By Aimée Keeble
This is a letter for El Chueco and his gang. For those who were there, and especially for the man who pulled the trigger.
First, I think of the mountains where you live – all treacherous like some hollowed out old moon, dirty with drug dust and blood. You seethe and broil in a landscape that is cartoonish. Forgive me. When I think of the Mexican desert I think of roadrunners and the ponderous skulls of cattle; I am not as well travelled as my friend – the man you killed.
Then I imagine your face and sometimes it is diamond shaped like a rattlesnake, sometimes it is vulpine like a desert dog. I want to hold the frame of your jaw in my hand and check your eyes, I want to know if callous is a color, if your pupils are a different shape because you are a killer? Perhaps they are lazy and staring, like all predatory animals’ eyes.
I wonder if you are short or tall. If you wear white because it throws back light. Maybe you wear a Sombrero or baseball hat. For whatever reason, I picture you in black trousers and high boots. Your clothes are grimy but not unclean; the canyon dust pollinates across your body as you work the valley’s crevices, as you bend your country to your will.
In the papers it says you have a goatee. This seems a deliberate choice- something that would have to be tended to carefully. I imagine you are good with a blade.
In the afternoons I think of you, shirt sleeves rolled back and your sun-browned arms bent across a table, a bottle of beer in your hand. Maybe there is music playing or a fan above you, spinning around heat.
Do you always have your gun with you?
The papers say you killed my friend with a 9mm gun. Is it a comfort or an added worry, like an extra lover, that gun that you carry?
In the evenings, I wonder if you prefer the canyons at night. When the sky is like an
overflowing bowl of black ink and the stars are leaking light. Do you know to beware the little translucent scorpions? Their glassy bodies are hard to see and full of poison.
Everything that lives in the desert can hurt you. Everything that is raised by heat retains a quiet violence. I wonder if you worry about mountain cats. Or rival banditos in the hills, their eyes as moon mad as yours. If you fear anything at all. But isn’t fear the absence of love? You and your kind, it would seem, are sick with fear. It leaks from your body like old smoke.
But enough about you, let me tell you about the man you killed!
My friend the Beloved.
My friend is so loved.
In my town the trees are yellow with ribbons – so many knots of hope and of longing. There is so much yellow, it takes my breath away. You have pierced him and unspooled so much love! It flowed all golden and syrupy. It’s a shuddering string of light you intentionally plucked, yet you did not know what you did. In your rage and your fear you have unleashed a sound so pure I am surprised your ears didn’t burst with the force.
My friend is a calypso. My friend is a half god. My friend is an immortal note of song. He is more myth now than man. A story we retell again and again and again because of his courageous heart.
I am sorry you did not know him. I am sorry that you so quickly sprung him into divinity, too hasty did you throw him into starlight. But he would have laughed at the trajectory, at the quick stumble over heavens and other worlds swirling beneath him like a million broken shards of kaleidoscopic colors.
Lastly, I think of your life. Of the sorrow. Of what it must feel like to be a maker of ghosts. To be someone who drags terror on a chain and cannot let go because fear is a thing that must be fed. You, viper of the canyon, one part of the many headed hydra- I wish you more light than you can stand. I wish you a love that devours and blasts you golden. I wish you a love that drowns you.
Until you are just a crumb of sound with a chance to vibrate into something new. Into something better. Into something bright and bold like my friend, the man you killed.