Pater Noster

Our Father which art in heaven…

My dad hated when my siblings and I misbehaved in church; the House of God as he would refer to it in order to make our actions carry on a more sinful weight. In that stuffy environment full of boring people trying to stay awake, all I wanted to do was anything to distract myself from the holy minutiae bleating out of the preacher’s mouth onto the flock.

My dad would threaten us, “Just wait ’til we get out of here.” Then, once out, he would ask, “Do you know why I’m hitting you?” I always did, nodding up and down with watery red eyes. I preferred my dad’s style of corporal punishment as my mom’s went overboard to borderline abuse. I didn’t enjoy it, but I appreciated it as this was one of the few times that he showed any real interest or concern for me. I liked that.

Hallowed be thy name…

Aside from the occasional corrective beatings he’d bestow upon me, the most detrimental and damning action his hands ever inflicted on me was when he wrote in a name identical to his in the box “Name of Child” on my birth certificate.

His name thrusted upon me his criminality and the shame that accompanied it. My family automatically fashioned a path for me in their minds, one similar to his, one paved with drugs, lies and perdition. “He’ll probably grow up to be just like him.”

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven…

My dad wasn’t a mainstay at our household. If my childhood were a sitcom, he would’ve been a recurring character. However, when he was home, he felt like he was the star of the show, a king and demanded that my mother, my siblings and I do as we were told. Do whatever made him happy.

Even though he was unemployed and unemployable, he felt that any money that entered the house–whether through his wife’s paycheck or his kids’ allowance or birthday money–was his to claim. He was the husband after all. It was his divine right. He would smack my mom and us around if we went against this holy decree. He slapped my sister square in the face when she told him to “get a damn job.” According to him, his job was to take care of us, but the way we saw it, the only person we needed protection from was him.

Give us this day our daily bread…

The money that he did manage to weasel out of my mom was squandered on things that were not bread. He didn’t fit the role of provider very well. The food that stocked our pantry and refrigerator came from what little money my mom made. We often went hungry for whole days. That never seem to bother my dad. I remember telling him that my siblings and I hadn’t eaten all day and that we were wondering if he could pick up a pizza for us. He asked if my mom had given us any money to pay for it. I said no. He told me not to worry, that he would find a way to buy it. He left the house in a hurry. I couldn’t help but to worry.

One hour turned into two and then three and before I knew it, it got late. My siblings and I fell asleep with empty stomachs that night. Then, around 1:00 a.m., he came in empty-handed and told us that he had forgotten to buy the pizza and that he would buy us one later that day. I don’t know if it was the fasting or the fact that he had made too many false promises before, but I was beginning to see everything with more clarity. I didn’t believe him anymore.

Whenever my siblings and I would ask him for anything, he would scoff and shame us by saying “At your age I was already finding my own food and cooking it.” My mom hated my dad’s methods and when we would tell her about what he said she’d say, “That’s because your dad and his brothers were raised like animals.” He wanted us to fish without having taught us to do so. When he himself wasn’t.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…

Most of his money came either from the sale of controlled substances, primarily Schedules I and II, or from selling our family’s things; like my rare can collection, letting his friends “borrow” my social security card or asking me to pee in a cup for his buddy. He’d entice me to give him these things by saying “Don’t be stupid, don’t you know that I can give you a lot of money?” Whenever I would ask him to pay me the money that he had promised, he would simply laugh and say “I don’t owe you anything. You owe me your life.” I don’t think anything that came out of his mouth irked me more than that simple truth. “How much is that worth?” I asked, “I want to pay you every single penny, so that you can never say that again.” He laughed. “You can’t pay me back for that. I’m your father.” Scratch that. The latter fact was what truly pissed me the fuck off. He enjoyed having that unrequitable debt over me. It was the one thing he couldn’t sell. Or at least hadn’t tried to yet. His last claim to any shred of dignity.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…

One would assume that a person who deals in illegal drugs would have considerable to a fair amount of monies. But not in the case of my dad. He was bad with finances and would often take other forms of payment, such as clothing, CDs, video games and even eye wear. Sometimes right off of the person’s face.

