Six in the morning, a blue ray of light leaks from my window shades. Smell of bleach creeps up from the crack in the door. Eyes are wide open, but I can only see one color. White: the color of the ceiling. A figure walks in, the lights turn on.
“Foo, what the hell, I’m tryna sleep.”
“Are you gonna eat or what?” Mom yells. The relationship that I have with my mother became a pattern of silence, day in and day out. It’s been weeks since we’ve actually had a conversation. Although, her silence speaks for her. As I got further away from my childhood, so did the days of us spending our time together. It feels like I’m a tenant in her house, desperately trying to avoid an awkward situation. There’s just a general disconnect between us. Seems like everyday she gets harder to grasp. She makes me food, so there’s a sign she cares.
It’s hard to get up in the morning. Without motivation. My school was basically giving out gift cards for attendance. But why am I going to a school just to be babysat for eight hours? Before I get up I usually stare at the wall until I have to get up.
Not trying to eat cold food, so I better get up.
I get to the kitchen. Mom is standing there trying to pick at something that’s stuck on a dirty plate.
“Good morning,” I remark quietly.
“Good morning,” she replies. Doesn’t look at my eyes for an extended period of time. Her eyes point to a bowl that’s sitting on top of our table. It’s Huevos Rancheros, with a bottle of Tapatio to the side. There isn’t steam, so I guess I’m late.
“Thanks, mom,” she gives me a blank look, her eyes look tired. Then she looks away. Can’t help but wonder what she thought she was looking at.
The table has been in the same place for years. I look all over; stains, rings and scratches. It’s too quiet. It’s been a long time since multiple people took a moment to sit in these chairs. My sister stays at her father’s, he won half custody of her. The house is empty now. Actually, today I’m supposed to pick her up.
Dickies and a white t-shirt, this style can be called simple, yet if I ever walk into a store I get stared down. Things you notice when you put yourself in a group like myself. There’s a constant feeling of being watched. Eyes behind me following me everywhere I go. Either it’s paranoia, or the Asian lady at the liquor store follows me around when I enter her store. I’m kind of tired of this usual attire, so I’m going to wear my grey 501s and my Dodger bomber jacket.
“Creases so sharp, you’ll cut your eyes looking.” I don’t know who I’m talking to. God, that was corny. Bottom line, if you’re paying attention, I keep my sh*t clean.
On my dresser is a Jesus piece, yellow 14k gold, glistening like the stars when I hold it up in the sun. Wearing this has become so trivial, I forgot how much it was, I forgot what it represents.
Supposed to pick her up at 2, it’s 10. Don’t got the time to kill, better leave. The door is open. Sun is blaring in my face. No clouds in sunny West Covina, which is unusual, lately it has been raining. But, hey, no rain today, I’m not complaining. Heat waves rising from the asphalt, I can see cars swishing around, parking.
“Aye foo,” I hear a voice yell out. My homie Marco, he’s lived next to me longer than I can remember. Wouldn’t call him my best friend, but he’s the realest person I know. Also the only Mexican I know with blue eyes, which caused people to assume he was white. Truth be told he practices the culture more than me.
“Aye, whatcha doin’ out right now,” I yell out. Marco was always a night person, one of the reasons he lives in his dad’s garage. We’d be kicking it late at night, and he’d get mouthed off, soon as he took a step in his house. I guess his dad got tired of being awoken by a squeaking door and a marijuano scrummaging for food.
He nervously stuttered, “Got court today.” Swinging his hands back and forth, he scratched his head. “I’m not tryna get locked up foo, all I got is my freedom.”
“You ain’t even making money on the side?”
“Nah.” His eyes grew bigger, “Got fired for ‘bad customer service,’ some foo came in wanting a plain burger with no bun.” Marco has a low temper, doesn’t take much to push him over, “Foo told me I forgot the onions, I don’t know if he was playing, but I don’t like jokes foo. Hopped out and clocked the foo right there.”
“Yeah, pigs got called, now I can’t go to McDonald’s anymore,” he said, eyes flaring. You can tell that the wounds are fresh, I was picking at it.
“So, whatcha gone do?” At this point, I can’t tell what Marco’s options are. Homies been skipping court, but it just adds time.
“Don’t know, just gotta try to get my worth up before I go in,” Marco explained.
“Do what you gotta do, I’ll put half a hundred in your commissary.”
“Thanks G, but I’m not getting locked up,” Marco promises, as he stretched his arms up.
“Ight, late, gotta go pick my sister up.”
