Foreign Violence

I’m an exile.

I fled from Mexico in a hurry. The reason was just a tragic, unexpected accident. I didn’t have time to pack anything. Straight from the accident, I ran away to the US. I couldn’t say goodbye to anyone, not even to my mom.

I was riding a crowded bus with my girlfriend. We were standing in the middle aisle when a man started groping my girl from behind. He was near the exit with his back close to the door. When I saw him touching my girl, I pushed him so hard the doors opened and he fell out of the moving bus, and then a truck ran over his head when he hit the pavement. It was an awful sight, his brains scattered all over. I can still hear the cracking sound of his cranial bones.

My first reaction was to escape the scene, the town, even the country.

I moved to the US. Without the slightest chance to return to my family. It’s been a few years since then, but it feels like an eternity. Years later, I found out my girlfriend got married and has two kids. I bet she doesn’t even remember my face.

My name is Pablo, I live in Visalia, Ca. in the central valley, near Fresno. I’m an illegal alien. I shouldn’t be spreading this information because they charge over two thousand dollars to help you cross the border.

I live on the second floor of a twelve-unit apartment building on Santa Fe Street in a run-down neighborhood. I’ve been working at the Rescue Mission for the last three years. I drive a forklift, I also separate donated items and put price tags on them. I used to live in LA, but rent and expenses were too high for my budget.

Recently, my cousin Julian called from Mexico to let me know he wanted to join me. He’s four years younger than me. I’ll pick him up at a McDonald’s in San Isidro, on this side of the border. He’s twenty-four years old.

When my neighbor Mark heard I was going to Tijuana, he asked for a favor. He wanted me to get some weed from a friend in LA. Being a nice guy, I agreed.

I brought Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Bob Marley, the Doors, and others for the six-hour trip.

In a way, the bus incident gave me a push to reach my goal. To move to LA. Having lost Mexico forever, made it easy to adopt LA. Now, I love LA even more than Randy Newman does.

The freeway was an ocean of cars. Lots of beautiful girls everywhere. Magic Mountain to my right, Universal Studios, the Hollywood Hills, Griffith Park, the Observatory, the Zoo, the cemetery on the hill. What a great trip, even the San Onofre nuclear plant seemed friendly.

Julian gained some weight and muscles since I last saw him. His skin was dark, not the burnt kind, but the tanned kind. He was close to six feet tall, his eyebrows were heavy. He said he crossed on his first attempt. Did I mention he was lucky too?

We still have to go through another checkpoint in San Clemente. I told him we needed to stop behind a warehouse or somewhere dark because I needed to hide him in the trunk.

The immigration checkpoint was closed, so I kept driving. I thought about playing a little joke on my cousin. I got off the freeway in a rest area and looked for a place where nobody could see us.

I parked the car and went to the rear and slammed the trunk, I yelled out loud in Spanish, ‘No señor oficial, no hay nadie en la cajuela se lo aseguro por favor déjeme pasar soy ciudadano americano.” (“No, officer, there’s nobody in the trunk. I assure you, please, let me go. I’m an American Citizen”) When I opened the trunk, Julian looked terrified. He was shaking. His pants were wet.

“Eso no es nada gracioso.” Julian said, “That’s not even funny.”

I kept laughing until my jaws hurt.

To get Mark’s weed, I had to drive through Topanga Canyon. I drove that highway from the valley to the ocean. A few miles of beautiful curves and mountains, deep green canyons and precipices. The weather gets cooler as you get closer to the ocean. The area was famous for the laid back hippie-style community and its marijuana crops.

When we arrived, Mark’s friend, Pete was a little high already. He met us with a friendly smile and two beers. He rolled a fat one while inquiring about our mutual friend.

I thought Pete would be like a Cheech and Chong type of guy, but I was wrong. He wasn’t Latino or Asian, or even a low rider. He was a short white guy with eyeglasses and long hair. Very friendly and funny.

After I gave him an update, he said Mark used to live there. Until one day, when Mark burned the weed patch. He said Mark was so high, he pushed the barbecue grill to the ground by accident and started a fire. That was the last time he saw him.

