My sister, who became Miss El Paso and then Miss Texas, is on stage about to answer the What would you do to change the world question to become Miss America. She looks close to God under those hot lamps, amongst the remaining Miss States, in front of the lens that transports her image to flat-screens across the Land of the Free.
The judges ask her this question, and I know she wants to reveal her tooth, the wisdom in the back of her mouth that gave her the ability to stop eating, keeping her not detention-camp skinny, but sexy-model-on-the-cover-of-Glamour skinny. Not like before her tooth, when she found out she couldn’t bear children and gained anxiety weight as if praying for labor.
She could answer the question by saying, “Miss Indiana’s response about ending world hunger is bullshit. Only I can end world hunger, as I did for my family.” But she’d say it in a more Miss America way. Not how us girls speak to one another at our local honky-tonk, Gringo Theory, after a bucket of Buds.
At first she thought it was smoked roadside brisket stuck in her teeth. She flossed until an iron taste salivated. She spit into her hand the bloody vitamin mixture. Over the next few days her appetite disappeared. She felt not only full but more energetic than ever. She ran across El Paso, then back. She ran to Austin, then back. Still not exhausted, she ran the border of the state, even the panhandle Texas sacrificed to Oklahoma to remain a slave state. Now she’s running for Miss America.
In her application she had to prove she has never been married and is a legal US citizen. That was a long process.
She’s frozen up there, mouth not moving. The judges start to converse amongst themselves. She could say, “I will undo the wrongs our country has stuck us with. To actually be human and give a shit about the ground we walk on.” But she’d say it less bluntly, in more of a reassuring parent way. Some way to let America know that it can redeem itself.
She looks for me amidst the audience; I’m her dam, her full-length mirror, her coach to keep her in check. The spotlight is shining in her eyes like a policeman pulling her over for drunk driving. Without eating she gets drunk so fast.
At first she denied it when I asked whether she had stopped eating. I stalked her to catch what she was doing. I feared she was starving herself or puking to maintain that weight. Then she swallowed hard and confessed—her tooth was seeping nourishment. She opened her mouth into a pint glass. It filled with what looked like orange juice, full of pulp. I drank it and it tasted like fish oil, enough omega-3 to restart a heart. She says it tastes like holy water, a church of dirty hands.
She began feeding me every morning for breakfast, waterfalling into my mouth. We didn’t need food stamps anymore and could afford our cousin’s deportation lawyer.
We started canning her tooth juice like jam. When the cans weren’t enough, we filled rain barrels. We could have opened a craft-local-organic-fair-trade-vegan drink business to capitalize on it, but instead we snuck it to the homeless and people we trusted. They started sprinting like their asses were on fire, ready for a revolution.
On stage she’s like a robot, solid-state and perfect on the eyes. She believes if she wins she’ll be able to reroute this trajectory we’re on, like we’ll make America great for once. She could answer by telling the truth: “My body wants to be a mother, to feed everyone and be depended upon. To not be like my sister, who sits and waits for results.” She would say it in that I’ve-unfucked-God-for-smiting-my-womb sort of way. Not meaning to scold.
I told her the world isn’t ready for this. America isn’t ready for this. We abuse every little luxury we’re given, like public spaces being vandalized. The government would own her. However, my sister is a glass half-full.
The other states in the running look smug in their I’m-going-to-win dresses, their blemishes hidden under bronzed cover-up, demanding to catch up to my sister’s natural tan.
My sister could say what we agreed she would: “I believe in the melting pot, and I will work toward uniting the world.” Something hollow, something bulletproof.
She poses up there, bucktooth smile as wide as the border, ready to regurgitate an answer. Orange drool slides down her chin and falls onto her breasts. It clashes with her outfit. I’m sitting in a river of hungry young girls who idolize her, ready to eat up every word of the next Miss America.