My life doesn’t exist. There is no such thing. Your life is also fantastical, a fake — it is a falsity. It’s one way to see, this view resulted from society. Sounds like madness! Of course, I haven’t explained myself. Let me explain…
Life belongs to no one; it cannot belong. I don’t have a life, but neither do you. We participate in it — at least, that’s one point of view. Imagine God as a spider… Wait, some don’t believe that much. So first, imagine a creator, or a family of creators. Our holy makers and undertakers — then imagine them all as spiders.
Now imagine they made a web as big as the universe, if you can. Imagine your life — what you perceive of this fake thing — as one fragile string in the web. Yes, I suppose like the thread of life, it can be snapped — though convenient, that’s not really my point. But imagine the string as “your life” on this web, loosely stitched and attached to another. And not just another, but another and bound over others, like natural spider webs are spun.
You could picture those other pure strings of silk are the “lives” of parents, husbands, and wives; of friends, kids, co-workers — coaches. In your life may be bosses or subordinates. The coordinates will match your specifics, though, here are no gimmicks. I ask to picture that web as Life itself. You are a golden strand on its mighty fabric, one piece shared in its great wealth.
Taking care of “my life” has been hard to attain. Trying to control something that isn’t mine leaves a knot in my brain. As we say “my world” or “my universe”, we know these things aren’t ours. They’re figures of speech, forms of expression — so too should be “my life”. For as the Earth belongs to none and the universe is not owned, I cannot be the master of something so vast and so old.
Taking care of Life and focusing non-stop on only mine is like taking care of a forest and looking just at one tree. I can nurture and protect it to beautiful perfection, while the greater forest burns down into ruin around me. No, the goal should be the forest as a whole, or shouldn’t it be? To spread care and nurturing to all trees, to all beings. So the whole is what makes life, and not a singularity. We see that as one tree can’t make the forest — I can’t make Life for me.
And it doesn’t have to be total care and improvements made at once. Some days I water down the trees, and some days, plant a new one, or watch after animals, or sweep up the floor’s trash. Some days I check for fires, search for poachers; I prune or check on the tree I grew. Some days it’s cool to soak in the shade in the undergrowth, feel all the life around. I helped to cultivate this Great Wood. I am in it; it lives through me.
So life breathes, eats, sees, and dreams — life manifests through me. And through you, and by all things, and all life’s situations and beings. It means we are living; we are alive. “My life” is not even a goal. It cannot be improved, for it was never mine to own. Life is shared, a drama, an experience felt by all its participants. And the best?
Without each of its working parts, the forest cannot thrive. I said, without the people, creatures — experiences together, then we cannot have Life. Because it is not something to be had. It is not mine or yours. Because without us, life endures. Now we get it. So let’s share it.
This story/poem came from the concept of life being best lived when it is experienced with others, especially those we love. I notice how easily I can miss life’s great opportunities and meet great people by putting up the blinds and focusing on myself. True life seems to happen when I’m open, when I spread my thoughts, when I share life with others. It seemed like a good idea to share with you, + a chance to mess with some cool spider metaphors 😉
WANDERING in the last hot rays of the evening, brother and sister reach an ice cream truck. The truck is parked in the middle of a crosswalk, playing the usual melodic music like from a bedtime story, all the while flashing a red cross on top. It resembles an iceberg in the desert, and no matter how minute the street is to the surrounding city, or how many sun-baked sand specks are upon it, that iceberg won’t budge.
“Heyey,” a whistle and a bang on the door. “¡Camión! I know you are in there.”
“Who is it?”
A whispered Holy fuck is heard along with a few shakes and rattles.
Joe and Teresa stand at the wheels of the floating menace. They look up into the window, so dark and hollow it might contain the secrets of void and space altogether. Red baths splash over them in two-second intervals. The window pops open.
“Okay offi — Aw, Benny, they ain’t no cops! It’s some güey with a little Asian woman.”
“Asian woman? Where?! I ain’t never seen a real Asian woman before.”
“Yes you have! You ‘member Paola?”