Pete said he was making a delivery (part of his crop) in Van Nuys. When he came back, the firefighters had the fire under control. He thought they were going to call the cops, but they just told him to never leave the barbecue grill unattended. He mentioned one of them said, “sorry about your loss” Pete said they were high and in a good mood.

By the time he finished the story, we were also high and in a good mood. I made a comment about his marijuana, ‘powerful shit man, powerful shit.’ and Julian asked me, ‘qué quiere decir eso?’ (what does that mean?) and I told him in a mellow way, “caca poderosa hombre, caca poderosa” and we started to laugh.

When I told Pete the story about the fictitious Immigration officer he laughed so hard, he dropped the joint he was rolling.

After three more joints and three more beers, we took off.

It was getting dark. I was high as a kite. My mouth was dry and I couldn’t stop smiling. Julian was smiling and that made me smile too. I was happy.

But I couldn’t concentrate on the road. My eyes were squinting. I had my face close to the steering wheel like an old lady. Instead of watching the road ahead, I was following the line in the middle of the road with so many curves. I was trying to concentrate on the double yellow line, not on the traffic. Julian’s conversation wasn’t helping.

What a strange trip it’s been. I felt comfortably numb. Driving on the long and winding road. I smoked two joints before I smoked two joints.

Wow, I needed my normal brains. I just wanted to get out of those curves. I was thirsty.

I wished we were in Visalia, at the Green Olive, with a beer in hand and my normal brains, but we were at the Top o’ Topanga, the highest point between the ocean and the valley.

I thought that once we reached the city streets my fears would disappear, but I encountered a different kind of fear. A million red lights.

Not all red lights were traffic lights. I was confused and wanted to use the breaks constantly.

Panicked and desperate I pulled over at a liquor store to get snacks and a six-pack of sodas. After a while, I felt brave enough to continue, and I said to myself, “I’ll be fine once I get on the freeway.” Julian was talking to himself too.

I felt a lot better when we reached the freeway, but immediately, a new problem emerged. The car was not moving. The freeway was! We were just floating in the car! The earth was circling fast. I was just keeping the car in the middle of the lane, watching the world come at us.

It was the weirdest feeling, I was hallucinating. Fuck! Powerful shit indeed. Julian couldn’t notice the kind of trip I was having.

After what seemed like an eternity, we reached the Frazier Park mountains, another great area at the other end of the valley. We could see the San Joaquin Valley, two straight lanes of black asphalt as far as I could see.

The effects of “la caca poderosa” were fading away. My brain began to function again. Gaining control of my little shitty cerebellum was good.

For the first time since Topanga Canyon, I heard Julian’s voice saying, “. . . and that’s how they got my partner and put him in jail.”

“Oh, that’s very interesting,” I replied.

I felt good we still had time for a couple of beers. We went to my favorite bar, the Green Olive.

We ordered two beers and sat at the end of the bar. I noticed a beautiful White girl in her late 20s, she had gray skintight gym pants, adjusted to her fine looking body. You could see the fine curves of her ass. Anybody could tell she wasn’t wearing any panties.

After our third beer, Julian asked me how to say “me gusta como se te ve tú pantalón,” in English, (I like how you look in those pants) but instead of the right translation, I told him, “You have a lovely camel toe.”

He practiced the sentence a few times, and after gulping the rest of his beer, he gathered all his courage and approached her.

I couldn’t hear Julian’s voice from the end of the bar, but I saw her slapping Julian on the face.

I was still laughing when he sat on his stool.

When I translated what he just told her, he said, “pinche cabrón pendejo.” Then he went back to her and told her, “sorry, amiga, sorry”. I’m sure she knew Julian was just an innocent victim.

While smoking outside, in a dark corner, I saw a couple of guys coming out of the bar too. I recognized one of them from my apartment building. He lived right below my unit. We’ve seen each other, but we have never spoken.

I didn’t like him, and I was sure the feeling was mutual. He had a swastika tattooed on his neck. The other guy looked like his replica. Baggy black pants, black boots, and a white tank top, big muscular guys.

They were half drunk and they stumbled a little. Before they crossed the street, they pushed a black guy with a shopping cart to the path of an oncoming car without any apparent reason. The car ran over him and the driver never stopped.

My downstairs neighbor saw me before they ran away. I knew I was in trouble.

