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Her Mom Wants to Know What He Does for a Living

By Penelope M. Alegria, Contributing Writer

She brings him home, but not without warning the house first: the good plates, the scratched table, the dining room’s pear green walls. She warns her mom too, though she knows the side-eye and chisme are only inevitable. She knows her mom’s hawk gaze, checking if he eats with his hands, counting how many beers he tips down his throat. Once it’s time for board games, her mom will spread his dinner party wrongdoings on the table like cards; her mom will shuffle his manner mishaps into a deck of arguments against her loving him.

When she squeaks the door open, he shadows her into the warm fog of the kitchen, humid with the frying of arroz con huevo frito. Her sister trips out of her sandals to stick him with kisses, a bouquet of red imprints for each cheek. Her brother lingers by the sink with glasses of too-sweet, too-purple chicha. Her mom tsk-tsks the kids out of the room because the table won’t set itself, and don’t you know the smoke will stink your dress shirt?

She knew her mom would squint disapprovingly at his gold chain, the hole in his left sneaker. What she wasn’t expecting was her mom digging her nails into her shoulder as she brought out the appetizer. What she wasn’t expecting was the slamming down of the plate, hard enough to make the egg yolk jiggle with her resentment. The plantains’ sweetness fills her nostrils as they bow their heads to say grace, and the night is blessed until her mom passes him the salt and asks what the poor tailor wants with her daughter.

—Penelope M. Alegria '24's column, "Hers," is a series of poems that retell familial stories through a matriarchal lens, exploring the role of women through space and time.

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