I thought about the time I was raped by three of my closest friends… the way they took turns satisfying themselves and the way I squeezed my teeth as I tried to fight back and eventually got too tired.
It’s like your heart is being squeezed with every breath you take because maybe you’re not meant to be breathing anymore.
I thought about this as I drove with my son to the park, I was crying and couldn’t stop and he sat quietly in the back watching a video on his tablet. I used to think I would never be one of those parents that would use a tablet as a substitute babysitter… everything changes once you actually have them with you. His handgun sat in its case under the driver’s seat. We hit a red light and I almost became afraid to carry on with it. I thought about the time I was raped by three of my closest friends… the way they took turns satisfying themselves and the way I squeezed my teeth as I tried to fight back and eventually got too tired. I thought about the time his father told me he was leaving me for another woman because I no longer satisfied him as a man. I thought about the look of disappointment on my mother when I returned home that day telling her she was right all along and he wasn’t a good man. I thought about my ex boyfriend and how I walked in on him making love to my best friend on my bed. And finally… for some reason I thought about he last guy that tried to date me. He didn’t seem like a bad person, he was nice to me… he called me everyday and was always there when I had car trouble or plumbing issues. He never mentioned a girlfriend, not even after three months and we had sex for he first time. I found out through a common friend… he was engaged. His friends didn’t tell me, it was an old college friend, she was her co-teacher. I found out one afternoon when I stopped by to drop off an invitation for my son’s 5th birthday party … she had a picture of them on her phone as a screen saver. Her phone was ringing while she went to the restroom and I picked it up to hand it to her while my friend graded papers behind her desk…and there he was. I have the invitation to my friend and left, I didn’t even stay to find out if he was he one calling her. I sent him a text message that night letting him know I knew I had just been a hoe on the side.
My self-esteem was at its lowest now, it was my ex boyfriend’s gun… maybe he left it behind for a reason. I had attempted suicide in the past at least three times. All three times someone called or showed up at my house at the moment when I was about to drink a cup of car coolant, mixed with my entire bottle of sleep medication. I never really bothered to find out if it would actually killed me. One day you wake up and you feel it; or in the middle of the day you just can’t take it anymore. Sometimes it’s at night when you’ve done all your laundry, the house is spotless, the dog has been fed, your son is spending the weekend at his grandparent’s …and then,the bottomless pit of loneliness is overwhelming. You know some people may be sad in the beginning, but eventually they will be better off without you. There is the never-ending fear of the unknown of course; but this hurt today, and all the days prior, is unbearable and even what lays ahead, as doubtful as it may be, seems more welcoming than the hurt that is happening right now. I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me, there were days when I wished with all my heart to stop time and be able to go back a few years back and be more of myself… I wanted to not disappoint and do things that would make me happy, skip around the people who had hurt me and feel like I have had a fulfilling life.
I keep driving towards the park with him in the background… I feel sad because I know this will somehow mess him up… I’m hoping it won’t, I hope that it will somehow turn him into an outstanding human being. Since the day he was born, I begged that he is stronger than I have ever been and that he makes a good life for himself. I want him to be better than me, often I have told myself that I feel so much unhappiness because I have given him all the one that was meant for me and he’ll never be sad a day in his life. I love my boy with all my heart, he’s the only good thing about me, is what I tell anyone that gets to know me beyond the joyful person I pretend to be. I exercise every day at the police department after I’m done filing papers for the deputies…. but I’m exhausted. They never explain the tired feeling when you’re depressed comes from existing and not so much from daily tasks you complete. Living is what hurts you, it’s what drains you.
I play in my head over and over again, the rifle marksmanship we went over in basic training while I was still in the ARMY… aim, breath control… trigger squeeze. I don’t have a rifle… it’s a handgun and he thought me how to use it a few times. I have a full magazine but I know only one bullet is enough… I was afraid to fail when I made the decision that this is how I would go; so I decided to leave all the bullets in the magazine and load the gun. I’m tired and afraid but I’m in control this time.
We’ve arrived at the park, I give him my cell-phone and tell to go play in the slide. Don’t take the tablet because the battery is almost out. In reality I want him to see he’s the picture on my screen saver. I want him to see it because I want him to remember when he thinks back to this day, that his face was the only face I cared to see and that although I never loved myself enough; I have loved him more than anyone can love another person. I love him to the point that it hurts me and that I know I’m not good enough to be his mother… I live afraid to turn him into me. There are other kids at the park… that’s good, it’s Sunday. I park under the acorn tree that stands like a loving grandmother, heavy with thick leaves and a firm trunk. I don’t even want the radio on, I let the engine run; next to me a handsome older man smiles as he walks by my window, I look up at him. I’m sure he can’t see my teary eyes from outside the car window… the sun is too bright. He’s wearing a gray shirt, sunglasses and a blue base-ball cap. His grayed trimmed beard, like a George Clooney, hugs his chin as he passes by me with a little boy a little older than my son. I almost regret what I’m wearing today… I took my time picking the right shade of pink blouse and white shorts and now I almost feel ridiculous. The short sleeve shows the heart-shaped birth mark on my left arm, not ironic at all I think. The white shorts are gonna be stained with blood though. I’m waiting until the real life George Clooney is out of sight to go under the car seat and pull the gun out. I don’t know the brand or what it is… a 40?… my son just left the phone in a bench and climbed the stairs to the highest slide. I want to stop him but I don’t want to save myself anymore. I’m done, I’m tired, I don’t deserve him or his grandparents …you piece of shit, you selfish piece of shit . He’s sliding face first down the slide… the magazine is already in, I don’t know why but I put the gun to my stomach, I see him slide all the way down and I’m trying not blink as I hold my breath in. Good… he put his hands in front of his face and didn’t land face first. He gets up with that million-and-one dollar smile and the single dimple on his right cheek as he looks in my direction and then gets in line one more time. I’m having problems pulling on that thing that slides on top… slide… there it is. click-BOOM!