I went inside to tell Julian we needed to leave right away. I didn’t tell him what I just witnessed.

I was in deep shit. I was sure I’d be his next victim no matter what.

Unless, I got him first.

I drove around my apartment building twice, to check for any signs of danger. We went in until everything was quiet.

His room was dark, I assumed he wasn’t back yet.

With a jigsaw, I made a small square hole on the wood floor under my couch, and then on the ceiling of my downstairs neighbor.

“What are you doing?” asked Julian

“I’ll tell you later, let’s go to sleep. We need to find you a job tomorrow.” I replied.

In the morning, after I pushed the playback button in my brain, I got a blurry vision of past events. Julian was lying on the floor, next to the couch where I slept.

I felt a cold sweat when I remembered about the supremacist piece of shit from downstairs.

I looked for the little hole I made the night before. The hole was about the size of a quarter. When I looked through it, a sudden shiver ran through my body.

My downstairs neighbor was inside the little hole. He was sitting on his couch. He was looking up, in my direction. He had drywall dust on his hair. His eyes squinting, full of curiosity.

My immediate reaction was to get the gun I kept under the couch. I put the barrel in the hole and pulled the trigger. When I looked back again, he had blood coming out of his left eye.

My cousin woke up with a look of terror.

“Qué pasa, qué pasa?” (what’s going on?) he said.

I told him to look through the hole and then I covered the hole with a sock. I told him what I witnessed the night before in the bar, and all about my neighbor.

“Good, it was either you or him,” he said in Spanish.

Julian was like one of those friends you can call at three in the morning to get you out of jail or to take you to the hospital, or even at more critical times when you need help to kill your worst enemy. He would never question your motives. If you’re lucky, you would only get a friend like that in your entire life. At the same time, you wouldn’t like guys like him as your enemies.

When he was a teenager, a stray dog bit his ankle right above his shoe. He was bleeding and in pain, but he followed the dog and kept going for miles relentlessly until the dog couldn’t go on any longer.

The dog was so exhausted, he just gave up and accepted his fate with resignation. Then Julian knelt down, grabbed the dog by his mouth and forced it open until he broke his jaws.

The dog kept walking aimlessly around the neighborhood for days. Unable to control his mouth, he died of thirst and starvation in less than a week.

Half an hour after I shot my neighbor, someone knocked on the door. Two cops were investigating a shooting downstairs and asked if we heard or saw anything. I told them I heard a gunshot, and that I saw a guy running away from the building. I described the skinhead’s friend.

“Thank you, guys, you’re good citizens. Thanks for your cooperation and your valuable information,” they said.

After the cops left, I said “I’m glad I killed that mother fucker.”

Julian liked the sound of what I said because he kept repeating over and over, “Maaddaa faackaa, maddaa faackaa.” pronouncing it without the ‘r’ sound at the end. I knew he’d be saying those words all day.

After we left the apartment, we stopped next door to give the weed to Mark. He asked us if we wanted some, and of course, we declined.

Just thinking about it made me shiver.

“Caca poderosa, hombre, caca poderosa.” Julian kept saying as we left.

***

One day, after I came back from work, Julian gave me a big surprise.

He had a thick wad of hundred dollar bills. He was fanning his face with them.

“Where did you get that money?” I anticipated an incredible story.

“Robé un Banco.” ‘I robbed a Bank,’ he said.

“What?” I replied.

“I went to this bank, I think it’s called Bank of the Sierra, and I gave a note to one of the tellers, but she couldn’t understand it because I wrote it in Spanish, so I called a Mexican looking guy waiting in line to come and translate it. Then, she gave me all this money, almost seven thousand dollars. I gave three hundred dollars to the guy that helped me and left.” he said in Spanish.

“What did the note say?” I asked him in complete disbelief, and he gave me a crumpled note.

The note said: “Este es un robo dáme todo tú dinero o exploto toda la dinamita que traigo bajo mi ropa.” [translation] “This is a robbery, give me all your money or I’ll explode all the dynamite that I have under my clothing.”

“You crazy mother fucker! We need to do something right away.” I said.

After a long lecture, (surely in vain) I made him wear a pair of sunglasses, a baseball cap, and gave him another shirt. I burned the note and threw away the T-shirt he was wearing and took him to the barbershop.

