Notes on Manteca and Fists
It’s the flight of a beer can. The trajectory of a half-consumed Miller Lite. Witnessing this shit, I am six. I am spineless and sick.
A beer can cutting through air. Bird-like. Irretrievably launched. All silvery white and streaked boldly with gold and black.
These beer cans are rockets and starships.
The aluminum—I can smell it.
In my jaw. Stuck there in the folds of throat muscle and each of my many movements. In the tunnel of eyesight that lines up these years of vatos and violencia and this voice that has stomached shit. Aguantando. Peleando.
An intoxicated, furious flight of a beer can.
From my father’s jaw, vicious breath emerges. Maldiciones and mandados. His proclamations and demands are enormous worms. Enraged and gloating.
A beer can in full flight.
I am six years old.
My moms standing in the doorway. Yelling something back at my father. Her hair that was as long as the river and the openness of her throat. Gritandole.
On my way to school, I can hear it. The sound of aluminum hitting bone. I remember the insignia. The precise lettering of the brand name in my father’s hand, leafy dark fronds that converge in my eye as proof of what he was. The imprint the can left on my mom’s chest.
At the end of the tunnel, the tattooed cross digs into his thick, dark muscle, this bicep, which is swollen, and is the type of arm I crave to rest my cheek against now, to smother in my mouth and leave saliva like papers and hairs and other things lovers leave behind so I am never forgotten.
Projectiles and premonitions. Trajectories. Proclamations and worms. A beer can and starships.
His moustache, fat and prominent, above his lip. I’ve kissed this moustache before. Sought it out. Have stalked it and photographed it, dreamed profusely about it. A magnificent bigote. A magnificent smell of a voice as he whispers shit into the slope of my neck or the hole that has become my chest or the mouth that I’ve freely opened for him in anticipation of that which comes next.
I was six. We lived at the Plaza Trailer Park and then the Barker. Ingleside, Texas. Back when my parents were still together, before the Navy settled in town and changed the way we lived, before I fell in love with a pinto, before my Moms took us to Nuevo Mexico one day because she’d had enough, enough of all the bullshit of men and life, and she heard it was real pretty up there, a place to go and start over when you reach that day when you just don’t give a fuck.
My mom with her hair so long, so fucking long, which fell along the spine of her delicate five foot skeleton, down to her ankles, which moved like a long flock of dark sparrows when she danced, which admittedly is her favorite thing in the history of the world to do. My younger sister, morenita, skin as brown as pecan meat, and named after my father’s ex-girl. My baby brother, so young, an infant, still, when my father left us. My mother named him for a man who spoke to her heart--Juan Gabriel.
I have my father’s name and my grandfather’s name. My birth name buried beneath the front porch of our traila, interred between the unruly pink oleander and the China Berry tree, the cuartito of my dreams and pesadillas, the ramshackle dog pen of pit bulls, and the caliche road on which I learned to run.
My name is buried unforgettably in the difficult dirt of our old trailer park, buried in the field of my tattoos, of the culo and corajes, buried beside camaradas and that pedasote of my cora I left in LA.
Beer can. Birthcord. Burials.
I am this instant, this moment, this movement.
Trajectory. Projectiles. Birds.
My name is my father’s name.
One time he told me I wasn’t his. Your mom, she called out another vato’s name when you were coming out. She isn’t as good as you think she is. One time he told me I wasn’t his. Soy del? And am I my father’s inheritance? Am I his tattoos and bullshit? His biceps and infidelities? Soy el?
Baseball bat and tatts. Screen door that flings open menacingly, exposing a sudden, torn sky. Clouds shred into the eye slats of stars, huge stars. Wispy, fiery orange clouds and so much white dust. The starships that never came. The stairs beneath our feet are incandescent, and a caliche horizon that extends to all of genealogy and all of—
You’re not mine, my father told me. Your mother fucked some other dude. Called his name when she was having you. Carlos.
That was the vato’s name.
Am I this Carlos? Am I this man I’ve never known?
Those were different times…
And this is the time of birds. Giant metal birds. Livid birds. La cacaña and aluminum cans. Trajectories and rocketships.
I wield weapons in these fists that fit together like a heart, and in this tangled throat, I swallow recompense, and will there be remorse for all the things I’ve done?
This blood that spirals, soothes, and shoots.
Trajectories. Projectiles. Inheritance. Insignias. Trailer parque. Learned behaviors. Pit bulls and beer cans and baseball bats and shit like that.
It’s the memory of my hand reaching through our torn screen door as my father drives away and the caliche road explodes into billows of beautiful, beautiful white polvo.
It’s the memory of reaching through the slit in the front of my first homeboy’s boxers, feeling it, his pedasote.
It’s putting my hand into a mouth--the saliva and sangre and the texture of tooth on knuckle that stings.
It’s putting my face through a tree, my fist through a mirror, my neck through a sabana and into the arms of my one and only vato.
It’s the trajectory of a beer can.
It’s the memory of walking to my abuelita’s house one morning because my mom wanted me to go see if my dad was there, since he hadn’t come home all night, and when I’m there, my grandma says she hasn’t seen him, doesn’t know a thing about him, and then, as I depart her porch, I see my dad get out of a car with another woman and go inside.
And then, there’s the beer can. Flying. Full flight. Soaring.
I am walking to school. I am spineless and six.
That blue bird in pursuit. Elusive. Evasive, angry as a moth marooned in the dark. Floating beer can. Bird-like. Missiles and miscues. I am waiting hard for that rocket ship.
My mother’s hair. So long. So black. Crystal Gale. Her proudest possession could turn my brown eyes into blue thunderbirds and lazy winds. Hair. So much hair. My father’s fistful of her hair. Dragging. Dragging a human by her hair and her heart. Dragging and she’s kicking, and she’s screaming, and I’m there.
I’m on my way to school.
Mrs. Bliss’s first grade. Soon, I’ll climb monkey bars as high as I can, and we’ll read a story about kites. I wish I could put down a kite ahorita—to Lil Gabriel and Juan and Big Smokey and Sleepy, my one and only, and my old former silent self.
But, my dad’s dragging her to the back room, and what atrocities did I witness, then, in that tiny trailer park hallway in Ingleside, Texas, where the walls squeeze in on you like two hands crushing rocks, like lungs punctured and aveola screeching, the pinnacle of asphyxiation, the acceptance that this is the way it was, the way it is and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.