It was visitation day at the prison… from the outside I kept watch of the inmates as they were called out to get ready for their visits. Twenty minutes of agonizing hurt as they spoke to their loved ones through a glass on a shitty phone that reeked of saliva and snot. No one ever cleaned those phones, or the glass or the floor of the visitation hallway. the lights were also always dim, making the almost white paint and dirty floors seem more depressing.
I heard the slider open as the last guy who got a visit that day went out. I don’t even know what the fight was about. Jerry Springer was on TV, I sat there trying not to see the time on the computer screen. I heard yelling, something like slapping a slice of raw chicken on a plate and more screaming. I was cutting out pictures on a bible, trying to create a book scenery with a piece of a staple I found on the ground while the main corridor. I heard the guards come in to get the guys that were fighting. The picket officer was standing by the glass, a piece of cookie in his right hand, some crumbs on his shirt. They took the guys out, I didn’t bother hiding the cut out bible… the staple I just placed it between my two fingers and continued to lay on my bunk.
– who started it?
The fat corporal with the little boy face and fuck-boy hair cut. You knew he made rank because he knew enough people and came from a family of money, but the guy was a moron. He didn’t care about the fight any more than the rest of us in the tank. We were all just waiting to be sent to the releasing facility from here, some of us had a few months left to go, others were on their last two years.
-The black guy started it boss man
(Stupid Son Of a Bitch, that’s what BOSS stands for…backwards)
The black kid was the youngest one in the tank, he was given 5 years for stealing cars and managed to get a sentence reduction. He had only been here a few weeks and had completed one year of his sentence, goddamnit he was a pain in the ass. He rarely showered and each time he jerked off he did it in the toilet and not the shower… we caught his pubes on the seat of the toilet and sink every time. He wasn’t the only dark-haired one in the tank, but when you spend so much time around all the men, you recognize that black dudes have thick pubes, mexicans are curly also but they’re thinner… and well white guys’ are usually blonde or white because they’re old.
He had poor hygiene and we didn’t want him in the tank, I think the fat Asian just took the fall for all of us when he snatched his soup from his foot locker as he was playing cards with the old man.
The old man told the corporal everything, he knew because he had been sitting with the kid playing spades when he saw him get up and push the Asian. The Asian was sentenced two years for DWI’s … the old man was a murderer…. he had served 18 years for running over his granddaughter’s husband because he saw her slap her across the a face on Easter. He wasn’t a nice looking old man, he had done his time before he killed that poor fucker, his skin hung on him like old leather and it was gray from shoulder to shoulder with tattoos. The old man could make good Hooch, we respected him but he didn’t run the tank, that was the Mexican Mafia guy. He was here because he beat his kids so bad he broke one of their arms and left the other one with older fractures. Somehow his wife took the blame and she was sentenced to twenty years in the state jail. We didn’t fuck with that guy, we all just wanted out. He didn’t mess too much with us, he controlled the TV and the phones, he never stood in line to use the phone and no one else changed the channels without checking with him. Same thing with the toilet paper, we were given each two rolls a week but he never ran out.
– Trustee! come pick his stuff up and put it in the barber shop
I shoved the staple into my fingernail… it hurt like hell. The guard handed me a red net bag where I placed all his commissary stuff, I went under his mattress and grabbed all his correspondence, I found a kill shot, I thought about keeping it but something got tight in my stomach and my heart sank a little. It was a young girl, she wasn’t wearing a thong, she just rolled part of her underwear into her crack and some of her pussy showed. You could see an Linkin’ Park poster in the background of an almost messy room. I put the kill shot between the rest of his mail and did my best not to wrinkle the letters, I don’t know why but I felt bad for the kid. I placed the red bag in the barber shop as a guard attached a tag on it with the kid’s name on it… he’d be spending the rest of the day in “seg”, the night shift would take him out and bring him back. The fat corporal locked the door to the barber shop and left the section. I went back to the tank,
– and then there were 12
said the old man as he sat down to pick the cards up. I wasn’t sure what he meant with that… the old man said a lot of things that made no sense sometimes… he was also a little schizo.
The kid had been raised in a foster home…. not the kind with a family that could either be good or really fucked up and did it for the money. He lived in a youth home where there are a bunch of kids that no family wants to take in….ever. He mentioned once tha t he knew he was taken from his mom when he was about three years old and lived in a few foster homes until around 10 years old. He tried to join the army at 18 but wasn’t able to make it past reception due to his low weight and other health problems. He was pretty small for his age, he also had a sixth toe growing right between his right pinky toe and the other toe… he also had a limp. The kid was fucked up… he drooled a little when he talked, the saliva would come off the corners of his lips and he made a snorting sound after every few words. The girl in the picture was really ugly… I wonder if she had some retardation or was also a foster kid. No one kept kill shots of their ugly girlfriends or wifes, that’s why they were kill shots… just for cumming, not for reminiscing.