“Paola, (are crazy. What Paola?)”
“From school, you remember.”
“Paola Palomina? She was Asian? I thought that was Filipino.”
Teresa chuckles. The men refocus their attention.
“Listen man, you need to keep walking, okay?”
Joe rebuttals, “You’re in a goddamn crosswalk. You need to keep walking … Driving.”
“Hey bro, you got a job?”
“Well, it’s been hard out here for everyone —”
“No, you don’t. Go get a job and you can tell me what to do, okay?”
Joe is bubbling up inside. And that’s not a reaction to his wasp sting.
“I just need to get to a hospital, that’s it.”
“Nah, vato, you don’t wanna go to no hospital. They charge too much.”
“Really?” Joe wonders. “I haven’t been since birth.”
“Yeah, man. You come in here, I fix you up.”
They rattle a little more inside the truck and open the side door. From far away, Joe looks like a poor boy getting into a stalker’s van.
But Teresa is justifiably reluctant.
“I’m not going in there with a guy who thinks I look Asian. He’s clearly demented.”
“You do look kinda oriental,” Joe mentions.
It’s followed by a tap and a Fuck you! and they both enter the truck. It is ominously empty.
“This is … seminal,” says Teresa.
“Woah, woah. (Calm yourself, Chinese girl.) You can’t come in here. Privacy?”
“But you’re not doctors.”
“Just go home or to Remy’s —smelly bastard.”
She walks into the street and says, “I ain’t leaving till I see you come out alive. If you come out dead somebody’s gotta tell Mamá on the same day. ‘Member she said, ‘Come straight to me if one of you dies because I need to bless you on the way to Heaven.’ You know she’s crazy-Catholic and got these weird rules like you know how she makes me brush my teeth after every meal?”
“That’s ‘cuz you have braces,” Joe reminds her.
“Really? I thought it was a Catholic thing. Why don’t you have braces? Your teeth are more jacked up than mine.”
“Can I just get my damn surgery, huh? Can you leave so I can have these foo’s cure me? (Please, sis.) My God!”
Teresa takes another look at the empty interior and the silly truck stopped in that most inconvenient place.
“I’m sure you won’t get helped by these two idiots.”
“Ah, be quiet. You know how much it costs to go to the hospital? Tell her, Doc.”
“One million pesos mexicanos.”
“One million pesos! You got that kinda money to spend, Teresa? I know Mamá don’t.”
“I can’t believe — ”
“At least give me some privacy so we can go home.”
She dips out of sight. The man claiming to be a doctor raises Joe’s sleeve and sticks him in the shoulder with a quick needle. He then presents a gown.
“Time to strip outta that turtleneck.”
“What was that you just poked me with?”
“Nothing. A sedative. Wear this.”
“Okay. I don’t know why you’re smiling, but whatever. Let me see in the light … Uh, privacy?”
“Nothing we haven’t seen before.”
“I don’t know …” Joe uneasily scratches his neck.
“We are professionals,” Benny, the assistant, says with another poisonous smile. Joe consents. The two guys then talk amongst themselves.
“He seems to have been in a period of diapause.”
“I concur. Do you suspect menopause as well?”
“I believe so. And he has a diaphragm as well?”
“I checked, right next to his phalanges.”
With that kind of talk, Joe can’t help but to believe he’ll be all right. The comforting tone of healthcare workers saying indecipherable things juxtaposes nicely with their thrifty cost of service.
“We need to inspect your body.”
Joe stands naked in the empty truck. Benny is rustling through a few drawers. The doctor looks at Joe, unimpressed.
“You bang your Asian girlfriend with that thing?”
As Joe explains about his sister, Benny seems to find what he was searching for. With a rounded power saw held behind him, he performs a signal to the doctor out of Joe’s sight. At once, they pull down a bench from the inside wall and sit Joe down. The doctor starts to strap his patient’s arms in. Benny is just behind them, searching for the batteries to his tool. This is gonna be fun! he whispers to himself.
