I just don’t know how to love Don Chingon.
He’s all needles, and all I want is soft touch (I can admit it now, finally). He only knows how to love this one way. Nothing risked, nothing ventured, not really. Just like me.
He tells me stories, stories, stories. Output. His love only goes one direction. He wants to be remembered more than he wants to be here, fingers in the wet sand.
He’s already a legacy in his own mind. He wants me to treat him like one, and I know how to please so I do what he wants.
We love as deep and as wide as we can, and that’s all. And for some people that’s an ocean. And for some people that’s a stream the width of a finger.
Don Chingon only knows danger, only knows bombastic tales of war. He gets angry when I ask him what he’s so afraid of.
“I’m not afraid of anything,” he says, sucking his teeth that way that feels so familiar even though we’ve only just met.
Let me speak for him, what I imagine he thinks.
I’m afraid of everything but most of all that I am unloved.
I’m afraid if I start to cry I’ll never stop.
I’m afraid that I’ll die.
I’m afraid that there’s no redemption for people like me.
I’m afraid that my body is made of bone.
Me too. Once I sat in the dentist chair, laid back, and he showed me the x-ray of my mouth. “Look up,” he said gently, his soft flower petal voice, the way a son whose father didn’t hug him speaks. “That’s you.” And I cried because I had to admit that my mouth was made of teeth and bone, too, just like all the other humans.
I’m afraid of my sagging cheeks.
I’m afraid that I’m nothing.
I’m afraid that you’ll leave if I stop talking for just one second, and that will mean I never existed at all.
I look down at his hands, the cleanest part of him. He scrubs them everyday with harsh soap made for machines, gets under the nails. Life is dirty, but it can’t touch him – not where he doesn’t want it to. Once he met a woman who was all the things he couldn’t admit himself to be – sad, desperate, vulnerable - and he thought if he loved her then maybe he could bring himself back to life.
How long have you talked like this, Don Chingon?
Each word a eulogy he’s afraid no one else will give him.
He’s talking and I’m remembering something:
The other day I was cleaning the house, and I found some bubble wrap that needed to be broken down so I could throw it away. Normally I’d just get a pair of scissors and slide the blade up each row of bubbles, cutting open the air pockets noiselessly. But this time I decided to pop them. And it reminded me of being a little girl.
One time all the kids in my summer school class were assigned a task to build a contraption that would keep an egg intact after it had been dropped from 30 feet.
I told my dad about this. He worked at a rubber factory then and I was sure that he would make me a special rubber solution that he’d put in a tiny, dark glass bottle. I would paint it on the egg and when it was dropped from 30 feet the egg would bounce off the black top in the playground.
He agreed to help me, and then he came home one day with a bunch of stuff.
A small rubber tube he had made at work, tape, and a bunch of insulating material, including bubble wrap. I was surprised or maybe disappointed by the lack of magic, but I didn’t say anything. We went outside and he put everything on the wooden picnic table under the awning he’d built. He got to work, asking me to hand him this thing or that thing. Bubble wrap is like kid crack. My chubby little kid fingers couldn’t resist the bubble wrap. I held it in my hands, popping one bubble and then another and then a third.
Each time I popped a bubble I would smile, giggle cautiously and look at my dad, wanting in some conspiratorial way to share this delight with him.
He didn’t look at me the first or second time. He kept working on the contraption. After the third time he stopped and said, “if you want to lose you should keep doing that.” I felt that silent red shame in my cheeks.
The next week my egg survived the drop. I didn’t lose.
I wanted him to be magic. He wanted me to be hard.
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ABOUT THE BOOK
I release a new chapter a week on Thursdays - unless I'm exceedingly overwhelmed or whatever I write is so epically terrible I'm too embarrassed to put it on the internet.