Grey hoodie pulled tight over her head. Concrete grey San Diego sky on a cool, restorative autumn morning. Staring out at it. Entranced. Eyes as glassy as the smudged pane on the sliding glass door I’m staring through. Knowing the drabness won’t make it passed noon, which is a generous estimation. A climatic tease. Wishing it’d hang around a little while longer. On my Sad Boi shit.
Podcast about serial killers playing at a low volume.
Even though I tell people I’m not really into podcasts or serial killers.
Like it somehow makes me better or more interesting.
Entertainment now in its McDonald’s era.
McDonald’s now in its entertainment era.
K, filling a bucket with peanuts; infinite-shaped shells; exoskeletons encasing them; so easy to crack open; maybe eternity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Too-heavy sliding glass door with an inoperably loose handle.
Have to push it from the opposite end by splaying your palm flat against the fingerprint dotted pane, generating friction. Still can’t open the mf. Have quit trying.
Its handle ornamenting the door like a man’s nipples. The vestige of utility.
Door without a functional handle like a cement-paned widow.
Her, opening it effortlessly and stepping out back barefoot.
The yard-less backyard. A concrete expanse instead of grass.
Cat cadavers beneath the earth beneath the concrete beneath her bare feet.
Big and dry and swollen. More like elephant feet than those of a human.
Dumping the peanuts in the flowerpot for crows. Every morning like clockwork.
Like the dervish prayer clock that blares daily from upstairs between 4 and 5 A.M. The exact time fluctuating per the lunar cycle K explained when we were quarantining with COVID. Brought it back with me from Mexico like my passport or a souvenir. Followed me across the border. Like a hex. Never saying that, though. K, thinking she infected me. Considering it something worse than luck. I let her think that. Better than coming clean. Feel bad about it. Feel less guilty about it the longer I’m there.
Getting high and talking with her about black magic. Thinking how funny it was. Gnarly. But not in a metal kinda way. The way that gnarls you. Pot invalidating rationale. Leaving me catatonic with fear. The joke on me in the end. Always is. Never seem to transcend the punchline. Cosmic caste system. Once life makes you a meme, it’s OV. Though I think life makes a meme out of everyone in the end. Still would rather be a meme than a martyr. Me, always starting with a face like Bro, you’re tripping, and end up being the one who’s tripping like setting booby traps when you’re blacked out and falling victim to your own paranoia.
A spliff to the face and suddenly I’m convinced I’m cursed.
K, laughing because I thought I was losing it when I heard the alarm at the most random times each morning. 4:45, 4:36, 4:52, 4:24. Coulda started placing bets on when that mf would ring. Suddenly it made sense. Reinstated order. Never knew how much I appreciated order. In moderation at least. Because in excess, it’s oppression. But more on that later. Getting ahead of myself. Prior to that, stg it felt like some kinda joke.
Like, bro, why tf’s that alarm going off at different times? Low-key thinking they were pranking me. Being suspicious only making me more sus.
Hearing the alarm, without fail, while getting ready for work. After showers. Before I started taking them in the evening. Realizing I have to get my sleep wherever I can like scavenging for food in a tundra. The extra 30 min. making all the difference existing in this routine. Like converting dollars to pesos. Like spending dollars in Mexico. Every exchange has a conversion rate.
Amplified value; diminished value.
Pervasive inflation like we were using blow-up dolls as currency.
Sitting in a chair in the high-ceilinged foyer. Darkness adding depth. Like it was drilling into the ceiling. Feeling like what I’d imagine it feels like to be stuck down in a well at night and staring up a shaft of oblivion telescoping up to more oblivion.
A channel to more nothing than you could ever fathom.
More nothing than anyone would know what to do with.
But amounting to nothing all the same.
Or maybe being one of Buffalo Bill’s victims. Imprisoned.
Gotdamn, that would later prove more prescient than I’d like to admit.
Brown tiled floor. Pulling on my brown, leather work boots.
Crisscrossing the waxed laces in hooks before tying them.
Eyes aching. Straining open. Like that scene from Toby Maguire-era Spider-Man—the best iteration—when he’s restraining a train. Stopping it in its tracks. Like when you do planks or try to hold yourself up on a pull-up bar. Even coming up short when competing with yourself like losing was in your DNA.
Sitting a minute and staring up at the ceiling. Expended before I step out the door.
Bracing myself. Locating what dregs of composure I have left.
Like what can the day or even this world take from me if I don’t got shit to give?
Glass-half-full kinda guy because that’s as full as it’ll ever get.
Truths get easier to choke down the older you are.
Like medicine you get used to taking that doesn’t cure your disease.
Just helps you live with it is all.