“Where am I right now?” Joe mutters, finding himself hilarious.
“That’s just the sedative kicking in,” responds the doctor, moving closer to make sure his patient is in no state to interrupt what they are about to do. CLICK, the batteries are in. The buzzing roar of the saw dominates all corners within the truck. Nos vemos …
When the doctor reaches in to check Joe’s diminishing heart rate, he spots something very peculiar behind his ear. Tattooed there is a small red wasp, of all things. Well, that changes plans.
(Turn off, güey.)
“(Turn it off, already!) He’s one of them.”
The doctor points to the space behind his own ear. The saw immediately cuts off, as Benny seems to understand this gesture. While the tool gets put away, the doctor taps on Joe’s face, urging him to wake up.
“What?! Did I miss the parade?” Joe says.
“Seems like you have a tremor in the lagena due to damage on your cupula.”
“I see — ”
“But you don’t need no surgery, homes. Just an anti-histamine.”
“Look at God.”
“You’re gonna feel a little sting … Oh, nope, sorry, that’s my … my injections I take, you know, to get … Anyway … Here’s yours. All right, just a little sting and, listo. There you go. You’ll be fine.”
“Here’s your clothes,” says Benny, now holding nothing but Joe’s belongings.
Joe slips into them and says, “Thank you guys.”
(Care for yourself.)
Joe exits the truck onto the street. At the moment, no sign of his sister.
“Over here!” she yells from the other side of the truck. Joe jogs over and finds her eating a Tear Jerker. “They fix you yet?”
“Yeah, it was pretty easy. I told ya.”
“Good, ‘cuz this tonta over here is taking a long-ass time to — long-fucking time .”
“What did you call me?” asks the person from within the truck (on the current side).
“I said, (‘You can eat me out, fat bitch, daughter of a’—)”
“I can’t understand you!”
“Who is this lady? She sounds country. Not like California country, but lost-in-the-Midwest-somewhere country.”
“I’m from Reno.”
“Huh, we from the same place then.”
The rattling from inside the truck stops.
“Look. You Mexicans need to realize that you can’t just cross the border and take over everythang. Us true Americans work hard to earn a living here, and y’all comes’n change our language. I mean, really, look at a sign in Southern California. You can’t find one that’s not in Spanish ‘cuz ah you damn Mehi-cans. God’s sakes, can’t you just give up? When an able person rules the world again, we will see who runs this country better; a guera like me or a mud-scooter like you!”
She stops to wind down off of her emotive outburst.
“So, stop cussing at me! It ain’t cute anymore.”
“Well, Teresa here is Filipino, so …”
“Oh, shut up.” Her face scrunches up from the sourness of her ice cream. “Why are you in Mexico if you can’t understand Spanish, lady? ‘Cuz we can talk the same shit about you,” Teresa says.
“Well, by that sign, I’d say you’re in Californ-i-a now.”
She points, and at the moment it seems factually true.
“So you — hold on.”
Joe runs to the other side of the truck and asks Benny, “What country am I in?”
“Los Estados Unidos—“
He runs back and asks the ice cream lady, to which she replies, “The United States.”
“Of America, dipshit.”
“So, you mean one side of this truck is in America and the other is in Mexico? And it’s a doctor’s clinic?”
“It is? I never knew there was another side,” says the lady.
“Really. Come look.”
The lady dismounts the truck and scrambles with Joe and Teresa to the other side.
“I just got cured by these guys.”
(Hello, gringa. Welcome to Mexico.)
“See, there are Mexicans on this side. How did you even get this job not knowing part of your truck was in another country?” asks Teresa.
“It was a long process. You know, do the interview, sign them dang contracts, get a physical, and oddly I hadda show my passport. Now it all make sense.”
“No! That makes no type of sense! Why should you have to go through a flipping process for being an ice cream truck driver? Hell, you don’t even drive it. You’re just a truck-sitter.”
“I take my jobs very seriously, hun.”
(What a moron.)
“Let’s leave, ‘mano,” says Teresa. “I got to go to work. Plus, Mamá is expecting you to wipe the dishes. It’s getting cold.”
