I run at ass crack dawn every day mostly because that is the only time I can squeeze in one more activity into my busy schedule but also in an attempt to avoid the creeps that stalk about waiting to harass women at night.
As I turned the corner I heard the familiar “hey baby, looking gooood” and noticed two cholos sitting at a bus stop bench that rudely corrected my theory that losers are too lazy to be up that early.
My body went on high alert; my stomach muscles contracted and a flurry of emotions threatened to make me double over as I felt the familiar rage within me: hate on sight. As I inhaled I could feel my nostrils flare, my chest heave; and all I could think about was how I wanted to scoop up the dregs of festering hate inside my body and spit it out, cast it out like a spiderweb of fear.
They have touched my friends, cousins, uncles, and those too close for comfort that I can’t even admit it to myself.
They promise protection, respect, and money but all they do is strip self-respect away and spread shame, fear, and resentment wherever they go. With their broken promises they have lured so many away from me and away from life.
When I was 13 my mother took us to the mall and as we had done many times before, my sister and I window shopped and balked at the prices. Up to that point, we had been well supplied with the hand me downs from our various tias so we were never in need of our own clothing. We had birthday and Christmas money so my mother took us to actually shop that day. I bought my first pair of jeans, fitted bell bottoms and a spaghetti strap shirt with a flowery blue and black pattern. I could hardly wait to put them on.
The following weekend Rosie and I went for a walk down Cesar Chavez Boulevard wearing our brand new clothing. My waist length hair was freshly curled from a perm I got for my birthday, my body shone with the Nivea lotion I had lathered on, and I could smell the intoxicating smell of new cotton clothing. It was a heady experience every time I leaned into my shoulder to smell and confirm that the scent of newness was still there.
I strode down the boulevard like I was seven feet tall with my sister, who was smiling broadly and wearing her new outfit, next to me. That is until we passed by a couple of tattooed gangsters that were in their 40’s, real loser looking veteranos.
“Hey you little slut, you dropped something.” I felt the object hit my chest and slide down my shirt into my bra and stick to the side of my chest. My cheeks burned with a sickening mix of anger and shame. I didn’t flinch nor say anything. I looked straight ahead and kept walking in silence. They were looking for a reason to approach me, to touch my bronzed arms, to tear me down from my high perch of pride.
I kept walking and swallowed what I felt inside.
I bit down on the edge of my tongue hard so I couldn’t unleash its wrath. I bit down until I felt the metallic taste of blood pool inside my mouth. I curled my hands into fists and pressed my nails down tightly until a row of angry half-moon crescents appeared on my palm. Only pain took my mind away from the rage that boiled inside me.
I had to will every ounce of concentration to divert my focus from wanting to face them, look straight into their stupid smug smirks and use my fists to pummel their face and bash it in beyond recognition. I had to tense my muscles until I was sweating to keep me from clawing at their eyes, until they fell to the ground and writhed in pain as I kicked them over and over in the ribcage until I felt the familiar crack of bone against my foot.
I can still see his face, the piece of shit cholo that saw a young girl of 13 walking proud and happy, and threw a filthy penny down her chest that immersed her in a sheet of shame.
Family, protection, respect. That’s what they promise you. Family, protection, respect; that’s what they take from you.
Too many of my friends are gone, too many for a thirteen year old to know how to grieve for.
So yes, hate on sight is what they incite in me. As I feel my body double over, it is not in fear, it is to contain the cold blinding white rage. Like a rabid animal foaming in the mouth I see nothing but decomposed soulless flesh to tear apart.
Too many loves you took from me. Too many smiles, hugs, and flickers of hope. You dashed them all with a piece of metal, with a tug of your fat worthless finger.
When I fear you, I hate you. I hate that you can walk around with your head held high when you should be sniveling at the feet of a filthy dog. You deserve nothing and you take it all. Your offer empty words to lost children and you turn them into angry listless half-humans that do your bidding. You take their warm brown eyes and turn them into flat ugly stares. You destroy all sense of community, of pride for their color, family, and roots and you replace it with a constant buzz of denial. You replace it with empty wounds to fill with hate; with bodies full of tattoos that mark them for death; with daddy-less babies crying for the attention of impatient girl-mothers.
You fuck it all up even more and you take pride in it; in pushing and knocking down anyone that hopes for a better life via honest means. You laugh at laborers and those that try to study their way out. You bully your own. Miserable meaningless breath of disgust, you took from me too much.
When I returned from my run and approached the bus bench they still occupied, I mentally discarded them and completely disregarded their cowardly whistles and comments. I feared only myself as I almost welcomed an excuse to be provoked and unleash the hurt from that 13-year-old that went home and once alone, tore off her clothes and hid them away in a drawer and only then allowed herself to peel off the penny from her skin and hurl it agains the wall.