I didn’t want to be a girl who played sports. I wore blue instead of pink. I wanted my body to morph. I wanted a shocking metamorphosis. My mother let me keep my hair short, and I only wore boys clothing. One morning before school I stuffed a roll of socks down my pants and arranged it so it sat over my pubic bone. I felt invulnerable like I carried a pistol between my legs.
The girls in my class were hysterical. Why couldn’t they see I was a boy? They figured since they had known me since kindergarten they knew I was a girl. I just hid it well, I replied as they laughed at me, shrieking as they pushed me into the boys’ bathroom. What’s your name? They would leer, each day, just to check if things had changed. Jake, I would say, my name is Jake.
I would sign all my classwork as Jake. My teachers said nothing. My parents said nothing. I was left with the quiet and gentle freedom of self-discovery unencumbered by time.
I drew a lot; scribbled wolves, sharks, things with teeth. Everything I wanted to be was fanged. I was horrified by motherhood. Pop culture showed mothers to be women, once unbound to anything, then when they became pregnant, heavier and precious. I imagined mothers to be always pink and slow moving, like beautiful and alien sea creatures who only knew fluidity and ate great chunks of love like it were watermelon.
I, on the other hand, wanted to tear at the world and crash into life like I was born in armor. Only boys and men were allowed to straddle a horse as if it were a woman. I did not want to be limited by what my body supposedly permitted. If women were perceived as the weaker sex I wanted to rally against pretty, against soft, against nice. I couldn’t understand why boys could be boys and I had to be better. So I played a boy and hacked at my hair and bared my teeth at anyone who said what a pretty girl.
Being in my body felt more than wrong, it felt accidental. As if I had tripped into the wrong wormhole and found myself in a parallel universe where everything was warped.
You had a purpose here, and you were keen to see it fulfilled. You wanted to become a trainer. I was the right height and size so you put all your enthusiasm onto me and it lit my life up.
The love you had for boxing was so pure, as if it was music, something that that had as much depth as any art form. I was having trouble talking at the time, so any means of expression was a blessing and in that sense we became a perfect match.
One time, as I’m warming up, you and Dad are having a conversation, and Dad references someone talking close to him- and you say: ‘Like a close talker, like in Seinfeld.’ And the skipping rope whipped my shins.
‘You know Seinfeld?’
‘Yeah, I love Seinfeld.’
The bridge between a trainer and a friend is very short, and made from sitcom quotes.
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.
You denied your ex-husband visitation rights to see his two and four-year-old children. All your siblings came to support you when you had to appear in family court. You were facing a prison sentence and a large fine. We were worried.
Your little ones were taken to a top East Coast doctor who confirmed their father’s sexual abuse.
Your eldest bravely spoke to the child psychologist and, in his limited language, corroborated what his father had done to he and his sister. Your older brothers talked about getting a hitman to kill your ex, others talked about having you leave the country.