“See, who’s smart for wearing a turtleneck now?”
“Ahh!” cry the doctor and Benny. “He has to do chores, ese!”
“Ah-ha, go do your chores for mommy!”
Still a little loopy, Joe flicks his sister off as they make their way home. The ice cream lady and the faux-doctors notice each other once more.
“Well, it was nice to meet y’all. Just don’t bring any of them Mexican rats over to my side.”
“Can do, señora,” says Benny, rolling his eyes. They make their return to the clinic side.
The lady doubles back to say, “Hey. That was some racket y’all was making a lil’ bit ago. Did I hear a saw?” The crows’ feet around her eyes shift momentarily from spite to worry.
“No, no,” Benny says. “Let’s just say your recent customers almost ran into some peligro, you know? Trouble. But he’s with Poza Roja, and we don’t mess with those goons. Ni modo, ese.”
The lady frowns, concerned, and goes back to her side. The last of the earth’s heat escapes, making way for a cold black night. She steps on a few red droplets of Tear Jerker.
. . .
On entry they hear banging from the walls, a wet suctioning noise. Brother and sister look nervously between each other, posing the same fear of what could be. That’s not our Mamá, is it? A few grunts leave the bathroom. Then they prepare. One, two …
“Hey, m’hijo, hija. I’m just plunging this toilet. There’s a snake caught somewhere in the drain. Musta thought he was in hole or something. Think he’s dead now.”
“Oh, thank God. I guess.”
Curiosity calls on Joe to stay and watch, but Teresa’s face persuades otherwise. She splits, leaving her brother.
“So, you’re ready for work, m’hija?”
“Teresa went to the room. It’s just me.”
“Oh. Well, how was the job search today? You know, this isn’t Reno. We need to make money, (and soon, my love.)”
“I haven’t found nothing yet, but I’m workingon it.”
Joe’s Mamá smiles at this.
“You were making good money for a while. Sometimes you quit before you’re ahead, but — Ah, I won’t say nothing.”
Mamá keeps plunging. He is unclear on what exactly will pop out, though clear is his place in the world. Evil. Disgusting. Sick. He knows it will come to surface.
Teresa ventures to the living room, sounds of mangling echo from down the hall.
“Remy!” for lying on the couch is he.
“Damn, don’t yell like that.”
“You hear this mess going on in the bathroom, ¿o no?” she says to Remy.
“Yeah. I’m trying to make it fade away.”
“Oh my God. You’re stoned again, aren’t you?”
“Don’t blame me. It’s my medication. I’m hebephrenic with, uh — borderline personality. (This herb that cures me, vata.)”
“Borderline ? If anything, you’re borderline crazy, and lazy as hell. And you don’t need a doctor to tell you that. I can’t believe you show your face around here after you went and screwed that little guatemalteca. And in our apartment, Remy! The one I was paying all the bills for, so basically, my apartment. You’re such an a-hole, ¿sabías?”
“Did we really break up? Everything feels like a dream. I can’t tell what’s real or fake anymore.”
“That’s ‘cuz you’re frigging high, idiot. Besides, the only ‘dream’ you claimed to have was of you cheating, conveniently. Why don’t you go and help your ex-suegra in the bathroom, you bum?”
“Oh. I’m afraid of snakes ‘cuz Medusa was a snake, and she used to turn foo’s into stone,” Remy explains.
“Medusa was not a snake, dumbass. She was a woman — ”
“Wrong, dummy! She’s a myth. She doesn’t exist, dummy. Haha! Dummy.”
A terrifying scream comes from the bathroom. Joe runs out to find Remy and Teresa chatting. He then stops, scratches his ears and breathes heavily.
“Interesting echo in this house,” he says.
“The hell …?”
Mamá follows with the snake clenched in her hand. She smiles over her trophy as it squirms.
“It’s alive!” she yells. “Guess we’ll have meat for the tacos tonight.”
“Who screamed? Was that you, Mamá?” asks Teresa.