When the barber finished, Julian looked in the mirror and said, “I like it, I like it.”

He was completely bald and unrecognizable, but still handsome.

At work, I asked the trash collector driver if he could find a job for Julian.

“Yes, they need another driver,” he said.

“But my cousin doesn’t have a driver’s license,” I replied.

“No problem, neither do I,” he said.

“And he doesn’t have any papers or work permit,” I answered.

“No problem, neither do I,” he said.

***


Julian insisted that I take half the money he ‘collected’ from the bank.

“I didn’t participate in the robbery, I wouldn’t have even if you asked me.”

“While I’m living here, half of what I make is yours,” he said

It was useless, he’d get mad if I refused.

While having breakfast at Denny’s I was reading the paper I came across an article about a black homeless man who was run over. ‘A hit and run,’ they claimed.

There was another article about the shooting in my building and the killing of my neighbor. Next to it there was a picture of the ‘killer’ (his friend,) and a picture of the detectives receiving a medal from the Mayor for their excellent investigation leading to his arrest.

Another article mentioned a bank robbery, including a blurry picture of Julian taken from the surveillance cameras, it said they arrested one of the robbers.

A lot of shit happened since my cousin arrived.

Across from our table a woman, probably in her early 40s, kept staring at us. She was attractive and elegant. After a while, she approached our table. I thought she was rude when she sat in our table without our permission.

Pointing her finger to Julian, she said . . .

“I know you! I know it’s you, even without hair I know it’s you.”

“Excuse me lady, what are you talking about? I’m sure you’re mistaken,” I said to her, having no idea what she was talking about. “My friend doesn’t even speak English,” I continued.

“I knew I was right! I just knew it!” she said.

Then with her index finger straight up against her mouth and nose in a softer voice and looking at me, she said,

“Shhh, don’t worry, I’m not going to say anything to anybody, but this guy just robbed my bank last week.” she continued, “I’m the manager. Listen, I want to make a deal with you guys. I need you to rob the bank again, but this time there’s 25,000.00 dollars involved,” then she grabbed the newspaper and pointing to Julian’s picture, she said, “That’s him.”

“Okay, let’s say for a moment that you’re right,” I said, knowing there was no use denying it, “what’s your proposition?”

“Okay, here’s the deal. I have a gambling habit. I gamble with other people’s money. Our customers’ money. I go to a casino in Lemoore all the time. I’m in deep shit now. Sooner or later they’ll find out I’m swindling money from the bank. I keep going back to the casino thinking I can win the money back, but I keep losing. I swear if I get even I’ll quit for good,” she leaned closer to the table and continued.

You both show up at the bank, use the same method, no one gets hurt of course. I’ll make sure everything goes smoothly. I’ll make sure the teller has 25,000.00 dollars ready for you. You just come with your little note. But this time you must write it in English. I’ll just report a higher amount and we all win. My name’s Linda, I don’t even need to know your names.”

Her plan sounded pretty safe and I agreed. We exchanged numbers and said she’ll get in touch. When I translated everything to Julian he got excited and said. “I like it, I like it.”

Julian started working for a waste management company in Dinuba collecting trash around a rural area. He always had great self-esteem and that allowed him to work in any job without fear of failing. I bet he could even apply for a job as an astronaut.

Anything was better than passing notes to bank tellers saying he wanted to blow up their banks.

Linda called to give me some instructions.

“Okay, everything is set for tomorrow at 5:55 P.M. Make sure you’re our last customer. I’ll be working in register number four, don’t worry about anything. It’ll be fast and easy,” she added, “we’ll meet after the operation and I’ll give you your part.”

We showed up as city workers. We wore brown boots, yellow helmets, yellow safety vests, and dark sunglasses.

We left the car half a block away from the bank. I was a little nervous, but I didn’t show it. There was no need to carry guns.

I heard it was easier to rob a bank than a 7-11 store. They were right. It was a piece of cake, in and out in two minutes. Linda was at the cash register. We just gave her the note and she gave us a white canvas bag with a lock. It must have been the easiest bank robbery ever.

Boom, just like that, we were out of there. A second after I started the car, I heard an alarm going off.