One of his favorite forms of requisition was sending us to school with strange men. His loyal customers. He was mostly carless, so in a sense, he was killing two birds with one stone: making sure his kids went to school and shielding them from seeing him and his buddies get high on his own shit.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

In the end, my dad was the perfect one for me. Because of his bad example, he inadvertently swayed me away from ever wanting to be like him. Had he not been the irresponsible, unreliable and perilous presence in my family, I may have not realized the importance of being a good person.

Through his absence, he taught me the importance of being there for people. And through his lack of affection, that of expressing your love for those you care about.

I thank him for being my father because he taught me what it truly means to be a good parent.

Father and son on bicycle [Photograph]. (1938). Shades of L.A: Jewish Community , Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles.

Come and Get It

Portland is a very clean city. The streets have lesser amounts of grime and trash than do its counterparts in LA. Splotches of forest green painted the sidewalks like a Jackson Pollock painting, if ever the artist used Canadian geese droppings in his work. They were furnished with four-headed fountains meant for citizens to wash their hands and freshen up. To help promote municipal cleanliness. This notion was further supported by signs on the side of trash cans that read “Pitch in! Help Keep Portland Clean.”

Outside of Union Station I witnessed the true manifestation and epitome of what cleanliness means. The vision came to me in the form of a man who was washing his butt at one of those four-headed fountains. It wasn’t a superficial cheek treatment. It was a deep scrub. With the same vigor that Moses parted the Red Sea, this man parted his red butt cheeks and scoured furiously as passersby scowled frantically. I felt like he was being quite anal about the whole thing. It didn’t seem to matter how many times he scrubbed, it still wasn’t clean enough for him. The police officer overlooking the whole thing was busy texting and chatting with a concerned passerby.

“I just let them tire themselves out,” he laughed. The passerby turned away. But I just had to look.

I soon made my way to Downtown Portland and was greeted by a light gentle drizzle. The silence, the clouds and the gloom excited me. The amount of moisture in the air is what brings about the greenery that the city is famous for. It’s more than a nice backdrop made up of innumerable Douglas firs. It is a benevolent virus that takes over concrete in the form of moss and building facades in the form of ivy. Portland’s green was a presence. It was alive.

As I continued to walk in the heart of downtown, I felt like someone was following me. I turned around and caught a glimpse of a disheveled young man. We made eye contact. After I refused to give him a cigarette, his face began to contort in ways that made mine do so as well out of concern. He began to walk towards me. The way that he was shaking his wrist and closing his fingers told me that he either wanted me to jerk him off or that he thought I was a jerk off. His tongue was prodding hard against his cheek as he let out a droning moan. My lack of empathy towards his situation gave me a small taste of the underlying “fuck you” attitude the city was vested in. A simple request gave way to the unravelling of this man’s darkest demons. Complexity evolves from simplicity.

I needed to pull cash out of an ATM to catch a bus to my place of lodging, so I went into the nearest convenience store, the Plaid Pantry. A soft spoken old lady in front of me asked the clerk for a pack of cigarettes and the clerk turned around and placed two packs on the glass counter.

“No, I said two packs of Camel Regular 99s,” the old lady said sternly. “These are Light.” The clerk took the packs off the counter and let out an audible sigh. She turned around and placed the correct packs.

“Ok, that’s gonna be $10,” the clerk said. The old lady started to rummage through her purse looking for her wallet.

“Do you guys still buy back bottles and cans?”

“Yeah, we do. Every day except Tuesday.” The lady’s rummaging began to get louder.

“Well, this morning my two grandkids came in with some bags full of bottles a…”

“Alright, let me stop you right there,” the clerk butted in. “I turned them away because they were sneaking around in the back.” The old lady finally found her wallet and slammed it on the counter. “I don’t have to buy bottles from people I don’t trust.”

“If you didn’t want to buy them, then why didn’t you return the bottles?” The old lady pulled money out and shoved it into the clerk’s hand. The clerk took the money and threw the change at the old lady.

“Thank you and get the fuck out. You’re a piece of shit like your two grandkids.” She flicked a business card towards the old lady with the website where she could air her grievance. “Go ahead and complain about me. I don’t give a fuck. I’m the manager.”

“I will complain,” the old lady yelled as she exited the store.

“Whatever, go fuck yourself.” The store and everyone in it was momentarily hushed in awe. Other shoppers started to congratulate the clerk for standing her ground. She smiled at me letting me know it was now my turn.

