the disintegrator-reintegrator, so she felt she was the oldest and the natural leader.

        She had told Jackie what to expect, but still her friend could not contain herself.

        “Holy shit! You gotta be fucking kidding me.”

        The Taina Demaris was short and had straight, dark hair. She said, “You can call me by my new name, Guabancex. And this is—”

        “Y aún soy Demaris Cortés,” said the tallest one. “Encantada de conocerte.” This one had light brown curly hair, light skin, blue-green eyes.

        “I guess you’re the Spanish one. Little snooty with the ths. But that’s okay,” said Jackie. “I got a cousin like you.”

        “And this is Funmilayo.”

        The third was shorter, dark-skinned, with a short black afro. “Inu mi dun lati m .”

        “Oh my god, you’re so pretty. But can you not speak English?” Jackie said, then turned to Guabancex. “What language is that?”

        “Yoruba. She can speak English, but she hates the sound of it in her mouth.”

        “And Guabancex only speaks English instead of Arawak because she doesn’t like it when I dominate the conversation,” said Demaris.

        “You seem to speak English good,” Jackie said.

        “Sí. I prefer to speak my perfect Castilian Spanish. But I have no qualms about speaking in the language of the English.”

        “Which is no surprise. Europeans gonna European,” said Guabancex. “Here, we brought wine.”

        “Jackie like. Let’s get this open.”

        “We couldn’t decide what to buy,” said Guabancex. “This one wanted rioja. This one wanted palm wine. And I didn’t have time to ferment any cassava. So we got a zinfandel because we all agreed the label looked pretty.”

        Jackie led them to the living room, where salsa navideñas played on the giant TV screen. She served the wine and crackers piled with cheese, salami, and olives.

        “So, tell me, tell me. What happened when you went into that teleporter machine, and then tell me how this—” Jackie used a finger to indicate the three—“this all happened.”

        Demaris took advantage of the fact that Guabancex was chewing, and said, “Bueno. My university was extremely fortunate to receive the grant to explore Professor Kaku’s theories about teleportation. In brief, the subject is dematerialized and their genetic information stored. Using—”

        Having chewed far too quickly, Guabancex stepped in. “—es, this information is then used to rematerialize the subject. I decided to take it a step further. What I did—

        “Ohun ti a e.” 

        “Right. What we did was use the university’s teleportation device—actually, the correct term is ‘disintegrator-reintegrator’—what we did was use the disintegrator-reintegrator’s AI to execute a high-level gene therapy to delete a dysfunctional gene and replace it.”

        Demaris rolled her eyes.

        “In this case,” Guabancex continued, “I programmed it to delete the Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R1b predominant in southern and western Europeans and replace it with the genome sequence of a thousand-year-old DNA from a Lucayan Taino individual found in the Bahamas.”

        “That’s amazing, although I have no idea what you’re saying,” said Jackie. “But still, you didn’t ask it to make, like, three of you. Or three versions of you. Excuse me, oh my god, it’s so confusing.”

        Guabancex nodded. “Well, my initial idea was just to emerge completely free of European anything, to be literally decolonized. It is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child. Since I spent hours in pain, tortured by my mother’s hot curling iron, in an effort to make my hair straight and acceptable.”

        “O rewa gan lobinrin!”

        “I know, and thank you for that. But as a little girl there was no one to tell me that. And I hated and despised the Spanish colonizers who had come to this country looking for resources to exploit, for stupid, stupid gold, and to enslave and torture and rape my people.”

        “That wasn’t me. Don’t look at me,” said Demaris.

        “Olórí burúkú.”

        “What is that? What does that mean? What does she mean by that?”

        Guabancex ignored her other self. “So, the AI somehow decided there was enough information left over to do something else. Something I hadn’t anticipated.”


* * *


        “That’s where these two came from?” Jackie said, putting out some guava and cheese and serving another bottle of wine. “But out of thin air? Did it, like, take your ribs to make these two?”

        “To avoid issues of imbalance, the disintegrator-reintegrator is equipped with spare matter,” said Demaris.

        “Spare matter?”

        “Sí. Organic chemicals in a semi-solid state.”

        “Sounds gross.”

        “Es como galantina.”

        “What’s that?”

        “Like head cheese. Like Spam,” said Guabancex. “You know Spam. So, the day after I came home, this one comes knocking on the door, kind of sort of looking like me, more like who I was, wearing spare clothes from my office, and I knew immediately what had happened.”

        “Y en aquel día renací!” said Demaris. “I had been born again!”

        “I understood that,” Jackie said.

        “She called a cab and there she was. I had to pay for the cab.”

        “Bueno, you took our cell phone and our credit cards.”

        “And then the next day Funmilayo showed.”

        “Awon olopa mu mi wa si ile re.”

        “Ooh, what does that mean?”

        “The police brought her. She went to my office as well, but they stopped her because, well, you know the cops.”

        “You gotta be fucking kidding me.”

        “She was very upset,” said Demaris, “especially when she saw me.”

        “Fucking cops, I tell you.”

        But Funmilayo looked at Guabancex as she spoke. “O ti gbagbe mi. O f lati y mi kuro. O fi mí sílẹ̀ sẹ́yìn bí òkú ran.”

        To Jackie, Guabancex said, “She says I left her behind. She says I forgot about her. She’s not wrong. I didn’t mean it. I only want to rid myself of Europe. I didn’t realize I’d lose my African self at the same time. Again, this was something the AI decided. But I still felt ashamed because you know the first thing I did when I got out of the pod was check my hair and admire how coffee-colored I was, instead of the pink-tan I had lived with for so long.”

        “I’ve been there. I’ve always hated the way I looked. Look at my froggy eyes.”