“No!” cries Remy, pointing his finger.
“Joe, you scream like an old wrinkly bitch,” Teresa says.
“Come on, it was like I was watching Aliens or something when she pulled it out. I thought it was dead.”
“Whatever, Hoe — ” Remy starts, but Joe cuts him off.
“You better shut the fuck up, cabrón,” he says, ready to pounce at Remy with full force. Before a fight can ensue, Mamá grabs Joe and takes his complaining-behind to her bedroom.
“Jo-oe … What did I say about cursing in my home? This is a devout household.”
“Yeah, but that freak knows how to say the word ‘Joe,’ he’s from freaking Texas! I don’t see how he gets away with calling me a hoe all the time. Hoe, hoe, hoe, like he’s Santa Claus or something, with his fat ugly self. He needs to get a job. And a house.”
“Why are you so hostile?” she asks him sweetly. “I understand your anger, but he’s going through rough times like us all. Besides, you could use both those things yourself.”
“I don’t know, I —”
“Did you take drugs? You look a little off, m’hijo.”
“Hell yeah, I’m off. Not ‘cuz of pills, Mamá. It’s because of that foo’ in there.”
“Well, I know you like wide hips.”
“I mean, I’ll be all right, I — Wide hips?”
Mamá smiles, slipping in, “I saw Emily today. She said you guys passed by.”
“Why you smiling?” she asks, bumping him with an elbow.
“I don’t know.”
“Cheese, cheese, cheese. You look like Chucky-the-Cheese smiling like that.”
“No, stop! You can’t tickle a grown man like that … She was just watering her garden,” Joe says.
“Yeah, she said you helped her water her garden.”
They sit with that possibly gross notion for a few moments.
“You know I worry about you. You never really had a serious girlfriend. Normally I say nothing, but, what am I — “
“I’m just looking out for you.”
They are both pulled by an inclination to look at the doorway exactly half a second before Teresa appears there. She’s dressed in her nursing clothes.
“Going to the hospital. Don’t worry about staying up, I got the keys.” Mamá nods. “Oh. Remy said he’s found a job on the other side of the border. Says he doesn’t need no paperwork, and there’s two open spots.”
“Good. Tell him Joe needs a job.”
Mamá tosses the viscous slitherer into Joe’s arms. He catches it by instinct, squeals like a mouse, and faints.
A HAZY sun settles between two ridges splayed like camel humps. Its rays cover the arid sky in a blood-orange liquid blended then spewed out past the unknown. The horizon creates an ether smoldering in gun smoke and gassy fumes. This is the world up in arms against a young pair on the street. They walk, at the same time scared and at peace, cackling loud as possible, as is expected. They are, in a sense, possessed by the time and place they walk in. The magic of these twilight hours affects them as such:
“So, how many girls did you see kidnapped?” she says.
“Wait, wait. You act like I was the one doing the kidnapping. I didn’t have no part of that. Damn, why’s it so damn hot?”
“Maybe if you didn’t wear those turtlenecks all the time— Anyway, I just assumed ‘cuz you were with them—”
“T, let’s change the subject, all right?”
“Whatever. I bet you not gonna say it, though.”
Joe turns to his older sister with sure eyes, cigarette smoking off his ear. She is only challenging him. That’s all she ever does.
“Why you think so? I’m a killer with the ladies.”
“Two hot girls just passed us two minutes ago and you didn’t even bat a eye.” Then in Spanish, (You’re a loser with the chicks, ‘güey’).
They stroll down La Matanza upon an opportune victim who’s bending over to fill a bucket with water. The effect is of a person gleaming with their face clear and wide at the sky — just trade a wide face for a wide rear end. Joe can’t back down this time. He tugs on his turtleneck.
“Hey, ‘mami’! That’s my favorite position right there!”
Joe calls with a whistle like he’s about to hit a home run. After grabbing his crotch in mockery, he then raises the cigarette to his mouth and nudges his sister.
(Look what passes, Teresa.)