The kid came back that night sometime around two in the morning… he smelled like piss. He was hugging his red bag, he didn’t even bother checking his commissary, he looked through the papers… found the kill shot and went to one of the sinks. I faced the other way, I felt so much pity. This kid didn’t have a damn thing…
Llegamos a donde la bruja… o la materia.. como le dijo el indio a mi amiga Zulema, la que quería que le quitaran la maldición gitana que tiene desde la preparatoria porque a sus 41 años aun no encuentra marido. Lo que nadie se atreve a decirle es que cuando usa tenis, le apestan los pies y debería depilares los pelos del bigote…
Jamás he sido creyente fiel. Si lo soy de Dios, pero solo hasta donde el miedo me alcanza. Como cuando vas a la primer entrevista de trabajo, o a la primera cita y rezas a todos los santos para que no parezcas pendejo frente a la chica que llevas observando desde hace tres meses en la clase de química. También lo soy de vez en cuando al escuchar ruidos extraños por la noche después de ver una película de terror basada en hechos reales. Esas como las de los exorcismos o casas poseídas por espíritus maniáticos y diabólicos. Ahí es cuando me medio acordaba del padre nuestro que me aprendí para la primera comunión. Así es… cagadamente católico con un aire de ateo arrepentido.
Vine a dar a la casa de los devotos del Niño Fidencio después de visitar San Luís Potosí en un viaje con amigas. Estábamos aburridos del trabajo en la facultad, no soy profesor… Peor aún, manejo la contabilidad del distrito que es todavía más pedante que dar clase en una secundaria o primaria.
En fin, a mí estaban por correrme del trabajo, aun así, me fui de viaje. Nos montamos en el avión, tres amigas más y yo. Según esto para cuidar de ellas, ya que ninguna sospechaba que si llegaban los del algún cartel yo sería capaz de salir corriendo antes que ellas. Tampoco se trataba de ir de hotel en hotel acostándome con cada una de ellas, ninguna me parecía atractiva… Ni siquiera para una noche. Eran bastante mayor que yo y demasiado fuera de condición. A mí me gustaba el boxing de igual manera que el comer.
Fuimos a dar con la casita de madera sobre una cima a no sé cuántas horas fuera de la ciudad de San Luís. No toda la gente hablaba español, y muchas de las mujeres traían el cabello colocado con estambres de colores y canastas de comida sobre la cabeza. Se montaban en los autobuses con jaulas de palos llenas de pollos y palomas… Que peste hacía.
Llegamos a donde la bruja… o la materia..como le dijo el indio a mi amiga Zulema, la que quería que le quitaran la maldición gitana que tiene desde la preparatoria porque a sus 41 años aún no encuentra marido. Lo que nadie se atreve a decirle es que cuando usa tenis, le apestan los pies y debería depilares los pelos del bigote.
En fin… Allá fuimos a dar, caminando la sima hasta donde estaba la casita de palos, había una pileta cerca de la entrada debajo de un árbol de anonas. Tenían un chiquero al fondo de la casa, lo olí antes de encontrarlo. A un lado estaba el baño… un gran pozo en la tierra, y para algo de privacidad, tres paredes de palitos con una cortina de trapo… mierda.
Llegamos cerca de las 5 de la tarde… Teníamos que quedarnos a dormir allí… mierda. Era Enero, hacia frio y no había agua caliente. Llegamos bastante agitados mis amigas y yo, sus enormes caras rojas pulsándoles la sangre por el movimiento físico. A mí me pesaban las cervezas de anoche, se me bajo la cruda a mitad de cima. Nos ofrecieron café negro y nos sentamos a comer un enorme tamal… zacahuil le llamo el indio. No tenía dientes y parecía que los huesos le iban a atravesar su piel canela… Silvestre creo que es su nombre en español.
Nos sentamos a comer todos los creyentes excepto la materia… Así se referían a las tres mujeres que estaban por recibir los espíritus que llegaban del otro mundo. Doña Mari recibía al Santo Niño Fidencio Gabriela hablaba un dialecto que no entendía… en sí su español era malo, pero daba limpias y levantaba molleras Doña Silvia me impacto más que todas. Decían que en ella se materializaban espíritus de seres queridos. Esa noche me tocó a mí la gran sorpresa… en ella se materializo el General Villa. No lo hubiera creído si me lo contaran… en medio del rito de cruzar sobre la ollita con sumerio, y ver a Gabriela con los ojos cerrados recorrer y reconocer a las personas haciendo línea para que les quitara sus malestares y maldiciones; que más bien eran el resultado del mal gobierno en un país pobre. Y mientras a Doña Silvia le cambio la voz, se le pusieron los ojos en blancos y empezó a curar al niño con porfiria, y a sobar a la señora que venía desde Tampico con cáncer de estómago, y a acomodarle el niño a Mireya que tenía 7 meses de embarazo y que además llego caminando… escuche una voz ronca que me mentó la madre con mucho afecto. Andaba Doña Silvia descalca con su habito blanco y rojo. Su voz tranquila ahora era ronca y fuerte, los ojos no se le cerraron ni se le pusieron en blanco. Los traía completamente abiertos pero su color café claro estaba obscuro como la noche. Se le borraron las canas y de ella provenía un olor como a caballeriza. Me quede parado frente a ella sin habla con la boca media abierta
– ¡y tu pendejo! ¡déjate ya de chingaderas a ver si vas aprendiendo a hacerte hombre de una vez! ya no estés perdiendo el tiempo a lo pendejo y cuida de tu chingada madre que ninguno de tus hermanos vale madre, pero a ti es al que más le llora. Y deja esa pinche vieja zorra y búscate una que si valga por lo que le estas reventando el hígado a tu madre baboso… y ya quítate pendejo no ves que voy a pasar
Siguió caminando sin voltear a verme siquiera. Siguió mentando madres y dando órdenes como imagino lo hubiera hecho el mismo general. Se me callo la cara de vergüenza. Había pasado navidad y año nuevo y yo ni siquiera le llame a mi mamá. Llevaba así ya casi 11 años. Siempre por querer llevarle la contraria, me enrede con una vieja… una pinche vieja que me hacía llorar lágrimas de sangre y me estaba cagando la vida. No podía dejarla porque cualquier cosa era mejor que regresar con la cara llena de vergüenza a decirle a mi mamá que me había equivocado.