        “But what I was trying to do was so more beyond the superficial. I didn’t do this to look this way.”

        “No,” said Demaris, “I think that’s exactly why you broke into a research facility to turn back the clock on your genetics. I think what you really would have preferred was a time machine so you could go back to some idealized past.”

        “Wait a minute, you fucking broke in?”

        “I submitted a formal request to the project director. But when the powers that be deny you, you need to be the power yourself.”

        “Fuck the status quo,” said Funmilayo.

        “Wow! Yeah, sister,” said Jackie.


* * *


        “So that reminds me, so what’s going on with Carlos?” she said. “I feel like I haven’t seen him in so long. He always brings the party to the party, you know.”

        “I don’t want to talk about Carlos,” said Guabancex, who jumped up from the couch. “This salsa music, it has been exciting me since we got here. I want to dance!”

        Funmilayo refused to get up. She said she wasn’t sure she liked it, and that it reminded her too much of the oppressor’s music.

        Demaris said, “Oh, can we just get past that!”

        “She’s right though,” said Guabancex, sitting down. “She’s right.”

        “You always take her side!”

        Jackie said,” What’s all this? We’re just trying to have a good time.”

        “This is the way it is, has been. Always. The fighting. The picking at each other’s behaviors, motivations, beliefs. Especially mine.”

        “Demaris is right,” said Guabancex. “We can’t go on like this. It’s been getting worse and worse. And I lost my job, of course, for breaking the rules. And Funmilayo can’t get work, even though she has a PhD. I mean, we all do.”

       “Did I forget to mention I got hired for a tenure-track position?” said Demaris. “Starting in January. With a higher salary than I was making when I was all three of us.”

        “Of course!”

        “Whatever. And I’ll be moving out and away from this dysfunction.”

        “Okay, okay,” said Jackie, who disliked when a party fell apart. “C’mon, I have a surprise for all of you. Let’s get out of here and go into the kitchen. Someone’s been waiting to see you.”


* * *


        Inside the kitchen was Jackie’s grandmother, standing at the counter, peeling yautía. She asked what all the yelling was about.

        “Everyone, you remember my abuela, Mariana.”

        They re-introduced themselves and Mariana hugged each of them in turn. She smelled of moisturizer and garlic and rose perfume and oregano.

        “I know all of you,” she said. “I see you in your faces. Your cheekbones here. Your mouth here. All three got your eyes, even though she got different color. It’s too bad your father has passed. Your father always wanted more daughters, and now here he got three.”

        “It’s time to get to work,” Jackie said. “It’s not why I invited you here, but since you’re here, might as well get the pasteles factory going.”

        Guabancex fought over who would cook the pork, but Jackie told Guabancex to do it.

        Guabancex chopped up the pork, cooking it with sweet peppers, chopped onion, recaito, garlic, adobo, oregano, bay leaves.

         Demaris and Funmilayo were assigned to grating the peeled yautía and green plantains, an arduous task. Then Demaris filled the food processor with grated vegetables, and Funmilayo whizzed them until it became a creamy masa.

        “I remember this,” one of them said.

        “I remember too.”

        Jackie placed the resulting masa over a cheesecloth to drain.

        “That’s not the way I do it,” her abuela said.

        “That's the way I do it and it’s my house. My house, my recipe.”

        Once the masa was ready, Guabancex stirred in the garlic, recaito, salt, and achiote oil.

        Abuela started the assembly line. She topped a sheet of parchment with a banana leaf and passed it down. Someone would spoon the masa, then the meat, and then each portion would have to be wrapped up neatly with string.

        “I’m not tying this right,” said Demaris.

        “Bi ẹbun.”

        “I understood that,” said Demaris. “How did I understand that?”

        When the packets were done, they slowly lowered them into a giant pot of boiling water.


* * *


        While the pasteles boiled, Abuela asked, “Y que paso con Carlos?”

        All three of the Demaris versions laughed at the mention of his name.

        “Well,” said Guabancex, “the first day I was back I found myself spending a lot of time in the backyard. I learned I hate the feeling of shoes on my feet, and I love the feel of bare grass underneath. You know me, I was never Ms. Outdoorsy, but this was part of the change. So, I was coming inside, and Carlos is there and he wraps his arms around my waist. In general, he had become very affectionate. I think he was excited because he was still married to me, but now I was like a whole new woman. And then Demaris showed.”

        “What can I say?” Demaris said. “When you have mainstream beauty standards, you have mainstream beauty standards.”

        “He was flirting with her so hard, and when I talked to him about it, he was like, ‘Well, technically, I’m married to her too.’ He tried the same thing with Funmilayo, but she wasn’t having it.”


         “At least he didn’t ask for an orgy,” said Jackie.


        “Oh no he didn’t!”

        Guabancex shrugged. “Here’s the thing. I know that to him, this doesn’t seem fair. He had a wife one day. And then the next day that woman was gone. She no longer exists. But I did this for me.”

        “For all of us, I think,” said Demaris. “Carlos suggested we go back to the disintegrator-reintegrator and become one person again.”

        “Oh my god. Are you going to do it?”


* * *


        At last the pasteles were ready. When it came time to eat, Abuela and Jackie closed their eyes to say grace and thank a deity for the food. Guabancex bent her head to pray, but she thought about it and stopped. She opened her eyes and looked up. And, while Abuela and Jackie kept praying, there was Funmilayo smiling at her, and next to her Damaris nodding.

        “But you still haven’t decided about Carlos,” said Jackie.

        “What should we do?” said the three women who all used to be one Demaris Cortés.

        “Give him to me,” Jackie said. “I’ll take him off your hands. Now let’s eat.”

Decolonize Me

Richie Narvaez

lumina logo blue.png
bottom of page