Next day, we met with Linda and gave her the canvas bag and she gave us twenty-five thousand dollars in cash. Sweet!

A few days later, on my lunch break, I grabbed a hamburger from Carl’s Jr. and went across the street to the Green Olive for a beer to celebrate my growing bank account.

When I drove out of the driveway, I watched a patrol car passing by. The cop turned around and followed me. He put his lights on and pulled me over.

A tall, bald-headed white guy with a menacing look came out of the patrol car.

“Driver’s license and registration, please,” he said.

He walked back to his car and checked my record.

I wasn’t worried. I knew I was clean.

“Are you drunk?”

“No,” I replied.

“Well, I just saw you coming out of that bar. I know you weren’t drinking milk, so I’m going to ask you again, are you . . .

“I just told you, I’m not drunk!” I replied.

Damn! I raised my voice a little and that’s a no, no. I regretted it right away. And I interrupted him too. I knew that was rule number one . . . ‘never interrupt a cop if you don’t want to end up in jail.’

“Step out of the car motherfucker, I think you’re drunk,” he was insanely pissed off.

“Officer I just told you, I’m not drunk. I only had one beer with my lunch.”

“Shut the fuck up motherfucker, you’re going to be drunk in fifteen minutes,” he said while handcuffing and pushing me to the back of his cruiser.

He drove his car behind a boarded-up warehouse the parking lot was deserted. He parked and went to the trunk. He came back with a bottle of whiskey.

“Drink it, you piece of shit, or I’ll kick the shit out of you,” he said while putting his baton against my neck. Knowing when a battle was lost, I obeyed him and drank.

“Look all around you, not a soul in sight to save you.” then he pushed the play button on his radio and Freddy Mercury started singing, “thum, thum, thum, another one bites the dust, another one bites the dust, and another one gone and another one gone . . .”

Mother fucker! He just ruined one of my favorite songs.

When Julian came to bail me out the next day, I told him the whole story.

“Maaddaa faackaa, we need to find this maadda faackaa,” and added, “We’ll get him ‘primo,’ I swear, we’ll get him.”

Amazingly enough, the next day, I found the stupid cop on the front page of the newspaper. He was being honored by some ladies from MADD. (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) The Visalia chapter was giving him a medal for most drunk driver arrests in Tulare County. I felt my blood boiling inside my veins; his name was all over the place. Good.

Another article in the paper caught my eye, “Another bank robbery, this time they escaped with 125,000.00 dollars.” Oh, Linda, you’re such a smart woman.

It was easy to find the cop’s address on the internet.

In the morning, we drove by his house. He lived near Farmersville, on a new housing development. We found him mowing his lawn. His patrol car was in the driveway.

I sent Julian with his broken English to tell the cop that he had witnessed a drunk driver crashing his car into a tree.

Nearby, in a secluded empty field, I had the front end of my car leaning against a tree, as if I had just crashed. I was still at the driver’s seat with my chest against the steering wheel. I had my gun hidden between my legs.

When the cop got there, Julian was behind him.

“Are you okay? the cop asked.

Gun in hand, I came out of the car and pushed him to the back seat.

“If you don’t do as I say you’re dead in a second, motherfucker.”

We tied him up and covered his mouth with duct tape. As I drove away, Julian kept him down, with the gun against his head.

“If he moves, even just a little bit, shoot him in the head, Julian.”

The cop knew I meant it because he stood still. Then, we headed for Dinuba, where Julian worked.

We didn’t go through city streets, instead, we took a longer route through the fields. We drove across cornfields and orange trees on a two-way highway. When we arrived, the sweet taste of revenge filled all my senses.

The big yard was enclosed with a chain-link fence. Several trash trucks were parked neatly inside. The place was locked on Saturdays.

Nothing else to see for two miles in the surrounding areas.

“Look all around you, there’s not a soul in sight to save you.” I proudly said to the cop, when we got him out of the car.

He wrestled and complained when we put him in a residential trash container. He calmed down a bit after Julian hit him on the head. His body barely fitted inside.

I gave Julian the signal to operate the controls. The cop looked terrified when the thick metal arms slowly approached the container.