“Hi, how may I help you?” she asked. Her tone had gone from barbaric to bubbly. This woman was either really good at hiding her emotions or had multiple personality disorder. Either way, now it was my turn to pretend that what had just happened hadn’t shocked me in the slightest way.

Portlanders truly embrace who they are. Embracing their inner weird. They strive to do so even if it comes as rude or indifferent. Together, they strive to “KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD.”

Cupid Painted Blind

The night that I sent her a friend request I had also sent one to four other people. I tend to add people that I have more that ten friends in common with. I bumped it up to ten from five after I was unwittingly attached to a Messenger chat group in which the members messaged each other lewd GIFs of large penises coming on women’s faces.

Most people simply add you if you seem like a nice person. Not this girl. She took a special interest in me. She wanted me to work for her friendship, like a real friend, not a mere Facebook friend.

“Where do I know you from?” she messaged me a few minutes after I clicked the “Add Friend” button next to her profile picture. I didn’t know what to reply. I drew a complete blank. What the fuck was I to tell this girl? Uh, I added you because Facebook’s obscure and cold dystopian computer programming pinned our accounts together. I had to lie in order to add some warmth to this ill-conceived union.

“I think we had a class together,” I replied five minutes later. I thought it would be the end of that or at least buy me an hour or two to come up with some bullshit story about how we knew each other. Just as I was about to close the Messenger app, I saw the greyed out speech bubble with the blinking ellipsis.

“No, I’ve never seen you before.” If that were indeed true, then why did she accept my invite in the first place? She could’ve just ignored the friend request from the strange man. I needed an exit strategy.

“Hmmm…I guess I thought you were someone else.” Alright, if this girl unfriends me, I would understand. She probably thinks I’m a creep, and her observation wouldn’t be all that inaccurate. I wanted to diffuse the tension by taking a vow of lying. I wanted to write the whole thing off as a simple honest mistake. A case of mistaken identity.

“Who do I remind you of?” she asked. The beast of deceit wouldn’t die. I found myself in a situation in which I would have to dig my way out of a lie by continuing to lie. I could’ve been more proactive and simply unfriended her myself, but this whole situation was a matter of principle. I wasn’t going to let anybody prove that I was a bad liar.

“You look like a girl I took a class with.”

“What was the class?” Before I could even type a single letter, the stupid ellipsis came back and she laid on me a double lashing. “What did she look like?” and “What was her name?” This girl was playing a fucked up game of “I’ll ask questions because I’m bored and you’ll answer them because you’re an idiot.” I was going to answer these questions and then drive up to a cliff, walk up to the edge of the bluffs and cast my phone far and deep into the sea’s insatiable abyss. Enough was enough.

“Well, she kind of looked like you and her name was Sonia.” Out of all the fake women’s names I could have used, I used the one that had a one letter difference to hers.

“I think you’re lying.” She was after a truth that was nonexistent. A truth that was a lie. We both knew that I was lying, but to different ends. I was lying to not seem like a complete asshole. She thought that I was lying because I was trying not to come off as a dickhead casanova that added her as a friend only to flirt with her because I thought she was hot.

I figured that the truth would only bring more bad than good. So, I kept lying to her. After all, we were on Facebook, an ethereal and ephemeral cybernetic realm where everybody lies about themselves and projects an image that only exists in that realm and in no way reflects what goes on in their daily existence. Some call it lying. I call it having a great fucking profile. It’s a place where you’re allowed to cut people out of your life and out of profile pictures. It’s not your fault that you still look good in that picture the two of you took together at that one party you went to while you were still a couple.

“So, I see that you have a lot of female friends,” she texted. She had deduced that by going through my friend’s list. “You’re a big flirt. Don’t you have a girlfriend?” Her questions transcended mere curiosities and dwelled more in the realm of uncomfortably personal. They required answers that led to more questions. Questions that I didn’t have the answer to because I never bothered to think about them until that very second. Questions that I myself was afraid to find out the answers to. Revelatory in an undesirable kind of way. It was as if I was in a confessional with the internet’s priest being forced to divulge all of my social media sins.

“Yeah, we’ve been together for five years now,” I retorted. I was against the ropes falling victim to a flurry of interrogations. A quarrel of queries. Like her, I had also snooped around in her Facebook pictures and seen that she had a boyfriend herself. “How long have you been with your boyfriend?” She went silent for the rest of the day. At around 3:27 a.m. of the next day, I got a reply.

