(Watch the short film at the end of the story/post.)
I could still remember the moment I became a pacifist, an animal lover, and a defender of animal rights. From that moment on, I also turned into a better person.
That day, while playing in the backyard and armed with a flyswatter I squashed a butterfly with it. My big brother witnessed the act, became upset, and sad, and then he gave me a lecture I would never forget.
butterfly probably had a family; it probably had babies that needed to
be fed. Everybody loves butterflies, they’re beautiful to see, and
they’re tender creatures. The way they fly and the way they move, it
brings happiness to everyone. All living creatures have a right to live.
Even if it is a cockroach or a mosquito, or a bee, you should respect their lives. Only if you’re attacked…
When I woke up from my involuntary Propofol trip I was in the recovery room. I was lying on an ambulatory bed. There were five people in the room. A male nurse was removing tubes and needles from my arm. He appeared to be Latino. Next to me there was another bed with a female patient on it, I couldn’t tell what her race was. A young white female nurse was helping her. Across the room I could barely see an Asian head rising above the counter of a tall desk. It took me two seconds to recognize him, he was my anesthesiologist. And that’s when I began my interminable blabbering . . .
“There you are my friend, you know what? I love Asian guys, most of you guys are educated, respectful, and you know what else, I’ve never seen an Asian wino or homeless asking for money outside liquor stores. Oh, but now I remember race has nothing to do with it besides I bet you’re a hundred percent American. You must be proud of your race, and most of you are handsome too. Ah, but I also like Blacks and Latinos like me, and Hindu people are nice too. Let’s not forget Whites, sometimes they’re nice too, and the good thing about them is that they never get offended like us, ‘the minorities’. Hey Doc, what did you use to sedate me? I feel really, really good. I feel mellow, relaxed, I feel like a hippie. I want to share my euphoria and cheerfulness. Did you put some weed in the mix? Can I have some of that stuff before I go? Do veterinarians use that stuff too? I’ve read they could use some of that stuff for human executions, that can’t be true, but if they do, then it’s a good way to die, it’s like a reward. Better than the chair anyway. How could someone not get addicted to this wonderful drug? In this ‘world’ everybody is nice”.
That drug was hitting my sympathetic nervous system for sure.
Somehow, the Propofol was going straight to the section of my brain where I had stored the ideas for the short film I wanted to create. When I came out of the operating room, I was feeling like a director, like an actor, like a cinematographer. It was unbelievably cool. I, myself was the camera, my eyes were the camera. And it was very easy to handle, no need to focus, no need for a dolly or a Steadicam, all I had to do was turn my head. The moment I opened my eyes I started filming. And I was watching the movie. I swear to God I was watching the MOVIE at the same time. You have to believe me, I was filming with my eyes. I first focused on my nurse:
FADE IN: INT. HOSP. RECOVERY ROOM – DAY
No one was saying a word, all of them were smiling. The other nurse was moving her head sideways and looking at me from the corner of her eye, and her patient was rolling her eyes, and I kept going . . . “tell me Doc, (I was still referring to my anesthesiologist) if you were sick, would you like to be attended in this hospital or would you rather go to the Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills? Would you rather have a graduate Doctor from UCLA or from another country like Mexico or India or Russia or . . . oh, but what a silly question, I forgot doctors don’t get sick. I bet that before they die they inject themselves with Propofol. Hey! I just remember that movie with Michael Caine, what’s it called? Oh yeah, “Cider House Rules” that’s right! The Doctor keeps self-medicating ether. Anyway, he was always in a good mood. He loved all the kids in the orphanage and all the princes of Maine and all the kings of New England too.”
When I entered the operating room this was the scene: I’ll try to be as accurate as possible. There were nine or ten people in that room. They were all young. Four females and five males. All the girls appeared to be in their twenties. I only knew the name of one of them. Janet Lee, she was probably the oldest, in her late twenties, I think. The anesthesiologist was Asian too. I remembered I asked him what kind of anesthesia he was going to use on me, and he said Propofol. I’ve met most of them before, but I didn’t catch their names. I didn’t capture any foreign accents on any of them, but several races were involved in the group. Asian, Hispanics, Whites, and African-Americans. But to me, they were all Americans. The room had such an air of universality that I wanted to start singing “It’s a Small World”. I felt like I was in Disneyland. The moment I entered the room I felt safe. They were young, they seemed to be smart and well educated, they were very friendly, and in a good mood. Seeing so many happy faces in a single room made me happy. They were having fun helping sick people and enjoying their jobs. It was definitely a group of young talented people. The future of America seemed bright in this room.
I waited for seven hours, from 9 to 4 in the prep room. The friendly group that was going to perform the surgery had come in waves to ask the usual questions about my medical record, allergies, medications, and other information about my health. But I wasn’t prepared to spend so many hours doing nothing; I didn’t fall asleep, so I kept thinking about a project I had in mind:
“To Kill a Mockingbird” was the theme for the next Germ Film Festival in Fresno, Ca. I had to develop a five-minute short film around that movie, or book. So I had seven hours to think about that project. I knew it wasn’t easy. The story involved racial inequality, a false accusation of rape, mental and physical abuse. A humble and ethical lawyer, a mentally challenged neighbor, and a jury made out of twelve White persons. All told from the point of view of a ten-year-old girl. I loved the movie. Gregory Peck was absolutely perfect for the role, and the three kids were great, as was everybody else. But the story by Harper Lee was incredibly amazing. Another thing that I found amazing was that things haven’t changed a lot since then, it’s very sad. People like Donald Trump are ruining the situation even more. Ignorant intolerant persons like him are interfering with America to become a better country. It’s very sad indeed. America and the whole world had spent the entire twentieth century struggling to improve human relations, trying to erase hatred from the human mind, I thought it was working. But now my opinion has changed. It seems that we have to endure another century in the same conditions.
Anyway, the theme was complicated, it had too many characters. A lot of scenes had to be considered, and several locations were going to be needed. It was just too hard, and I still had to take into account the zero-dollar-budget. I found “To Kill a Mockingbird” very hard to transform into a five-minute-movie. I thought that maybe I could turn it into a parody and name it: “Tequila Mockingbird” and maybe I could turn the characters into their complete opposite, I thought about an all group of black people in the jury, and change the color of the skin of the ‘rapist’, and have a different type of lawyer, like Paul Newman in “The Verdict”, drunk and down on his luck, (hence the title) or have the ten-year-old girl kill all the bad characters in the movie with a slingshot. But I couldn’t find anything satisfying or convincing. I lost seven hours thinking about it. In the end, I decided to let it go and try something else. And just when I thought I had material for another story. They came for me, to shoot me with an injection full of Propofol.
When I was wheeled out of the hospital, I felt something was wrong. I felt terrible, I didn’t say thanks to anybody. I didn’t even shake their hands. I bet they’re used to that. But it’s not that I was ungrateful it was just unexpected, one second I was in and the next I was out. I didn’t even see the doctor who performed the surgery or anybody else except for the anesthesiologist. The worst thing about it was that I didn’t have any energy to return and hug and kiss everybody.
