aunt, niece: a found dictionary

Valentina Avellaneda

catastrophe n. eight days after hurricane cesar hit the northern shore of colombia in 1996, ana was born. in the capital: bogotá, to a family of four— an alcoholic, a workaholic, and two sisters: one who spent her days ill, the other of drinking age.

green-eyed adj. as the little one of the house, used to drizzles of attention and kisses, it must’ve been abrupt when someone else took her place. six years later. a scorpio baby, nonetheless: me. from this moment, the relationship between ana and i was formed (aunt, niece). unlike the 14 that drowned out of mother nature’s creation— innocently—our bond carried a) distance b) envy and c) baby bottles.

starry-eyed adj. i lived the first years of my life thinking she was my sister, 2002- 2008, without meaning to rob her spotlight.

union n. ana maria— one who raises— her hands and one knee for vrksasana, the tree pose. yogi talk, crying over spotted dachshund clips on instagram, and unconsciously embracing silence at Intervals.

far-flung adj. leos are flamboyant, bold, ambitious. passionate, independent and intuitive, are scorpios.

birthmark n. pencil-length muddy cloud covering the width of ana’s stomach. i have a colon on my upper lip. one dot perfectly aligned on top of the other.

predator n. valentina—strength, health—wanting to be number one. in the same way i look up to her, there’s a devil inside that itches for superiority. when making avocado face masks amidst a family fight in 2008, who could mash them better? would lion paws or scorpion claws be more beneficial? for once, i wonder if she, too, would like to be number one.

herbivorous adj. on ash wednesday, good friday and all the fridays of lent, catholics are to abstain from meat. ideally, red from cows. instead, ana replaces meat with tofu, plant-based ham and legumes of all colors every day of the year. vegetarian: one out of the 375 million happens to share my family name.

carapace n. growing up in colombia, where ransom calls and kidnappings are to be feared. in a place where necklaces made of Au (atomic number 79) and the newest iphones are to be hidden, ana grew a shell— a carapacho like the one our pet turtle, toto, had. i sit here with my flesh exposed and no unease in walking out alone.

2,218 miles n. the gravity in houston, tx glues my body to its boiling summers, diversity and fame of space exploration. i grew up speaking spanish that quickly turned into spanglish until the e took over. english. i will never see myself as an american, but as a representation of everything ana never got to have. peace, safety, unlimited freedom.

family expectation n. as tradition insists, children must be given nicknames. mona for her light brunette hair and complexion, lola for my personality— lollipop. mona and i have distinct hobbies: baking empanadas vs coloring mandalas. i, a scorpio ruled by mars, am always open to try a new yoga pose or two. though we both have the energy to obsess over puppies.

barricade n. with her secrecy, it seems as if hera herself descended and keeps us apart. Not letting ana share her secrets and prohibiting me from a smile. the same border that keeps venezuelan territory apart from colombia intertwined on august 19 2015. the month august signifies love, marriage, family. but where migrants are fleeing the country of petroleum plants— containing the potential of wealth, grease— ana and i remain separate, as if she wasn’t part of me.

evanescent adj. my great-grandmother used to say people with two names were not to be trusted, their mouths inhabit bad luck where teeth should be. never knowing what to say and when to say it. between ana and i, trust is translucent. it shows up when she comes to visit, though the light only lasts a couple of days, disappearing as she shuts down— not letting it pass.

enigmatic adj. — difficult to interpret or understand; mysterious. emotions being the most challenging aspect of our relationship, it’s no surprise who this word was invented for. at times, i wish i had a stinger, beige or umber, to puncture her skin with requests of connection.

methodology n. greet your family members, give them a nice hug: un abrazo. having physical contact as a way to acknowledge one another’s presence is the first rule in colombian etiquette.

delink v. at the airport, a welcome between ana and i usually goes like this: “hola!” “hola, como estas?”“bien.” and ends with a wrap around each other. on the verge of being a hug, but not quite emitting warmth. her hands— pale and measuring 32 degrees fahrenheit— struggle to brush past mine.

erode v. the summer of sixth grade ana came over to study english, automatically becoming my turn to practice spanish. her critiques of my tongue came in the form of ridicule— i’m fluent, though lacking the purity of the amazon river. if god directs our conversations, he failed to plan our personalities, inverse.

inked v. for ana, expressing her feelings comes through ink and plants. tattoos including a bull on her upper arm, let it go in cursive and hope (my grandmother’s name) in purple tint. Orchids ranging from mini to adults. n. at one point in our lives, we developed an obsession for food. love your body, don’t fall into the same trap as me, she tells me. hers turning into bulimia and mine in a limbo, and that’s where our similarities end.

fickle adj. with a cigarette in her lion’s paw and a pencil on my scorpion's claw, the compatibility between ana and i is— unexpected.

VALENTINA AVELLANEDA, 16, is a creative writing sophomore at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. She has recently been recognized as a gold key recipient for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The inspiration for most of her work rises from her Colombian background and she profoundly enjoys writing all types of poetry, short plays, and creative nonfiction.