“How do you know I have a bf?”

“I looked at your profile pictures.”

“LOL, you were looking through my pictures? Why would you do that? It’s weird.” She seemed shocked that the person she had been messaging for weeks had looked at her public profile pictures. As if casual Facebook stocking were a serious crime. I was surprised that she didn’t quite understand how social media worked. I kind of felt bad for her.

“Listen, I’m sorry for looking at your profile,” I replied.

“No. It’s just that I’m a private person.” It sounded like she wanted to be serious. “I met my bf on fb.” Her reply had an unspoken innocence to it. She wasn’t trying to be sneaky by inspecting my profile or overstep her boundaries with her questions. She was just trying to make sure that all of her Facebook friends were people that she could actually be friends with face to face. Real people, not people who just wanted to casually chat, flirt, sell you stuff or have a larger friends list. For some reason this realization was as bizarre to me as when I first opened a message from the ultra-sexualized Messenger group I had to block. Two extremes. Two sides of the same coin.




What We Were Supposed To Be

Ms. Castillo was a petite woman in her twenties, fresh out of college with a degree in Liberal Arts, plying her trade. She had long brown hair that draped straight down to her lower back. She had big round eyes, a small hook nose and a smile that could comfort even the rowdiest third grade bastard. Her voice was soft spoken and her gestures to the class were small and gentle. Most of my classmates, including myself, were the same height as her, even at eight years of age. She was kind and treated all of her students with care and respect; however, I didn’t feel a maternal attachment to her. I found her incredibly attractive. While the rest of the kids in my class where focused on the movement of the clock’s hour and minute hands, I was focused on the way Ms. Castillo placed hers on her hips and their movement. I had yet to develop the emotional and hormonal infrastructure to fully process and explain what I was feeling. All that I knew was that she made me feel weird. Good weird.

I would fantasize that her and I were boyfriend and girlfriend and that we were holding hands in the school playground. Even though I had never kissed anybody–save the time I bucked teeth with a girl in the first grade after a crowd of our friends shoved us against each other in the playground–I knew that I wanted to kiss Ms. Castillo’s thin glossy lips. The concept of holding a woman was as alien to me as that of asking one to go out with me. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with Ms. Castillo, but I knew that it involved things shown in movies my parents didn’t allow me to watch. Things that I knew were not permissible for her and I to do. It was the same feeling I got when my older cousins’ friends were sitting across from me. It was exciting. Dangerous. I felt alive. I didn’t know why I felt that way with her. It wasn’t logical. It was biological.

I had a faint idea of what Ms. Castillo might look like naked, as imagining her without clothes was most of my preoccupation during class. I had seen a couple of nude scenes in movies and pillaged through my dad’s weird porn stash, which included images of naked women riding horses, bending over in kitchens or lying on the beach spangled with sand and glitter. Ms. Castillo kind of looked like the girls in my dad’s magazines. You could say that we had a similar taste in women. I would never see my teacher riding a horse or lying on a bed of sand, so I made the most of the times she bent over to pick up something off the floor.

Everything seemed perfect until my dad caught a glimpse of her.

“I want to go talk to your sexy teacher,” my dad said in a serious tone. He didn’t care about my schooling. His only involvement began and ended with him dropping me off and picking me up from school. He never asked about what I did or learned there. He didn’t even know my teacher’s name. My dad was only a father by default; in name but not in practice.

“Why? I’m one of the top students in the class,” I assured him.

“No, I want to talk to her about us. About her and me.” He couldn’t hold a straight face. Its color was turning from light pink to bright red trying to hold back laughter. Darts of air started to spurt out of his mouth like a tea kettle ready to burst. Snorts were followed by light chuckles and neighs until he couldn’t hold it in anymore. He let out a deafening horselaugh, so hard that the car began to swerve.

“Hey, watch the road.” My warning only made him laugh harder. He was looking at me to draw more inspiration for his scorn.

“I just want to go say ‘hi’ to her.” He enjoyed using my feelings for my teacher like a blade buried in my skin, digging it deeper and twisting it with every tasteless joke. His advances made me want her even more. Love felt more alluring in the face of adversity and pointless if you came out of it emotionally unscathed. My dad was like a mama bird regurgitating decadent morsels of desire. Beak to beak. Man to man.