Lighting a cigarette as soon as I step outside and keeping it pushing.
This, this is the way.
‘They’re smart, huh?’ I say about the crows. Indicating what I’m talking about with a nod. Mostly making conversation. To be polite. Deathly hung-over. Puteado and pouring a cup of coffee the same color as Tijuana street water from a drip pot. Agua negra.
Those streets will stain you if they catch you slipping.
It just takes one errant step to get walked across the River Styx. On God.
K looks at me like, Bro. She says, ‘Incredibly intelligent,’ with scrupulous severity. Borders on satire. Like she’s satirizing herself but doesn’t realize yet—making herself a meme. ‘They can remember faces,’ K elaborates as I sip my coffee with evaporated milk at the kitchen island.
Never tried evaporated milk before living here.
Before moving into this room for $850/month.
Only place I could afford. Pay it in cold, hard cash money.
No paper trail; she made that abundantly clear.
Crisp bills I stuff in an envelope to stuff in our secret stash in the garage.
Feels like we’re close to basically stashing that shit in the wall like dead bodies.
On some serial killer shit. Straight outta those mfing podcasts.
Balling tf out. Almost feels like living in a trap house.
Or like she’s my Mafioso boss I’m kicking up to.
Maybe I’ve been watching too much Sopranos.
Which my tracksuit totally corroborates.
Must be 3 bands in that mf now. And counting.
But evaporated milk’s all right.
No different than cream. The multiplicity of singularity.
I stg all this weed is melting my brain.
Paused the podcast outta respect as soon as K emerged.
‘Cause who wants to listen to that shit this early?
Wasn’t expecting to see her up this early in all honesty.
Not a knock on her. Just surprised is all.
K’s standing on the other side of the counter. The one partitioning the kitchen from the living room with the L-shaped couch and TV. The couch I saw Z on a few weeks back, convalescing and fending off COVID. Hoodied tf up and watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Carlton on his bullshit. Weeks after K and I had it. Didn’t make much sense either because that fool never leaves the house. And that’s not an exaggeration or sleight. How are you not gonna get COVID from us and suddenly come down with it? Like, What, our COVID isn’t good enough for you? That’s as bad as getting fired on your day off. Culo muerto. Kinda sus tbh.
Like, damn, this house must be cursed fr or something.
Or you must be getting into some shit we don’t know about.
But whatever. Not my business. Eff it.
Me, making coffee and waiting for it to brew when he told me N went through my shit. Took a picture of my ID and sent it to A. Asked who tf I was. Some rando shacking up in his house while he’s off in Arizona doing God knows what. Saw my shavings on the bathroom sink while I was in TJ. Spazzed.
Had me shook for a week after hearing that.
‘Fuck, did I just make it awkward?’ Z asked. ‘Did you not know?’
‘Nah, it’s cool,’ I said, feeling the opposite.
Percolating machine gurgling. Bubbling.
Like it was mimicking my guts.
K talks about the crows and it makes me feel halfway half-witted at best.
Because, for me, faces are a nebulous mass of indiscernible features.
Meat pushed through a meat grinder.
I look at faces, and it’s like static on a television set.
Like lights blurring by outside an Uber window after (over-)imbibing at a bar. Verging on blacking out. An Uber with a broken seatbelt it took me half the ride to realize was broken. Spent fifteen minutes trying to figure out where the hell it was. Freaking out. Groping and pawing at the seats like some sleaze-ball Hollywood exec to a budding starlet.
Smoking cigarros outside the backseat window. Rebuking the driver’s offer of pulling over to smoke pot before dropping me off as kindly as possible. Feeling something like love—affection. Degenerate hospitality is my love language. Getting loaded together is my love language. Shit, if this guy’s trying to fuck me, I guess he’s off to a good start. He knows all the buttons to push.
Keeps pushing for us to pull over and smoke, and I’m back there, like, Bro, weed is a match to my kerosene condition. Involuntary immolation ain’t on the agenda. I’d prefer martyrdom via slow, self-imposed destruction, thank you very much. Got in the car, and spotted the Tecate Blue he was sipping on immediately. Invited me to merk cans in the back. Like, Hell yeah, bro—whipping and sipping. Told me I could smoke if I wanted to. Me, getting exponentially drunker. Handing him beers from the case I had.
‘Mi cheve es tu cheve, compa,’ I say, and he laughs.
Waking up the next morning and feeling awful about it.
Hangover compounding the guilt. An accessory to drunk driving.
Practically encouraging it in the back seat.
The same Uber driver who crossed himself before starting the ride because we were near a church. Me thinking, Should I be scared he’s crossing himself like a Kamikaze pilot before driving me? This fool know something I don’t? Is he about to wild the fuck out and take my gringo ass with him?