You might not believe this but Michael Jackson was singing “Black and White” in the radio when I turned on the car. Right away, I thought that song could be perfect for the movie I just saw inside my brain. It also came to my mind that he had overdosed and died on Propofol.
But I’m sure Michael had been watching a great movie too.
Visalia grapes are of the best quality in Central California and certainly in the entire State of California, probably better than in the entire USA and possibly in the whole world, without falling in the awful sin of exaggeration.
At least that’s what Juanito thought. Juanito was a third-grader at Elbow Creek elementary school. His dad worked in the fields where after a ten-hour work day, each worker was allowed to take a free box of grapes. That day, his dad proudly gave it to Juanito and said, “Here son, the whole box is just for you. You don’t need to share it with anyone. You have my permission to be selfish just this one time.”
Juanito ate three of them and thought it was the most delicious fruit he ever tasted in his entire short life. The grapes were as big as walnuts.
But Juanito wasn’t selfish. Before taking another one, he thought about his P. E. teacher. He liked him a lot because he had been paying special attention to him. Juanito had been losing weight. He was feeling better about himself. He was almost at his normal weight, so he decided to give the box of grapes to his teacher Mr. White.
Mr. White appreciated the gesture, and that gave him more strength to continue doing a good job. He ate three grapes, but before he took another one, he thought about Mr. Red, the Principal, and how he had always supported him; therefore, he gave the box of grapes to him.
Mr. Red, who loved the democratic ways of a fair institution, thanked Mr. White effusively and tasted only three grapes. He thought they were delicious, but before he was tempted to take another one, he thought about Mr. Grey, the Math teacher. Mr. Grey had nominated him for the Principal of the Year Award, he thought he deserved the grapes.
Mr. Grey, the Math teacher, counted the grapes. He made some numbers and calculations and concluded that he could also take three grapes. Then Mr. Black, the Science teacher, came to his mind. After all, he had recommended him for the post. Because of him he had obtained the teaching job, he gave the box of grapes to Mr. Black.
Mr. Black was very thankful and tried to figure out the shape, weight, configuration, evolving time from seed to maturity, its nucleus, and particles by tasting three of them. Before grabbing another one, he thought about Mr. Blue, the History teacher, who had been his temporary replacement while he was in the hospital and had done an excellent job with his kids.
Mr. Blue was grateful and immediately thought about the Mayflower, the pilgrims and the Indians, and about the graciousness of historical figures who gave their all to their countries. After he took the last grapes, he thought about Mr. Pink, the janitor, and gave him the empty box of grapes and told him, “Mr Pink, would you please throw this box in the trash?”
Mr. Pink wasn’t too agreeable to comply but did it anyway. Although he was happy with his job and had made a decent living, he said to himself, “If there’s such a thing as reincarnation, I’ll make sure next time not to be a High School dropout because I don’t want to be in charge of the trash.”
Before I signed the rental contract, the landlady told me that an eighty-six-year-old man had died in the first bedroom. She said she needed to disclose it before I moved in so I wouldn’t quit suddenly without a thirty-day notice.
At the time I didn’t pay any attention and disregarded the comment as useless and unimportant. Later on, through the neighbors, I learned that the old man had lived there for fifteen years. After that, three new tenants moved in and out in rapid succession.
The house was old and unattractive, with a garage attached to the kitchen and living room. The family room was next to the dining room with a narrow hallway and three bedrooms. The floor plan was terrible. It had dark brown paint, dark brown carpet, a dark brown vinyl floor in the kitchen and dining room. This could be the ugliest house on the block. I just couldn’t find anything attractive or pleasant about that house, but I’ve never been a person with many demands. Therefore, I signed the contract.
After a few weeks, the house was finally home, I didn’t care about how ugly it was.
One time, I was alone in the house watching TV in the living room. The volume on the TV was low; it was early at night when suddenly I heard the radio go on in one of the back rooms.
I heard a male voice for a couple of seconds. I turned the lights on and went to investigate. I checked in my bedroom where I have an alarm clock, but it was off. I had another radio, but it was unplugged. I thought it was very strange but I returned to watch the television.
As the days passed, my wife and I kept hearing noises, normal house noises like wood shrinking and swelling, or wind slamming doors.
Another day, I was reading in bed around 2:00 am when I heard the patio sliding door vibrating for a few seconds. I thought it was an earthquake, but nothing else shook. I convinced myself that it was my dog Diego pushing the glass door. I didn’t want to go across the hallway and pass the old man’s room at 2:00 am.
One morning, my wife was cooking in the kitchen and listening to music on the radio. I was in my room when suddenly the music got too loud. I jumped and ran straight to the living room. I was ready to scream at her, but she was paralyzed with a look of terror. I could see from the kitchen the stereo system volume knob turning up by itself as far as it could go.
When my daughter and my ten-month-old grandson Damian came to visit for a week, I put them in the old man’s bedroom. At first, she said it was warm and comfortable, no complaints. They were happy, and I was happy. My grandson was handsome and smart, like his grandpa.
On her last night, my daughter came into our room carrying her son.
“Dad, somebody’s moving our bed, even Damian woke up. We’re staying in your room now.” then, she asked me to get the portable mattress we had in the living room for Damian to play on. I stood up very brave and self-confident, but when I went past that ‘room’, my knees were shaking.
The following day, I knew I had to confront the old man. He needed to know I wasn’t afraid of him. And I wouldn’t be running away like the other tenants. After all, he wasn’t the one paying the rent. I moved my computer from the garage to ‘his room’. That way I had to spend a lot of time in that room.
After my wife left for work, I asked him why he was still in the house. I kept talking to him for a few more days, sometimes even in Spanish, but it appeared he was gone. Or maybe I scared him off, or maybe he never existed.
Just when I was feeling relaxed and comfortable I saw him.
There was a mirror hanging on the bathroom door, when it was shut, I could see that mirror and the one above the cabinet sink. So I could see my body, front and back at the same time.
That’s when I saw him. I was in shock, but not terribly afraid. Of course, it took me by surprise; I jumped back, and in a blink of an eye he wasn’t there anymore. I saw him, but I wasn’t sure whether he was inside the mirror or behind me. He was wearing a light blue suit and a tie. He looked harmless.
“So you’re here after all,” I said, “I hope you’re not shy. What’s your name? Come on man, I know you know my name already, tell me yours.”
“My name’s Peter Shelby,” he answered in a soft, cavernous voice. Instead of getting scared, I got genuinely excited.
“Tell me, are you with God, have you seen Him?” I asked him.
“Ha! I was eighty-six when I died. I was baptized and had my first communion. I gave the church a small fortune in donations. But God was nowhere to be seen. I tried all my life not to break the Ten Commandments. And it was all for nothing, I still hope he shows up.”
“You might be in Purgatory, and God could be undecided on what to do with you. Maybe you’re paying for some pending sins. Who knows?” I said.
“I hope you’re right because it’s boring here. That’s why I was making noises and trying to manifest my disappointment, I wasn’t satisfied with this situation.”
“But why did you have to scare my daughter?”
“You were not paying attention, and that was frustrating. Being alone, bored, and ignored, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Tell her I’m sorry.”
“No, you tell her yourself. No, wait, just leave her alone, never mind. But answer me this, what’s your purpose in life? I mean, in death?”