“Dude, just shut the fuck up and get the hell out of here,” I muttered as I looked out the window. His laughter was interrupted by a cough. He was choking on his own saliva.

“What did you say?” wiping tears with the palms of his hands. “Is that how you talk to your father?” He grabbed me by the back of the neck. “Who the hell do you think you are?” I knew that my dad was strong, but the pressure that he was applying to my neck was quickly crossing the threshold of tolerable. I couldn’t even swallow my own saliva.

“Alright,” I yelled.

“Alright, nothing,” he pushed me toward the passenger side window. “Get the fuck out!” I bolted out of the car.

The abuse was worth it. I didn’t want my dad to talk to my teacher because I felt embarrassed of him. I didn’t want Ms. Castillo to see what kind of a man my dad was. I thought of him as an anus. We all know that everybody has one, but nobody needs to see it. I only wanted my teacher to know of my dad’s existence, but never have to actually see him. My dad payed very little attention to his physical appearance. He had mastered the just-rolled-out-of-bed look a little too well. His face carried the grace of one who didn’t get enough sleep due to having fucked around all night long. His eyes were in a perpetual state of bloodshot. His hair stuck straight up on one side and was matted flat on the other. All of his clothes were a few sizes too big and came primarily from stuff he had rummaged from other people’s trash. I knew what a responsible adult was supposed to look like and my dad looked nothing like it.

The next year, Ms. Castillo left the school and went back to college to work on a law degree. It seemed like she’d rather work with adults that acted like children than with children themselves. I never heard from her again. My dad went back to not giving a shit about my education. And I went on to the fourth grade, taught by an elderly bearded man I grew to respect very much. No physical attraction whatsoever. The way it was meant to be.

Scent of a Man

The scent of urine crowded the whole bus. Groups of people were trying to avoid it by pinching their noses and lifting their shirt collars to cover the lower half of their faces. The man from whom the scent was emanating was pleasantly unaware of the effect his body odor was having on his fellow man. He was wearing a red and white pashmina wrapped around his head like a turban, three layers of jackets, soiled silver pants and black combat boots. He would’ve looked adorable as part of Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride. But anywhere outside of that context, he looked otherwise.

“Woah, it smells like piss in here,” a young man yelled upon entering the bus. The young man was carrying a large bushel of incense and was selling it for two dollars.

“Well, that’s why you selling incense,” another passenger replied.

“Sometimes smell can’t fix what water can.”

“Don’t know if you should hose down the mothafuckin’ seat or the mothafucka himself, though.”

The smell had burglarized so many of the available oxygen particles that I was afraid to breathe. I didn’t want its persistent essence to invade my nasal cavity and seep into my palate to the point where I could taste it. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t be.

When a constrained metal shaft is full of adults sweating the sweat of a full day’s work, the temperature can elevate really fast. The man kept shaking one of his jacket collars, patting it against his chest in an attempt to stay cool. In the process, he was billowing out puffs of noxious smells compounding on top of the notes he had already given us. I felt like I was a few puffs away from jumping out of the bus early and braving the remaining blocks on foot. Like me, the man had also reached his limit and began to strip off the layers of jackets.

“Fuck, is hot in here,” he said. Every garment he removed was slammed on the empty seat next to him, followed by “shit.” By the time he had worked his way down to a white wife-beater, the stench had transfigured into its final form. People scrambled to open whatever bus windows were still closed and dug their heads deeper into their shirts. The scent was oppressive. We all had no other choice but to comply with it. To just sit there and take it.

When the bus finally arrived at my stop, I wove my way through the packed crowd as fast as I could. The prospect of breathing clean air was all I could think of. As I made my way to catch my next train, I realized that the city was filled with unpleasant smells. Some emanating from people and others from the streets. Regardless of where the smells were coming from, together they smelled familiar. They smelled like home.

Repurposed Earth

A young woman walking along an elderly man, presumably her father, but in LA you never know, passes by a sprinkler nursing a newly dug flower bed. The sprinkler gently drip feeds the patch, giving the buried seeds a chance at life in the blistering California spring. The two stroll unfettered by time on the freshly laid honey comb shaped pavers. They stop for a moment, just long enough for the young woman to run her sandaled foot in front of the squirt of water. They both giggle. She by the tickling sensation of the water refreshing her foot. He by the joy she was deriving from it. The smell of disturbed earth, pungent manure and nothingness provided a peaceful setting for this Adam and Eve. They looked comfortable, as if they had found a place to just relax. To just be in.

