Rather Than Making You Go To School
You look over to your baby brother to make sure that he hasn’t lost his grip on his bottle. Your mother paces from room to room, throwing blouses and shoes every which way. She hopes that the interview promises her the job, the one she’s been telling you about for weeks. The job she’s talked about so much and with such passion that you begin to think that prepping and pounding out masa for a local panaderia is the best thing you can do in America.
Your brother, mijo, she says.
You look over to Miguel. He fell asleep with the nipple of the bottle hanging off his bottom lip, formula running down his little chest. You slowly take the bottle from him, and gently dab at his body with the bib. He’s wearing a plain blue shirt, and one of your baseball t’s as a diaper – a dark blue center, and black sleeves. Mamá ran out of diapers just this morning, and when she had asked you for a shirt for Miguel you handed her one thinking that she was going to be using it as a pillow or blanket. Not a diaper.
I’ll get the job, chiquito, she said as she wrapped it around his tiny bottom, we’ll get you more shirts. Okay, let’s get going.
You pick up Miguel’s carrier, trying to keep it steady with your 13 year old flaquito arms. Mamá turns to lock the door, then the gate, and walks in front of you. Her chanclas slap the cement the whole way out. You two approach the bus stop that stands just outside the complex and wait for the 38, heading towards the Fashion District. The little hole in the wall apartment you call home sits around the corner from Hollenbeck Park. You hear the quick hissing of the bus’ shifting gears come down the street, and lift Miguel’s carrier up off the bench. Mamá brings her purse up to her chest and begins to shuffle around for a couple dollars. The black rubber that lines the doors pop open right before you two.
Main and 12th, says the driver.
Mamá looks over to you and nods towards the door.
Up up up, she says.
You bring Miguel up to your chest and stretch your legs out in search of the first step, remembering to not put so much of the carrier’s weight on you that you go falling backwards. The sun begins to peer over buildings and beam into the bus as you walk down the aisle. Its color isn’t yellow, nor orange, but rather a multitude of citrus hues and shades that have swallowed each other, producing a color somehow only found in Los Angeles. You spot two empty seats towards the back of the bus and lift Miguel up as you inch your way over to the window. Mamá takes the aisle seat and helps you situate the carrier on your lap. As your bodies sway and dance with the turns of the bus, you watch the city come more alive with each passing block. Iron shop gates are lifted, owners begin to sweep entry ways, and the thump of mariachi rises and fills the air. On this side of L.A., it’s never too early to start blasting the mariachi; your own instrumental rooster, cock-a-doodle-doo’ing from shop to shop.
You grab ahold of the carrier’s handle as the bus begins to slow down along the curb. Mamá sits up and makes her way through the knees and purses that protrude into the aisle way, and you follow keeping a firm hold of the carrier. You both step down from the bus onto the sidewalk and, for a moment, take in the smells and sounds that swirl through the air just above your heads. Knock off colognes and perfumes are sprayed generously by shopkeepers onto tiny sticks of paper and practically shoved into the faces of passerby’s so as to allure them into a purchase, then you catch the scent of your favorite treat, one that you have always thought was made of the most oddly combined ingredients, but still produced a masterpiece.
Mamá, elote? you ask.
Aye, chiquito, come on we’re late!
You frown and look down to Miguel, hoping he’d feel your disappointment, wake, and start crying.
In a few years, you whisper, you’ll cry for elotes.
You walk in front of mamá for a few minutes before you come to the panaderia. She reaches into her larger bag and pulls out a pair of sneakers – immaculately white. Sneakers that she’s kept white and clean for such occasions; gently dabbing bleach on the soles and canvas after each use. She puts her hand on your shoulder as she reaches down to slip off her chanclas, one by one. Then steps into the sneakers she laid on the floor.
Okay, chico, she says as she stuffs the chanclas in her bag, let’s go inside.
She opens the door, and you find a small table close to the counter. You set Miguel’s carrier up carefully in the middle, trying your hardest not to rock him so much that he wakes. Mamá walks up to the counter and sets her items on top.
Hola? she says, Hola.
A small woman walks from the backroom to where mamá is standing. Their introductions are short before they start to take their conversation to the backroom where the woman had come from.
Thomás, she says, watch Miguel. Stay right here.
They walk away. You look down to Miguel, still asleep, and see your baseball-T coming undone. You reach in softly, placing one sleeve over the other so as to loop them around each other and knot them up again, bringing the shirt higher so that it doesn’t fall and wrinkle at his waist. He shifts gently. The bass from the mariachi outside continues to thump, the accordion now beginning to chime in on what feels like an impending solo. With your fingertips still grazing the t-shirt, you look over to the clock that hangs over entry way. 8:48 am. You exhale, stomach beginning to growl for elotes, and look down to Miguel whose hand now wraps around your index and middle fingers. You cross them in his palm.
Fingers crossed, carnal, you say, fingers crossed.
Ryan Garcia is a 27 year old MFA Fiction Candidate currently attending Cal State San Bernardino. His work has appeared in The Pacific Review.