“I have no idea, I think I need to do something but I don’t know what. My wife died three years before me. We were happy in this house. We spent our best years here.”
“And where do you think your wife is?”
“She must be in heaven; I guess. She was a much better person than I was. I wish I could communicate with her, be with her, and then maybe, I can ‘die’ in peace.”
“Okay, next question, do you eat, sleep, take showers, brush your teeth or go to the bathroom?”
“No, no, no, no, and no.”
“Can you cross walls or doors? Can you touch me or hit me? Do you touch the floor when you walk?”
“Yes, I can cross anything. No, I cannot hit you, although I tried a few times, ha, ha. I just float a couple of inches above the surface; I don’t need to sit or rest because I don’t need any energy. I’m dead.”
“I just need to tell you something; you cannot appear or manifest yourself in any way while my wife is here. Otherwise, she’ll bring the priest with his holy water and won’t rest until she makes you disappear for good.”
“But she seems to be such a nice lady.”
“Well, just consider yourself, warned. Oh, one more thing, how should I call you, Peter, Mr. Shelby, Poltergeist, Mr. Ghost, or what?”
“I don’t care; it’s not like I’m going to get mad and hit you, let’s just be friends and make the best of it, okay?”
“Okay, Peter. Oh, one last thing, is there anything I can do for you? You know; to help you do something, find something. This is so weird man, talking to a ghost, no one would believe me.”
“If you start telling everybody that you can talk to a ghost, they’ll put you in a mental hospital. Oh, and yes, you can do something for me, I’d like to go to the cemetery and see what kind of grave my family bought for me.”
“Okay, it’s a done deal; we’ll go tomorrow morning. What time you want me to wake you up?”
“No need for that, I’ll be ready anytime.”
“Alright, see you tomorrow Peter.”
“Yeah, good luck with that.”
In the morning when I went out of the front door, I left it open for a few seconds, then, I softly whispered, “Are you out, Peter?”
Then, I opened the passenger door and after a few seconds I asked, “Are you in Peter?”
“Yes, I am. Thank you.”
“Okay, now, shut the door,” I said.
“How?” he replied.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” Then, I went around and closed the passenger door.
“Okay, Peter, put your seat belt on.”
“Oh, you’re funny!”
“Peter, you want to drive?”
Then, ignoring my last question, he said, “Man, you need to replace this old piece of junk.”
“Do you want to walk? Do you want me to call you a taxicab, or you want a limousine or . . . ?”
“Sorry, sorry, can we just go, already?”
As I started to drive I asked him, “Hey Peter, do you go out of the house, to walk or float around town?”
“I tried a couple of times, but I think the dogs can see me. They bark at me and I can’t stand it, it’s very annoying. They want to bite me and I want to kick them. Your little dog, what’s her name? Yes, Frida, when I go to the backyard she won’t leave me alone. She follows me around and barks and barks, it’s so fastidious. I just don’t go to the patio anymore, but Diego, the other dog, he doesn’t know I exist. And he’s right.”
At the cemetery, we had to look for his grave because he couldn’t remember where they buried him. When we found it, he said, “Those cheap bastards! Look at my wife’s grave! I bought her a top of the line tomb, now look at mine, the headstone looks second hand, so small and ordinary. But at least someone brought me flowers, and they look fresh. There’s a note in them, can you please read it for me?”
“Yes, Peter. It says, ‘I miss you, Uncle Peter. I hope you’re happy wherever you are. I will always love you.'” signed by Nancy Shelby.
“Oh, my dear Nancy. My favorite niece.”
Back at the house, he asked me to write a letter addressed to her.
“My dearest Anais Neess:
I miss you more than you can imagine, please don’t disregard this note thinking it’s just a joke, and please don’t be afraid. I’m still at the house. I don’t know why, but I’m taking advantage of it to let you know that I left some money for you. You’re the only beneficiary. I found my last friend in the person who’s writing this note. He will give you more details on how to get this money. I didn’t put this in my will because I didn’t want the rest of the family to know about it.
I will keep you in my heart forever. I love you, Nancy.
After I searched for a few minutes on my computer, I found a government site for unclaimed money. A Savings account under the name of Peter Shelby, $45,000,00 I wrote down some account numbers and other details and put a separate note along with the letter, and sent it to an address Peter gave me.
He said Nancy was a nice girl and that she might give me a commission for helping her get this money. I said I didn’t care. Then, I asked if he could show himself again like he did in the bathroom mirror and he said, “I have no idea how that happened, but one time when I was watching the TV with your wife I saw my reflection on the TV screen.”
“You watch TV with my wife?”
“Yes, all the time. I sit right next to her all morning, but when she changes the channel to her Mexican soap operas, I just disappear from there. I like it when she listens to her music while cooking. We like the same kind of music except for her mariachi songs.”
“And how can you move things around, or make noises? I mean if you say you can’t touch anything.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I guess when I get too desperate or frustrated, I might have telekinetic powers, but I don’t know.”
I wanted to try another experiment with Peter, and I asked him to come out with me to the backyard.
“Okay Peter, with your permission, I’m going to paint your body, soul, or ghost or whatever it is. You just stand right here in the middle of the patio; I’ll bring my spray paint gun and some white paint and see what happens, okay?”
“Okay, that sounds like fun,” he answered.
After I got all the stuff I needed, I asked if he wanted a mask and he said, “What for?” and then I said, okay, close your eyes, and then he said, “What for?”
“Okay, okay, just standstill,” I said and started painting him. Then my little dog Frida came and started barking around him. We couldn’t stop laughing out loud. That’s when my neighbor’s head appeared above the fence and asked, “Hey, why are you painting your dog for? Are you crazy or something?” Then, I realized he was right, Frida was painted all white. I didn’t know where Peter was and I couldn’t stop laughing.
Before my wife came home from work I asked Peter if he wanted to do something the next day. “Yes, if you don’t mind I’d like to go to church and have a talk with God because I don’t think he’s in this house.”
The following morning, after many years of absence I went to church again. I guess, I had been busy doing nothing. But the truth was I didn’t need intermediaries, or priests, or churches to talk to God.
When Peter finished with God, he whispered in my ear “Let’s go, I’m ready.”
On our way home he said, “I have a feeling that pretty soon we won’t be able to be together or communicate anymore. I want to tell you that I appreciate your friendship and your companionship very much. I hope someday I can see you in ‘my house’.”
When we went back home, we found a woman knocking at the front door.
“Hi, I live in this house, what can I do for you?” I asked. She seemed to be in her thirties; she had a quiet and tender beauty. She appeared to be a little shy.
“Hi, my name is Nancy Shelby, I believe I received a letter from you. At first, I thought it was a tasteless joke, so absurd and incredible. But when I checked the account, I knew that it was true. I wanted to tell you how fortunate you are to be able to communicate with my uncle Peter. He was such a good person. At his funeral, my mother told me that my uncle Peter paid for all my college tuition. I knew my mom didn’t have the means to afford it.”
“But who’s Anais Neess?” I asked her.
She answered with a smile, “It’s a game of words, Anais Neess, or ‘a nice niece’ I always loved it when he called me that.”