Los Angeles State Historic Park reopened on the weekend of April 22, 2017 after a 17-year long battle between the city of Los Angeles and its residents. The land where the park was developed was originally planned to be warehouses, meant to bring more jobs to the city. Fortunately, a group by the name of Chinatown Yard Coalition wanted this land to be a park. It took a civil rights lawsuit, a state park bond and the discovery of historical artifacts to eventually coerce the city to reconsider its stance on its use of the land.

The park has piqued the interest of many LA residents from the adjacent neighborhoods. It is clean, well groomed and landscaped without a single piece of rubbish in sight. In a few words, it doesn’t feel like a true LA park yet. The park rangers were wearing smiles on their faces and guns holstered to their hips. They seemed optimistic, looking forward to shooting more smiles than bullets. However, the park is empty for a majority of the day. It is so new and unused that an old couple looking for plastic bottles and cans find it a futile endeavor. They move from trash can to trash can, coming away empty-handed.

The wood benches are decorated with a rich walnut stain to tie in the darker tones of the surrounding trees. In order to protect their immaculate state, brushed metal studs protrude from them like thorns on a rose to dissuade skaters from grinding their boards’ bodies or homeless people from resting theirs against their clean surfaces. The restrooms are clean and greet patrons with a scent devoid of any foul smells of urine or feces. The amount of asses that its toilet seats have come in contact with is still well within the hundreds.

The trees are young, barely surpassing the age of a sapling, providing just a little bit more shade than that obtained from a standing broom. Enough shade for a group of three or four people to huddle at close proximity under. Their appendages classify more accurately under the category of twigs than branches. Their trunks don’t have a wide enough surface on which to disfigure them with a sharp object, writing romantic sigils by lovers.

Commercialization has made its way into the park as well. After all, this is LA. “Coming Soon” banners advertise the imminent arrival of trendy restaurants. Movie screening companies fence off large portions of the park and charge a premium to watch old favorites accompanied by food truck cuisine. Music festivals like the Fuck Yeah Fest and Skyline have already booked the main body of the park, with tickets selling out in an instant, mostly to scalpers, and resold for a higher cost. A practice a little too common in LA. Beyond its unnerving legality, it’s a way of life.

The enthusiasm with which the locals were jogging on its swept gravel roads, lying on its primly cut grass and strolling on its gumless paved slabs served as evidence of the need that this community had for a widespread urban park. The joggers running on the plushy gravel track were not habitual joggers. They were not in shape or ever would be, but were exerting their bodies because it was something that the new park now allowed them to do. Most of them ran in pairs of significant others and others with insignificant ones. All running to the tune of their phones. Some wear their hearts on their sleeve, but in LA most would rather just wear their phone, mainly to keep track of how many steps they’ve taken. Lone walkers stared longingly at their phones, not making eye contact with anybody. I suppose that the “public” in public space is optional. This park is just another place in which to wear haute couture yoga pants and look at your phone.

The park’s fenced décor serves a purpose beyond that of staving off violent gangs and the homeless, it acts as a protection from the city’s hectic operations. It is corralled by train tracks, the LA River and a roaring Spring Street devoid of any traffic lights. In the evening, the sun hides itself behind the hills of Elysian Park–where Dodger Stadium is built–and casts a warm orange light that silhouettes the LA skyline and the small Chinatown pagodas.

People in LA like their public spaces to be vested in history, a little bit of something old. Something incorporated from what was there before. The park prides itself in its embrace of the city’s past lives, proudly displaying artifacts unearthed during construction in various nooks of the landscape. Relics to remind them that they themselves are not replaceable. That once they leave this Earth, some trace of theirs will remain, will be remembered and not simply scrapped and thrown away to make way for something new. So they walk on hand-chiseled cobbles to remember that they never want to be forgotten. This earth is a site for second chances.

Blonde Redhead

She was standing outside the college’s recital hall waiting to be let in. She was late. I too was late, but there just in time to finally be able to talk to her. I had been secretly not so secretly spying on this girl, asking friends and classmates if they knew who she was.