As the woman rises and turns around, both Joe and Teresa gasp. The random behind (turned-face) is actually their well-known …
“Emily?! Is that you?”
She sees that it’s Joe and pours her bucket on the ground in excitement. Nevermind the drought, then.
“Oh, little ‘hombre ’! You want some’a this?”
“No! No, Ma’am. ‘Perdona’, Señora Emily.” Then to Teresa, “Damn, bro, why I always gotta flirt with old bitches?”
She responds, “I wonder the same thing.” Emily gives Joe a wink, and he nearly vomits.
“Haha! If you want it, ‘papacito’, I can do this position all-day-long!”
She licks her lips. Joe starts running.
“Why are you — ?”
“Come on, ‘conmigo’ … Hurry!”
They both run away as Teresa stomps, balling in laughter.
“I was gonna be sick, yo.”
“That’s your own damn fault, Joe,” she says as they decelerate upon a bridge. Catching their breath, the siblings lean over on its barrier. They rest above what should be a canal, now dry but of what looks like a few sorry streams of urine.
Joe points his finger in her face.
“You the one who dared me! Look, I need to get buzzed with Remy tonight. This is too much.”
“Oy, Mamá’s not going to like this.”
“That’s why you don’t tell Mamá, all right?” says Joe. They hear a dull moan resounding in the area … somewhere.
“If you’re going to get drunk, I’m getting drunk too.”
“Nah, you don’t wanna do that. Don’t you have to work at the hospital tonight?”
“Ahh, I always work, though. I wanna have some fun. And why should I? They pay me scraps for what I was making up in Cali. I don’t know why the hell we moved to this dump,” says Teresa to her brother.
“Well, you don’t wanna hang with Remy. Number one, guy is bad news. He eats this mixture of ‘cucarachas’ and ‘chicharrones’ every morning with sour milk. His breath stays kicking.”
“I don’t give a fuck about what he eats! It’s not like I’m gonna kiss that foo’.”
“Now I can imagine you kissing him. Yuck! … With both of y’all’s bad breaths. I’m gonna be sick again.”
She gasps for effect. “You forget that I can’t stand Remy, after what he did to me? He deserves to get his little ‘pitito’ cut into pieces and fed to the coyotes. Jerk.”
“Damn, now you sound like the thugs I was working for.”
“That’s not true,” she replies, socking him on the deltoid. “I still can’t believe you just walked out on the fricking cartel. Like, that could be a issue, right? Don’t you put me and Mamá through enough hard times?”
“Put you through? What about me, Teresa? I’m the one that’s gotta sleep at night, then wake my ass up to look for work. ‘¿Sabes qué?’ I’m not even scared of those creeps. I’m more terrified of the chance of having a stinky ‘cucaracha’-muncher in my life. I mean, if you marry that guy, I gotta smell his breath every single day. That’s the worst punishment in hell right there.”
Joe gets distracted.
“I told you I wasn’t going to kiss him. I’m not no ratchet.”
“Shh! Yo, you hear that?”
They stop to listen carefully.
“What the heck is that?”
They look at each other, then down into the concrete trenches.
“’Holaaaaa’,” he says, echoing into the walls of that excuse for a canal below them.
On one side at the bottom lies a darkly dressed — raggedy dressed — man who appears to have several open wounds to the head. He also won’t stop moaning.
“Oh.” Joe looks back to Teresa. “It’s just a homeless guy.”
(Poza-a. Fear, the Poza Roja,) the man babbles, then repeats. Teresa turns to her brother, puzzled.
“Poza Roja?” she mutters. “What the hell … ? Weirdo.”
They continue walking towards the fiery horizon.
“So yeah, like I said, I ain’t afraid of no cartel.”
“Are you sure about that? ‘Cuz it looks like they just ran out of places to dump bodies. All in the canals and shit.”
“Oh, definitely not. Remy is way worse than they could ever be.”
A truck buzzes past them on the road headed to the border. Teresa catches a glint as it flashes off the metal doors … or off some other piece of metal on the inside.
. . .