After that day, Peter disappeared from the house. I went crazy talking to him in every room, to no avail. No signs or signals from him. I missed him a lot. Then one day, I received a letter from Nancy, a note with a few words, a check for $5,000.00 under my name, and the most important thing, a picture of Peter.
Now I keep that photograph on my desk, next to my computer. In his room.
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
“A man living in the US gets a visit from his ‘replica’. The man had emigrated decades before. His ‘replica’ remained in Mexico living an alternate life. Now he wants to find out about ‘his other life'”. The eternal internal question “what if”.
Filmed under ‘lock-down’ conditions. My son Carlos Barraza and I were forced to experiment and learn other areas of film making. In other words, my son and I were the total cast and crew.
A week after we finished editing, we received our first Semi-Finalist award from FENACIR — A famous film festival in Mexico.
Miles was eleven when I met him. He was mildly autistic. It was hard to pinpoint his abnormalities. He appeared to be an average kid, maybe just a little mixed-up. It seemed like his mind was working faster than the way he could express his thoughts. He had a peculiar tic – his left eye blinked rapidly when he seemed impatient. His sister Gretchen was my girlfriend. We were both seventeen. I thought she was the most beautiful girl on this planet.
Miles had been home-schooled; they said there was too much trouble at the public school, and that he had suffered at the hands of bullies for a long time.
In time, Miles learned to like me because I treated him like a normal person. I thought he was a likable kid and nobody should treat him any differently.
His room was full of WWII memorabilia, all original stuff. He had boots, helmets, medals, diplomas, and other interesting things. He even had a first edition book written by Sigmund Freud. His grandfather emigrated to the United States to escape Nazi persecution. He also had several notebooks written in German. All of it was arranged in perfect order, everything in the room was his pride and joy. His grandpa had been an inventor.
Conversations with Miles were sometimes a little bit incoherent, but not when he was talking about dreams. That was his favorite subject. He appeared to be an expert in the matter. I never showed him indifference, regardless of how absurd his comments seemed. Gretchen and her dad avoided conversations with Miles about his dreams. They thought the dreams were interminable and boring.
I thought Miles’ brain was balancing his deficiencies with his proficiencies, the way it happens to blind persons when other senses get more acute, perhaps to compensate for their inability to see.
At first, I couldn’t decide whether he was handsome or not, but the more time I spent with him the more I realized he was a handsome kid. His face was mild and peaceful.
The day I knew that I had gained Miles’ complete trust was when he showed me a helmet and mentioned that he wanted to share his dreams with me.
“Randy, let me show you something,” he said, “Look, this is the coolest thing ever, I call it ‘the dream projector’, it helps me to travel in my dreams, and sometimes I can visit Grandpa.”
The thing was weird-looking. It was a gray helmet like the ones bicycle riders use. The frame wasn’t solid, it had gaps or slots, probably to avoid the head from sweating or to avoid the brain from getting too hot. Along the underside of the helmet, there were dozens of dull, hard rubber tips that looked like pencil erasers. It had copper wires and a few transistors.
Then, he continued, “This is my most precious treasure. I never use it for protection. I’ve been wearing it every night since Grandpa gave it to me.” after a short pause, that seemed more like a moment of hesitation he said, “look, I love my dad, I adore Gretchen, and you’re okay Randy, but my grandpa was something else.” as he said this, his eyes sparkled with pride and tears.
Afterward, when I asked Gretchen about the helmet, she said her grandfather built it himself and gave it to Miles just days before he died, and that Miles wouldn’t go to sleep without it, despite his dad’s insistence to not wear it in bed. It looked uncomfortable to use for several hours at a time, especially in bed.
“I like my other me better than myself,” he said while tapping his chest with his right open hand. “I’m happier with my inside me,” he said.
“What do you mean Miles? Is there another person inside of you?”
“Yes, he’s always there when I’m asleep. He is smart; his brains are good, he can think better.”
“Can you communicate with him? Does he talk to you?” I asked.
“Are you crazy? He is me! There’s no need to talk to me, we just think, that’s all. When I’m in there with him, we’re smart the same. I like him better than I like myself. Do you want to talk to him, Randy? You can borrow my helmet tonight if you want.”
“Is he inside your helmet?” I asked.
“No dummy, he’s in my dreams, ha, ha, inside my helmet, ha, ha. You’re a little retarded Randy. Sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you, Randy, you’re my best friend, sorry.”
“It’s all right, Miles I don’t feel insulted, you’re also my best friend. But tell me, Miles, how does your helmet work?”
“You just put it on your head before you fall asleep and you start dreaming,” he said.
“But I’ve never needed a helmet to dream, and I’ve dreamed all my life without one.”
“Yes, but with my helmet, you can talk to me in your dreams, you can have real dreams and you can also see my dreams.”
“Well, it sounds a little bit complicated, but I’ll give it a try. Are you going to be okay without it for one night? Gretchen told me you haven’t slept without it since your grandpa gave it to you. What if you change your mind and I have it at home with me.”
“It’s alright Randy, I can still have normal boring dreams without it. Sometimes I remove it in the middle of the night, sometimes, I’m boring myself.”
“Before I take it, just tell me how it works. Does it need a battery or a charger, do I need to connect it to an electrical receptacle?” I asked mockingly, which I immediately regretted.
“I don’t know how it works, my grandpa never gave me any instructions. He just made it and gave it to me and said, ‘dreams are its energy’”.
I didn’t know why I accepted to take it with me. Probably just to be polite to him, but I was somewhat curious.
I had to admit; the device looked a little medieval. Like you would expect a torture device to look, like an apparatus someone would use to reanimate Frankenstein.
When I went home, I placed the “dream projector” on the nightstand, next to my books. That night, I read a little bit until I got sleepy. After a while, as I reached for the lamp switch, I saw the helmet and grabbed it.
I put the helmet on in the dark. The blunt rubber tips inside the helmet rested on my thick hair. The tips felt like fingers, and when I moved my head it felt like I was giving myself a massage. The way it feels when you’re shampooing your hair. It didn’t feel bad at all.
That night, I dreamed I was on the roof of a tall building and I was afraid to fall, I was paranoid. The roof was very small, a little bigger than my bed. I was lying on my back, grabbing the sides of the building with my extended arms. It was windy and I was exhausted from resisting my prolonged fears.
Within my dream, I knew I was dreaming. I wanted to end the dream and my suffering, but I couldn’t. When I accepted I wouldn’t be able to stop it, I decided to jump from the building. I thought it was my only escape. But I decided that instead of jumping to my death I was going to fly or glide and enjoy the ride.
I went straight down a hundred miles an hour. After I relaxed, my brain took control of the situation and turned my nightmare into a sweet, beautiful dream. I could see the entire city. I could see the sky, the clouds, and the horizon. I could fly above the treetops, I could go back up to the roof. I conquered my fears. I was happy.
When I woke up I didn’t open my eyes and didn’t move. I was lying in bed and I was sure that if I had been at the top of any building I would have jumped and I would have been able to fly.
A moment later, I thought it was ridiculous.
When I opened my eyes I had a hard time convincing myself that I’d been dreaming the entire time, including the time when I thought I was awake. Then, I removed the helmet from my head and I wondered if I could have had the same dream without the helmet.