“She has blonde hair. Well, she had blonde hair last week. Now she has dark red hair,” I said.

“What does she look like?” my friend Nick asked.

“She has big blue eyes and a big smile. I think she may be Russian.”

“Nope, I’ve never seen her.”

The search for this mystery girl coincided with a phase I was going through, one that involved the “hunting of tigers.” Nick and I used the word “tiger” to refer to a woman that we wanted to sleep with. It was the systematic process of selecting, staking out, luring and finally gorging on their sweet lips and bodies. Once this mission was accomplished, we would simply text one another:

“The tiger has been tamed.”

This girl presented herself as the perfect catch. She was beautiful, foreign and right in front of me. The prize was there for the taking. I ran my hands through my hair and began to walk towards her. She was tugging at the door handle, flustered at it not budging.

“Did they close the door on you?” I asked. She turned around and laughed.

“Yeah, they did,” she answered.

“I hate it when they do that.” She laughed again. Her dimples were high on her cheeks, closer to her nose than to the corners of her lips. Her laughter had a soft percussive melody to it, like someone tickling your ears with feathers. “Hi, I’m Jose. What’s your name?”

“Galathea,” she said with a big smile. Galathea, Galathea, Galathea. I kept repeating her name in my head as she continued to talk. Everything was falling in its right place. We were two big jigsaw puzzle pieces getting closer and closer to interlocking with every word uttered. Our instant chemistry gave me such a level of confidence that asking for her number didn’t feel like an act of creepy desperation. We were alone, laughing and in close proximity. Conditions were perfect. Limber tongue. Check. Salivary glands producing just enough moisture. Check. Lips opening. Shit.

“What it is?” Nick came out of nowhere calling to me from afar. His boisterous voice was meant more to alarm than to find out what “it” really was. He raised his hand expecting me to high-five him. I looked up at it and reluctantly succumbed to his request.

“Hey, what’s up?” I replied. What I really meant to say was “Get the fuck out of here. You’re ruining what was up to this point a perfectly executed luring excursion.” I turned his high-five into a handshake and squeezed the shit out of it. I wanted to communicate with my grip what I couldn’t with words.

“What’s wrong?” Nick asked extricating his hand from mine and massaging its mangled surface. My furrowed brow and bulged eyes helped Nick deduce that the redhead in our midst and the one I had been nagging him about were one and the same. “Is that the?”

“Shhh…shut the fuck up,” I yelled as loud as one can in a hushed tone. Galathea was unfazed by our bickering, talking to another person who had also been locked out. “Yes, that’s her,” I said through the side of my mouth. His eyes lit up as he backhanded me hard on the chest.

“I just thought of something,” he said. I was surprised at Nick’s level of intuitiveness. Was he going to leave and give me room to ask Galathea out? What a great fucking friend this guy was.

“What’s the game plan?” I asked with excitement.

“We should have a threesome with her.”

“Fuck. No.” I replied. “This girl is different.” And she was. I had been staking her out for over six months and now that I had her, I wasn’t going to share her with anybody.

“Come on,” he insisted. “You know how we’ve always talked about having a threesome. About how we wanted to become milk brothers.” Nick was obsessed with the idea of us sharing a woman. However, I wanted nothing to do with it. “Whatever, man. You suck,” he said with a pout. Nick begrudgingly embraced the role that he was born to play at that exact moment and began to walk away from us. I turned around and began to talk to both Galathea and the other person that she was talking to. I was looking intently at her and she began to smile at me again.

“We should hang out sometime,” I said.

“Yeah, for sure,” she replied.

“Can I have your number?” As she was giving it to me, I realized that maybe she wasn’t Russian after all.

“Don’t worry about typing in my last name. It’s a weird Hungarian one.” She was Hungarian. “I was born in San Diego, but my family comes from Hungary.” Her soft laughter ended every one of her sentences. “We should kick it sometime.” I smiled.

We went into the recital hall and I took a seat across the hall, away from her. Mainly to seem like a bad boy, but more importantly, to not seem needy or annoying. I couldn’t stop staring at her because I couldn’t believe that I was finally able to talk to her. I immediately texted Nick:

“The tiger hasn’t been tamed yet, but I’m afraid that in the luring phase, she has managed to tame me.” Although he replied with a disapproving sad face emoji, I was happy to know that my tiger hunting days were over.