“Late, foo” He said, his voice faded and we walked away from each other. Life is short. Now it seems like more kids are ending up like us, new ones are getting churned out every year. Slew of kids trying to parade how down they are. Everyday, we would watch cartoons at my house because I was the one with cable. Fast forward, this foo’s coming to my house because his dad kicked him out. Scrolling through his phone talking about who got lighted, who got exposed as a lame, and who got jumped. Time changes all of us, come present, he’s all marked up, looking for a place where he hasn’t gotten inked yet.
Bus stop is a block away and the walk is loud. Music helps with the noise. I'm quite resourceful with the album download Google search. Got thousands of songs downloaded, can’t afford $9.99 a month for no Apple Music. I can feel the bass of a truck at the front of the light. It flows through my body. I don’t know how a system can make the bass that loud. The bus is approaching. I grab my bus pass, there’s only 5 rides left. That’s one now, and two for my sister and I. Two rides, I don’t have the money for a new pass. Jesus, I only have a bus pass with barely any rides to my name.
The bus to San Gabriel, well actually the bus to El Monte Station, then to San Gabriel. Flimsy doors fail to open the first time, the musty bus driver is forced to get up and open the doors himself. He looks tired and annoyed, like he didn’t want this to be his career choice. I’m not the one to initially judge someone, but I just have this intuition about this driver. He sits back in his seat and his eyes indicate me to pay. My pass goes in once, then twice and a third time. I hate the feeling of keeping the bus from starting. Luckily, there’s a free seat. Now, I just wait.
There’s really only a few ways to make an escape: television, reading, denial, and what I use, music. Music is what yells in my ears when my mother ignores me. Music ain’t gone up and leave like my dad, that’s why I have it all downloaded. As a kid, music influenced me into who I am today. I don’t know if that was a bad thing, but I could care less, I love music.
Looks like I’m at the station. God dammit, I forgot to ask the bus driver for a transfer.
“Hey, I forgot to ask for a transfer.” It’s a gamble asking for a transfer. Nice bus drivers will comply, but most of the time I get shut down.
“Can’t do anything, you should’ve asked when you got on,” the driver persisted. In hindsight, I knew this wasn’t going to work. That’s one ride left I’m going to have at the end of the day.
Hopefully I’m not left waiting for the next bus for too long. Times my mom would promise me a ride, those same times I’d be sitting on the curb waiting. After hours I just gave up, you can't keep waiting on a promise. Rude awakening, nobody’s coming for you. Ain’t in my nature to wait on nobody. My patience was diminishing, down little by little, like an hourglass.
An older, frail looking lady fell to the floor, it took me a long three seconds to realize that there wasn’t anyone willing to help her up. I extend my hand to her. She looks scared, doesn’t seem like she processed what had happened completely. Her hand holds on to mine, feels like rough leather.
“What’s your name?” she asked. I noticed a tone of relief in her voice. Wonder what would have happened of her if I didn’t help her out.
“Tomas.” I never liked my name. The only thing my father bothered to give me.
“Thank you, Tomas,” she pronounced. Honestly, it might sound bad, But this is contrary to most old people who think I’m causing a commotion just by my presence. It feels good.
The intercom announced that the bus to San Gabriel was leaving, I didn’t notice it’d came. Running is the only option now. Run in front of the bus, trying to be Spider-Man and stop it. Ha, it actually worked. The doors opened, the bus driver made a sarcastic clap. The lady walked towards the bus.
She said, “Let me pay for this boys ride.” She smiled at me, “The least I can do. ” Gave her a smile back, head to my seat. I’ll have 2 rides now.
I’m tired of this bus ride, every single Sunday. It’s a lonely ride. The most entertainment that happens is everything I see out the window. Every time, it’s just me. Sitting, waiting, and thinking.
Wheels screech and the doors open, the hoard of fresh air is consumed in the area. Time to leave this moving hell.
It’s just another walk till I pick my sister up. Longest walk yet, I don’t particularly like my sister’s father. Maybe I’m just jealous, but envy isn’t it. He’s possessive, my sister isn’t a trophy, she isn’t something you can write off. It turns my head, how a court can make a child go through that. I watched her grow up, love her with all my heart. And this foo comes back after abandoning her for years, and he expects to be entitled to her. She’s only five, what happens if he wants full custody? What happens if she forgets me? I don’t want to be just a distant memory in her past. I just want to see my sister grow and do something good with her life. More than what I’ve done with mine.
It’s hard to knock on his door and look in his eyes. Probably the most difficult thing to do. I have to put my animosity behind me. The door opens, and a slender man looks at me. His arm extends, his veins bulging out.
