Loco Hombre’s Journey Home by Jay Helmstutler
Loco Hombre’s Journey Home
by Jay Helmstutler
Gonna drive this motherfucker Marcos out to the middle of nowhere and finish this shit. Or should I say, get this shit under way. Been four fucking years on the run. Four fucking years of hiding away in this shithole hick-town that ain’t my real home, this podunk fucking no-man’s-purgatory where I can’t even be no real man cuz a real man don’t need to hide away from his real life for no four fucking years. Can’t believe my coward ass waited this long to get this shit underway, to get this shit back out from underwater, my life, man, these four fucking years of my life that I done wasted here without her, drowning. Well tonight, I’m coming up for air. Tonight, I’m coming back home to be resurrected and redeemed. And ain’t no motherfucker, friend family or foe, gonna stand in the way of Ricardo getting back to his beloved Magdalena before the dead of night gives way to the dawn.
—Ricardo, you crazy, man. Muy loco. All talking like you gonna go back in time and be with her again. I got news for you, hombre. Ain’t no time machine been invented yet.
—Don’t need no time machine, Marcos. Fuck that. I’m gonna go back to where I came from and find her. That simple. Whatever she may be doing now.
—Man, she probably got a family now. You know she got a man, fine as you say she is. Probably got kids now, too. A lot of things can change in four years.
—Don’t matter, holmes. Me and her together for life.
—Together? Man, you ain’t even seen her since you left that place you grew up in.
—Don’t matter. We been together all this time. I know she think about me every day.
—That ain’t together, though. I may think about some bitches I used to be with, but that don’t make us together no more.
—It all depends on what you believe, holmes. You got to have that belief, see? That faith in what you know in your heart.
—You talking all poetic out here in the night air, man. All out in the middle of this field got you romanticizing and what not. Forgetting about your real life. Like Myrna, man. What you gonna do about her?
—I already done what had to be done.
—What? Let me guess. Yeah, I’ve heard this one before. You finally dumped her.
—You could say that.
—Yeah, right. Same way you dumped her last time. Been saying that shit for years now till it don’t mean nothing no more.
—Look, we over. That’s all you or anybody else need to know.
—Yeah, you over. Whatever, man. Been with the bitch four years and you just drop her ass like she was nothing. Just like the last time it didn’t happen. Whatever.
—Yeah, it’s like that. Just more complicated.
—Let me guess. You strangled her ass and left her in a ditch, right? Now where have I heard this one before? Seems like every time we drive out here you talking about some crazy shit like that. Shit kind of twisted, man. Ain’t all that funny.
—I know it ain’t funny. You ain’t seen me laugh, did you?
—I ain’t seen you laugh in ages. That don’t mean nothing. You just playing with a straight face is all.
—Look at me. Right at my face. This look like a mask to you? Do it?!
—Quit playing, man. Why you yelling? Starting to freak me out, Ricardo. All playing like you a madman or something.
—I ain’t playing no more. I’m done playing around in my life.
—Quit playing, man. Tell me you only playing about Myrna.
—I done told you I ain’t playing no more.
—You serious? I mean you really for real here? You really killed her?
—I ain’t gonna say it again.
—Nah. Nuh uh, man. Oh fuck. Fuck no, Ricardo. Tell me you didn’t. Tell me you ain’t for real here. You ain’t really kill her. You ain’t really kill her. If she really dead, it was just some kind of accident.
—Won’t no accident. I’m through with accidents. Accident is what got that bitch killed. Accidentally gonna have my child. I ain’t having that. That won’t the life I wanted. That won’t the life I’m supposed to have in this lifetime.
—You all red, man. Face all red. You just going crazy is all. Hallucinating some shit up to make yourself believe it. Till you even got me believing what you done.
—I ain’t hallucinating. I’m seeing more clearly than ever. And speaking of colors. You the one turning yellow, Marcos.
—Gone and killed her ass after four years. And she pregnant too. Nuh uh. Can’t be. No way can it be.
—Had to be. Had to be. No choice. She left me no choice.
—Even killed that little fetus up inside of her. Your fetus, man. Gone and killed your pregnant girl after four years.
—That’s right, esé. That’s what it’s like when you going off to a new life. Ain’t no choice but to cut off old ties. You gonna understand that pretty soon.
—What you mean, man? What you doing with that knife in your hand?
—You on your way to a new life, my brother. You just don’t know it yet.
