THROUGH THESE RED EYES


December 8, 2022 / Evelyn Martinez




Metal fingers lit the match that burned everything I ever was. This armor was made to guard me, but can I still find my flesh beneath all this wiring?



Body on fire, I march through the flames engulfing what once had been our home. I feel free for the first time in my life. My hands are dirty and covered in blood. They smell like gasoline. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


My mother has always been my muse. Even as daggers flew out from her mouth, sharp ends pointing straight towards me, I revered her.  She’s become the basis of every piece of art I’ve ever created, and drops of the blood shed at her hands soak my every word.


I was a mommy’s girl from birth until the first breath of womanhood. Time had always been ticking. Soon I was not her little girl anymore, and only helpless girls deserve mercy. How else is a woman shaped, if not with a heavy hand? I was a naive child who thought a mother’s love was unconditional. I learned the truth way too young.


At 15 my mother found out about the girl I was seeing. It had been pure puppy love; I was too little to know anything else. The house felt like a rubber band that was being tugged and pulled at, getting tighter and closer to snapping. The tension was palpable. One fateful Sunday night, the rubber finally broke.  As I sat there listening to our priest tell me how the sins I had committed would land me in Hell, I started to ask the question: “Will I ever feel free to live?”


The truth hung over me like a stormcloud. “God” was punishing me for being my own version of human. There was no way my mother would have been capable of all that she was without Him. He took over her vessel and filled her with His voice, His venom, His fury. “It’s all in His name,” was the conclusion of every battle, more so of every merciless attack, and I stood no chance. This harnessing of a thousand winds and the grace of God versus a frail ghost of a person. As she punched down in that chapel, her poison rushing through my veins, the cold wood of the pew under my legs embraced me. I begged for mercy, begged for the ground to swallow me whole. But it didn’t matter. She would never stop unless I put up my hands to stop her.


From that day on, I was determined to be the monster that would bite off her snake head. I stewed in my anger, let hostility take over my soul. I took myself apart and put myself back together again, only this time, I made sure the scars left behind were hidden under layers of armor. No one would touch my weak skin again.


Looking down at my hands now, I see pure metal. My fingers are lined with lifeless wiring, my head screwed on too tight, my joints replaced with nuts and bolts and hinges. I’m singed on the edges and my brown hair is gone. Everything I had ever dreamed of can start now that I’ve burned my bridges. Finally, after years of assembly, I was strong enough to move myself out of this hole I was thrown into.

Turning to face my own destruction, I could still feel my heart beating. Despite my best efforts it was impossible to fully mechanize a human being. There would always be pieces left behind.

Tears were running down my alloy cheeks. My heart wouldn’t let me breathe, opting instead to send cries of agony to my motherboard, each gasp leaving my lips with more vigor than those that came before it. The force with which my soul fought against what I had trapped it in was unprecedented. I expected this to get easier, I expected these layers of metal to protect me from the harm I had been raised in. It wasn’t supposed to be like this if what I had done was justified. For years that house and the woman living inside it made my life a living hell. I had reached my limit. Red anger fueled my new body, and I let my mouth run free, the hate I garnered for years now oozing out of every pore. The disgust I conveyed to her made the room electric. As a poet, I recited the most beautifully vile poem I have ever created. I could never forgive her for what she had done to my spirit, and I made sure my words reflected that. I could never forgive the cold bloodedness of the murder of my younger self at her hands. She made me into this beast-monster thing, and now she had the nerve to sit on her throne and judge me for it.  I could never look her in the eye again, never hold her to my chest again, never fall asleep curled at her side again.



  


After a while the mantra felt like mush. Its meaning slipped through my fingers. I was not convincing myself very well anymore.

Because despite it all, I long for the feeling of her calloused palms. The ones that raised me, as best as they knew how. The hands that had once held her innocent child close, even when she wasn’t as innocent anymore.

Where did that girl go? I keep telling myself this armor I’ve built saved me, that it has done nothing but protect the frail, gentle person that I know that I am. But if I sat down and looked hard enough, would I still find her? Has this robot I’ve made of myself completely replaced the soft flesh of who I really was?

I long for the feeling of blood rushing through my veins. Suffering wasn’t wanted when it was all that consumed me, but with no rain comes no rainbow. With no pain comes no pleasure. The one true balance within this universe is that of good and evil. What happens to a person who loses it?

What is the cost that comes with becoming cold to the world and its punches? The soul entwined with the persona renders us unrecognizable, forcing us to stay lost forever. Women don’t have the option to nurse themselves back to health; we get beaten, spit on, yelled at, and then get up for work the next morning. We slip on our metal appendages and walk out the door as anything but women. Our rawness hides beneath falsehoods until we are ready to accept ourselves for what we truly are: weak. Emotional. Loving. Caring. Crazy. Stupid. Imperfect.

Anything but rigid. Anything but robotic. Anything but machine.





I remember, one particularly terrible night, when my brother couldn’t fake it anymore, and the reign of terror we lived in had reached a peak. He stayed in my room until he fell asleep, with his head on my pillow and our puppy pulled tightly to his chest. There it was, I thought to myself. Here's my reason. I felt as if the only way I could make sure these children made it out of here alive was to get out of this weak flesh and house myself in something mightier. But I never stopped to think about who they were turning to for comfort; it wasn’t a soulless machine with an impenetrable exterior. It was the tenderness of their vulnerable sister.


I grieve for that girl. How was I supposed to help my siblings make it out alive, if I had shown them I couldn’t even do so? The arms that once provided asylum were now too frigid to bear.  My eyes, once warm and inviting, have been replaced by a harsh red light and gray exterior.


And so, as I stand here watching it all burn, I’ve finally learned my lesson.


“You’ll understand when you get older,” my mother used to say. I hated that phrase and would refute it everytime. It was one of her many excuses, and one I refused to accept. But maybe she was right. My mother was given faulty tools to begin with, and she did what she could with them. We come from generations of abuse, with my mother and her five siblings living in deep poverty in Mexico under the torturous reign of my grandmother. My mother had to carve this mold for herself, much like I did, as she was left with no other choice. She was cold and cruel because the world had shown her no different, because the world had shown her that’s what it took to survive. It takes real effort to stop the cycle, and my mom is a busy woman. But I’m determined to stop it myself.


It starts with forgiveness and commiseration. It starts with a rewiring of sorts, a merge of human and droid that strikes just the right balance. Not too soft but still rather squishy. It’s allowing ourselves to be guided by love and not blinded by anger.


I’m working on it. I call my mom and go to church on Sundays, as often as I can stomach. I tell my siblings how much I love them every chance I get. Whatever it takes to get rid of the self-injected disease hat plagues my skin.

Metal flakes still rub off in my sleep, and sometimes they clog the drain when I'm showering, but that's all they are. Flakes. Only remnants left of a cyborg who is slowly learning to love her raw flesh. ■




By: Evelyn Martinez

Layout: Juleanna Culilap

Photographer: Mateo Ontiveros

Stylists: David Garcia & Yousuf Khan

HMUA: Miu Nakata & Maliabo Diamba

Models: Maliabo Diamba





View the full spread as it appeared in Issue No. 19 here.
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