Bets Gomez, Quicksilver, and Gravity by Zora Grizz I Fracture

     Bets Gomez.
     I stare at the name, typed in tiny letters on a page yellowed with age. It doesn’t stand out.
There is nothing special about it other than the memories it holds for me. My grandmother: the
complex and complicated women who was our family’s matriarch. Who helped raise me. But this
page is overflowing with small boxes, each containing their own tiny-lettered name. She is one in
a sea of many names typed in the same font, the same color, the same size - just like all the

     I was alone in my apartment on a cold, rainy, day - flipping through an old genealogy
book my mom made for our family in the 1990s.
    This wasn't some solo-project she did in her free time that we didn’t see till the end either.
As children, my siblings and I were active participants in the project, willing or not.
     On weekends, we would all be dumped into the family car and my mom would drive us
to what felt like the ends of the earth, hunting down leads on names and collecting evidence.
Keep in mind, this was before the internet was a household thing and before there were popular
genealogy websites. This was just old-school sleuthing for…well…for dead fox.

     Flipping through this old book, warm and dry as the rain taps against the glass, I begin to
learn much more about Bets Gomez, who I was close with until she passed in my 20s. But I
knew her as a granddaughter knows a grandmother: old, loving, curly gray hair, a glint in her
eye, a trick always up her sleeve…but there was another Bets Gomez. There was a version of her
with edges like broken glass and eyes like flame. A version of her that was crumpled and broken,
beaten, with no options, and a jawline that refused to know it. There were so many different
versions of her, almost as if a mirror had shattered and every shard of that mercurial glass
reflected a different Bets Gomez.

     Bets Gomez:
- Got two college degrees in a time when women weren't even legally allowed to
have a bank account.
- Her family line included professional gamblers, children born without eyes, and a
set of twins named Maximillian and Maximus.
- Her brother was killed in his 30s by a sheriff's deputy that sped through a red
light and never faced a single consequence.
- Her father was ex-communicated from the Catholic church for marrying her
mother (a Methodist). This is a petty point of pride for me - an atheist who was
raised by Catholic fanatics - to be sure.
- Her grandfather owned a place literally called, ‘Satan's Swamp’ and claimed to
be related to the king of Spain.

      My childhood included many weekends in forgotten, overgrown, graveyards that were
scattered across miniscule, abandoned, former settlements in rural Mississippi - places no one
had even thought about in decades - as mom searched the few remaining visible headstones for
names and dates. She made etchings with freezer paper and our crayons, dug through weeds to
uncover what could be headstones being sucked back into the earth or just overgrown rocks. We

     We did this for so long that my youngest sister started to ask, "are we going to look for
dead guys again?" as every weekend approached.
     The answer was generally yes.

     Weekends would often find us not playing with friends, reading books, or canoeing the
lakes and marshes as I was used to doing.

      I would not be visiting my grandmother, who liked me best and wore a large, gaudy,
pendant on her neck suspended by a thick gold chain. On one side of the pendant was an angel
with blue eyes, smiling innocently. Then she would grin wickedly at me, wink, and spin the
pendant around: the other side contained a winking, grinning, devil with red eyes. She would
laugh conspiratorially with me and ask what I'd been up to.

      Instead, my siblings and I would be found with our mother, in the grim and collapsing
skeletons of horrific plantation buildings (centers of slavery) that had been abandoned for over a
century - no doors or windows left, eons of chipped paint and collapsed plaster becoming a
beige, shuffling, carpet in the semi-open air of the monstrous buildings. There were ancient
letters my mother found preserved under bricks - old, metal, skeleton keys she found resting on
mantles, what they once unlocked forever lost in the passage of time.

     But now, I myself am in my 30s: the same decade my mother was in as she dragged us
through graveyards on a hunt for one of many things that I will likely never understand about
her. I feel as if I’ve lived so many lives by this point that I’ve forgotten entire lifetimes. It’s a
strange sensation: feeling so old yet being so young.

     Like many times when I’m feeling ruminative on a rainy day…a memory starts to play,
unbidden and unwanted, behind my eyes. I think back to a featureless bedroom off of a murky,
oil saturated, coast line. It is 10 years ago.
     My orange suitcase is flung open on the bed.
     The memory is seen through the heavy tunnel-vision that was quickly clouding my world
as I grabbed my clothes out the closet and flung them into my suitcase as fast as I could - but not
fast enough. I’m disoriented by the full length mirror hanging over one partition in the
accordion-style closet door. I just see my hands, pale and shaking, rapidly going back and forth
and I grab things out of drawers and off hangers. I feel like I’m underwater. I need to be faster.
But I’m not.

     Bets Gomez was once married to an abusive man (he was apparently a wealthy and
well-respected socialite) before she was married to my grandfather.
     4 months into the abusive marriage, pregnant with the man’s child, she packed up her
things and left him in what she would only ever describe as an "explosive confrontation". In the
19fucking50s. She left him, divorced his ass, and married my grandfather 3 years later. My
grandfather, who was born in a cotton field as his mother picked cotton, and who grew up in a
shack with dirt floors in rural Mississippi.

    The rain pings sharper against the apartment window. My reflection is barely visible
against the glass as I regain my focus. Looking through the faded binder that my mom had made
of it all, now, decades later - reading it as an adult and not as an elementary school kid being
dragged into the fields of forgotten parts of Mississippi on her weekends - I've made
some….grim…interesting…. inspiring….startling discoveries.