—One. Two. Three. Four. That’s one for each year we been friends. You don’t mind if I take your car keys now, do you? Muchas gracias, hombre. You always were the best.
Time cannot erase the bonds of the heart. That’s what my mamá used to tell me.
A lot can happen in four years. Old loves can die. New loves can be born. Anything you can imagine. It’s all possible if it’s the heart.
El corazón. The heart. No surprise the word’s masculine. It’s the heart of the man that suffers the most. Like mine, these past four years. Ever since my Magdalena left me.
We used to have this sex that would light fires in the sky. We used to have these fights that brought the world crashing down. My world crashed down when she left me. I wanted to kill that bitch. But I knew we’d be together again someday. I knew we’d never stop thinking about each other.
She’s never left my mind. I’ve seen her face in the faces of all the bitches I’ve been with. That bitch Myrna, I’d been fucking four years. She was the closest I could find to Magdalena. Same frame. Similar fire inside. But not the same. Never the same. I was just pretending they were sisters or something. But they weren’t. They weren’t even close. Neither was the love we had. It couldn’t hold a candle to the love between Magdalena and me.
Magdalena. Me and her used to have this thing. Sin palabras, we called it. No words needed. Ever since the first time we ever saw each other. Sin palabras, we moved toward each other from opposite sides of the street. Sin palabras, blocking the traffic. Dead center in the middle of the road. Horns honking, but we didn’t give a fuck. We started taking off our clothes right there. Now the horns were honking for us, not against us. Two locos fucking in the middle of the street. Like two street cats. Not a word yet said between us.
Time can’t erase memories like that.
Marcos was wrong when he said there’s no time machine. I’ve been a time traveler for years. Four of them. Cuatro años, man. I’ve been going back in my mind every second. Living in the past and shit. Like some science fiction motherfucker. Living in memories. Traveling back, traveling forward. Hypothetical situations in my mind keeping me from moving forward in my life. Like, what if she still love me? What if? Till one day there won’t no what if anymore. I started having faith in my mind. She still love me. She made a mistake. She calling out to me to travel across time and find her. To go back to the way we used to be.
Only, I know there ain’t no real going back. Not in time. I know this is reality. I ain’t living in no delusional world like some schizophrenic motherfucker. I took a sledgehammer to the time machine in my mind and destroyed it. The memories had gotten old and cold, man. They’d started to freeze my brain. I didn’t need no frozen brain on account of my already frozen heart. So I decided to set out to make some new memories with my Magdalena. Not just to imagine them, but to make them real. I decided this is reality, but I can still have her. This is the present, but she can still be mine.
Fuck the time machine. The only machine I need to get where I’m going is this car.
Marcos won’t mind. He won’t need it where he going. That motherfucker probably already got his own pair of wings by now. Traveling through the past and present and shit. Seeing things from all directions, wherever he is.
Be with me, amigo. You the angel on my shoulder for this crazy ass ride.
Time to crank this motherfucker up and get going.
—That shit was cold, Ricardo. Taking my life like that.
—What you want me to do, holmes? I needed your wheels.
—How the fuck you gonna kill me over a car?
—This ain’t no ordinary car, man. This car got memories behind it and shit. Nostalgic value. You know. All those rides we used to take around town.
—So what? You think I wouldn’t have let you borrow it?
—Nah, man. It was more than that. I knew you wouldn’t come along for the ride I was going on. Not for this one. And I needed my best friend with me, somehow.
—I ain’t your friend no more, Ricardo.
—Come on, holmes. What you mean you ain’t my friend?
—What you think, man? You done went and took my life. Took Myrna’s life too. Like we never even existed or something. Tried to act like that baby up inside of her never existed either. Just wiped it off the face of the earth. You wrong, Ricardo. You dead wrong, man.
—Hold up, Marcos. Cállate for a second. Can’t you see I’m trying to pull onto the highway here? Come on, you assholes! You believe these people? Friday night, and they all driving like it’s a Sunday afternoon!
—Man, you ain’t even trying to listen. Just want to hear what you want to hear. No respect for the wisdom of the dead. I’m out of here, Ricardo. I knew this was a mistake.
—Hold up! Damn, man, can’t a driver get situated on the road? There. Okay now. I’m ready to listen. Got my course set for the next two hundred miles. Gonna be a straight shot back to the old barrio. Now what was you rattling on about?
