By Marilyse Figueroa
He doesn’t know me, but he asks if I need a ride home. This happens all the time on the West side. We help each other out over here. I’m not scared of him or what he could do. I know to trust my gut. I know this because I listen to la luna.
From the headphones hanging out of his collar, I guess he doesn’t listen to el radio. I tell him to turn then the knob to 103.9 and cantar conmigo. He raises his eyes and asks me where I live. I ask where have you been and to sing.
No, I don’t know the words, he says. I don’t know how to say them.
He’s not looking at the road, but the car can drive itself. He wants to look at my purple eyes.
Ay, mijo, don’t be afraid of the first language you can’t remember, not even the words for love or hate, I reply and let him see the moons of my eyes.
I saw him en la vela. I saw the freckles in his brown eyes spark in my flames. I saw him sneak out of his bedroom at night and walk to a duck pond. He laid on his back and watched the stars walk across the sky. He knows they’re not moving, but he likes to think they could. The stars take a long time to transmit messages. They’ve been trying. We both knew we were going to meet someday.
The funny thing about losing yourself in this gringolandia is you never can, I said. You are expected to act Mexican, though you know you’re Chicano. You are expected to be a high school drop out, though you’ll be the valedictorian before I’m through with you. Come, tell me your name.
The boy wants to move away from me, but he can’t. My ability to see is frightening, yo sé, and deja vú knocks you off your feet. He remembers this moment. The message his dreams gave to him. He is still afraid, of course. But I am la mañana, there is only hope in my bones.
My name is Cane, he says reeling from fate.
No, don’t tell me your nombre with that adopted nickname and accent you say to make things easier for them. Even as Cane, you’re still a wetback to ones born here. I’ve felt every insult they’ve thrown at you, mijo. I’ve taken every punch and kick to your body onto mine. Not anymore. Como te llamas? Tell me with all the force of your erased ancestors, say your name Candelario.
How did you know my real name? he asks.
Because there are some names that aren’t meant to be shortened. Letting them call us “something else” is allowing them to beat us into the ground. No. We are la tierra. We were born here millennia’s ago. We never migrated, nosotros regresamos.
I appear when I am needed. I don’t have to cast spells. I listen to la luna and she dictates the plan. She told him where to go as well, and now we stop acting.
De donde eres? He asks me with a stream of tears running down his cheeks.
De la mañana. Turn the knob to 103.9 Cumbias Preciosas Por Siempre and bailar, por favor. Sing and dance and stumble in your language. This is the only strength we have when our names are gone. Soy la bruja.
He speeds off into the night. I consult my altar. Me and my house rise up from the ground. The roots of the universe dangle like earrings on the stars. Un día I will see him again and many more like him. We are all bound in a similar frontera. De Latinoamérica y allá. De Aztlán y aqui. Somos la tierra. We wait.