I realized there were two of me inside my dream! There was me, acting my dream, and then the other me, watching me act. Or the physical me dreaming in my bed and my other me inside my dream, and I liked the other me, the one with the authority to control the dream. It seemed very clear.
“Did you wear it, did you dream?” Miles asked the next day.
“Yes Miles,” I said, as I gave the helmet back. “I wore it, but honestly, I wasn’t thinking about using it. I just put it on and fell asleep and had a normal dream.”
“A normal dream?”
“Well, yes, nothing different. It was vivid, it felt real and I enjoyed it because I could control it.”
“Did you like the other you better?”
“Yes Miles, I liked my other me better.”
“You see what I mean now, now we’re equal. I like my other me better and you like the other you better.”
“What? Wait a minute Miles, there’s only one of me. The conscious one when I’m awake and the unconscious one when I’m asleep, but we’re the same, there’s no need to separate me in two, (I felt a little stupid because I was contradicting myself) when I say that I like the other one better, I mean that I want to act like him in real life. I want to be unafraid and in control.”
“You have to admit it, Randy, you are feeling envy of the other you, but it’s amazing, isn’t it? Your first dream and you are already struggling with you and yourself.”
“No Miles, it wasn’t my first dream, I don’t envy me and I’m not struggling with myself. But let me tell you one thing, you are a lot smarter than most of us. And don’t believe anybody that tells you otherwise.”
I was confused. I thought the damn thing was useless, it couldn’t protect your head, much less your brains. I was glad for Miles, though. The helmet was his only toy, he loved it.
As for me, I wasn’t attached to any material things. I wouldn’t run to save anything during an earthquake. I would just run with me and myself.
The following day, Miles came up with an unbelievable commentary.
“Hey Randy, I saw your dream. I’m glad you know how to fly now, from the treetops to the roof of a tall building in just a few seconds.”
“What? That’s impossible, who told you about it? Nobody knows, I never told anybody that’s not possible Miles, how could that be?”
“Randy, you shouldn’t be so surprised, it’s in my helmet. You knew that. Didn’t I tell you that I wanted to show you my dreams?”
It just blew my mind! How could that be possible? To know about that dream he had to be inside my head unless the dream was somehow recorded in the helmet, but that’s so out of this world, so science fiction. There had to be a better explanation. I needed more evidence.
That was beyond normal comprehension. If the helmet could work like that, the world needed to know about it.
I was going too far ahead on my conclusions.
Miles probably saw all the provocative questions in my head because he gave me the thing back and said, “Here Randy, try again.”
Gretchen wasn’t demanding or submissive. I knew she could be happy with me or without me. She had a strong character. She was also a little overweight. What some people might consider being on the verge of obesity I considered voluptuous.
Knowing that we were both virgins, I decided to do a little experiment with her in my dreams.
Sometimes, when I did something repetitiously for hours during the day, I would dream about it. If I swam for hours, or if I watched a movie that impressed me in any way, I would dream about that.
In my dream, Gretchen and I would make love for the first time. There was no need to take any precautions. No condoms or promises. Oh, and I wanted lots of foreplay.
I imagined the whole thing, including all my fantasies, and she would enjoy them too. We’d make love all night long. I’d take advantage of my experiment; after all, it would be just a dream.
I put the helmet on and I concentrated on my future dream until I fell asleep.
I woke up with a big smile on my face. The dream I had with Gretchen was vivid and real. It was so real, when I woke up I still had an erection. My penis was still sore in the morning. I’m sure it hadn’t been a wet dream because my underwear and the bedsheets were clean and dry.
The day after I gave the helmet back to Miles, he said . . . “Randy I saw what you did with Gretchen, you dirty man! I couldn’t believe it. I had to turn it off.”
I couldn’t find a rational reaction. I just said, “It was just a dream, Miles, don’t pay attention to it.”
I never imagined that Miles was going to be a witness to such a dream. It was not a PG13 dream, I felt ashamed.
“I’m sorry you had to see such a horrible dream. Listen, Miles, can you try not to see my dreams in the future. I’m not an expert like you and I cannot control them, besides my dreams are too wild.”
“Don’t worry, I didn’t see the whole thing,” he said.
I realized I was in the middle of a complicated dilemma. Should I tell the entire world about this amazing invention? Should I get a patent and sell it for a hundred million dollars?
No, of course not! The thing belonged only to Miles and I had nothing to do with it. Nevertheless, I knew the future of the helmet was in my hands. I could decide to be quiet or expose it to the world.
The potential was limitless, but I wasn’t concerned about its enormous value. I decided not to tell anyone, not even Gretchen. I needed to find its real potential, and make sure there were no risks involved.
“How do you turn it off?” I asked Miles, after a short pause. “You just tell yourself to wake up, as simple as that,” he answered.
“Please, Miles, don’t say anything to Gretchen about it, okay?”
“Why would I tell her? It was just a dream, right?”
“Yes, and completely unpremeditated.”
After that day, I asked Miles many questions regarding the helmet, without trying to be too fastidious. I didn’t want to lose his trust or his friendship. I asked him if I could read his grandfather’s notes and books. He accepted, but it was useless because half of it was written in German. Miles was the only expert on the matter.
“One day I’ll be with my grandpa Dieter forever. He was my best friend. He showed me love, he was patient and caring. In the end, my grandpa was crazy like me. I know two crazy people can understand each other. After he died, he was in my dreams and I felt safe there with him, only there. The helmet was our connection; he gave it to me to visit him in my dreams.” I saw his eyes sparkle again.
“I still miss Grandpa, I miss his caressing hands, his hugs, and kisses. In his stories, I was always the hero, not like in this life, where most people are so cruel.”
And then, he affirmed with conviction, “All things are better when I’m with Grandpa.”
Miles said the helmet transported him to another world, to another real world. Better than the one he lived in, and that he wanted to spend more time in his ‘dream world’. He believed that one day one world was going to cancel the other.
He said he wanted to erase bad memories from his past and add only good things to his future. It was hard to understand him.
Could it be that his defective short-circuited brain was, in reality, a superior brain?
All recent experiences had me excited. I tried to simulate my enthusiasm with false indifference. I told Miles that I wanted to experiment more. I asked him if we could alternate using the helmet, and I was glad he agreed. But I didn’t want anything to ruin our ‘partnership’.
That night, I thought I would take a tour in hell. It sure was a drastic change from having sex with Gretchen. I figured that since I could control or manipulate my dreams if I didn’t like hell, I would turn it into heaven. I was a little hesitant about that choice, but I’ve always been stubborn.
After I gathered some paintings from the masters depicting hell, I focused on them, then I put the helmet on and fell asleep.
In the morning, I woke up a little disappointed. No hell whatsoever. Probably hell didn’t exist or I couldn’t invent it in my dreams. Maybe I didn’t concentrate enough.
All I dreamed about was Miles having lots of fun with a kite and an old man cheering him up until Miles fell on his knees. I was there next to the old man when he was comforting Miles after his fall. I saw Miles in my dreams for the first time, but I felt a little frustrated. I thought the dream was a failure, it proved nothing.