Nos quedamos a dormir, toda la noche no se me calentaron los pies. No sé quien más se dio cuenta de lo que me dijo el general… a mí me faltaba valor, pero me hice el pretexto de que era una orden. No tenía cara para volver a casa de Inés y terminar con ella y sus tres hijos de nosequienchingadosperonomios. Dejé con ella mi ropa, mis cosas y jamás volví. Deje el teléfono a propósito en un baño en la estación de autobuses saliendo de San Luís a Veracruz donde tomaríamos el avión de vuelta a Houston.
Volví a casa, con mi mamá. Me dolió ver la casa descuidada con más madera que pintura en las paredes de afuera. Cuando abracé a mi mamá la sentí pequeña y acabada, tenía un mechón grande de canas. Esa noche dormí en casa después de más de 9 años, a eso de las tres de la mañana me despertó un olor a caballeriza. Me volví a acordar del padre nuestro de la primera comunión, pero me retumbaba tan fuerte el corazón que no lo pude terminar. Escuche una respiración fuerte a lado o tal vez era la mía que no reconocía porque seguía siendo igual de miedoso que a los 10 años… murmure …se me quito lo pendejo general… Y así como lo dije desapareció el olor a caballeriza, se me acostumbraron los ojos a la obscuridad y me quede dormido. A la mañana siguiente vi el retrato del general villa en la cocina de la casa de mi madre, con una velita blanca a medio quemar por debajo. En la esquina había un papelito blanco doblado en cuatro partes, lo desdoble … Mi general, quítale a mi hijo lo pendejo ….
His hands looked massive holding her petite face, yet at that moment it was her gaze that kept him standing tall and strong…
Antonio had never been what you’d consider a nice guy, he looked like everything but. He had a rugged look, broad shoulders, firm gaze and a handshake that let you know he could break you in half if he felt like it. Even with that, he was soft-spoken and had a way of patting me on the shoulder and messing my hair up that was as gentle as a warm meal after a long cold hard day. He was peace for my mother… that man made her feel safe even with all his pandemonium.
Antonio did marry my mother, he didn’t get on one knee, he bought her a ring, put her arm around her while she sat on the sofa reading and asked her to marry him and let him take care of her. She said yes right away and he made sure he did just that… every day of his life and sometime after he took care of her… and me.
Antonio loved my mother, he was a good provider and he had the ability to make her face light up each time he walked in through the door and an immense fear took over her eyes every time the door closed behind him. He wasn’t my real father of course, I never my real father but I’m ok with that, we had Antonio. I was old enough to know he hadn’t always been a part of our lives and grateful enough to figure out that he had been there when she had no one else. I don’t recall when my grandmother moved back to Cali, Colombia… back to her small neighborhood Floralia. It was small and as you can imagine, super crowded. It smelled like sewer and brown sugar fritters. I visited twice a year up until I was around 16, then grandma told us it was safer that we no longer flew over there and let her come visit us once a year on my birthday or Christmas. Grandma would do just that, once a year she’d come and stay for a week. During that time Antonio was either here or wasn’t. He’d either stay the entire week or be gone the entire time. Mom always told Grandma he worked a lot. I’m not saying it’s a lie but I sort of figured Antonio didn’t exactly have a set schedule to follow.
We lived in Texas, in a small town by the name of Beeville, located in Bee County; where there are more cemeteries than playgrounds. Mom worked at one of the three state prisons located in Bee County. I believe this is where she met Antonio, no he wasn’t an inmate or an offender, as my mother still refers to them. Antonio only worked there for a few months, mom put up with it for 5 years until she was able to get her teaching certification and got a teaching job there in Beeville at the Elementary School. The Trojans … that was our mascot. Antonio got my mom to quit and stay home until she finished her online certification after she was assaulted by an offender. He didn’t rape her, he might have, had she not put up a fight and almost bitten his ear off. He did beat her up pretty bad by the time the picket noticed her struggling in the janitor’s closet. Mom stayed home due to the injuries for about 3 months, then her worker’s comp didn’t come through or they gave her the run around due to it being a mutual fight. I’ve always been big for my age, Antonio looked like you’d break your teeth if you ran into his chest. The man was a standing bull. My mother is a flat 5 foot tall, petite woman not an ounce over 120 pounds. I don’t know what her assailant looked like but I know she fought hard for her life and had it been a lazy picket officer she might have never come home that night.
I wasn’t allowed to ask what Antonio did for a living, I doubt mom ever did either. We had an idea, not in agreement because we never sat to talk about it but on the last day, we both knew. Every other day or for 2 days once a week he’d leave for the entire day or until late the next night. He’d say he was going to Mexico, they’d talk on the phone or text for the three hours and a half drive until he reached one of the 4 or 5 US/MEXICO borders that are located along Brownsville and Hidalgo, Texas. Then he’d return, looking like he hadn’t eaten or slept in those two days. Oily hair, dark circles under his eyes and the fire in his eyes burned a little brighter than when he left. Like an angry pit bull that got pulled off a dog fight too soon. Perhaps it was anxiety to finally be home and hold her again. I used to fantasize that my dad, Antonio, was in a fight club. I pictured him, a total bad ass, fighting in an underground club surrounded by a noisy crowd and corrupt politicians watching from above. Eventually I figured it had to be bigger than that and perhaps not as unsanitary. He did love my mother, I knew that. I also knew he was violent but never towards us. In fact I can’t remember ever hearing him curse. He never smoked or drank an ounce of alcohol, he never spanked me and he liked to cook for us.