Then remembering the church around the corner from my studio apartment.
One room. One bathroom. No door on the bathroom.
Just beaded cords hanging off the doorframe.
Bbygirl came over and took one look at it.
Said, ‘It’s so gringo,’ with palpable disdain.
Me, not really giving a fuck because I was just tryna fuck.
Mini-fridge. Hot plate. TV. Couch. Bed. Vomit-colored walls.
Tecate Roja cans occupying every vacant surface like San Diego homeless encampments. If home is where your heart is, that shoebox is exactly what I deserve.
‘Necesito regresar a la casa antes de puedo fumar mota,’ I tell the driver.
Still, talking shit nonetheless and requesting Biggie Smalls:
I Got a Story to Tell to Kick in the Door to Respect to Everyday Struggle to Me & My Bitch to Unbelievable to Notorious Thugs.
Not in that exact order, but you get the point.
♩♬ I told you that bitch was scheisty bitch.♪♬
Uber Driver trying to sell me weed and pussy while we swerve.
Showing me pictures of prostitutes on his phone.
Navigating the winding highway from TJ. Colonia Cacho, more specifically. Mi barrio. En route to Rosarito. Lights from houses festooning the slopes like Christmas decorations. Looking over the edge. A precipitous drop if we make one wrong move. Just takes one errant move to plunge into the River Styx.
Snaking through the hilly terrain.
Well-after midnight. Low-key wanna request ‘Round About Midnight’ by Miles Davis but that that ain’t the vibe. Well-aware I have a propensity to kill a vibe with a serial killer’s fervor—like it’s what I was put on his earth to do. Ashing my Lucky Strike out the back window but some ash still blowing back onto me. Like pissing into the wind. Dumping decanted cans out the window while approaching a police checkpoint like water from a sinking ship.
Case of beer tucked between my legs.
Surrogate for my tail.
‘Bro, esconde eso,’ the driver says, so I close my legs.
There’s not much else I can do.
Atmosphere undergoing a sudden seismic shift; deluge of severity.
Low-key panicking. Shitting bricks.
Or probably high-key. Painted all over my face.
Like cocks dickhead compas draw on your face if you pass out at a party.
‘Que debo decir?’ I ask as we get closer.
‘No te van a decir nada a ti, morro. Calmate.’
Feeling like a bitch boi for complaining now. This anxiety taking every ounce of joy from the beers and Biggie Smalls and burying it in a pile of wet dog shit.
I pretend to chill. Light a Lucky Strike. Stare out the window.
Drunk, sightless eyes as vacant as the limitless sepia sky.
Like staring into an abandoned mineshaft.
Bright lights. Flashing lights. Red and blue lights.
The sound of idling cars with humming engines at the checkpoint.
Inching forward. Incremental travel.
Abrupt congestion like when you drink Peñafiel too fast.
Feel it in your chest like you might burst.
Explode like a Piñata.
Discharge candy-coated self-loathing and misanthropy confetti in equal measure.
Like you’re a blow-up doll getting fucked by a needle dick.
Cop waving us through without much acknowledgment.
Feeling relief when we’re burped out the other side.
But the kind that brings a little vomit.
Biggie back up to 10. Fuck it, up to 11, güey. Pretend it didn’t happen.
Him, delivering me to the house. Said he’d take me places but never told me it’d be where I wanna go. Trying to convince me to smoke weed one more time. Says he has that gas, bruh. California weed. Same weed he delivers like Uber Eats. Industrious at the very least. The world has gone to shit because people want more than they can hold in their hands, so I only use mine to dap fools up and dip out.
I say, ‘Nah, perro, no la necessito ahora. Ya estoy demasiado pedo, güey.’
But I still take his number.
Because who knows when I’ll need that?
You can never have too many plugs when you have this many vacant sockets.
More sockets than were in putrefying skulls in Gacy’s crawlspace
Save his number under ‘Uber Fool.’
Still haven’t used it. Doesn’t mean I never will.
Climb out the car, stagger to the house, and bang my fist against the door. It rattles. Makes a racket like rattling a cage.
‘Joshuis,’ I yell. Hachis comes first. Sweet pup who’s apparently mamon. Didn’t even realize it until they broke it down for me. Everything I’ve interpreted as affection a display of dominance. Like I might as well call that pinche perrito daddy. Humiliation its own love language. As close to a universal one as it gets tbh. We’re existing in two different realities. Two different constructs. But occupying the same space. The same moment. Like how my idea of heaven is a never-ending Jersey Shore episode. Which is the opposite of heaven for some poor, lost souls.
Practically semi-conscious. On airplane mode.
