In the sort of pastoral mall
one might find nuzzling a snowcapped nivel of Colorado,
it’s walls planked in vinyl wood like the rustic decor of a cozy Newfoundland bark,
golden firs tall in medians
and a crisp air carrying
smells of cheese, fish and rice,
sit stacked cans of frijoles rojos y negros atop banana crates of avocado and mango.
A constant discontent plunking en mi estomago,
we, mi novia y yo,
sit half-turned, shoulder to shoulder,
speaking Spanglish over steamed arroz moreno and rosado-striped prawns next to a librarian I hardly know. She has large octagonal glasses and a wineflustered face and has said something to me about writing…
I say, pontificating like a swollthroated iguana, Writers are people for whom writing is hard, laborious, but…
Then, after eating,
near a rickety escalator with crackleshelled grape and lemon Skittles caught in its teeth,
A cabal of cholos berate me.
First, just the one, greased hair, reeking of jalapenos, sliding his smoothsoled feet
In a bobbing headjerk of rooster struts. He looks with lust, eyeing at my girlfriend, chews a plug of carne seca, his hare-y lip working the meat like a tough carrot, and says,
“Quieres un gordo como eso? Eh?”
I get mad and dangle him over the balcony by his billowing jeans,
A crowd of sockcaps, sweaters, and scarves milling below;
he says nothing.
So I let him go and set him down next to a potted desert plant with plucky boles.
We leave hurriedly.
He’s calling to an amigo por un mano. He gets up dusting off black pants. An eagle-faced boy walks around with his left hand working in a pocket.
I think the leader commands him to knife me in the back.
Yes, I distinctly heard the word “cuchillo”.
I grab Alma, she’s eating churros soggy with hot sauce from a Ziploc bag in which she has ripped a hole, lifting the hueco up to her mouth, tilting and sucking the sop out.
Gotta go, gotta go, I say.
And shit we should’ve parked closer I think
going past a thousand racingstriped Mustangs, Astros and Buicks with stenciled names like Sanchez, Inarritu, etc. emblazoned in golden slanting script across their rear window glass.
We get in the car, an old shitty Jeep with whitewalled tires, a derelict heater, and bubbling windowtints.
Ava’s licking ice cream—cookies and cream, I believe-- which has already melted and drizzled onto her blouse. She has no teeth and gups like a bass. Her eyes bulge and she claps her bare heels in a phocine manner.
I look in the mirror. I have white hair and a pickled face. My hands are ecchymotic.
We drive an SUV with GPS down I-85 past a UPS until the light bleeps saying we’ve arrived at Hartsfield. I do not know if they’re behind or not—
No, no don’t look, I say.
We get to a daffodiled drive in the middle of an arborealed suburban district,
Where is this?
That’s an airport.
We move past the crowd, when behind comes a call, un grito de “Pollito!”
We move into the plastic covered walkway, tripping over rolling luggage.
But they catch up, unibrows crinkling, black shirts unbuttoned to reveal lightly downed chests, and call out again,
I turn around and suddenly I have a large dogeared textbook in my hand.
I run up and smack the lead cholo in the face as hard as I can.
I break his nose, hearing the wet crack solid as a sphere, but he’s changed too.
He looks like a friend I had in preschool, freckles, dirty blonde hair.
His name was Randall and he would pop thumbtacks out of the classroom corkboards and poke people in the ass with them. One day I came home from school and couldn’t sit comfortably. My mom got worried and that night, during my bath, she checked my ass. Seeing the red-eyed purple bumps—the residue of Randall’s jocose jabs-- she called the school, and Randall, with his kid-mullet hair and fat, grey-cuticled fingers, had to sit in a corner for some time and forgo the craft hour—an hour in which myself and other young victims of bad haircuts deftly constructed mono-room domiciles out of paste, colored paper, and vari-shaped macaroni.
But then, one day, as the deaf girl wearing eyeglass-strings fingerpainted swirly stickflowers and stickdogs on her Little Tykes easel in the corner, I, after some consideration, daubed my hand in her purple paint and rubbed it in her spooky grey eyes so I could delight in the broken donkey bray of her mal-phoneme pain. For that transgression I was banished to the corner along with the dustbunnies and Lilliputian spiders. Just like Randall, I ate stickpretzels from a napkin I cupped in my palm while Mrs. Hilda berated and interrogated me in a harsh tone which quaked her dewlapped neck and shook the limbs of her tightly hairsprayed old-lady-fro.
Anyways…that’s what I remembered as Randall cursed in Spanish and slung his noseblood onto the lobby floor with an insouciant flick of his fat fingers.
I took a deep breath, heaving in the guilt and perverse pleasure of that long-ago, illicit and dumb howl which set me apart from the other kids (at least while I sat in my cobwebbed corner), and surreptitiously, with a syrupy movement, I stole a look at his three cholos.
They had blackhandled, chrome-knobby knives and switchblades which schlicked as they stabbed me with quick flicks of offensive-strike carpalistics
in the stomach, the kidneys, a harlequin’s hacking of pancreas,
flaying my legs. I saw it in the third person. For a brief picosecond, I stop to think that the skin they’re peeling back kind of looks like a slice of red tail sushi.
Randall takes his grey-cuticled dedos, digs, and splits my navel with his fingernails, the skin tearing like pulled-apart Silly Putty, and in a rush of blood I feel warmly brooking down my groin, I see Ava attempting to eat her ice cream cone by gumming it, her lips stretched thin and her purple blouse blanc-ly dotted.
De-husked like a cicada, I feel like Gregor Samsa without the nice beetle-exoskeleton.
Sitting up in bed, I wake up with a pain coursing between my ears.
Six-thirty in the morning, I turn the lights on and throw back the covers only to be greeted by the sight of my fat ankles, hairy and skin-crinkled at the back. Dew on my window, a pisspain in my groin,
I write this down—after all, it’s too interesting to forget—and go to the restroom.
I have to piss like a racehorse and my heart is beating as fast as hooves.