– let him have all the meat he wants, it’s not gonna constipate him that’s nonsense, it’s gonna make him get big and strong, men are supposed to be big…
He’d tell my mother as he evened out my serving of vegetables and meat. He had no idea how to be a father but he did a damn good job at it.
One time a drunk tried to pull my mom around at the yearly town Easter event that the community college holds. I was about 8 years old when I saw Antonio drag the guy by the neck towards the wooded area behind the running track of the college after the dumbass tried to pull her towards him and then spanked her butt when she pulled away. I didn’t see the guys face on the news that night, nor did I see missing posters anywhere. About a week or so later someone reported the smell behind the bushes behind the baseball field; the college stray cats and coyotes had already chewed most of his face and torso off. No one suspected who did it, the police didn’t come asking questions. Beeville in Bee County was just too small to care about another drunk who might have been a potential pedophile.
Antonio played soccer with me ever once in a while but mostly he thought me to defend myself and stand strong and breathe through the pain of a punch. I eventually joined a boxing gym… well the boxing gym in beautiful Beeville, Texas. I still managed to get my ass kicked over a girl in middle school. Antonio wasn’t happy, he wasn’t mad either… he seemed sad. Mom cleaned up my face that night and gave me some strong Ibuprofen. Antonio came and shuffled my hair as I sat on the recliner watching TV that night… awkward silence as he stood behind me with his hands on his hips and looked up at the ceiling searching for words. I saw his reflection on the TV as a commercial for a device to help old people put their socks on played.
– Son… my only regret right now… the thing that just .. it just ticks me off that it was another dam kid your age and size and I can’t put my hands on him like I want to
that was all my pubescent dumbass was able to stutter out
He was a beast, tamed by my mother. I was 19 the last time I saw him. Mom still looked radiant at 46. Antonio was about 5 years younger than her but still seemed older than her. She was still teaching at the elementary school. He hugged us both separately before he left that morning. He held her last for a bit longer than usual, kissed her forehead and then held her face petite face in his massive hands. No I love yous… nothing, because they both knew, she knew and he was just lucky to have her.
He kissed her again and whispered I’ll come back as he closed his eyes and pressed his lips to her forehead one last time as she wrapped her arms around his waist.
That was the last time.
It was I think two days later when a stranger in dark jeans, a black military like cap and a brown jacket showed up to our house. He handed her his jacket and a yellow envelope full of money. He shook my hand firmly with a hand full of callous and dirty fingernails. He squeezed my mom’s shoulder and left his number in case we ever ran into any troubles. I had never seen him before… she might have, or not. I’m not sure, but with his visit we both knew Antonio was gone from our lives forever. I started to ask her what happened and then I saw her face, red as tears poured down to her cheeks and she held her breath. I wrapped my arms around her and Antonio’s jacket with its faint scent of blood and gun powder. She let out a gasp and loud sobs, I squeezed her to me and immediately a river of sadness overtook me. He was gone.
Later that night I began to search his jacket’s pockets not sure what I was looking for. Inside the chest pocket I found a single fading picture of mom and me. We’re kneeling under the peach tree, I must have been 4 years old, shirtless, my red shorts and sandals, the chili bowl hair cut. A chocolate ice cream cone dripping down my bare stomach and the mess on my face. Mom is kneeling next to me, one arm around me and my eyes are fixed on the cone. Her black hair is shoulder length, wavy and loose, tucked behind her ears showing her entire face, no make up, just her. She’s barefoot in white shorts and a pink muscle shirt. She has that million dollar smile like when someone would say something funny and she wrinkled her nose and showed her perfect white teeth between her pink lips. My sweet mom and her million dollar smile, the one Antonio always said was the prettiest smile ever. The back of the picture doesn’t say anything, no year, no date. There’s a faint bloody thumbprint and other yellow stains, as if he pulled it out many times before… perhaps this was the last thing he saw. I took the picture and tucked it under my sock drawer face down, it hurt to think that he carried this with him every time he went away.
Mom never remarried, a year later I joined the Marines as a human resources specialist. Mom continued teaching. My contract took me to Missouri where she came to visit for a few days during her summer and Christmas breaks. I got into a bar fight once there with a civilian who was a bouncer or a bartender at one of the many bars surrounding the base. I got my ass whooped again of course. We were about the same size but I hadn’t been in a fight since middle school. The guy ended up stabbed and robbed behind an alley about a month later when I was given fire guard duty at the BOQ’s and couldn’t join my friends for beers and titties.
–I guess they just wanted to rob him and he must have put up a fight
I said when I first heard the news as I scrolled down my phone and deleted the phone call to a cell phone in Mexico two weeks ago.
Which one of the two is stronger?
Some people swear that love is the strongest feeling there is, it can make you hate, lose fear, fight people you swear you’d protect or stand by regardless… specially that parent love that comes from mother to child. I swore when my daughter was born I would protect her against anyone and anything.