Like those animatronic figures at Chuck-E-Cheeze. The ones that shred.
Smoking Cali-grade dank with J at that expansive table out back.
Just me and J like an alternate universe where Jesus was a lame and no one bothered to show up for his last supper.
Maybe that’s what really happened for all we know.
Pre-Internet, word of mouth was as good as gospel.
Though maybe nothing’s changed. We just do a good job of pretending it has.
Open a beer I don’t finish. Take a tandem of sips and that’s it.
Artificial palm tree tipped and resting on the string lights festooning the small glass and rusty, metal-pillared awning housing the grill. Gone all The-Floor-Is-Lava.
Not touching the ground and hanging on for dear life.
Recollection fragmented at best now.
Barely lasting an hour before passing out crossfaded.
Took me 1.5 hours just to get there.
Ordering the Uber and waiting until 2 A.M.
Just as engaged passed out as when awake.
Drunk at a birthday party. Months later. Still in TJ, and not the only gringo at this function. Should make it feel less lonely but somehow only makes me feel more alone. Bbyangel, dancing. Motioning me over. Me, not feeling comfortable or even that well.
Sugar to shit.
She told me on the way other gringos would be there like I should be excited.
‘Amor,’ Bbyangel says, ‘ven.’
‘No quiero bailar, baby. Me siento raro en mi estamogo.’
‘Necesitas algo? Puedo ir a la farmacia para pastillas si quieres.’
‘No, baby, esta bien. Solo necesito sentar y relajar y tomar agua.’
Her, not buying it. Like when I used to say I felt sick before school because I had a test. Like, sure—real convenient this is when your stomach feels bad. When you say the beer is making you feel bad. But whatever. I’d be lying if I said I felt bad about it.
Cumbia. Rancheros. Reggaeton.
Tacos de Asada. Tacos de Adobada.
Smoking cigarettes. Family I don’t know; came for her to show me off. Can’t help feel she realizes it’s like showing off knock-off Gucci sunglasses. A fake Louis Vuitton belt. Stitching telegraphing fraudulence. Intrinsic inadequacy.
Locating the verve when they play La Chona. Getting up to dance. Self-consciousness evaporating like water on a stove. Like when we don’t have hot water in TJ or Rosarito and have to boil it for showers. Cut it with cold water. Dilute the heat. Ladle water with a cup and dump it over your head like a degenerate baptism.
Then playing musical chairs.
Getting my second wind when they play Puto by Molotov.
All the Mexicans line dancing to ‘Achey Breaky Heart.’
But a Mexican rendition.
♩♬ No rompe mas, mi pobre corazon.♪♬
Most not realizing it’s originally American.
Billie Güey Cyrus.
Old fool named Chambuco dancing. The groundskeeper, for lack of a better word. Getting down. Like, Fuck it, mask on. But fr wearing his mask the whole time. Culo muerto. Not taking it off until the women tell him it’s weird. Then he takes it off. White beard out. Enjoy yourself, fool. Do the robot. Get fucking down, bro. Eventually crawling around like a dog. Barking, too. Confounding me. Not getting it until the next morning when Bbyangel tells me that it was the song. The song was about a dog or some shit. Hungover and laughing until it hurts my head.
Like, Oh damn. That makes sense. I thought he was just wilding.
One of those things that suddenly makes sense but still doesn’t.
Still, everyone cracking up because of it. Straight dying. The antics. Vato loco.
Lights suspended on the DJ booth beaming colored darting spheres on the ground.
Tiny bulbs like lite-brites covering the front of the booth itself.
Kid behind the turntables even laughing when the old fool starts bailando.
Kid behind the turntables directing traffic when it’s time to do the piñata. Taking control of the situation. Commandeering everyone so that there’s some semblance of order. Me, going to the cooler to get another beer. And then another. And then another.
Raising the piñata like from the gallows. Chambuco on the roof with the rope in one hand and a beer in the other, cigarette pinched between his teeth. Almost looks like he’s fishing up there. Making it go all crazy. Making that mf dance and making me wanna make it rain outta respect. Making that hollowed out mf dance just like I was—emptiness and all. Chambuco, the executioner. Somehow makes his moves make more sense. Like, it’s cathartic, that fool hits the dance floor and exorcises demons, bro. He makes it so the people trying to nail the piñata don’t have a goddamn chance.
Almost feels vindictive. Like, Bro, you’re enjoying this a little too much.
I just watch everyone take turns when they’re called up to bat by the DJ.
Them, swinging the decapitated broomstick with a blindfold on.
Like Jedi in training.
Me, barely able to contain the laughter.
Looking at it and thinking it looks like Mexican VR.