Brother and sister carry on till they reach a break in the fog where the sun can really influence their skin. A few gangsters and girl traffickers walk ahead of them insipidly. Of all the commotion at the moment, Joe takes the most notice in a trail of red ants on the sidewalk. He pulls on Teresa’s hood to disallow her murdering any of them.
“What?!” she yells, heavily disturbed by the content of the tug, and, to say, its randomness. “The hell is wrong with you?”
Joe looks struck, as if her reaction was coated by some weird amphibology. She pushes him back, and he points at the ground. “Ant lives matter too.”
She looks to the concrete and finds the large ants.
“Can’t you see those?” Joe asks.
“I can’t believe I missed them.”
“I can. You’re always talking too damn much.”
“Well they’re big as a German shepherd. If I stepped on one, it might fight me for a bone.”
“They’re like little people,” Joe says heartily, stroking his sister’s hair. Teresa herself is surprisingly consensual in the matter. “Well, not that kind of little people.”
“Grab me a cudgel so I h-whoop your be-hind!”
“See? They even talk like people,” cries Joe. “It’s like they have their own weird dialect.”
“Grab me a stick, foo’!”
“I can almost hear them talking to my soul.”
“No, ‘mano’, that’s Emily again.” Joe looks up from the ants and sees Emily passing by on a shaved-ice cart.
“Oh, hey Señora Emily. Started your fifth job today, I see.”
“You the one better be looking for a job, ‘mijo’. Your Mamá and Teresita here cannot do it all, you know. And take that turtleneck off! It’s too hot, ‘por Dios’.”
“Joe knows he’s a bum, Ms. Emily.” Teresa laughs. “(And don’t worry yourself.) We weren’t fighting. Just saving some ant-people, right? All the bugs are starting to come out this time of day.”
“Well, you know they got all kind of crazy insects out here. Just like the ones those ‘Locas’Rojas or whatever use on their neck. What’s it called? Ahh … Yellowjackets!”
. . .
I was born in a humble chamber, nothing too high-class. Even as a little larva I constantly heard my mother, Queen of queens, explain how free the world is for a yellowjacket like me. Her voraciousness pushed me to work as soon as my legs grew in. Tough times.
I never knew my father, never wanted to. Mother’s own melancholy and greed killed her, and I promised myself within those early days that I’d never end up like her; so powerful, so delusional — so vain.
Growing up was hard. I was always picked on for being slightly off-yellow while my peers were golden and pure. My black was deep, however. I was known as little Jet. I gathered myself one day, gleaming in a bright new exoskeleton, still soft upon my flesh.
I had a stinger! And wings! I was ready to fly from all my problems, to live on my own as an independent wasp. I tried to remember all the positive mother, Queen of queens, had taught me, and I vowed to go where none of my kind had ever gone before. I fled that wonderful phantasm of a world I call home, and I ventured out over many fields every day.
Some days were hard. When it poured, I made refuge in a hole in the sand. It would rain and the wind would blow, but victory was my savior. Screw their clan! I’ve got my own clique. I was determined to stay alive and to take care of my own hide.
In the throes of hunger, I found a man half dead and ate some of him. He was a goner, so I knew I could get away with it and survive. And such good feed he was! Flesh was such a marvelous surprise, an, an elixir in my mandibles! Before long, I came upon a man with a similar half-dead appearance, though his neck was guarded to the brim.
Expressing my new infatuation with digging holes and eating meat, I found a hole on him. But if he were to swat at me? Oh, I could surely sting him. Just stick “one of these” right in him. Then he’d stop. Perfect plan!
And so I closed in upon him, aiming for the hole. It would be him or me, and I bore total faith that it was going to be …
“’Puta! — madre—’”
(‘Güey’, what passed?) asks Teresa as her brother swings an arm at his own ear.
“A dang bee just tried to fly in my ear. Got bug juice all in there. Damn.”
“Ho-o, really? Let me see.”
Joe shows her the bits and niblets of the insect that were spread out on his hand.