When I went back to Gretchen’s house I got another surprise when I saw Miles. He had some scrapes on his knees. I asked him right away what had happened to him, and he said he didn’t know. He said he woke up like that and that he probably fell from his bed, but I knew that was very unlikely. Could it be possible that he was in my dream and somehow . . . ? no, no way. Either way, I didn’t tell him about my dream.
The following day he told me about his dream.
“Randy, I saw you in my dreams! I was having a lot of fun with Grandpa. I was running and having fun with a kite, until . . .” then I interrupted him and finished his sentence, “. . . until you fell and scraped your knees!”
“Yes, Randy, I was very happy with Grandpa. I knew I was inside a dream and I didn’t want to wake up. I wish I could stay there forever, but instead, I feel like it’s harder for me to connect with him. Like there’s more distance between us.”
One day Gretchen told me she missed her period. Then she said that she probably just missed it, period. She said that she was curious and asked me to join her to the pharmacy to get a pregnancy test. Later, I heard her screaming in the bathroom.
“Positive? Positive! Positive?! It can’t be. Something’s wrong; somebody is playing a joke on me. No way. I’m a virgin! I have never even seen an erect penis in my life! Randy! You have to believe me. I need to get another pregnancy test, this was probably defective. Let’s get another one.”
On the way to the pharmacy, she kept going at it. I didn’t know whether she was mad at me for not believing or for believing. I never said a word. Gretchen, the always composed and undisturbed Gretchen was mad at me, at God, at the entire world. The second test was positive again. Then she took a different approach.
“The Divine Providence, Randy, that’s it, a divine mandate! God chose me!” she said with a sarcastic smile. “What are we going to do, Randy? Well, not you, obviously it’s not your fault. What am I going to do? I can’t tell my dad, it can’t be possible, help me, Randy!”
“Well, if you’re pregnant, and that is beyond far-fetched, would you have the baby? Would you keep it?” I asked her, considering I was the only accusable prospect. After all, I did do it in my dream.
Then I thought about Miles’s scraped knees, did that happen in my dream or his dream? Was it possible for things to materialize from a dream to real life with the helmet?
“It makes no sense, why would I need an abortion if nobody has impregnated me? It’s impossible. But if I claim I’m innocent, I’ll be ridiculed. I need you to believe in me Randy, if I ever get pregnant it would be only by you.”
“Yes Gretchen, I believe you. But if you want, we can make it real.”
“Oh, Randy, don’t joke about it, not now.”
“Sorry, sorry. I tell you what Gretchen, let’s wait a week and then take the test again. Then, you’ll decide what to do, and of course, if it’s negative we’ll do nothing, or we’ll celebrate and . . . oh, never mind.”
That night, I elaborated on a plan.
I thought that if I impregnated her in my dreams, perhaps I could undo it in my dreams too. It sounded absurd, but I wouldn’t lose a thing if I tried it.
After I gathered all the stuff I needed to provoke the required dream, a picture of a hospital with a doctor included, an operating room, and of course, Gretchen’s photo. Then, I focused on my intentions and put the helmet on. And after performing my relaxing ritual, I fell asleep. In my dreams, abortions are legal.
A week later we got another pregnancy test. When Gretchen came out of the bathroom she said with a sigh of relief, “false alarm”. Of course, I was ready to show a false expression of surprise.
The instructions claimed ninety-nine percent accuracy. But it could be misleading. It could be less accurate if it’s done within the first days of a missed period. Anyway, I was glad for both of us. I could never know if I got her pregnant in my dreams, or if the abortion in my dream was a success. Or if it was all just a fluke and nothing ever happened at all.
A few weeks later, Miles said he was going to miss me. I didn’t understand what he meant.
“How can you miss me, if even in our dreams we are together?”
“Yes, Randy, but it’s like a rubber band when it gets stretched to the limit, it could suddenly snap and push us even further apart.”
Sometimes, I just couldn’t understand him. Sometimes, he expressed himself like a philosopher, other times like a complete lunatic. But I always loved him either way.
Then one day, Miles disappeared into thin air. Nobody ever saw him again. His dad filed a police report and they looked everywhere. The city offered a large reward. Nobody ever claimed it.
It was the saddest day of my life. And only I knew where he went.
A day after his disappearance, I saw him in my dreams. He had finally decided not to come back. He said he was happier there, with his grandpa. He said that maybe he could use the helmet to come to visit us.
But I had the helmet with me.
I told Gretchen exactly what had happened to Miles, but it was too hard to convince her. She would not believe me until I gave her instructions on how to use the helmet.
I didn’t care if she saw all my dreams. All I cared about was for Gretchen to see how happy Miles was with his grandpa.
The following day, she grabbed a hammer and broke the helmet into a million fragments.
The explosion was imminent. We didn’t know who or what would set it off. The decision was mutual and final. Everybody would later say absurd, too. I expected to be painless. I hated pain. Physical or mental.
We’re three brothers separated by six years each. We all were born in September. My brother Ralph was thirty, I was twenty-four and my little brother Anthony was eighteen. Our house was a gathering place for all kids from the neighborhood. I don’t remember having had any serious fights with my brothers. We were always very close to each other.
My dad had worked all his life for the Ford Motor Company. He was proud of it. At one point we had four Ford vehicles in our driveway. Three cars and a pickup truck. Anthony broke the tradition the day he came home in a brand new Honda Accord. My dad didn’t pretend to hide his disappointment. Dad didn’t let Anthony park his car near the house. At first, my brother thought dad was kidding.
My mom was a strict catholic, maybe on the verge of fanaticism. She wanted Ralph to be a priest, but that profession didn’t interest him at all. When she realized that her attempts would be futile, she continued her efforts with me. She insisted so much I almost accepted just to please her. I’m glad I didn’t. In the end, she succeeded with Anthony.
I’ve always found amazing how three brothers, raised by the same parents, in the same house, and the same environment could have so disparaging personalities, desires, and goals.
My brother Ralph had always been materialistic. He was ambitious, and a little vain too. Making money was his primary goal. He preferred the administrative side of all jobs. Being the boss was what he liked the most.
I always loved sports. I practiced baseball, soccer, and basketball. I considered the possibility of becoming a professional trainer or a doctor in sports medicine because the active life of most professional athletes lasted only a few short years.
My brother Anthony (thanks to my mom) became a priest. He had a true vocation for it. He had many virtues and qualities required for the priesthood. He was patient and understanding. His personality was passive and sedated. Anthony was gay, but I’m not implying a connection between priesthood and being gay.
We would do anything to help and protect each other.
We knew Anthony was gay since he was in middle school. My mom and dad knew about it too. We all accepted his sexual preference. “Accept” was not the right word, it wasn’t a matter of acceptance or rejection. It was a matter of understanding. The subject never attracted any problems. He was never bullied or bothered by anyone. Maybe because he had two big brothers or maybe because he was quiet and smart and everybody enjoyed his company.
He never had the urge to come out of the closet. He never felt the need to disclose it or to hide it from anybody. To us, it was just a normal situation, no one was affected negatively by it.
We were born six years apart in September. Since Anthony was born, we celebrated our birthdays the same day. A single party for the three of us.
