MICROWAVE OVEN by Estrella del Valle (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

Don't say my name, don't say my name, when you know I have died, don't say my name.

-Roque Dalton

I don't know how it happened. I only remember walking in the woods with my strawberry basket. I wanted to pick a lot of strawberries on the way because my grandmother likes homemade cakes. She used to make them before she bought her house and had to spend many hours outside. She made them with egg white foams. The secret is to beat yolks and butter well, first yolks, then butter, and whip it for a long time, pour in the mixture of flour and milk. Finally make half of the egg whites fluff up. It's easy, no? She cuts the sponge cake horizontally in thirds with a thread and on the first layer she puts walnut custard, made with real walnut, strawberry jam, made from natural strawberries, not the kind you find in a supermarket. Then she puts the last layer, which she bakes in the oven. She starts decorating it with meringue. She makes a lot of figures, roses, leaves, and faces. She can even put the birthday person's name with one hand. She's an artist. I kept walking, looking for strawberries for her cake, but I didn't find any. That's why when I saw you coming in. I thought you were a doll, dressed up like that, so elegant. You even look like Ken, Barbie's boyfriend. Then I thought you came for my grandma's cake. But I know that man sent you here. Well, tell him no. I'm tired of playing house. Like I said, I'm sick of playing husband and wife. I lost interest in cooking a long time ago, after the day when I was so hungry I went to look for strawberries for the cake and couldn't find the woods anywhere. Nobody knew where the woods were. I was tired of asking directions, so I left and walked along Broadway, from West College to Seventh Street. I kept walking with my basket until it became dark, and I didn't know how to get back home. When I realized I was lost, I thought about going back the same way, but I hadn't left breadcrumbs because with this husband we never had enough bread to put into our mouths. When we got married, my dad told him, "Take good care of my little princess." That's what my dad told him, but he didn't even listen. I walked to Seventh and arrived at St. Vincent Jewelry Center. I wanted my princess tiara to go back to my house, to my dad. I went to the tiara display counter with my empty basket. The saleswoman and other women stared at my tattered clothes and bleeding toenails. I was bleeding all over the blue carpet, my blood, which wasn't blue like the carpet, kept oozing. I don't know how it happened, the lights went out, then screams came. I don't remember anyone coming to my rescue with his sword and white horse. Only you have showed up here, with your doll-like face, your well-ironed suit, and your CD on your back that repeats the same promise you'll never keep because he doesn't want to see me. I want you to know this once and for all. I don't need him anymore because the doctor, who likes me, told me if I continue to be a good girl, as I have been, he'll buy me Barbie's microwave oven, with its flour and all the dishes for the cake.

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REFILL by Fernando Schekaiban (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

Here I am again, in this café that has transformed into a shelter of excuses. I don't know why I come back here every week. But I know myself and my pretexts. Some say I'm patient – those who value me the most – while others call me nuts. I'd say I'm in love with the sound my favorite chair makes – the one in the only corner available to customers – when you drag its wooden legs. OK, the chair is not the recipient of my love, nor is my visit to an "overcrowded" place, which allows me to listen to every sip of my coffee. The truth is, this place is becoming increasingly sadder: without people – like our relationship – with worn tablecloths and uneven coffee stains – like the echoes of my affectionate words – and with such a bad service – like her – that forced me to choose another flavor of my own resonant coffee today.

I waited for her here every week. She never showed up at the hour I expected, always a cup or two late. Did she have excuses? The first time she came, the refill of my café Americano cost me extra. She took the seat in front of me, and without offering an excuse, she asked for a menu to cover those eyes I had fallen in love with. But I was so annoyed – for having to pay for the extra coffee – that I paid my bill and left. The word "nuts" rumbled through my head. But I shouldn't let it get to me. I know we'll see each other again.

On the second date, I was dragging the chair that wasn't really mine – Forgive us, but we can't ask the other customers to avoid sitting where they want – because they would talk about the curses that the use of my things would bring upon them. She looked into my eyes from the entrance, with that strange grimace that forces her to knit her eyebrows and press her lips together, and took three steps... toward the exit. I thought about following her, asking her forgiveness for my behavior, but I heard the sound of the chair getting out of hand. There will be a third time, I told myself.

After the third, fourth, and fifth occasions, I jokingly told myself that our dates were my refills. Even today – patient – I know I'll find a new excuse – nuts – while I hear you sip your coffee. Sometimes in front of me, one or three tables away; at other times at the entrance when you first look at the place and notice that it's not to your liking; at some other times, when I still believe in love at first sight, but I can't bring myself talk to you.

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