Lilac by Vanessa De La Cruz

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Lilac by Vanessa De La Cruz
illustration by Sue Babcock

When las primas decided to rob a bank, they each wore a lilac beret from their favorite corporate chain. They were protesting capitalism.

They walked in, with their hands on their hips, their stride long, their hair pushed back or loose or curled or straightened and each step was made in unison. Each breath echoed that of the prima next to them. When they walked in from the 98-degree heat into the air-conditioned bank with its tile and carpet and fake plants and furniture as flat as the valley outside, they did not breathe a sigh of relief though they wanted to. Though their sweat dripped down their backs beneath their loose silky shirts or tight striped shirts or band shirts or plain white t-shirts, they did not show they were relieved at the air conditioning.

The three people in the bank (that weren’t the teller, two bankers who were both on break, and a security guard who was in the bathroom) turned to stare at them. There were two viejitas and a single viejito. One of the old ladies was dressed in a frilled dress, her hair gelled back into a bun. The other wore blue jeans and a t-shirt with the American flag plastered across the front, her hair short and cropped, the same steel grey as the cane in her left hand. She adjusted her glasses to get a better look at them. The old man looked up from the form he was filling, his guayabera tucked into his carefully ironed pants, before turning the opposite direction to continue filling out his forms.

The old lady with the dress left. The other was next so the girls got in line, filling the cordoned off area with their coordinated steps, a singular look of determination in their eyes and waited patiently for their turn in line.

When it was their turn and the old man was still filling out his form, they strutted to the teller and the prima standing in the middle, the most confident one (though they all looked confident in their berets) put her hands on the counter, leaned forward, and said, “This is a holdup. Give us what you’ve got.”

“Why should I?” Said the teller. “You got a gun?”

“No. We’re against gun violence.” A row of defiant eyes and upturned stared back at her.


Las primas looking at the confident prima. She was playing with her nails, or at least the nail polish peeling off her nails. She did not answer.

“Appeal to me.” Said the bank teller.

The confident prima looked her in the eye. Bleach blonde to bleach blonde. Their hair gold as the hoops one of the other primas was wearing. Their eyeliner had the same curve. They were probably the same age. Could’ve gone to school together, been best friends and ditched under the bleachers. They didn’t. The teller wore a vest over her blouse that had a name tag and the name tag said, “Paz.”

The confident one sighed, smiled all in one movement. The other primas stood still, watching her. The old man was still filling out his forms. “The planet’s fucked.”

“Yeah.” The teller nodded, leaning on her side of the counter toward them.

“The owners of this bank are a big reason that’s happening.”


“The tax breaks this bank receives could fund universal healthcare. Fund free college. Pay off student debt. Redistribute all the funds that were cut in this year of the administration’s fuckery alone.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

“This bank funds legislature that strips us of our reproductive rights.”

“I know.”

“This bank hoards so much of this nation’s wealth. We could redistribute it. You could help.”

The teller sighed.

“The revolution’s coming.”

“I’ll join.”

“You can join now.”

“How am I supposed to pay my rent?”

“You can live with us.”



“You tried to rob me without a weapon!”

“We tried to rob your workplace. Not you.”

“How will I pay for food?”

“We’ll all work, and pitch in.”

“Where do you work?”

They told her.

“How is that any better than here?”

“We could figure something else out!”

“But in the meantime?”

“But this place?”

“At least I’m not working for ICE.”

“Good point.”

“I’m trying. I really am. I just don’t have a lot of options right now.”

“Me neither.”

The teller sighed.

The primas sighed.

“The revolution’s coming.”

“I’ll join.” The teller looked down at her hands, looked at the only other customer, the old man, who was leaving his forms to use the bathroom on the other side of the bank. “You got a gun?”


The teller rolled her eyes. “Tell me you have a gun.”

The confident prima stared at her.

“Come on.”

The primas pointed finger guns at the teller. The confident one stood straight and said, “I have a gun. Give me what you can! This is a holdup, like a legit holdup.”

The teller nodded. “Oh no. I’m so scared. So scared I have to take my ten-minute break right now.” She waved her arms in view of the security camera, tried her best imitation of fear. “Meet me outside,” she whispered, “If they don’t believe the holdup thing, I’ll say I’m on break. Two alibis. Meet me in the back.”


Paz the bank teller stood outside next to a security guard who nodded at them as he took a drag from his cigarette. She had a grey steel lockbox in her arms and she smiled as the primas walked over in coordinated steps, ignoring the heat that made their lilac covered heads burn as they stepped out of the air-conditioned sanctuary of the bank.

“We were gonna throw it out anyway.” Paz said, nodding at the box. “We got a new one. It wasn’t for money or anything like that, but for our purses and shit. So we could lock them up during our shift.”

She got eyeliner from her back pocket and wrote a code on the confident prima’s arm.

Said, “There’s the combination. It’s empty, but it’s all I have. Maybe we can fill it with something at some point, y’know?”


Las primas strode in unison down the sidewalk, into the bus, past the valley, past downtown, to their grandma’s living room in South Central.

They sat and sighed in unison. Their lilac berets still sitting on their heads. Despite the heat and the lack of air conditioning in the living room, despite their heads burning under the wool. The confident one dug out a fan from the closet. Heard them all breathe relief when she turned it on. She looked at the smudged code on her arm. Opened the lockbox. Looked inside.

There was a note on a torn piece of lined paper, written with the same eyeliner as the eyeliner on her skin.

It said, “Viva la revolución.”


BIO: Vanessa Bernice De La Cruz is a self-taught emerging artist and writer from Los Angeles, CA. She has been scribbling and doodling for as long as she can remember but has only recently decided to share those things and infuse them with sense. She likes to explore themes that recall her childhood and daydreams. You can find her hanging out with her cat Bubbles, whining on social media @alienraynedrop, or you can visit her not fully constructed website