MOTHER CHASING ME THROUGH the apartment parking lot, pregnant. Her belly, round like a basketball, my sister in it. Me looking back and running, finger pointing at my mother, her stern eyes, wet with anger, the small me laughing out loud, Kassandra cursing me from the womb, years later I would put her in the camel clutch—I would sit on her, pull her arms back, clamp her face, make her curse . . . the womb, a warm sack of membrane. I would later learn this in junior high, sex education week. Her jelly heart changing as my mother of the bird-like legs shifted into drive.
In a fight with the white boy Ian. In the courtyard at Winery, years before the crack deals and prostitution ring, hundreds of friends yelling, “Kick his ass Medrano—stretch his face!” His white fists pounding me like raw meat, voices swirling in the scuffle, the only ass being kicked, mine, his Adidas of the velcro kind getting me in the jaw, see my sister in the corner of my eye my bruised eye, my hurt eye, see her run halfway down the concrete steps, watch her pause back up the stairs with speed, snitching me out . . .
My friends and me, can of Aqua Net after watching Revenge of the Nerds on VHS, we had goals, in an abandoned apartment, near the swimming pool where we fire rocks in the deep end, we light matches, watch the orange flame grow on wooden matchsticks, notice the tiny fire bloom as the aerosol can hits the flame, chant “Fireball! Fireball!” like Little Ogre in the movie.
Lane School. Recess. All the Mexicans. Blacks. Poor Whites. “Americans vs. Chinks! Americans vs. Chinks!” we chanted in the race from Mr. Courtright’s class to the soccer field. Ernie Vasquez. Stephon Harris. The sixth grade me. Even Lil’ Leon Smith, the white boy with the limp. And the southeast Asians, who wore hand-me down plaids from the ’70s, payless tennie shoes, no socks. We thought they smelled. Ate fried cat, drank gutter water. Peed sitting down. Pheng Lee, knock off Members Only jacket. Watch us laugh at his false wardrobe. Hien Huhn, the skinny Vietnamese with the falsetto voice, the first one to yell “Blow-up!!!”; his Mickey Mouse lungs flaring. He passes the round ball to Pheng, “Blow-up!!” he shoots back, launches the school property into my face. Felt the sting of rubber; the brand name imprinted on my cheekbones; Wilson, it read, an American brand.
So, they say my dad hooked up with some chick in the apartments. They say my dad wrapped his arms around her, on the hill, overlooking the swimming pool. They say she gave my dad a big kiss on the mouth in front of everybody. They say my dad liked it and my sister and her friends saw the whole thing. They say my mom cried on the concrete steps in front of our apartment, all night, while my dad hid in the other room. They say my dad hid in the other room, his eight track of Fats Domino’s greatest hits heard through the locked door. It was the Eighties and my dad still listened to the old music. Nobody heard a thing when my mom kicked my dad out of the house at three o’clock in the morning.
A kid grows up
when he hears
a slammed door
Something about language can make a grown man stutter.
Something about language can make a child remember the grown man begging.
Something about the begging makes the child remember the song.
Something about the song changes the boys molecular structure.
Something about this molecular structure shatters the young boy’s heart.
Something about the young boy’s heart belongs to the man.
Something about the man; on bended knee, is the opposite of a marriage proposal.
Something about love reverberates in the father’s heart.
Something about the child who can feel the warmth in the father’s chest.
Something about the father’s chest makes the young boy smile.
Something about his chest rising: the syllables escaping; one by one like the tremors from tiny poems.
MICHAEL MEDRANO is author of Born in the Cavity of Sunsets (Bilingual Press, 2009), Medrano’s poetry has appeared in Memoir Journal: I Speak From My Palms, North American Review, Cortland Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Bombay Gin and Rattle. He recently finished another book of poems, A Canvas for the Uprising. He hosts the literary arts radio show, “Pakatelas” on KFCF 88.1FM, and teaches college English as well as Random Writers Workshop of Fresno. You can find Michael on Facebook.