I wasn’t always a junkie, I was a nurse three years ago. It started with the caffeine pills to keep up with work: the divorce, my daughter Jessica and the lover I eventually met while out with friends downtown, hitting the clubs we were almost too old for. He was the drummer for this alternative rock band at a 21+ club. I wasn’t all that into the music, or even all that into him, the beard and messy hair aren’t really my thing but he smelled nice… and I was lonely as fuck. The sex wasn’t that great, even for the first night it was still pretty average. He was pretty decent guy, he got my number that night while I was at the bar doing shots with my three, way hotter than me, friends. After that we met up for a few breakfast dates, coffee and running every once in a while. It wasn’t until about a month later I finally gave in at his apartment. Actually it was a cool January evening when I dropped off some soup to help his cold. My Jessica was at her grandma’s. It was the first sex after almost four years of abstinence and I felt I owed it to myself. I knew I wasn’t the only one because there were times I called and his phone was off, he never answered his phone when he was with me and he would stare at other girls when we were together… no shame, he just would and I would act like I didn’t notice. I wasn’t looking for a serious relationship even though I wanted one. I just knew that after my husband left I wasn’t worth it anymore. I had nothing left to give but some pretty odd sense of humor and average cooking. It also didn’t help my self esteem that my husband left me for an older woman, 13 years older to be exact. I was 27 and she had just turned 40. I know I should have been laughing at him somewhere, but how fucked up did I have to be for him to go to someone like that. It happened and the day he left he was gone for good, no visits, no child support, no casual sex with the ex just for shits and giggles… nothing, not a damn thing. Never a call on my Jessica’s birthday, no Christmas present or checking up on either one of us. He just left and took half my joy with him. I stopped hating him after Jessica turned 2. I finally wrapped my head around the fact that he got bored of trying at something he probably never wanted.
Roberto… his name was Roberto, he was Dominican, his skin was soft and his lips were always a bit dry. We tried cocaine the first night after I had a really hectic shift at the ER. He said it would help me relax and if not we could just have some bomb ass sex … it was pretty bomb. I woke up the next day around 6 in the morning naked on his bed with him collapsed on top of me. His mouth was slightly open and there was a small trail of saliva from his mouth to my chest. I had a hard time moving from under him, he was a bit tall and stocky. I checked myself in his bathroom mirror, I looked like hell. Hickeys, bruises, messy hair, worn down eyeliner and mascara, even a few bite marks on my left breast and my hip. That was the first of many nights, I started leaving my Jessica more and more at her grandmother’s house even when I didn’t work nights. I slept and ate less. I took on more over time hours, volunteered to come in and then called in at the last hour saying my daughter or my mother were sick… all to go have some hours with Roberto. I don’t remember how much time after that I tried heroin. We weren’t alone that night and this time when I woke up I knew Roberto hadn’t been the only one I had sex with. I had vague memories of one of his camaradas (the dealer) bending me over on the sofa but I was too high to even move. I stopped seeing him after that. I quit Roberto but I didn’t quit the drugs.
It wasn’t hard after that you know… getting high, having sex just because I could and not even because it felt good. I’m 39 now and I can honestly say I have never had an orgasm. It has never been dreamy, I never missed it, even with my ex-husband. I was always good at pretending, at moaning and screaming and making him feel like a hung horse. My mother caught on to the use, Child Protective Services never came knocking on my door because by some miracle I was able to maintain my job and made sure she was at grandma’s before I went and did anything. Until my mother became tired of seeing me worn out and always leaving her doorstep with scruffy men that sometimes were missing teeth. She gave me an ultimatum, she was always strict so she kept her promise and sold her house, moved away and refused to watch Jessica anymore. She still sent her cards, called her at least once a week until she became too old to want to listen to her grandmother telling her to behave. I let her go out, I let her stay up late, miss school but always with a decent excuse. I loved her to death but I couldn’t get my shit together for her anymore. Perhaps I never did and I was just good at pretending everything was going well. She was an ok kid, she didn’t get into fights at school and didn’t have a boyfriend, she just hung out with the wrong crowd. Even then, she still came home every night and always still kissed and hugged me before she went anywhere. She checked in with me and never ignored my calls when she was out with her friends. I guess we were doing ok, until I met Wesley… I don’t even know his last name.
He actually tried a little harder than the other ones, that should have been a red flag for me but it wasn’t. I thought it was great, someone who shared my addiction, he was a disabled veteran so he couldn’t work but his disability check was enough to help with groceries and maintain our bad habits. I moved from the hospital to a nursing home. Eventually it became too loud in the ER and I didn’t mind dealing with the vomit and diarrhea from the old people there. I had lost my ability to be disgusted because I was already disgusted at my own existence every time I went home with a new man. Wesley insisted on meeting my daughter, he did after three months and eventually he moved in.
He broke us on Easter day, Jessica had just turned 11, she looked a little older for her age. She didn’t get that from me, my boobs missed high school and my hips weren’t pronounced until after I gave birth to her. Her face is cute too, she has dimples, thick chestnut eyebrows and heave eyelashes. Her face is angelic even under all that dark make up she wears now. I adore her but I depend on heroin just to be able to numb the way I love her and how much I hate myself for hurting her.
We had a cook out at the town park, the one that has the huge lake on it with all the trees where people camp out and take their RV’s to. Of course we were getting high in the car. Jessica didn’t invite any friends, it was just the three of us and she had started calling Wesley ‘dad’… per his request. He bought her one of those Pandora bracelets in pink… her favorite color, I took her out to get her first manicure. It was special because we had him in the family and she was so mature now that she just got used to pretending we weren’t getting high in the living room when she was in her bedroom snapchatting friends. It got dark, I took a hit of heroin and laid in the bed of the truck with Wesley for a bit. We didn’t mess around… this was a nice park and there was a random cop driving around. I don’t know how long we were there for that I realized Jessica had gone for a walk and hadn’t been back yet. He said he’d go find her, I got off the truck and started picking up. He took the truck to drive around looking for her, the park was at least 5 miles in diameter. I stayed there, light up a cigarette until the mosquitoes were too much. I searched my back pocket for my phone… shit, I left it in the cup holder of the truck. I started walking around, first towards the restroom, then around the lake… I couldn’t find them or see the truck. People were already either leaving or retrieving inside their RV’s or tents. I started to panic, I don’t know what I thought… maybe a snake bit her, maybe he forgot where were… honestly nothing made sense and I just needed to find her now! I started knocking on the RV’S doors asking if anyone had seen them. Most looked at me in disgust… on my off days I rarely bothered to cover the trails of needles on my arms with long sleeve shirts.