One time, Ralph invited us to celebrate our birthday at his house. Just the three of us. We had enough tequila to last the whole week. Ralph explained to us that the mortgage on his fancy house was ‘upside down’. Meaning, he owed more than what the house was worth. It had negative equity. He had several active loans on it.
His wife Lauren had left him recently. They had a seven-year-old daughter. Everything was fine until he began to spend more time spending his money and not enough time making it. He loved expensive toys, cars, and boats. He used to take long vacations all over the world, sometimes without his family. Until he was broke and alone.
I saw it coming a long time ago. I knew he would have to file for bankruptcy and start all over. I didn’t know why he had to be so greedy. Anthony always admired Ralph. He was his idol and his favorite person in the world.
After Ralph shared his economic situation with us, Anthony offered his help. “I could lend you . . . no, I could give you ten thousand dollars, no, fifteen thousand dollars. I know I can get a loan for that much from my Church.” he said.
Ralph kissed him on the cheek.
“I love you, Anthony, you’re my favorite brother,” Ralph said, then he turned to me and said, “You’re my favorite brother too,” and he continued “but I’m beyond normal help, not even bankruptcy could save my ass.” He said this with a sad smile on his face. He took another sip of tequila, which was now drinking from the bottle.
“How bad is it?” I asked him.
“Bad,” he answered.
“Well, you can sell the house our parents left us, and you can also sell the shares my dad had with Ford. I’m sure Anthony wouldn’t mind,” I said. (Our parents had died in a dreadful car crash three years before.)
“I’m sorry, I already did. I don’t deserve to be your brother. I knew you wouldn’t mind because you’re not greedy like me. My problem is beyond solution. I’m facing real heavy shit. You see, I’ve been taking money from new clients to pay back old clients. And the bubble is about to burst. I’m talking about years of jail time. It’s not just because I’d lose my freedom. I’d be too ashamed to confront my friends and people that had trusted me. I’d rather die. I’m glad we’re together today, this is my farewell. I’m taking my life, no one can change my mind. It would be useless if you tried.”
Then, he opened a cabinet door where a handgun and a single bullet appeared on the bottom shelf.
He continued, “A few months ago I bought a life insurance policy for two million dollars. Lauren is the beneficiary, the only problem I have now is that she can collect it only if my death is accidental, but if I kill myself, she gets zero.”
To my amazement, neither Anthony nor I were shocked to hear about his abhorrent plans. I had the same strange feeling that I felt when I learned about the death of our parents. A vast emptiness inside my body. Like my soul wanted to disconnect from my body.
On the day my dad celebrated twenty-five years of employment for the Ford Motor Co., they delivered a one-inch thick piece of beveled glass with the Ford logo. It seemed like it belonged in a car dealer’s showroom. I thought it was a large dining tabletop, but it turned out to be a front door.
When they installed it, it looked fancy and expensive, and I bet it was. My dad said jokingly, “Remember boys in case of an emergency, like an earthquake, a fire or something like that the first thing we’ll do is remove the door and put it in a safe place, after that, we can look for your mother.” I also remember that he used to clean it with a special cloth and glass cleaner every night, very ceremoniously.
Well, it lasted only two weeks because one day, we were kicking the soccer ball, practicing penalty kicks and using the garage door as our goal posts. Ralph was the goalie and I kicked the soccer ball very hard, I missed the huge garage door and hit my dad’s pride instead.
That afternoon, we waited for my dad sitting on the curve by the driveway. When he got home, we all stood up and Anthony said with the saddest face I’ve seen my whole life, “Dad, I broke your door.” He said this while hugging him around his waist and sobbing quietly. He was probably eight years old.
Then Ralph said, “No, dad, it was me. I’m sorry, I’ll pay for it as soon as I start working, I swear.” By then my dad was looking at me, knowing that it had been me the one who broke it.
As we stood in front of the house looking at the huge space where the door was supposed to be, my dad said,
“Don’t worry boys, it was just a door, a door is easily replaced. I want nothing bad to happen to you, because you are irreplaceable. You just showed me how much you care for each other and that makes me a happy father,” my dad proudly said. But we felt sad for him because we knew he wouldn’t last another twenty-five years of loyal work to get another door from Henry Ford.
Then we brought a piece of plywood from the garage and covered the space temporarily.
But to fill the space my dad had in his heart, I couldn’t find anything to say but, “I’m so sorry dad.”
I was very proud to belong to that family. I felt my brothers and I were indestructible. We were a powerful unit. I knew I would do anything for them, anything.
Ralph grabbed the gun in one hand and the bullet in the other and said, “I have only one bullet. I just need to make it look like an accident, any suggestions?”
“Come on Ralph! Don’t joke about it, we can’t let you do that. There has to be another way out. We should put our minds to work and come out with a more reasonable plan. There must be another solution.” Anthony said firmly.
“I thought about other solutions, like running away like a coward to another city, another state or country. Disappear anywhere in the world and start all over, but I can’t do that. What I’ve done is punished with prison, and I know I wouldn’t last a week in jail. Even if I did, after many years of imprisonment, I wouldn’t be able to face my friends or my clients. I’d be too ashamed to look into my daughter’s eyes. I know I’m right when I say that I don’t deserve to be your brother. Please, don’t make it harder on me. My decision is final, I just couldn’t do it without letting you know first.”
“Well, if you do it; I’d do it too, I swear I would do it too. I’ve been thinking about it. I have strong motives. I’ll tell you what real suffering is.” Anthony said.
“I was deeply in love for the first time in my life, but in my case, it was wrong. I met a young boy, he was gay too, nothing shameful or illegal happened between us. We became good friends right away. He was sixteen years old. Some people say that priesthood is a refuge for repressed homosexuals and that we join the seminary to keep functioning in society and to hide our devious sexuality. My case is not like that at all, I love being a priest and I’d be a priest even if I weren’t gay. I was never trying to hide anything, and you know that. We fell in love and promised ourselves to wait until he turned eighteen. Celibacy and abstinence were tough choices for me, but for him, I could return to civilian life.” he paused and took a long sip of tequila, and continued.
“When he told his mom about us, he thought she would approve. Instead, she moved her family to another city and reported me to our diocese. He committed suicide two weeks ago. I couldn’t even go to his funeral. I felt like I betrayed God, like my vocation wasn’t sincere anymore. I just wanted to die too. My decision is final too, and nobody can change it either, not even you two. What hurts me the most is that God will never absolve me because suicide is a transgression against the sanctity of life.”
The three of us were quietly sobbing, each one of us had a bottle of tequila, drinking, and sharing our problems and individual pain. I’m sure we couldn’t even have these suicidal thoughts if our parents were alive. But at that moment we were just three grown-up orphans.
It never crossed my mind that any of my brothers could ever consider committing suicide.
I thought that if you were serious about it you would keep it to yourself. That was something nobody would announce to the world. In any case, I thought I was the only one with a legitimate excuse, the only one with an obvious motive.
