Barrio Turkey

chalchiuhtotolin_2

I.

I’ve always been a travieso.
Can we go to Disneyland mama?
No you know that.
          Stop being a travieso.
But…
No buts!
It was fun arguing with mom about things I already knew.

Like this one Thanksgiving.
I asked if we were having turkey.
She pretended to not hear me.
I asked again as she rolled the tortillas.
She stopped and glared at me.
I was being a travieso again.

She wouldn’t go to church.
The barrio kids got turkeys with their families,
         but mom wouldn’t go.
She said we were perfectly fine with what we had.
So instead we would have a regular dinner,
         frijoles, arroz, pollo con mole, tortillas,
                  but with homemade queso fresco and tres leches cake to make it special.
I thought she should’ve just gone to church.

I didn’t want to push it so I went outside to play.
At the end of the block,
         in the corner of the cul-de-sac,
                  a garbage bag laid with something inside.
Garbage was strewn everywhere in my neighborhood then,
         but it was the size and smell that made this bag stand out.
I swear that bag was breathing.
A putrid essence was emanating from that mysterious receptacle.

It stopped breathing as I approached.
Even the smell went away.
For some reason,
         I knew what was in that bag.
Grabbing a branch,
         I slowly opened the bag’s mouth.
I’ll never forget the look on that dead bird’s face.

II.

Travieso!
I heard someone call out,
         but it must have been the wind.
I shut the bag quick,
         worried that the dead bird would fly away.
Suddenly I felt alone with it,
         me and the big ugly dead bird left to fend for ourselves.
I wanted to poke it,
         to awaken it.
I wanted it to breathe again,
         like it did when it was alive.
But I didn’t want to be a travieso.

I raced over to my friend’s house,
         on the other street.
She was always nice to me.
She would be having turkey for Thanksgiving,
          and it made her sad that I wouldn’t be.
Her parents were always nice to me too,
         allowing me to visit and sometimes giving me clothes.
Of course you can go out and play they said.

She didn’t want anything to do with the bird.
I forgot how she didn’t like coming to my block,
         but this was important to me.
I needed her more than ever.
But she was scared of the size of the bird.
To her it looked like the turkey her family bought,
         but bigger and more wild,
                  scary.

I told her I wanted to awaken it,
         but she started to cry and begged me to not touch it.
It was as if she didn’t believe me when I told her it was breathing earlier.
It was as if she couldn’t understand how this bird ever existed.
Her doubts hurt me and alienated me from her,
         all because of this bird.
She went back to her house on her street,
         and I to mine.

III.

Where have you been?
Just playing mama.
With who?
No one mama.
Don’t lie to me.
I’m not!
Okay okay.
         I just don’t like you playing with that little girl.
I asked her why not,
         but I already knew why.
She doesn’t understand you.
         She doesn’t understand us.
I was just playing.
That’s good.
         You should play with the other kids.
But they’re mean!
         They hurt others.
They’ve been hurt themselves,
         that’s why they hurt others.
                  But you can help them.
How?
By showing them that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
         Show them how to fly.
                  That they matter.

Don’t listen to your mom,
         she is going to get you killed.
How papa?
By sending you to those wolves.
         They’ll prey on you.
                  You won’t have a chance.
I’m just playing papa.
Keep playing to yourself.
         Don’t start something you can’t finish.
                  Don’t be a travieso.

IV.

The barrio kids were awake and found the bird in the bag.
It was breathing through the bag again,
         this time faster than before.

You gonna poke it or what?
I don’t know.
Don’t be a bitch.
Don’t say that.
Fuck you!

They swung at me,
         but just as they did I leapt over to the bag,
                  picked it up and shook it with all of my strength.
The most beautiful bird broke loose.
It spread its wings and shot up into the heavens.
Then it floated back down to earth.

As it landed,
         it looked at me and smiled.
I smiled back.
I had forgotten about the others,
         but they were still there,
                  just quiet and afraid like mama said.

You can touch the bird.
         It’s here for all of you.
Really?
         It won’t hurt us?
It won’t hurt you,
         I promise.

