by Jessica Turney
My aunt scrapes the flesh from an avocado 
off her hand with a long, black knife. Her hands
are rough but careful as she scours 
the rind of all its meat. Tell me what’s wrong
she says; I have said nothing. She watches
me from the corner of her eye, her lips pressed
in a smirk. I know something is wrong,
but I’d rather watch her slice into a tomato, the juice 
pooling on the blade, slowly falling onto the countertop
than tell her I’m worried about my brother, how he’s been 
sleeping on my couch, how I’ve been
smoking cigarettes again, because he’s out 
on my patio raising the lit tip toward me, gesturing 
me out to join him—I want him to tell me everything 
he’s scared of, and I’ve had four cigarettes 
today. My aunt puts tortillas on the stovetop, no pan, flat 
on the iron web. Small brown patches rise; I see sheets 
from my parent’s bed lift up and settle 
back down, my brother telling me to get in, it’s just a game.
I am six and I trust him. At 27, I am comforting him 
as he asks me, how could you love me? How could you forgive
me? He reminds me of our game of “Doctor, Doctor,”
of the tool shed in our aunt’s back yard, of rules
like take off your pants, tell me when it hurts, 
Does this feel strange? My aunt pushes a block of cheese 
down the ribbed grater, the shreds piling 
on top of one another as they fall on a paper plate. 
Sweet girl, she says, sometimes we have to love people
from a distance, and I am not sure how she already knows,
but I think that she may be right. She tells me to grab the tortilla
while it’s hot. I start with seasoned ground beef, add 
the avocado, tomato, cheese and it smells good. I pick it up, 
don’t even bother to clean up the grease running 
down my wrist, my forearm.