—Oh, nothing much. You know. Just how your ass should be ashamed for the three lives you took tonight.
—I do what I gotta do, holmes. That’s what separates you from me.
—No, what separates our asses now is life and death. You alive. I’m dead. Myrna’s dead. That seed up inside of her’s dead. Can you understand the difference between dead and alive?
—I understand, holmes. But it’s you the one that’s confused. All coming back up in here after you murdered and shit.
—Murdered. Es verdad. Thanks for reminding me. I was murdered by my own best friend. And for what? Well, let’s see here. First you say you getting rid of old ties. Fine. I can see that. But then you go and call my name, all asking me along for the ride. All contradicting yourself. Yeah, Ricardo. Alright. And you say I’m the one that’s confused.
—You wanna know the real reason I killed you, Marcos?
—I’m dying to know. Actually, that shit’s probably the real reason I’m back here talking with you somehow. Coming back into your head and shit for answers.
—Straight up, man. I’ll tell you why. Because I knew you loved Myrna more than I did.
—What the fuck you talking about?
—See, I knew you could take better care of her than me. You get it, Marcos? Marcos? You still there, man? Done gone dead silent all the sudden.
—Ricardo. What you trying to pull, man? Don’t you know I can see through your lies?
—Look inside your heart, holmes. Then you’ll know who’s really lying.
—Don’t even try this.
—I ain’t trying nothing, amigo. Only thing I’m trying is to show you something inside your own heart.
—My heart ain’t even beating no more.
—Don’t matter, man. Your heart ain’t really in your heart, anyway. Not when it belongs to someone else.
—Yeah, that’s good, cuz my real heart got a knife through it.
—See? You laughing again. That’s good, holmes. That’s what I like to hear.
—Better than my screaming?
—Much better, holmes.
—So you knew, then. You knew I loved Myrna all along.
—Hard to miss, esé. The way you would always ask about her. Make sure I was treating her right. You made me love her even more than I really did. I owe you for that. So does she.
—Is that why you killed me? Cuz if so, I can see that. It was wrong to feel that way about my friend’s girl. I knew it. I knew how wrong it was.
—No it wasn’t. It won’t wrong. That’s just it, esé. Won’t nothing in the world wrong about it. And I got news for you, holmes. She love you, too. Would ask about your ass the same way.
—But you know I never touched her, right?
—I know, holmes. But you should have.
—What you mean, man? If just thinking about her got my ass stabbed, no telling what you would have done if we’d have . . .
—That ain’t what got y’all killed. It won’t a punishment. It was a gift. My departing gift to you both. You two done a lot for me these past four years I’ve been away from my old life. Helped me live day to day. Gave me something to get up for in the morning. I shouldn’t have stood between you so long. Should have brought your asses together sooner. Some other way. But there won’t no other way to do it. Not for you two. Neither one of you live like that. Neither one of you follow your hearts.
—Is that what this is all about?
—That’s what life is all about, holmes. And I’m sick of living any other way. Ain’t you?
—You forget one thing. I ain’t actually living no more.
—Man, what you talking about, holmes? You alive for the first time in your life. Now go and do what you dead for. Find Myrna and be happy, man. She your true love. I’ll bet she thinking of you right now.
—For real, man? How you know?
—Same way I know my Magdalena thinking of me. Same way I know she still back where I’m headed. My heart speaks to me. It tells me what I need to know.
—People change, though, Ricardo. What if she don’t love you no more?
—My heart tell me she do. She tried to kill it but it didn’t die. That’s the heart for you, holmes. Even when your loved one done killed it, it stay alive. Even you got my back on that.
—I got your back alright, hombre. You call on me whenever you need.
—And you remember what it is that you need. Who it is. Myrna. I want to see your asses together soon.
—You loco, hombre. The most loco motherfucker I ever knew.
—Verdad, holmes. Must be true. Why else would I have heard that shit from you every day for the past four years?
Time is funny like that. Scientists still don’t know shit about it. What it is. How to define it. How to alter it. How to travel through it. Yet what I got me here is a genuine time machine. And all it took was a little bit of faith.
All I got to do is keep my foot on the pedal. Don’t let up. See obstacles in my path, don’t slow down. Just keep on moving toward what I feel inside. Toward the place that has always stayed inside of me.
