Heaven and Hell: A love Story

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A man loses his family and daughter due to his arrogant and machoistic views, and then must come to terms with what he has done and change his ways, before fixing his relationship with his estranged daughter.

Chapter 1

He stood there, like a deer frozen staring into oncoming headlights as he watched her lips mouthing the words, "I don't love you anymore." His ears were hearing what she said, but his mind could not comprehend them as though she spoke in a foreign language. He felt as though his heart dropped and shattered in a million pieces. He kept running those words over and over in his mind, but his heart and brain would not accept them. Slowly, time froze for him, and everything blurred away around him except for her lips. That was all he could see. She kept speaking, but as far as he was concerned, all he could hear was those five words. Then slowly but surely, they started to sink in, and it hit him hard. It hit him like a runaway train going at top speed. He felt his body start shaking, his eyes filled up with tears, as reality set in.

"Hello, are you listening to me?" he heard her say condescendingly. He just shook his head in silence. He just kept staring at her. How could this be happening? How can she do this to me? The questions ran through his mind demanding an answer. They kept going round and round, spinning faster and faster till they formed a whirlpool in his conscious dragging his understanding and senses with him.

"Why are you doing this? ", He cried out in emotional agony as he looked up at her and felt the tears come rushing out and down his cheeks. He tried to reach out his shaking hands to her, as if asking for help in understanding what was happening. His hands grabbed hers and gripped tightly as he pulled them to his chest.

"Yes. That's it, hold her near and make her feel your pain. Make her understand the pain she is causing you." He heard a voice, desperately getting louder and louder from the back of his mind. It shocked him for a minute but shrugged it off. He held her hands as tight as he could to his chest and begged answers of her.

"Baby, you don't mean that. Let's just sit down, think about what is happening here." The words came out shaky and desperate. And just as he said those words, her expression turned from resignation to anger. He looked into her eyes, and all saw was a stranger looking back at him. All the love he saw in them was gone. Her soft bluish eyes now changed to a cruel look that hid a storm of hurt and anger. The lips that once were tender and so inviting to kiss were now getting distorted into something of cruelty. That beautiful face that he loved staring and caressing all those times had transformed into the most brutally evil person he could imagine.

"How could I do this? You should see yourself right now. "The laughter that came out of her mouth cut deeply into him like a knife. He recoiled in shock, and felt his body tense up from the pain of her words.

"You look so shocked and confused. Baby, may I call you that? Of course, I can because in your eyes, I am still your baby, your love as you put it." He heard her say with cruel amusement as he lost his breath." She yanked her hands away from his chest, placed them over her heart, trying to control herself.

"Sweetie, darling, calm down! Think hard. Am I doing this? Is it me, or are you the one that is doing this?" He felt her finger running across the left side of his face, and he welcomed the warm touch against his skin. For a split moment in time, it felt like things were back to normal. He closed his eyes to enjoy the touch and go back to those wonderful days. Just as he was enjoying her touch, he felt her whole hand on his jaw and a squeezing pressure. The pressure was followed by sharp pain digging into his skin. He opened his eyes only to be met by the angry expression in her face.

"Don't you remember? How full of pride and arrogance, you were. Oh, how much you prided yourself, being in control of your life, and your naive wife." Now the true, crushing reality of everything he had done slowly crawled back to his memory. He cringed at the sound of her cruel laugh.

"Where is she? Where is that lovable wife of yours?" Those words stung as he heard them. "She is dead. You killed her soul. Every time you humiliated her, laid hands on her, you killed everything nice about her. All that remains of her is this evil witch before you."

His legs were now struggling to keep him upright. Hands shaking, he pulled at his hair and pressed them against his head. He loosened his grip and slid them toward the countertop in front of him in desperation.

"Get a hold of yourself, man. You can still save this marriage. How many times has she threatened to leave, and didn't?" The voice kept telling him, but he knew this time was different. She was no longer afraid, not of him, nor of being alone.

