The American had already been in country for a little under two years helping the locals.
As he stepped outside, the air choked his lungs: a mix of sweat, motor oil, gasoline, and burning trash. The sky overhead was dull, overcast; though it was morning, it felt like dusk. But it didn’t fucking matter because he had only one thing on his mind:
She was Chinese with waist-length, jet-black hair. Her hair was so black that in the sunlight it shone blue. She worked as a English teacher at a nearby elementary school and in the summer months took refuge behind the cashier at a local bookstore that he’d frequent.
Today was the day he was going to get her.
SOUTH MOUNTAIN VIEW
A black-cloaked figure quieted the neighborhood with a forced hush.
Over the place where El Sombrero and his clique watched and waited; where on hot summer nights hysterical laughter would be followed by apologetic smirks, and where la unica luz en la calle came from candlelight vigils in remembrance of once was.
This was before the methadone clinic moved into town, before the transients were forced down our street. South Mountain View with no mountain view.
I used to re-skin African drums with dead goat hides overlooking South Mountain View; the helicopters overlooking me. Two up, twenty-fours hours a day.
But the black-cloaked figure just stood there without moving a muscle. He was Santa Muerte.
THE GOOD PEOPLE
Tweety would desire nothing more than to be friends with “good people.” She would say this while desperately sucking the smoke from cigarettes over falsified report cards she would later give to her parents.
We spent the majority of that winter near a crackling fireplace. Amber drippings from the dry logs boiled and popped. Threads of wood fibers folded and danced. Orange sparks floated through the air before fizzling out. The desert air outside was cold and dry, so dry it stole the moisture from your skin and lips if you were careless.
Everyone else had already left to be with their families. We decided to spend the time together, alone.
THE FIRST TIME
This beach was nothing like promised in postcards. The rain came down in sheets. The sky was gray and bloated. The clouds unable to hold back their own the weight.
As we approached the ocean, the clouds did not part, the sun did not shine, it felt like the cold rain of Northern California without the warm welcome of a hot, comforting bowl of clam chowder.
The exchange between the two dudes was quick.
I remember a skinny homie with glasses unloading at least ten shots at some semi-gordo-looking guy and into the busy intersection where I was waiting at the light. As everyone else jumped like mad onto the WB Number 10 bus, I kinda just turned left, you know, all chill-like, and drove home.
Yeah, El Gordo ran like no other. The other one just walked off.
The words were as intense as they were meant to be cruel, aimed directly at the heart of each one of her parents. For whatever reason, the reason why she was feeling the way she did was obviously their fault: her parents didn’t try hard enough. Too many nights were spent fighting instead of talking; too many fists were put through walls and feet through closet doors.
It was time they heard how she felt.
His momma was of a Victorian variety, or so it seemed. She stood upon the long legs of a delicate ballerina and moved like the fingers of a seasoned piano player, appearing to dance when she walked. It was as if her sole purpose of life was to make another’s heart spring.
Her eyes were an icy green and when struck at the perfect angle, were filled with ridges paved in Mayan gold. She wore a coat of gray and white fur, never tattered, and white gloves. Under the winter sun, her hair would glisten; no, shimmer.
On hot days, his momma would take refuge under a canopy of shade, and would lay on her side where she looked to be Cleopatra herself.
She would take this pose many times throughout the day staring off into the distance in some perpetual state of bliss, and yet would spend each night awake roaming the grounds patiently waiting for her sons to come home.
My bedroom window lumbers back and forth.
I tend to be thankful for days like this. This cool breeze. This marine layer and its nowhere near being ready to burn off.
Today is one of those Winter-Spring kinda days in Los Angeles: cold but not, hot but not.
These are my favorite kinda days. I love how traffic can sound more like an outgoing tide than anything. I love when a bus drives by and my window rattles. I love the duck-call of the corn man as he heads down the street where he hawks his wares.
My roommate for the night was a five-foot nothing cholito whose name I wish I could fucking remember. He was eighteen and had never seen the ocean even though he lived only eight miles away.
Over shitty food we discussed our future, our country; what was right and what was wrong. It’s when I decided to not go any further with this fucking military thing and bounced for home. The next day, homeboy signed up for the Navy. He told me it was because he wanted to see more of the world before he got old or died.
Because of him, I learned how important it was to be free.