I had relived the entire episode many times. It was hard to understand life and the many tricks it plays on you. I knew how a simple decision could alter your future. I knew how a minor modification in your routine can vary (and bury) your future. It was amazing how fate, or God or whatever could change your future. For instance, let’s say my father had a toothache the day he was supposed to have met my mom and he didn’t get out of the house that day because of the discomfort and pain. I wouldn’t have existed, right?
I had just returned home from San Francisco for the long Labor Day weekend. My friend Mike from my high school days called me to joined him to shoot some pool and of course, to have a few beers. We called a few more friends and met at a bar about thirty miles from home.
I should have declined the invitation.
When we got out of the bar, we were completely wasted. Someone suggested buying more beer before the liquor stores closed. I was driving on my own, Mike and the other two friends were with him. While driving on the freeway, from the other car, they offered me a beer. Mike and I matched our speed, got our cars close together, and I extended my arm to reach for the beer.
That’s the last thing I remember from the accident. How reckless and irrational you become with some alcohol in your blood. And I thought I was a mature person.
A week later, I regained consciousness and came out of a coma. Only to learn that my able body had turned into a useless piece of meat. Condemned to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Mike and the other two guys died at the scene. As I said, I should have declined the invitation.
I broke up with my beautiful girlfriend while still in the hospital, right after she offered to give me a blowjob.
For months, I had entertained the possibility to commit suicide. The first thought came up in the hospital. I knew then, that I had to do it. I didn’t know what I was waiting for, probably for the right moment, although the right moment was at any time. I had no hope. I had no goals. Nothing I would achieve could bring happiness to my life. I was only half a man, a fake. I was destined to be an eternal failure.
Some people said I was lucky that I survived. Lucky?
My plans to become a professional soccer player, a coach, or a doctor vanished with a careless decision. No more sports, no social life, no regular job, no career. At least not at its full potential, as I would have wished. Oh, and I couldn’t have sex or kids of my own. What a pitiful life!
After Anthony exposed his motives for wishing to end his life he looked at me, like expecting me to burst out my reasons to kill myself, after all, I was in a wheelchair. I was the only one with obvious reasons. One time Ralph asked me if I had suicidal thoughts. Before I could answer, Anthony said that I shouldn’t consider it.
We all had reasons.
I’m sure we all felt like the day I broke down my dad’s door. Three brothers eternally united. We just sealed a silent pact. A mutual consent to end our lives.
Life didn’t matter to us anymore. We were just three adult orphans with no real close ties to anybody, other than to ourselves.
Neither one of us were optimistic about a bright future anymore. Although I wasn’t sure about Ralph and Anthony. After all, they were complete, I mean they didn’t have any physical disabilities, but they were disappointed with their lives and sometimes that could be worse than any disability.
Their dilemma seemed less drastic than mine did. Their predicament appeared to be only temporary and mine was permanent, there was no solution to my problem. Acceptance was my only option, but I was too bitter for that.
I felt tempted to convince them to retract. Instead, I just kept quiet.
A sudden thought came to my mind. If I ended my life, I couldn’t regret it. I’d be dead already. But if I didn’t end it, things could improve. Maybe I could postpone it one day at a time until the desire to kill myself went away. For a moment, I wished my brothers would reconsider it. I could go either way, but I joined the majority, and once again, I kept quiet.
“So, how are we gonna do this?” Anthony asked, trying to sound as casual as possible. “We could get drunk out of our minds and burn the place down. Or better yet, we could turn the gas range on, and blow out the flames until we pass out from breathing the gas fumes, or someone can shoot the oven and . . .”
“Our baby brother’s always the one with the best ideas,” Ralph said, looking at me as he took another sip of tequila. “I was going to ask any of you to shoot me, but I know that’s not possible, you wouldn’t dare. Besides, I only have one bullet.”
“Well, if we do it with gas, we’ll need some masking tape to seal all doors and windows,” I said.
In a few seconds, Ralph showed up with two rolls.
“I know many people were commenting behind my back that Lauren was my trophy wife, and they were right. I bet she can find someone better than me before my body turns cold.” Ralph said as he sealed the front door. Anthony was handling the gas range; while I taped the living room windows. We were always an excellent team. Fast and efficient, happy to do our chores together, and to talk nonstop.
It felt weird, working so happily together while preparing for our deaths, it didn’t seem right. It must have been the effects of the alcohol, but I hadn’t been happier in a long time. I wished we could do that every week.
We sat back again in the kitchen and kept drinking. We needed to pass out before we got sick from the gas smell. Anthony had turned off all pilot flames from the stove and then opened all gas valves. The odor was powerful already. We were drunk for sure, Anthony appeared to be more intoxicated than we were. I felt like throwing up. I got the lighter out of my pocket and raised my arm and asked, “who wants to do the honors?”
“Not yet, we’re not drunk enough, and besides, I don’t think there’s enough gas in the air,” Ralph said.
We were sitting down, facing the gas range, Ralph raised his bottle of tequila inviting us to do the same, and we all took a big gulp.
“We can still back out,” Anthony said, swaying his body involuntarily and added, “No, no, let’s do it. I’ve always been curious about the other side. I’d be disappointed if God didn’t exist, but wait, if we kill ourselves, He won’t be receiving us with a welcoming party, but I guess it’s still all right. I also wanted to meet Satan.” my little brother was sure drunk.
The gun was on the countertop and the bullet with its beautiful shape, standing next to it. We still hadn’t discussed who or what would set off the explosion, or if we were just going to die from the fumes. I thought I could just fire a shot to the stove.
The feeling of vomiting invaded me once more, and I turned my wheelchair around doing a ‘wheelie’ and hurried to the bathroom. I was good at maneuvering my wheelchair even while drunk. I needed to throw up. From the hallway, I heard my brothers laughing behind me.
I barely made it to the toilet. I got off from my chair and hugged the toilet, the way you hug a good old friend, and vomited.
When I regained consciousness, it took me a few seconds to realize I wasn’t dreaming.
The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the toilet. I smelled an awful stink, my vomit. I climbed back to the wheelchair and hurried back to the kitchen. My mouth was dry, and so was my brain. I didn’t know what to expect.
I had no idea how long I had passed out. I was hoping to find my brothers still laughing, still talking, still breathing. Instead, they were lying motionless on the floor. Oh God, they were dead!
While vomiting in the bathroom with the door shut, I fell asleep while they were dying. Fuck! They were dead, and I was alive!
Slowly, I turned my head and looked for the gun. I took it and placed the bullet inside. Then I put the gun against my temple. Feeling the ridges of the trigger with my index finger, I began to pull it. Then I saw Ralph resurrecting on the floor. He sat up, looked around the kitchen and said,
“Oh shit, I know what happened. I forgot to pay the gas bill!”
The sun was up when Anthony woke up. We all agreed that this ‘mass suicide’ wasn’t supposed to happen.
Things got better.
The government came out with a bailout plan for crooked investment companies and saved Ralph’s ass. He could make some documents disappear, altered some numbers, and promised himself to be an honest investor for the rest of his life. We believed him.
Anthony moved to West Hollywood and found happiness in every single way.
I returned to school and later became a successful sportswriter.
We continued with our annual ritual. We still get together each September to celebrate our birthdays. And every year Anthony would repeat the same comment:
“Hey Ralph, have you paid your gas bill this time?”