    I'll start off easy, but then I’m kicking it straight into overdrive:
The most common names in the book are Gomez (my grandmother) and Adamson (my
grandfather's people). My family came to Mississippi from the Canary Islands and from Spain in
the 1700 and 1800s.

   I turn another page and and learn for the first time, to my horror and disgust, that the
local sheriff during the fucking civil war was my ancestor. A goddamn confederate sheriff in the
most racist, sexist, place in America.

    I’m an outspoken, liberal, queer, disabled, feminist in the 2000s era of Mississippi, who
was sexually assaulted by sheriff's deputies at 15. I survived 3 more attempts on my life by law
enforcement at 30, after being a guest speaker for law enforcement on how they could better
interact with and serve survivors of sexual violence.

    They didn't like that at all.
    They tried to kill me.
    …Several times.

     Now, as a queer, disabled, genderqueer, university librarian who's work and research
centers on dismantling systems of oppression, I hope he is rolling in his grave at my mere

     When Bets Gomez was in her 30s, she was on her second marriage, raising 2 children,
and trying not to think about the 2 college degrees she had that were gathering what would
become a heavy layer of dust. She got a chair for her bathroom vanity so that she could sit down
and do her hair in the mirror while supervising her young children as they learned to wash their
own hair in the bathtub. She was secretly naming neighborhood cats after the baby that she had
lost years before.

     I knew some of these facts about Bets Gomez individually: the college degrees, the
abusive marriage. the baby that was born a few months after the marriage ended and died only
days later, the brother who had been killed by law enforcement. But reading them all together on
the page made it come to life - it connected those dots into the shape of my grandmother.

      I respect her.
      And I understand better why we were so close, she and I.
      And -

     The sound of the rain is gone but only because the memory is back in full force now. The
tunnel vision narrowed further past my periphery as the weight of him slowly sat down on our
bed next to my orange suitcase - not quite touching it, but only just. He was wet from the rain
outside, splattered as he was coming in from his truck he had just parked in the driveway.
     The distinct feeling of knowing I was the prey in this ever-narrowing room.
     - of knowing that I was now living very much on borrowed time.
     The dangerous, heavy, stillness that filled the bedroom air - charged with electricity,
ready for the match to drop and ignite it - as he realized that I was leaving him.
As I realized that I was leaving him.
     - Not even remembering getting out of the house with my suitcase and my dogs and into
my car. Not even realizing my suitcase and I were completely drenched with rain. Its bright,
nylon, material would always be warped after this.
     - Checking the rearview in a panic, but seeing no one - only my own eyes, huge and
white all the way around the irises in sheer panic.
…Someone else reflected behind me in the mirror would come later.
   He would find me.
   and again.
   and again.

   Until now - when I live on the other side of the country and my legal name and physical
address are protected by the government: they never appear in the same place. This is to try and
help me survive him. To try and keep me from him and the murder he has planned for me.

  My mail is now forwarded to me under an alias name from a locked government building
- the same building that my car is registered to, the same locked government building whose
address is now on my driver's license, is on my passport.
   I look back across time:
  At the monstrous sheriff: racism incarnate.

  At my grandmother, with her thick, dark, wavy, hair and big dark eyes: standing tall,
pregnant, educated, and fierce as she slams the door behind her for the last time and leaves an
abusive man alone in that house - in an era when women were playthings, accessories, free
labor, possessions.

   I know without a doubt the exact expression that was on her face when she did it.
   I've seen it in the mirror many times.
   I look into that mirror and see my own thick, wavy, hair and my eyes that are exactly the
same shape as hers. Eyes that my father - with his thin, straight, blonde, hair and narrow blue
eyes - spitefully calls, "Sanchez Eyes". Eyes that my white friends in high school made fun of
and nicknamed me "frog" for, not realizing that they were a part of my heritage that I would
always be struggling to understand.

   I see the same refractions, reflections, scattered out across time and space and history -
my history. They are images of the same eyes but set into different faces - the same steely glint in
them, glimmering through new generations, the same chin held high and thick, wavy, hair
framing a new face. I see the same hateful badges pinned to different starched shirts, forcing
themselves into the timeline again and again, leaving blood and bodies strewn across their wake
every time. I see images of defiance and of abuse - all reflecting and refracting over and over
again across time and space - my own life now a part of the chaotic trajectory of energy and mass
cutting through gravity and dark matter.
   All of us different.
   All of us linked.

   Not a one of us knowing what the future would look like, but each scrambling
desperately to get there - for good or for bad.
   My image in the mirror is just one of an infinite multitude of quicksilver moments strewn
across time, across centuries and millennia, each shimmering moment flung haphazardly into the
stars with a gravity we simultaneously could not control - and that we somehow also created


Zora (They/She) and her pack of adorable hounds live mostly in the state of Confusion, perpetually searching for their misplaced ink pens and chew toys, respectively. Zora belongs to the LGBTQ2S+, genderqueer, and disabled communities.
Zora is a civil rights activist, guest speaker, and resource developer in the fight against sexual violence and systemic oppression. She holds their graduate degree in Library and Information Science, and focuses their work and research on how information professions can help dismantle systems of oppression.

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Zora Grizz – Website

Fracture – May 2023

The small things in life that marks us in specific ways, the experiences that makes us who we are by breaking and restructuring inner ourselves.

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