The closer I get to the old world, the more the laws of the universe change. The more laws of the road I break, the more I break the laws of time. Breaking the speed limit gets me closer to my past, so I don’t just break it, I shatter it. Braking cars delay me to my destination, so I dodge them to either side. Fuck them if they get run off the highway. Their fault. Not mine.
This is the world at mach speed. A blur to either side of me, clarity in front. Like I’m driving toward a crystal dimension. Things look shiny there. Things are standing still. They look like they haven’t changed in all these years. The shapes of cities. The hearts of men. All as shiny as the day they were born. Shapes as real as I want them to be. Projections, man. Confessions of my hope. But not delusions. Don’t call them that. No need to be labeling my ass as schizophrenic. I done said before, I ain’t nothing like that.
Truth is, it’s just memories. Cerebral memories that I’m driving through. Road hazards they don’t put up no signs for. It ain’t their fault. They can’t, see, cuz they’d be different for everybody. Everybody’s memories are different the closer they get to some place their heart used to live. Or in my case, some place their heart has never left. It’s just the memories and feelings returning to me is all. The real bad ones, the real strong ones that killed me way back when. It just means that I’m going in the right direction, being pulled by the right magnetic source.
El corazón. Who are they kidding. The word ain’t masculine. The heart’s an object owned by woman. Being pulled by woman. In my case, being pulled by her.
The Magdalena who owns my heart.
Too long, my heart ain’t been where my heart is. Not in my body. With her. I will forgive her only if she decides to take me back.
—You swerving too much, Ricardo.
—Been swerving damn near two hundred miles. Ain’t my fault. You the one should’ve had the alignment fixed, Marcos.
—It ain’t the car, holmes. It’s the maniac behind the wheel.
—Look man, I ain’t the one driving this thing. It’s on automatic pilot. See? Look what happens when I take my hands off the wheel.
—I wouldn’t be doing that.
—See that? And look. Watch what happens when I take my foot off the pedal. Ain’t that something? Car keeps going just as fast.
—It’s called cruise control, esé.
—Man, whatever. Ain’t you learned a thing or two about miracles where you been?
—Miracles. That’s funny. Funny you should mention that, holmes.
—Good things happening then, huh? See, what’d I tell you?
—Nah, man, nothing like that. Ain’t nothing happening where I been. Just a bunch of confusion and darkness.
—You ain’t found Myrna yet?
—Man, I ain’t found no one. I ain’t talked to no one since the last time I talked to you.
—That’s funny. I would’ve thought you’d be hitting it off with her by now. Not to mention hitting that shit.
—Ain’t nothing like that going on.
—You sure you ain’t just keeping it to yourself? Cuz you know there ain’t no need. I’m up in y’all’s corner one hundred percent.
—Look, man. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing over there. Ain’t no one around. No light, no nothing. So I’ve just spent the last few hours cursing your name.
—Hey, look. This ain’t about me. Stop focusing on me over there. What’s done is done. It ain’t about that. It’s about what’s to be done. By you. You gotta stay focused on that.
—Whatever, man. I can’t even see in front of me in that place.
—Then close your eyes and just start walking.
—Yeah, okay holmes. Like the way you drive. Eyes closed and shit. Still pressing the pedal. Some good that’ll do.
—No kidding, esé. That’s the new way you gotta live.
—Maybe you should watch the road.
—Who needs to? I got faith. Watch this. See? My eyes are completely shut, but I know I’ll get where I need to be. You need to have more faith, amigo mío.
—You need to open your eyes, hombre.
—Why’s that? I know what I’m doing. I’m completely in control here.
—Hombre, listen. Necesitas abrir tus ojos.
—¿Por qué, amigo? I can see all things without seeing.
—Then you know you just now merged off the highway, right?
—Not bad, eh? Didn’t even need to see the exit to know I’d made it back after all these years.
—And you know you’re now veering off the road?
—No big deal. A few bumps. This thing got four-wheel drive, right?
—Yeah, but the car don’t float, Ricardo! Ain’t nothing past that guardrail but a lake!
—Little water never killed no one. ‘Sides, I gotta make my dramatic entrance. Like re-entering the earth’s atmosphere from outer space.
—Shit, Ricardo, this ain’t no space shuttle!
—No? Well we about to fly regardless . . .
—Fuck this, man! I’m out before the splashdown! Done already died once today.
Underwater is a fearful place. Time is slowed by the water. Things move in slow motion. Breathing stops. You have to rely on the last breath you took. Whether you knew it would be your last breath or not.
