My father once said to me. He said, “Mannie, never trust a woman who’s smarter than you, because you’ll end up broke.” He’d always say stuff like that to me. My mother often referred to my father as a crazy old Mexican. She’d always say stuff like that about him.
She’d say, “Mannie, that crazy, goddamn, no-good Mexican ain’t gonna amount to anything but a cheap suit with empty pockets.” My parents were full of stuff like that. I had no idea what either one of them was talking about, because I was just 6-years-old at the time. I guess my mother proved to be the smarter one of the two, because in the end, it was all of her predictions that came true.
The three of us were stuck in traffic in my father’s silver Monte Carlo. My parents sat in the front seat, and I sat in the backseat, with a blanket wrapped around me like a cape. Till this day, I don’t know where the blanket comes from. I just know that every time I jumped into my father’s car, it was there in the backseat waiting for me. I’d often thought of the blanket as being my magical horse. It was a pattern of this wild mustang crossing the rugged terrain of some famous Monument Valley. The horse was malachite green, running over a red rock formation standing on the shades of sand and rust, and a golden sky capped it all off.
We had just crossed the Mexico border into San Diego and my mother and I was singing, chocolate, chocolate, bate, bate, chocolate. That song drives me crazy whenever I hear it today. I swear to God, it kills me to be in the toy section at Walmart when it’s crawling with kids playing that damn song, over and over, on that Dora the Explorer doll.
Anyway, there we were, my mother and I singing The Chocolate song, our momentum growing faster with each verse. I think it irritated my father, because he was sweating up a storm. I never seen anybody sweat that much, except for Barry White, that smooth looking black dude on one of mommy's albums.
My father kept bouncing his sneaky eyes back and forth at the booth were Border Patrol Officers stood. My mother even took a glance back at the Officers that were now probably four or five cars away. My parents then looked at each other and I remember it well, because it wasn’t that typical hateful look they often shared. I could see the sense of urgency in their eyes, but there was something else. It looked like happiness.
It might not have been that bona fide happiness that’s usually validated by a glowing smile or an affectionate kiss. It was the kind of happiness that came from a winning lottery ticket. My father never won more than a hundred bucks, but stuff like that always put a smile on my mother’s face.
We were about seven cars away from the border, inching further away as our voices grew louder. The further we got from the border, the more my father seemed to relax, and the faster my mother sang. My father even joined in the singing. Chocolate, Chocolate, bate, bate, Chocolate.
I remember thinking that we could’ve been just any typical family crossing the Mexico border on a sunny beautiful day. My parents weren’t fighting and I was happy about that.
Then I heard the loudest gunshot in the world. It numbed my ears and everything that happened next was heard with a humming sound. Our car veered off to the side and came to a complete stop. The gunshot turned out to be a blowout with one of our front tires. A big white cloud burst forth from the tire and rained over the entire car, speckling white powder everywhere.
The singing stopped and the hateful looks were back. In seconds, Border Patrol Officers surrounded our car. I guess they wanted to know what that white stuff was coming out of my daddy’s tire.
They pointed their weapons at my father, at my mother, and at my magical horse. I remember thinking, that if I doubled up the blanket, maybe it would protect me even more.
My mother turned to me and insisted, “Mannie, don’t you worry about nothing. You’re a decent kid with a good heart. It’s all you’ll ever need in life.”
My father turned to me and demanded, “Mannie, you don’t trust nobody in life, you hear me kid, nobody!”
It was like they were trying to give me the master plan of life in ten seconds flat. I just sat there snuggled up in that blanket and watched as Border Patrol Officers struggled to pull my parents out of the car. They hauled them off, dragging them through that dry dusty dirt.
Eventually, my mother went peacefully, her body succumbing to the earth like a balloon slowly losing its oxygen. The only hint of life was in her eyes, which were narrowed right at me. I hated when she rendered that look. If it was breakfast time, that look usually meant there was no milk to go with the Corn Flakes. At lunchtime, no bread to go with the hot dogs. And sometimes around dinnertime, she’d still give me that look even when there was milk to go with the Corn Flakes.
I watched as my parents were lugged away like a sack of dirty laundry. I could hear them arguing amongst each other. They argued about whose fault it was, about who picked that damn tire, about what might happen to me. But that was my parents—never at a lost for words no matter what the situation was.
I think the last thing I heard my father say was that all Little Mannie needed in life was a little luck—that and a set of some really good fuckin’ car tires.And that was the last time I saw my parents. And at 6-years-old, afraid and all alone, sitting on the floorboard of my daddy’s silver Monte Carlo at the Mexico border; I knew what I wasn’t going to do with my life. I wasn’t going to be anything like my parents.
That way of thinking just kind of grew stronger as the years went by. I would find my own way and everything I had to learn, I would learn on my own. And for the pass twelve years things have been just fine—that is until sex became the center of my universe.