His muffled screams and expression seemed to be coming from a silent film. I especially enjoyed the moment when the container was horizontal, just before he went down.

A heavy muted sound was barely audible when his body hit the truck’s metal floor. When Julian turned the compactor on, I put my ear close to the truck to hear the cracking sound of his bones being crushed.

The sound must be similar to the sound you hear when you step on a cockroach, only a million times louder.

Julian needed to make many more stops to fill the truck with three tons of garbage. This was his first stop. I envied his job, I thought it was extremely satisfactory.

***


One slow weekend, while I was listening to classic rock and having a few beers, Mark showed up. I offered him a beer and he offered me a toke. He accepted my beer and I declined his toke. As I was narrating my trip to Tijuana, including my out of body experience while driving back, Julian stepped in the apartment with none-other than Miss-Camel-Toe herself.

We introduced ourselves, her name was Kim. After a while, I blinked an eye to Mark, and we moved to his apartment. I was sure those love birds wanted to be alone.

Mark was amazed at Julian’s progress. He wondered how, after only a few months, he already had a job and a car and dating gorgeous girls and communicating in English.

***

A few days later Kim showed up with a bloody nose. Her upper lip was split open and swollen, she had a black eye too. She said her ex-husband beat her.

“The fucking bastard can’t leave me alone. It’s not the first time he hits me, but it sure was the worst,” she said while looking at herself in the bathroom mirror.

“If I call the cops, he’s gone by the time they come,” still sobbing, she continued. “He lives in Madera, but every time he comes to Visalia to visit his buddies, he gets drunk and ends up in my house. And then he begs me, ‘come on honey; take me back, I know I can make you happy, you know you need me’. Stupid asshole, I need him like I need a dead rat in my ass.” she said.

We all laughed, but she complained right away, “ouch” cupping her jaw with her hand.

“You know, I’ve seen a ton of movies about abused women, and most of them end up dead. If I try to defend myself, he just hits me harder. I just don’t know what to do anymore.” she said.

“You’ll be okay Kim, we’re going to help you. He’ll be out of your life soon, you’ll see,” I said.

Julian was mad as hell but kept quiet. After we fixed her a little, we gave her two shots of tequila and four aspirins. Then, we left her to rest.

“I think we can plan something around this fog we’re having, like for example . . . ”

In ten minutes Julian found three different ways to get rid of him.

In the morning, I explained our plan to Kim.

“Call him and say that you’re going to give him another chance, tell him to come to your house to celebrate the reunion. But just get him totally drunk and bring him to us.”

“Okay, that shouldn’t be so hard, and then what?”

“Just get him drunk and bring him to us. But he needs to be all fucked up drunk, okay? It’ll be foggy tonight. Bring him around midnight, when the fog is at its heaviest.”

After she left I went to see Mark and asked him if we could use his van.

Sure enough, Kim showed up at midnight. “Okay guys, I got him in my car he’s all fucked up, now what?” she said, full of satisfaction.

Julian and I carried the son of a bitch to the rear of the van. Kim was driving, we headed to Delano, a small town, thirty miles south of Visalia.

The fog was so heavy, we could only see about a hundred feet in front of us. Julian and I were in the back of the van keeping an eye on the stupid guy.

A couple of miles past Delano, I told Kim to pull in front of an eighteen-wheeler, and then, we just pushed the guy out of the van.

As simple as that, the motherfucker won’t be hitting any defenseless girls anymore.

When I closed the van’s back door, I could see Kim’s eyes in the rear-view mirror. She didn’t seem surprised at what we just did.

During breakfast, I made a comment about a story I was reading in the paper. A funny story, well sad, but also funny.

“A basketball player from a local high school team was surfing in Australia. He was floating on his surfboard face down and pushing the water with his hands. And then, a shark bit off his left hand. Somehow, he managed to swim back to the beach and survived.

After spending a week in an Australian hospital, he went back to his hometown.

Hundreds of students received him on the baseball field, where they brought him from the airport in a helicopter. When he came out, he saluted the crowd with his right hand, and he got his hand chopped off by the helicopter blades.”

Then Julian made one of his typical silly comments

“Man, how is he supposed to wipe his ass now?”

Edmundo Barraza
Visalia Ca. May-30-2011

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