I ran into a cop and described the truck… poorly, and my Jessica. Nothing, no reports of accidents or injuries. It was about an hour until someone requested a welfare check to the apartment… maybe they got tired of looking for me and made it home. They said no one was home. They drove me to the station to file a report.. I’m not sure for what, I didn’t know the license plate to the truck and Jessica wasn’t missing. I didn’t think he’d kidnap her but they talked about perhaps he had enemies… our drug use and then they started talking among themselves and throwing looks of disgust and pity in my direction. No tears came, I just had a hard time breathing and sitting still, I needed a hit just to be able to breathe now. The police station was about 3 miles from home… I got off the chair, pretended to go to the restroom and walked out. I don’t know why I felt the need to pretend, I thought I was in trouble but I wasn’t sure for what.
I made it home, something seemed strange. Not everything but some things were out of order. I walked to our bedroom calling both their names, the closet doors were opened wide and his clothes were gone. I checked the bathroom… his contact stuff was gone but his toothbrush was there. That’s when I saw her walk up behind me. There was blood at the crotch of her pants. Her hair was messy and she had a bite mark to her cheek…a big one.
I felt a cold shiver and then I couldn’t breathe, it was as though someone had punched me in the stomach really fucking hard. I held her and she pressed herself to me gritting her teeth and sobbing hard. I asked for her phone but she didn’t have it. We walked together to the neighbor’s apartment holding each other as I held on to the walls for support. My legs had turned to Jell-O, we knocked on the first neighbor’s door… no one was home. I knocked on at least 3 doors until someone opened, the old widowed man at the end of the hall. I asked to borrow his phone and he said yes after what seemed like forever minutes. He seemed tired, I didn’t even know what time it was. He took one look at Jessica and offered us to come in, we did. He helped me give the police the address. They told me not to let her shower, then they called Child Protective Services. I asked Jessica if she wanted me to call grandma… she said no. She had no one else that could comfort her but me and I already knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
They didn’t take her away and they couldn’t find him. I was with him for about 6 months and didn’t know a damn thing about him. He was a veteran… he didn’t leave any mail behind. I didn’t know what company he served with or where he deployed when the U.S. Marshalls contacted me. He just disappeared and took my Jessica with him. In her place he left another one of me, broken and empty. She didn’t rebel or hate me… she began to comfort me, doing drugs with me and staying in. Eventually I lost my job at the nursing home too. An old man that got a heart attack while I was bathing him and I couldn’t give any straight answers so when the investigation happened I walked out on my own.
I love Jessica more than anything, but I hate how much I love her because if I didn’t love her as much as I did then I’d be able to pull her out of this shit hole. I would have been able to toss out all the needles and stopped looking for dealers to help me cope with the piece of shit that I am. I would have stopped her when I was dazed on the sofa with needle poking between my fingers. I would have slapped her hard across the face and sent her to her room but I knew she was in pain.
He had found her near the lake, smiling and happy at her first birthday celebration in three years. He told her to get in the truck and then he drove her home. He told her I was already at home because I felt sick and she didn’t suspect anything. He raped 3 times until he finally decided to leave. She said he kissed her before he left, he grabbed her breast and when she smacked his hand away he bit her on the cheek and grabbed her crotch one more time. Then he grabbed her by the hair and threw her on her bed. She thought he was going to do it again when he unbuckled his pants but this time she finally cried and told him “please no”.
-That’s when he went to your room and took all his stuff, I stayed on the bed looking up at the ceiling fan until I heard the door close. It was a while until I head it open again, I thought it was him so I went under the bed silently. Then I heard you calling my name.
She said this to the cops, she said to the CPS lady and she said to her grandma in the living room of our apartment while I sat there listening, numb every single time.
Because I knew she was hurting I let her sit with me, I couldn’t stop her. She just put the needle between her fingers like she had just seen me. I heard a small “ow” … a sweet whisper and then she laid and put her head down on the sofa. Her eyes remained open and I didn’t close them even after I heard the ambulance coming down the street. I knew she died… this was the most I could do for her. This was all I could do to help her stop hurting, I didn’t deserve her, since the day she was born she was too good for me.
They called it child endangerment. You know what my punishment is? I get to be a weekender at the county jail for the next 3 years. For the next 3 years I get to give up my freedom for 48 hours in exchange for the life of my Jessica.
He was brought in for criminal mischief, he was a short, slim Hispanic… bald and not an inch over 5’5. He came from Honduras, we knew because he was a repeated offender and was usually coming in for nuisance things… criminal trespassing, shoplifting, unlawful carry of a weapon. He wasn’t your typical intimidating offender, he was just annoying, constantly playing a big hard criminal, the majority of the officers didn’t want to deal with him simply because he was annoying and not as much of a thug as he thought he was. You could picture this guy getting drunk and sizing up someone bigger than he whom he couldn’t fight but fighting him anyway just to prove he’s not a pussy.