I’ve lived the last four years underwater. I know how to live without breathing. I know how to handle myself down here in the deep.
The lake is an ancient world. Things sink to the bottom. Artifacts. Antiques. But it’s too dark to see them. Even with the headlights of the car shining down.
The car will become an artifact. I will not. I refuse to be damned to the past.
The water doesn’t want me down here anyway. It pulls the car down, but pushes me up.
The passenger window is somehow open for me to escape. That’s Marcos, always looking out for my ass.
Once I kick out past the window, the lake does the rest of the work. Things aren’t moving in slow motion anymore. Instead I’m shooting to the top like a bullet. Like time is speeding up to make up for lost time. Time spent underwater. The minute just past. The four years of my life before that.
The universe is finally turning in my favor. Repaying what it owes me by bending its own rules. Reversing gravity. Cushioning its hardest blows. Like the impact of the crash. I should be a part of the lake right now, sinking down instead of being shot up.
I break the surface and find that I’ve reached my destination. The distant lights of the barrio tell me I’ve returned.
A breath held four years is finally released.
My life, finally picked up where I left it off.
—Nice driving, Ricardo. You really stuck that water landing, holmes.
—Whatever, Marcos. Thanks for staying along for the ride.
—Yeah, my bad. Had a little errand to run while you were taking a dip.
—Yeah? What’s that?
—Just looking some old people up.
—Look Ricardo, she ain’t make it here yet.
—Who you think, man?
—Yeah, who else?
—So where is she, then?
—She still dying, man. In that ditch you left her in.
—Yeah, holmes. Apparently you ain’t finish the job.
—It must be a mistake. They fucking with you over there. She dead. Muy muerto. I killed her with my own two hands.
—Well she ain’t here yet, holmes.
—Then keep looking.
—Ain’t no one to look for. She ain’t here.
—Then what you doing talking to me? Go and find her the way you found me. You know. In the living world.
—To do what? Watch her die?
—Just be with her, man. Give her comfort. Tell her why this happened. Tell her you gonna be able to take care of her as soon as she give up the fight.
—You should be doing this, Ricardo. Not me. This shit should be on your pair of shoulders.
—Stop making excuses, Marcos. Don’t think. Just go and be the man you always wanted to be, with the woman you always wanted to be with.
—Fine, then. Goddamn you, Ricardo. I’m out.
—Hold up, Marcos. One thing first. You can see out farther than me. This the lake next to the old cemetery, right?
—Bueno. Then maybe you could tell me where to find my mamá’s grave. I always figured she’d have been buried here, since this is the closest cemetery to home.
—How come you never told me what you did to your mamá, Ricardo?
—So you know?
—You find out a lot of shit here you never knew before.
—Then she over there in the graveyard for sure?
—She there, alright. Ain’t much of a tombstone, though. Don’t even stick up from the ground. It’s more like one of them baby graves. Just a small cement square laying flat on the ground.
—Have you seen her where you are?
—I haven’t looked. Why would I? Your life ain’t mine. And besides, I been too busy looking for . . . aw shit, holmes, that reminds me. I’d better run and find Myrna.
—You ain’t gonna help me find the tombstone?
—You found this place without looking, didn’t you? I’m sure you’ll be fine on your own.
—Yeah, but now I’m on foot in the dead of night.
—Well maybe you should’ve thought of that before you went and crashed my ride. Later, Ricardo. Oh yeah. And twenty paces up past the cemetery gazebo is where you’ll find your mamá’s grave. But I ain’t tell you that. Just some voice blowing in the wind or something.
Where you at, mamá? I know you around here somewhere.
Need a flashlight out here. Dark as hell. But at least I’m getting dried off. Least it ain’t cold out tonight to make my ass sick or something.
Veinte. This should be it. Okay, now. Where you at, mamá? That ain’t you. That ain’t you, neither. This one over here, maybe? Nope. What about . . . oh shit, mamá. There you are. Right under my shoe. My bad. Didn’t mean any disrespect.
So this is it. This is it? Damn, this the best they could do after I left? Damn shame, mamá. Damn shame they couldn’t do any better. Damn crying shame I couldn’t be here to make sure they did. Cuz you deserve better than this.
Hell, mamá. You deserved better than me all along.
Lo siento, mamá. I’m sorry for many things. Sorry they didn’t give you a better grave. Sorry I’ve never visited you here before. Sorry I never bothered saying sorry.