He looked up at her said, "Ok, I know I have done you wrong. I know I have done some horrible things. But look at everything we have accomplished." He reminded her and attempted to hug her. She blocked his reach and stepped back in disgust. He stepped forward again to try and hug her, but she would not allow him to do it. She pushed him away to arm's length and shook her head. He stopped and felt a surge of anger, but he quickly drowned it out.

"You're finally starting to get it, aren't you? WE are finally over. "She told him, pointing between the two of them. He just stood there in disbelief and finality. He wanted to go and run after her, but his legs would not budge an inch. He watched her as she climbed the stairs to their bedroom. He could hear her half laughing. As she disappeared, he slowly made his way to the table where they had dinners so many times before. He pulled out a chair and sat. An overwhelming mix of sadness and guilt overcame him. He sat, as memories of how abusive he had been to her, crawled into his head, dancing around in his head, mocking, and torturing him. Then he felt the tears start to run down his cheeks. He knew she meant business this time, even if he wasn't ready for the consequences awaiting him. He prayed to the Lord for forgiveness and make this all go away. He knew this was one time he would not be walking away unscathed. There were actions that needed answering, and he knew she was going to make sure he paid. He folded his arms and laid his head atop the table and wept.

After what seemed like hours of weeping, he got up headed towards the door. He looked around, feeling like a stranger in his own home. He could see her, their daughter and himself playing on the stairs. As a lump formed in his throat, he reached out to the image, turned his head around and saw the kitchenette where many breakfasts were cooked with his daughter at his side. He stopped, walked towards the sink, and leaned over it. He tried to wash his face to make the tears disappear, but it was futile.

"What have I done, God?!" He clenched his hands in a fist and punched the sink. His body shook from anger, frustration, guilt, and sorrow, all mixed in like a poison racing through his body.

"I swore to protect and honor her. Instead, I hurt her." He scolded himself as he looked at his wedding ring. He held out his hand examining his wedding ring. What used to bring joy to him now brought shame to his eyes. He twirled it around on his finger and debated whether to take it off. He looked at the indentation on his finger from the wedding ring and wished he could tear that off. That mark would always remind him of the shame that he felt. He stepped back and opened the kitchen drawers. He tossed things around in the drawers as he looked for a knife and matches. Finally, he found a knife and some match sticks, grabbed them and set them on the counter.

"Yes, yes, this is what I have to do. I deserve to get punished for what I have done." He bent down, opened the cabinet doors, and hastily searched for a bottle of lighter fluid. Insane scenarios started to play out in his mind as he searched for items. He grabbed the lighter fluid and the Tequila he had hidden from nosy relatives. He collected them and continued outside. He laid them next to the porch chair that he had used many a night to rock his child to sleep.

He sat down, took a deep breath to calm down, as he told himself, "You have to pay for what your miserable ass has done to her. You betrayed her, and in doing so, you destroyed our lives." He looked up at the night sky and clenched his hands in prayer.

"Lord, dear God, if you are up there, please, I beg of you, please forgive me for what I am about to do." He whispered to himself as he reached for the bottle of Jose Cuervo and popped the top. He put it to his lips and tilted it back. He swallowed all the liquid courage he could muster and enjoyed the burn going down his throat. He took a deep breath, another swig and set it back down next to himself.

"You are a miserable monster; that is what you are. That is what everyone is going to see when everyone hears the news about yalls break up and everything you have done." He reminded himself of all the times he had bad-mouthed her, humiliated her, and those two times he had regretfully put his hands on her.

"What kind of freaking man does that to the woman he loves, a monster that is who. That is what you have become. You are less of a man than you think you are." The voice in his head said angrily. Those words hurt so much even though they came from him and not her. He took another drink and gripped the bottle tightly in his fist. He felt his eyes start to swell up with tears but quickly wiped them away. No, he will not cry, not now, that was for weaker men. He fought the urge to give in to his sorrows and chose to give his anger more life.