One by one they walked up to touch that majestic bird.
I had never seen those kids so full of life.
They always knew what their destinies held.
They saw it on the TV and in the books at school.
         In the music their primos cruised to.

This bird,
         this turkey whose name was Chalchiuhtotolin,
                  proved fate wrong.
As each child touched the bird-god,
         a new bird came bursting forth from the bag.
Hummingbirds and hawks and owls and eagles!
Each with ancient names that somehow made sense,
         somehow resonated with each and every one of us.

We were able to dream again,
         fly again,
                  me and the other barrio kids.

V.

I was shook awake by my mom.
Dad was there too,
         I could smell the Brut cologne.
I was on the lawn near the dead bird,
         which was still in the bag.
One of the others pointed past my mom.
I saw a large spotted cat perched in a tree.
It slowly disappeared as we locked eyes.

Dad was angry because we were playing with a dead bird.
I told you!
          I don’t want you near those kids anymore!
But papa,
         we’re not afraid anymore,
                  we can fly now.
Travieso!
The bird isn’t dead.
You’re going to catch a disease!

It was okay I thought,
         he just didn’t understand.
Mama was standing behind him,
         smiling at me.
The barrio kids were around her.
I looked at them all,
         and we knew the truth.

We were never the same.
We still talk about that day, and tell the ancient story of the ancient bird that was awakened on our block to the new barrio kids.
If being a travieso meant spreading my wings and liberating myselfthen I was a proud travieso.
That day I was grateful because I had Thanksgiving turkey for the first time in my life.

Vicious Cycle

If you want to know happiness, you have to be willing to know pain. That’s all that makes sense in this world, pain. It drives and motivates and goes on and on and on. Until it ends, of course. There’s no escaping pain. People run and hide from it; do they not realize it is just waiting to devour, that it is unavoidable?

I learned that the hard way. I continue to learn it. I will never learn. Learn, never.

The most tolerant people you meet have experienced the greatest amount of misery. People who whine and moan about the most mundane things in life are those that have never experienced real pain. They will, but they haven’t, yet. Someone that has endured and survived a holocaust doesn’t complain about a wrong order at the fast food restaurant.

My life has been so hard, the pain so real. I need to learn to trust my own words.

The cost of happiness is pain. That’s what war is: pain for happiness. Suffering for comfort. Everyone endures their own personal war, and people need to realize that none suffers greater than anyone else.

God, how I have learned this. I know already. I can’t help it. Why am I here? Because, you’re losing the war.

If this all sounds so bleak, just remember that it is a truth that has been in existence since the beginning. Abel pursued his happiness, as did Cain. The person that can accept the pain as a fact is a person who can then experience happiness. To experience happiness is to be human.

This IV is killing me. These pills are killing me. This bed is killing me. This world is killing me.

What you need to realize, son, is that I will not be here for very long. You need to move on, before it’s too late. You need to accept the pain as fact; but to more importantly move the hell on. How can you be happy when you trap yourself in a self-induced prison? Trust me, I’ve been trapped in my own god-forsaken prison since childhood. It’s a life of raw rending insanity. Trust me.

You fucking hypocrite. Do you think just saying the words will save your ass now? Your son is as pathetic as you are; actually, more so. Quit it with the pain and happiness bullshit, he’s not even listening anymore. You sure as shit don’t believe it.

Are you hearing me, son? Do you understand me? I fight internally, hourly, and I have avoided the pain for so long. I’m ready to be happy. I want to be happy. Nothing will make me happier than knowing you will be ok. I want the pain. The real pain, not the fake pain I do to myself, but the truthful pain. Please, son, take my hand.

Just stop! Stop stop stop!

Don’t be scared Mijo, I have not been more at peace then I am now. I think I deserve the happiness, don’t you? Please, don’t cry.

Look at him, he is so distraught. Do you want to do that to him? Come back, you don’t deserve it, and you know it. Think of all the horrible things you have done. Why should you get to dwell in happiness? Just come back, get better, and we’ll escape the pain for a bit more longer.

Ok.