I took it out on you, didn’t I? When Magdalena didn’t want the baby. I thought it was because you hadn’t raised me right. Because you hadn’t given me the tools I needed to make things work with her. I thought that whatever she wanted that was missing in me was because of you. Because of something you did or didn’t do. Something you could have taught me. Some way that maybe you had fucked up my life.
The truth is, she left me because I’ve always been loco. And that has nothing at all to do with you. I can see that now, mamá. I can see things a lot more clearly. You were never the one I should have blamed.
When you used to tell me the story of papá, you used to tell it as if you had forgiven him the moment he walked out of the door. You always said he had to follow his heart. Never mind that I was just a baby up inside of you who needed a father. You said he never could have been a good father to me anyway. His heart would have been all twisted up in the woman he loved more than you. I always saw it as you giving up on him too easily. Plus giving up on the life your baby might have had. But now I see things differently. I’ve come around to a different way of thinking that’s a lot like yours.
Follow your heart, you always said. Help those around you learn to follow theirs.
I’m finally doing that now. I hope it’s not too late for you to be proud.
That last night here, I was blind. Blind and loco. Already loco from birth, but more blind than I usually was, on that night. The worst possible combination for those around me. For the one person who was trying to talk to me. You.
I’m still loco, mama, but I’m not blind anymore. If only I hadn’t been so blind that last night. I really fucked up, didn’t I? Doing this to you. I damned you to a place where you have to be alone. Because you have no true love to reunite with where you are.
Tell me, mamá: Who was your true love in life? Was it papá? A man who didn’t love you back? Or worse yet: Was it me? Your own son who scapegoated you, stabbed you, burned our house down and ran away?
I’ve done some bad things in this life, mamá. Unforgivable things. But none as unforgivable as what I did to you.
Lo siento, mama. I’m sorry. I came here to say that from the heart.
But that’s not the only reason.
I came here to ask for your blessing, too. Because soon me and Magdalena will be together again. I’m going to marry her this time, mamá. I’m going to do it right. I want you to be there with me in spirit. This time, you really will be a grandmother. I will not let her abort another child.
Hasta luego now, mamá. And keep an eye out for someone named Marcos. He’ll be bringing in a woman named Myrna soon. Be sure to give them your blessing, too.
They can at least ease your loneliness in the place that you are.
I’m off to do the same for myself.
—Marcos. You there, man? I need your eyes. I’m walking out of the graveyard now, trying to find a way to the main road. Will you look up ahead and see if this is the best way to get where I’m going? Marcos?
—Marcos ain’t here right now.
—Who is this?
—Listen carefully. You don’t recognize my voice?
—Myrna? Is that you?
—Yeah, Ricardo. It’s me. Your beloved Myrna. The one you left in a ditch to die.
—So he made it to you, then. Marcos. He’s with you now.
—Yeah, he made it. He was there for me. Unlike you. You were never really there for me, were you, Ricardo? Not
really, I mean. You just played along. Four wasted years of playing along. Then when you done with the game, you just up and strangle me like I never meant nothing to you.
—It ain’t that you meant nothing to me. It’s that someone else meant more. You had the same thing going on with Marcos.
—But that ain’t the way to do things, Ricardo. That shit is wrong. You playing like you God or something, taking people’s lives whenever you want. Taking they lives for them to be together. Taking they lives when you ready to be apart.
—So Marcos explained to you why I did it? How I killed the two of you to bring your asses together?
—He explained it, but I ain’t buying it altogether. You forgetting one thing, Ricardo. The life in me you up and destroyed.
—I thought they’d have a way to fix that there.
—Yeah, well you always was relying on other people to clean up your messes. There ain’t no way to fix it, Ricardo. Some things just can’t be fixed.
—Then I’m sorry. I’ll admit it won’t a perfect plan.
—No, Ricardo, it was perfect. For you. Leaving nothing at all between us so you could go and take care of your business where you at right now.
—It ain’t like that.
—Yeah? Then how is it, Ricardo?
—Marcos gonna . . . hold up. Let me cross this street. See if this take me out to the main road. Streets done changed so much I don’t even know my own way no more. But yeah. Like I was saying. Marcos gonna look after you, Myrna.
—Yeah. Marcos. Marcos gonna clean up your mess. You lucky he a better man than you could ever even pray to be.