He reached for the bottle of lighter fluid, flicked it open, and momentarily looked at it. "Sorry, it has to be this way, buddy. But I guess this is how our story ends. There will be no sad tears for you, no vigil, no nada." He whispered. He started to pour the flammable liquid all over himself as he stood and inhaled the gasses. The effects of his state of mind, the liquor, and now the gases were starting to affect him as he prepared himself for his ultimate punishment.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he said goodbye to his world. He bent down and reached for the matches. His arms and hands, trembling in fear and despair, opened the box of matches and took one out as the others fell to the floor. He grabbed another matchstick, and just as he was about to strike it and watch it light everything on fire, he heard the door swing open as something grabbed him by the hair.

"What the hell?" He screamed as he felt his head jerk back violently, and he fell back into the chair. His arms reached up, trying to grab at his assailant but to no avail. He attempted to get on his feet but felt fists and open hands violently landing on his back, face, and head. He fell off his chair and kept trying to regain his balance.

"You stupid sonofa@#$#!!!" the words rang out in the calm night as he looked up and saw his soon to be ex yell out with all the anger and hurt, she could muster. He forced his self-up. He pushed her away with a look of astonishment in his face.

"What the hell do you care anymore? You have made it clear that you no longer care for me. This life is mine, and I get to choose my way out." He fired back at her with fury. His whole face turned red, and his veins pulsed on his forehead as he awaited her response.

"You think I am doing this for me? You think I came out here to stop you from doing such an absurd thing as taking your own miserable life, for my own sake?" He heard her answer with anger. She raised her hand and moved her index finger back and forth in a "no" motion.

"No, no, sweetie. I am not doing this for you or me. I am doing this for the one that you have forgotten. See, sweetie, if you would just stop and think of someone else but yourself occasionally, you would see that there is still someone else in this whole equation we call marriage." He listened as she continued in a calm voice to try and get him to think things through.

He felt her run her fingers through his hair and felt the calm come over him. Then as sudden as the caress was, it was over and quickly turned to pull sensation. He reached for her hands, and he felt her promptly shove his face into the screen door.

"Have you forgotten, your child, you idiot? Are you not thinking about how this is going to affect her? It would destroy her whole world, you damn fool!" he could feel the anger that resonated in her voice. He felt the sting of reality as she slapped him.

Then a whole new feeling emerged from his psyche. He hung his head in shame as he realized the truth. "Oh, my God. I have buried myself in my feelings and despair that I did not think about her."

"That is your whole problem right there, Carlos, you never think of anyone else but yourself. You get so wrapped up with your BS that you forget about everyone else." He heard her keep yelling, as he stared at his baby girl there with eyes full of confusion. He stepped back and felt her hose him down with cold water. The water's chill took his breath away as it ran down his clothes. He hung his head in shame and watched her walk off with their daughter.

"Mommy, why did you get Daddee all wet? He is dripping wet now?" he heard his daughter ask so innocently, as she smiled at both. The door slammed behind them, as he let it sink in what he had almost done.

"Oh, Lily, my sweet little Lily. I am so sorry for what I almost did. I am so sorry for the hurt I almost caused you." He started saying as once again; he sank and cried. He covered his face with both hands and sobbed uncontrollably. After moments of sobbing and reeling from the alcohol effects, he staggered his way back into the house as clothes and towels hit him in the face. He caught them and looked at her.

"Don't even think that you are coming into MY house dripping wet and smelling like freaking alcohol and lighter fluid. Change your ass out and get ready for bed." He heard her snarl orders at him as she walked away.

"Oh, and just in case your drunk ass does not know, your place is no longer in MY bed, it is now on the couch until we decide where YOU will go from here."

