Leila Ortiz


Manifests in stomachaches, forgetfulness, loose stools. I like to wear ballerina skirts, smear my face with glitter. I grow my hair as if beauty was the antidote. Beauty is a scam. I sometimes think I’m tougher than I am. I’m a shit talker, afraid of my dog. I’ve done horrific things. I used to be a cutter. I spit in my brother’s face. My friend once told me, be nice to yourself. I wish I could listen. See how quickly my anger turns inward? My cells wear boxing gloves. Now that Trump is president there’s increased danger of a nuclear holocaust. Remember how Bush used to say nucular? We love our ignorance. We think it makes us real. When I say we, I mean America.


When a dog slaps you with his paw it means he’s asserting dominance. My dog is in a phase where he wants to dominate me. He stares at me, barks for attention, and tries to take my seat on the sofa. When he does this I lead him by the collar to the bathroom for a timeout. The literature says I should say, “too bad!” whenever I put him in timeout. I think this is hilarious. I can’t bring myself to say, “too bad!” to my dog. In all honesty I’d rather say something like, “get in there, you little shit.” But maybe that’s too long a phrase. I have to admit I’m a bit afraid of him. It all goes back to when I was a kid. An enormous dog bit my face. His teeth pierced the skin near my eyebrow and mouth. I still have the scars. It took me a while to conquer my fear of dogs and now I have my own dog. I’m very proud to have a dog. I love him. It’s hard to get rid of trauma.


A man asked me for help. I was in my first year of college living away from home. The man said he was locked out and led me to his house, which was beside the parking lot of a supermarket, a little ways in from the street. He led me up the backstairs and pointed to a window that was halfway open. He said, “You’re small enough to climb in the window and open the door from the inside.” I said, “Sorry, I can’t help you,” and backed away fast. That same year my cross country coach had us running on the streets. I wasn’t aware that he would be following us in his car. When I saw the car slowing down next to me, I yelled at the driver, “Get the fuck out of here!” Coach got nervous and drove away. After I left school I came home and worked as a receptionist. On my commute these Wall Street dudes were talking loudly about a female colleague, calling her DTF. After I realized DTF stands for Down To Fuck I had the urge to ask, “Is your mother DTF?” Instead I moved my seat. Oh how I wish I had asked if their mother was DTF. It’s fucked up that the best burns often mirror the oppression.

Hold On

Just now, in the bathroom, I bit myself. I like the teeth-shaped indents in my skin. They form a perfect oval. I did this a lot in kindergarten. Will I always be terrified? What if I don’t need to be? Will we survive as a species? These questions are flesh, tinged with dark, dark gray. They smell like rotten meat and the sky before it rains. There’s a man I don’t want to name. I’d rather spit him away: Thh. He’s gone. My apartment has textured walls and a large, tacky mirror. I fucking love it here. I love my leopard-print ottoman and my painting of a naked angel with birds flocking near his genitals. One of them has a seal’s face. This painting was done by my cousin who died. I think of her often, almost like she’s not gone. Perhaps a tooth mark is a calming signal. It’s a message etched in skin that means, hold on.

Leila Ortiz

Leila Ortiz is from Brooklyn and is the author of Girl Life (Recreation League, 2016) and A Mouth is Not a Place (dancing girl press, 2017).