“Hey, you got my sister.” I reject his handshake attempt.
“She’s in her room, I’ll go get her.”, He says, walking away. He heads deeper in his house, I can view him guiding my sister over here. Her eyes light up, she jumps up with all the happiness in the world and gives me a hug.
“Hey, you look taller.”
“I do?” she said, her eyes wide open. She lifts her foot up to show me her new shoes. I might not like him, but at least he’s keeping her happy.
“Yeah, how old are you now? Eight?”
“Nooooo…. I’m five,” she said with a slight lisp.
“Okay, c’mon let’s go.” I pick her up and put her on my shoulders. She waves to her dad as we walk away.
“I lost a tooth, I p-put it under my bed and I got a dollar.” she explained. I’ve always missed being a child. They say ignorance is bliss. I remember when I succumbed to reality, I walked in on my dad and a crack pipe. I didn’t know what he was doing back then, I thought it was just another day. He looked at me, his eyes began to twitch. Pouring out, tears out of his eyes. I couldn’t understand why. I felt maybe he was mad that I got home late.
“I’m sorry, mom didn’t pick me up, I walked all the way here,” My voice was frail. I was feeling guilty for something that wasn’t my fault
“I can’t do this anymore. I love you, Tomas,” my dad loosely said. His voice was frail as well. He was swallowing his words. He couldn’t look me in the eye. His feet patted on the floor, farther and farther away. The last time I saw that man.
I can’t tell you why he chose to never come back. I wonder what he thinks when he wakes up? Was that his fate, to completely dissociate with his child? Maybe, maybe not? I don’t know what someone else is destined to do, I don’t even know what I’m destined to do.
“Can I borrow a dollar?”
“No, it’s mine. We taking the bus again?” she questioned.
“Yes, how else are we gonna get home?”
“I don’t know. Where’s your car?” she asked.
“I don’t have a car. But I’ll let you know when I get one.” We’ve made it to the bus stop. All we got to do now, is wait. But my sister’s more impatient than me.
“When is the bus going to be here?” she yelled.
“Patience foo, it’ll be here soon enough.” Coincidently, I can see the bus lights flashing ahead. Timely, like that. I grab my sister’s hand.
I walk onto the bus and grab my pass, I’m tired of doing this. Maybe they’ll let my sister just go in, I mean, she is a child.
“Do I have to pay for my sister? She’s like 5.”
The driver responds with, “Nah, it's okay she can go.” Yes! That’s 3 rides I’ll have.
“Also can I get two transfers.” The transfers popped up, as fast as I can I’ll grab them. Sister already found a spot. I’m going to act like I don’t see her.
“Get over here!” she yells aloud. The whole bus turns quiet and looks at us. I sit down and doze off.
At the station, the other bus is already there. We hop in and put the transfers in. Find a seat and doze off again.
A couple of more blocks. Fresh off the bus. Just a couple more blocks till my day is over. The streetlights enlighten the path. All I want to do is get my sis and I home. My feet ache. You know what, I got three rides left. The high school career center is just a ride away. Least I can do for myself and my mom. A legal hustle. Years back, I used to sweep my uncle’s barber shop. Can’t be that hard. I want my mother to be proud of me, look into my eyes and see something she can brag about. Just watch, change is going to come.
My house is right there. 6 o’ clock. West Covina dark as hell, but it’s my home. I’m hungry, forgot lunch.
“Here we are.” I give sis a big hug.
“I love you so much.” She reaches in her pocket and gets a dollar out. She puts it in my hand and starts walking towards to the door.
“Are you coming?” she asked.
“I’ma head to the store real quick.” A dollar isn’t much. Those beef jerky things are fifty cents, though. Stop some grumbling. I gave sis a smile, she gave one back. Start walking away. Can hear the door open, and my mom starts talking. It’s always quiet walking at night, obviously but in alleyways that there’s no light in. My fears tell me the dark isn’t a good place. But only light can come from a dark place, right? I can hear every step I take. I feel something go against me, it’s cold.
“Give me that chain, foo.,” Aa voice mutters.
“You’re gonna have to catch a body to get this chain.” I usually carry a blade on me. Didn’t want to think of starting any drama in front of sis, so I left it home. The guy got in front of me, pointing a cuete [gun] in my face.
“I’m not gone ask you again,” the voice persists. His blue eyes light up the rest of his face, . Can’t believe.
“Give me the fucking chain foo,” Tthe voice yelled.
“Alright then, I thought you’d be smart. I’m gone take that chain.” He yelled and clicked the gun. Doze off.