He steadied his head and body against the wall as the room spun around. And he headed to the restroom to shower down. He stopped in front of the bathroom mirror and glanced at himself. He could hardly recognize himself. His hair was in disarray, and eyes bloodshot from drinking and crying. The water dripping down his face mixed with the smell of alcohol and lighter fluid made his stomach turn as he fought the urge to vomit. He reached for the faucet and turned it on, steadily he cupped his hands and filled them with water. He sucked it in and swirled the warm liquid in his mouth, trying to rinse it out. He closed his eyes, still using the sink vanity to balance himself and then spit it out. He got more water and washed his face, and that is when he lost it. His stomach gave up all the contents of alcohol it held as it spewed onto his hands and the sink. His eyes rolled back, and his upper torso went into puking convulsions. Once he stopped vomiting, he washed it down the drain and proceeded to the shower. Clumsily he undressed and stumbled into the shower. The cold water felt good against his shaking body. The memories of his soon to be ex-wife filled his brain, and he broke down crying. He slid down to the tub and wrapped his arms around his folded legs and let it all out till he blacked out.

Chapter 2

 "Please buckle up and put your tray in the upright position. We have arrived in San Antonio, Texas, where the temperature is 99 degrees. We would like to thank you all for flying Texas Airlines and have a good day." He heard the captain announce their arrival. The people began bustling with anticipation as they buckled up. The stewardesses hurriedly gathered up trash and gave last-minute instructions. He turned his head to the small circular window and glanced outside. He watched as the clouds floated aimlessly by the plane's wings and seemed to go higher and higher as it descended. It reminded him of the days when he would take Lily to the park to cloud watch. They would imagine what it would be like to dance among the clouds jumping gleefully across the blue sky. He choked down his tears and pressed his hands against the glass. Soon the clouds disappeared as the plane descended closer to the ground. Now he could see the small yards with even smaller houses, cars racing around minuscule roadways like ants searching for food. He closed his eyes and thought to himself of how life just seemed to go on, not caring for one second about how his whole life had ended. He imagined families happily having lunch all together in their dining rooms. All were enjoying their lives and sharing each other's companies. He felt a knot build up in his throat and forced it back down. Slowly but steadily, the houses and cars got bigger and bigger as the plane got closer to landing. Then the sudden jolt of the plane's wheels hitting the runway made him snap out of his daze, and he looked around at everyone. The 5-year-old kid sat next to him, giggling from the ticklish sensation in his tummy as his mom held on nervously onto the seatbelt. From the look on her pale face, he guessed she was afraid of flying. He looked straight ahead and let his mind wander off to the sound of the giggling child. In an instant, he was transported in his mind back to Lily's first time on a plane.
"Lily, why are you giggling so much. I have not seen you giggling so much in a long time, Mija." He remembered telling her.
"This is fun, Daddy. It tickles my tummy every time the plane flies lower." She giggled as she held on to her stomach and kicked with joyous energy. Her precious little head would tilt back, eyes shut, and slightly lean towards him. He smiled and gave her a playful push and laughed.
Just as he was enjoying the beautiful memory, he was snapped back to reality by a stewardess asking if he had any trash to throw. He just nodded as his smile faded, returning him to his sad new reality. He bowed his head, slumped his shoulders and let out a heavy sigh. Struggling to keep from giving in to his tears, he choked them back and shut his eyes tightly.
"Hello again, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. First off, I would like to thank you for flying Texas Airlines; we have finally landed in good old San Antonio. The home to the Alamo and sunny weather that will burn your skin off..." The captain continued announcing, but it all faded away in Carlos's mind.
He looked up and watched the passengers get up and retrieve their carryon luggage. He sat, waiting patiently for his turn, wishing that the flight had not ended. He knew the "new" life that awaited him outside the plane's cabin and was dreading it.
"I can sit here forever and watch life pass me by, and I will be ok with it." he thought to himself and slumped back in his chair. So many thoughts ran through his mind to figure out how to change what had happened. But he knew there was no turning what had happened; he was just going to have to buckle up and enjoy the consequences he had brought onto himself.
He got up to retrieve his carryon and stepped back to allow the lady and her young child to exit the plane. He took a deep breath, held it tightly, and began his exit. He was met with a blast of heat and bright sunlight as he exited the cabin doors.