“Yeah, that’s sick, bro. And your ear’s knotted up too. It looks like those yellowjackets Emily was talking about,” she says.
“You think it stung me? I mean, what if I’m allergic? Could I die?”
An old red Impala pulls up slowly playing Grupera followed by a honking trailer behind it.
“Ey,” a whistle, “Come on. (¡’Jale’! What are you doing, ‘huevón’?)
The guy and gal in the red car pay him no mind. More honking. Joe starts to itch his neck. Then his ear.
“Maybe I should ask somebody … you know, about this sting,” suggests Joe, nodding at the couple. Nearly getting hit by the angry trailer, he crosses the road to the cruising Impala. As he approaches, he spots the driver’s hand under the female companion’s skirt.
Joe clears his throat. “Is that safe, homes?”
He quickly removes his hand from its pleasant former location and raises it high.
“Sorry, uh, officer. I wasn’t doing anything. Of course, driving.” The driver embellishes his performance with a nervous grin and a wink.
“I’m not ready!” the lady starts before breaking into tears. “I’m not ready to go to jail! Ahhh! How did they know you were rolling, Enrique?”
“Shh! Hey, I didn’t tell nobody. Why you blaming me, huh?”
“Well, how else would they know, ‘chingado’? I am a good girl, never done anything to nobody. Tell him that.”
“I mean, that’s a lie. You done plenty of bad things to me,” says Enrique.
“Bitch, you almost got me killed last week in a fight over your ‘culito’.”
“No I didn’t!”
“Would you let me fucking— ?”
“Ah, shut up, you baby,” she hisses.
(You shut yourself, with your little culi— )
“Guys, look. I’m not no cop,” Joe says. He motions with his hands for them to be silent. Enrique flinches, fearing he might pull a gun.
“(Woah, like this no.) I can’t go out like this!”
“I am not no cop, dummies.”
“Thank God!” says the lady. The green in her eyes catches Joe’s in an instant. He looks down, embarrassed.
“Not a …” Enrique pulls out a rifle from the car floor.
“Homes, I should kill your ass,” he says, aiming at Joe’s head.
“Hey! Heyey, what are you doing?” Teresa yells from the sidewalk. A touch of fear shakes in her timbre.
“(Wait, sis.) Just hold up. Don’t budge.”
“But this fucker is pointing a fucking gun at you!”
“Shut up! Shut the fuck up! I know what it is.” Joe starts shaking.
“You’re crazy, man, ‘¿sabes?’ Real crazy with that chick over there calling me names,” the man in the Impala tells Joe.
“I can’t control her. You know what I mean?”
“Well, you better turn into God real fucking fast, motherfucker.”
“Just chill, (all tranquil).”
“I ain’t gonna chill, homes! I will shoot your head off right here.” A beat. (What is it with your neck, ‘cabrón’?)
“Wait, ‘vato’, wait. Lemme scratch. I got stung by a yellowjacket.”
The lady in the car leans forward to hear better.
“A yellowjacket? (Is like, ‘este’… a wasp?)”
“Yeah, you know those?”
The lady taps her driving companion and tells Joe, “You need to go to the hospital, homes. See if you are allergic. You don’t want your face to swell up or nothing.”
“Thank you! That’s literally all I came to ask,” Joe says, peeved and a bit shaken.
“Sure. I’ll see you around,” she says, waving at him as if seizing the air in her fingers, or clawing it with her excessive nails.
“Yo, V, how do you know about yellowjackets?”
Joe walks away before he can hear “V’s” answer. In a fit he yells, (Ah, but you don’t wait!) at the honking trailer.
“You all right?” asks Teresa. “All I could hear was ‘culito’.”
“They need couple’s therapy, for sure.”
“I asked, are you all right?”
They had barely escaped a close, albeit weird, encounter with a wild man and his gun. Things are quieter now.
Every organism can feel the sun’s absence at once as it dips behind the hills. The toxic red sky turns to a venomous purple. But there was still one more danger to resolve.
“Where’s the hospital? I feel my throat clogging up.”