Each time he came in to the jail it was the same thing, he refused to answer medical questions, he’d try to struggle out of a regular pat search, he’d spit at someone or try to swing, he’d get pepper sprayed, assisted to the ground and placed in a violent cell in a green smock… completely naked under that. Then the fun came, a good 6-8 hours of him kicking, banging and screaming at the top of his lungs every threat imaginable to any officer within eyesight or hearing range. Eventually he’d get tired and would allow us to book him in, then somewhere in the process he’d get frustrated again and would spit or curse at someone else, he’d get placed in an isolation cell for a good 15 days and then sent into general population to do his time. He never received visits, he never got money deposited to his commissary account, never purchased a calling card… there was pity looking at this guy. Some of the older offenders would sometimes humiliate him and he’d fight them… or at least try, not once did he win a fight and not once did anyone pay his bond to release him early.
His name was Harrison De los Santos… from the saints, and he didn’t speak a single English word other than “fuck you bitch” but his accent was so thick that it didn’t even sound offensive… too much emphasis on the “i” and the “u” in fuck he pronounced like “fo” it sounded more like
–fo’ kee yu beetch
This time there was only three of us in booking, when they saw the deputy dragging him in, the sergeant on staff hesitated to override the front sally port so one of us could go assist the deputy in dragging him in.
-here comes this son of a bitch again
-I got it ‘sarge’ .. as I put on my gloves
He wasn’t wearing a shirt and one of his shoes was missing, the deputy had him cuffed behind his back, I placed my hand under his arm and assisted in dragging him inside. He was kicking, hissing and spitting. It wasn’t until the deputy threw him on the pat search room that I noticed his pupils as big as olives. He wasn’t foaming at the mouth but he might as well had been. The hospital had released him because there was no risk of death … he had just been high for days on synthetic marihuana. He was caught running around the streets downtown assaulting random strangers and vandalizing cars. There had been three calls within a 10 minute span of civilians driving down the main road leading downtown that had bricks or rocks thrown at their cars as they were driving down the road. One guy got one of his fingers almost bitten off when De los Santos attempted to take his cigarette away. There were more calls about choked cats and stolen bicycles that were later found a block or two away. The first one came from his mother because he punched a hole through their front window and then ran out of the house without a shirt or shoes. When police showed up at her house she handed them a t-shirt and pair of sneakers, the deputy took it out of pity for the woman. Her son wasn’t right in the head, not because he was born with a deficiency , he simply wasn’t alright. They had attempted to put his shoes on at the time of arrest but he was struggling so much that he ended up kicking one off and hitting one of the officers who ended up pepper spraying him only to find that pepper spray does nothing to an individual that has been high out of his mind for the past 72 hours.
I couldn’t get him to settle down, we initiated ICS (incident command system) which called all rovers available to the section to assist in restraining De los Santos.. goddam the saints. We stripped him and attempted to place the smock on him but it was almost useless. He slithered out of it within seconds of rolling on the ground… those damn things are held on with Velcro. The shift had just started… we had at least 7 more hours of this. We left him inside with the leg restraints on because it was too dangerous to remove them as much as he was kicking, “sarge” made the call to leave him like that.
The policy is that after 45 minutes he has to exercise the limbs, but after 45 minutes he wasn’t calm yet. He was still banging and screaming. The guy had no idea where he was. Eventually the extra staff cleared from the section because they got bored of the screaming and banging. I liked it when we had someone screaming like that, it kept the new book ins on edge and hardly anyone else gave trouble.
De los Santos was not his usual annoying self this time… this time it was different, I thought it was a matter of time before he chewed his tongue off or pulled his penis off… I say it because I saw it once at the state prison. Well he didn’t but after 4 hours his feet were as big as the size of footballs… this is a 5’5 slim Hispanic… that’s pretty big feet. Of course, I’m the new guy who came from working at the big, bad state prison so I’m tasked to go in there and remove the feet restraints. There was shit and urine everywhere on the floor of the cell. There’s a hole in the middle of the floor where they can conduct this business but I doubt this guy realized what was flowing out of him. He was staring outside the cell window into nothingness. “Sarge” started talking to him
-De los Santos we’re about to go in there and remove the feet restraints alright, don’t try nothing or you will get sprayed!
..it’s policy that we must warn them before we deploy the chemical agents
I was thinking the entire time, I’m going to get my ass kicked and my face chewed off in a pool of piss and shit. I’m not the most religious person, simply because I’ve seen the back of God more than I have seen his merciful hand but I do pray, I pray to come home to my son and I pray to be able to make a decent man out of him. I started praying, against the humiliation of being rolled around in offender piss and shit, I prayed against the pain of picturing a chunk of my cheek being bitten off by this Honduran junkie. He didn’t move, sarge overrode the opening of the cell through the radio…
-central override violent cell 1
-…mother fuck it smells like shit
As I kneeled to remove the hand restraints. He didn’t flinch, his breathing was hard and he was sort of rocking from side to side. I removed the restraints slowly trying not to wake him from whatever trance he was on.
The slider closed and as soon as it shut he was on the window like a monkey screaming, hissing and banging. My eyes met his, I could feel the insanity looking right at me and it was though the devil himself was playing games with me, daring me to come closer.
It took 12 days for De los Santos to detox completely. He was never the same after that, he spilled food out of his mouth when he ate and he became a seizure precaution, we had him on 30 minute visuals and he was assigned a bottom bunk every time he came in.
Until someone killed him, he was coming out of the shower and another “96er” ( as we call the mentally unstable), punched him on the side of the head, he slipped and cracked his skull on the shower floor.
His mother never showed up to the prison to claim property.