He moaned, "Oh God." Carlos covered his face from the bright light. His eyes quickly adjusted, and he proceeded to the gatehouse of the airport. Once Carlos entered the gatehouse, he let out a welcoming sigh of relief from the air conditioner. He continued making his way through the halls unto the baggage claim. All the meanwhile, Carlos looked sad at parents with their young children. He shook his head at the thought of having to live his life without his daughter in it. The mere thought of no more Father's Day cards, no more silly jokes, no more hugs after a long day's work, and no one to read bedtime stories to left him sad and with a feeling of emptiness. After a while, he could not stand the sight of them, so he kept his head down and continued about his way. With every step, he fought back the tears and despair.
"Carlos, hold on." a thought raced through his head right as he reached the escalator, freezing him in his track. "Think about it; this could be a new start. A whole new fresh beginning." He raised his head, and his eyes widened at the mere possibilities of what could be. He stepped onto the escalator, and his heart raced with excitement of a single life.
"All the parties, clubbing and....," the thoughts started going faster and faster through his mind. They started spinning around in his mind like a whirlpool of thoughts, ideas, and emotions. His heart raced with every thought, and his steps increased a little more as he neared the luggage claim.
For a moment, he had hope again. "Daddy, wait for me." And then reality woke him up from his brief moment of hope. He turned around, raised his hands slightly, and looked around for Lilly. He quickly realized what he did and stopped. He had turned around from the force of habit from hearing a child say that. It was like second nature trying to keep track of his Lilly, and his mind tricked him into thinking that was Lilly calling him. He grabbed his luggage and walked out of the airport, feeling disappointed.
"I should have known better, Lilly is not here anymore." He scolded himself, trying to shake off the sadness and disappointment. "She might never be here with me ever again." He sat down on a bench in the summer heat and waited for his ride. The hot Texas sun beat down on him, making his head and exposed skin feel like it was on fire. At that instant, he thought of what he had tried to do almost a week ago.
"I should have lit that match up. I should have gone up in flames and ended it; maybe I would not have to face the miserable existence it will be without my wife and baby girl." He thought to himself as he watched the cars drive up and stop for their passengers and then take off on their way again. All of them oblivious to the tragedy that his life had become.
He leaned back, closed his eyes, and tried to drift into sleep. He kept fighting his mind to not think of memories, and bring him down, but he kept failing. He took a deep breath and inhaled the hot air and exhaust fumes from the cars. He exhaled with a cough and shook his head. He tried to wave away the filthy air from his face but ended up with even more. He looked up at the sky and saw that hot Texas sun beating down on him. His shirt was already starting to get drenched in sweat, and he grabbed at it to fan it and himself. He felt droplets of sweat start to run down his forehead and onto his face like teardrops. He wiped them away with the back of his hand and used his bandanna to clean it. Watching the sweat drops drip on the floor, his head hung low and back slouched. Reaching his hand down, he cupped it and caught a sweat drop. The drop slowly traced the lines in his hand till it reached the edge and fell off. It splattered on the floor, leaving a wet blot on the dry cement.
"Hey, wake up, I got the girls at home with their dad." A voice yelled out, followed by a quick blast from a car horn. The voice coming from the vehicle sounded familiar, as he looked up, he noticed it was his sister Eva. She waved at him to hurry up and jump in the car. Carlos grabbed his bags and threw his them in the back seat as he opened the back door. Just as quickly, he opened the front door and jumped in the front seat. Immediately, positioning himself in place and reached for the door to close it. But before he could close the door, Eva let go of the brake and slowly hit the gas. The car started moving forward and panicking he slammed the door shut. Eva smiled and patted him on the shoulder. He gave her a surprised look with a smile. He leaned back and struggled to find the right way to explain what had happened.
"When the time is right, and you are ready, we can talk about it." She assured him without even glancing at him. Turning his head, he looked out the window at the cars racing by and at the neighborhoods, remembering the days when he would run the streets with his friends. Boy George played on the radio, and the air conditioner blasted cold air in his face, making him drift off to sleep. Slowly his mind let go of memories and thoughts as sleep finally grabbed ahold of him. His whole body relaxed and let go of all the tension he had been feeling.
"Hey, big bro, we are here already. Come on; the girls are excited to meet their long-lost Uncle." She joked as she grabbed her purse and keys off the ignition and stepped out the car. Waking up, Carlos sat up and shook the sleep off his mind and looked around.
"Oh, ok. How long was I out? Did I snore?" he asked as he unbuckled his seatbelt and stepped out the car too. Eva motioned for him to grab his bags from the backseat, as two very energetic little girls met them. She lifted his arms halfway up to give them room to run to Carlos and greet him. Just as he closed the car's door, he felt four little arms wrap around his waist and say hello. Joyous, innocent laughter filled his ears as he turned around and bent down to hug them. The amazement at how much they had grown astonished him.