—That’s why you two meant to be together, Myrna. Cuz you a better woman than I was ever supposed to be with in this lifetime.
—Don’t play, Ricardo. Don’t be trying to play those head games with me.
—Like I told Marcos, I’m done playing games in my life. I’m going to find the woman I’m supposed to be with.
—What was I, then? A distraction? A way to pass the time?
—No. More like a casualty of the way I used to live.
—How many more casualties, Ricardo? That’s the question on everybody’s lips where I’m at.
—Tell them, as many as it takes to get it right.
—You tell them yourself. Why don’t you be man enough to take your own life? Instead of tearing everyone else’s apart. All you gotta do is step out in front of one of those cars passing by you on the street. Just think of how many lives you’d save.
—Can’t do that, Myrna. Got too much living to do myself. Besides, I know I wouldn’t end up where you are.
—It ain’t too late to redeem yourself, Ricardo. To start over. Start anew.
—You right, Myrna. And that’s exactly what I’m back here to do. Start over. Starting from the place I was born. My old house. I want to see what became of it after I left.
—You mean after you burned it down with your mother still inside of it? Funny how you think you know someone, but you don’t. Not really, anyway. Turns out I never really did know you, Ricardo. I mean, not about your mother or this . . . Magdalena. You was always just hiding your past from me.
—It won’t just you. Don’t take it personal. But hey, I got to go. I think I know where I’m at now. This road here leads back to the old barrio. Got a lot of catching up to do before dawn.
The old barrio is a living snapshot. Same ruin. Same decay. Same old fiends out past the deadliest hours of night. These were the hours I used to see my Magdalena—the hours we used to feel the most alive. I imagine she never left here. Without an impetus, there was no way out. Murder was mine. Two of them, actually. The fetus she killed when she had the abortion. My own mother I killed in my rage. It all sounds so disconnected now. So illogical. Time will do that to old ways of thinking.
Maybe I’m not as loco as before.
Maybe the barrio isn’t either. I’m not hearing any animal cries to answer to. Shapes pass, but looking downward. Not looking in my eyes. They must know a predator when they see one. The cars are afraid to honk, even though I’m walking in the middle of the street. The same street where me and her first met. You’d think they’d have a shrine here or something. They do that sort of thing for cosmic events in some places. But not here. Not in a place like this.
The few blocks between the street we met on and the street I was born on pass so quickly, they may as well not even exist.
This should be the place. An empty lot where mamá’s ashes are preserved. Where no one would dare build in all these years since the fire. Because it’s sacred ground to the one who burned it down. Me.
My eyes can’t believe the desecration. The newly built house on the lot where mamá’s house used to be. How dare they betray me. My eyes. Whoever did this. How dare they both betray me like this.
A light comes on in the window of the house. There is a figure standing there. Unreal.
Dawn is near. So is the end of my journey.
For she is in there.
Through the window.
—Ricardo. My son. It has been a long time.
—Sí, hijo. It is me.
—What are you doing here?
—You are standing in front of the place I never left.
—But I thought you were in . . .
—No, hijo. I have been here all along. Waiting patiently for you to return.
—But why, mamá? Why would you wait for me?
—It’s like I always told you, hijo. Time cannot erase the bonds of the heart. I’ve been watching this place for you all this time. Because I knew you’d want to know what went on here. And also . . .
—Also what, mamá? Why your voice so sad?
—Also because we can’t be together after this. When all is said and done. Because of a certain way you’ve lived. Certain things you’ve done.
—I ain’t done yet. Living. In fact, I ain’t even started. It starts with her. I came back for her, mamá. Not knowing where to start. Something told me to start right here. And now I’ve found her.
—Pretty funny, eh hijo? That she would choose this place to build her new life? Especially since no one else would. They all knew what had happened here. A mother murdered by her son. Who would want her ashes—my ashes—hiding beneath their feet? Who would want this plot, knowing the son might someday return? Everyone knew, so the land went cheap. She had always wanted a home. Just like you used to tell me. Mamá, she want a home. How am I gonna give her one? Mamá, she pregnant, but she aborted the child. Said she can’t be having no loco baby. Remember that night? I know you do. Your words at the graveyard came through to me. She has tried to ignore the history here, hijo. But in her own way, she still thinks of you every day.
—Is she alone?
—You’ll have to find that out for yourself. Keep looking through the window if you want to know.
—Just tell me.
—There. Did you see him?
—I saw him. Sí. I just saw him pass by.
—They are married, hijo. They have their own life. Their own child. See the light there at the far end of the house? That’s their baby’s room. Their infant son. He has just woken them from sleep and they are tending to him. Only, they are foolish to leave their curtains open in the middle of the night. It’s as if they have nothing to hide.
—She is as beautiful as she ever was. Even more.
—Catch your breath, hijo. You’re hyperventilating.
—I can’t. Can’t breathe. Can’t. Easier. Just to hold my. Breath.
—Look away from the window, hijo. Don’t take it too hard.
—No. No way to stop looking. Too glorious in the light. Naked. Just for me.
—No, hijo. Just foolish. Foolish to linger like that wearing nothing. Look away, hijo, before you go crazy. Run away, before she sees you here.
—No. Too late. She knows that I am here. She wants me here. I can feel her inviting me in.
—Hijo, what are you doing?
—Exactly what she wants me to.
—But your clothes! Where are you going like that?
—Back into the house that is rightfully mine. Back into the place that I was born.
—Hijo, no! You musn’t do this! Hijo!!!
The door is wood. I’m hard as metal. Nothing can stop me from breaking in.
My house. Not his. He is the burglar. The stranger to me who stole my rightful life.
I break down the door with all my might.
On their TV, two animals charging each other. In their living room, the same, he and I.
Naked. Primal. Both fighting over the same female prey.
Roaring. Clashing. Recoiling. Charging again.
He knows what I am here to do. She is mine.
His eyes refute it. Mine, he says. But he knows. He knows in his heart that my love is stronger than his, just as his neck knows my grip is stronger than his breath.
She is mine, and she will always be mine.
His eyes do not refute it anymore. They go blind. As blind as they were to have never seen me coming before. To have never known I never even left.
This is my house. She. She is my house. Inside of her is the place that I was born.
The place that I will be resurrected.
—Well, well, well. You proud of yourself . . . Ricardo? That’s your name, isn’t it? Ricardo. Am I right?
—Who the fuck is this?
—Someone you never took the courtesy to formally meet.
—Sorry. Voice not ringing any bells.
—The man you just killed, you son of a bitch.
—That was fast.
—Well it only takes a second to die. To destroy a life. Whereas to build one up takes centuries. Congratulations, motherfucker. You just stole everything I ever had.
—Wrong. You never had it. You never had her. She is and always will be mine.
—I saw your eyes saying that. But I saw no love in them. Just insanity. There’s a difference, you know.
—I know so.
—You think you know something, huh?
—I know more than you will ever know.
—How about what it feels like to have a baby by her?
—Why you mother- . . . if you weren’t already dead, I would . . .
—That’s all you know how to do in this life, isn’t it? Destroy what other people have built.
—You don’t know me.
—I learned everything there was to know about you in the minute you destroyed me.
—You don’t know about me and Magdalena.
—That’s where you’re wrong. She told me about her life with you. She and I didn’t have any secrets.
—Then you should have known I was coming all along.
—I prefer not to live my life in fear.
—Well look at where that way of living got you.
—Like yours has gotten you somewhere better. Are you proud?
—This is exactly where I want to be.
—So be it, then. Do what you will. My eyes will be closed. So long as you send her up to me, I don’t care. So long as you send our baby, too.
—You’ll be closing your eyes a long time before that happens.
—She will never give in to you.
—Keep your eyes open, because we’ll see about that.
We used to have this thing between us, me and Magdalena. Sin palabras. No words needed.
Some things never change over time.
Sin palabras, we see each other across the wreckage of the room. The wreckage of an age spent apart.
No words. No explanations. We move toward each other across the fabric of time.
Past. Present. Future. All colliding. Exploding. Becoming one.
Impossible. Impassible: the distance between us. So much so that only a bullet could traverse it. A bullet fired from the gun I hadn’t expected to be in her hands.
We never make it back into each other’s arms.
A baby is crying. A now fatherless baby. Only now can I see what I have done.
She has shot me through the heart. For real this time. I should have killed her the first time around. But I couldn’t. She’s the only one I could never hurt. The only life in this world I could never take.
I’ve taken everything from her life now.
I’m sorry. Magdalena. I’m sorry for what I’ve done.
I know I’m going to hell for all of this.
* * * * THE END * * * *
Copyright Jay Helmstutler 2015