"Wow, they were so tiny when we left San Antonio many years ago." he reminisced to himself. An image of carrying little Jasmine in one arm and rocking her to sleep brought a much-deserved smile to his face. And little Antoinette, with her long black hair and a big smile that showed off her missing baby teeth, looked at him shyly. Patting her on the head, he smiled back at her and then carried his bags up to Eva's two-floor, three-bedroom apartment. Before he could even reach the door, the little ones reached it and swung open the door and rushed in. With one foot, he managed to keep the door from closing and stepped in. Right away, the familiar smell of Pine-Sol filled his nose, and he took it all in. Old memories resurfaced of growing up in a Mexican household. He remembered his mom gathering him and his siblings on the sofa, giving them a massive bowl of chips and hot sauce, and changing the channel to Monstervision. All the while, she would mop the floor, windows open so the breeze would blow in, and the fan going full blast to dry the floor up. He and his siblings would soak up all of Godzilla's adventures and occasionally argue about who could beat him in a fight.
"Well, don't just stand in the doorway like a statue and block the entrance, Los." Eva motioned with both her arms halfway up in disbelief. She pointed to a spot next to a dark brown leather sofa that lay next to two big open windows. Carlos walked over and laid his bags down and looked around the room, taking all the sights in. Beside the leather sofa, stood a small nightstand with a lamp and a picture of Eva and their dad. On the other side of that was a smaller two-seater sofa and a big white crocheted doily lay on top. On the opposite side of the room was a black television with a cable box on it. Over that on the wall were more family pictures around one main image of Jesus Christ and the sacred heart. All their memories seemed like a lifetime ago, almost like another life altogether. He shook his head at how good those memories felt resurfacing. Just as he was getting lost down memory lane, he was startled by feeling something land on his head. Instinctively he reached for it and saw that it was a kitchen towel. He turned around to try and figure out where it came from and saw Eva standing, with her arms crossed and giggling lightly.
"You need to stop spacing out. You are going to need to keep up down here. Things move faster in Texas." She told him as she grabbed him by the arm and led him to the back yard where the smell of good old Texas BBQ slapped him back to reality. He walked out and saw a five-foot six-inch tall Hispanic male standing by an old barbecue grill and an open Bud Light in his hand. Jasmine And Antionette were now outside running around playing tag and occasionally bugging their dad for morsels of meat from the grill. Carlos threw up his hands in the air and quickly walked over to the Hispanic male named Jerry.
"Oralle, vato, how's it been going? Long time no see, esse." He said as he extended his hand for a shake. They shook hands and gave each other a quick hug, and jerry offered him a cold beer. Carlos sniffed the air and got a whiff of the delicious carnitas, tortillas, and corn on the grill. He rubbed his stomach and smacked his lips to show approval of Jerry's cooking. Jerry shook his head up and down also in agreement and leaned slightly back. With the grill spatula, Jerry pointed to the ice chest and motioned for Carlos to grab a beer.
Carlos raised his hands and lowered his head, bouncing it up and down in a dancing motion to the ice chest. He bent over, opened the ice chest, and grabbed two cold beers. As he popped the top open on the bottle, he went back to dancing slowly and tossed the ice-cold dripping bottle to Jerry. Jerry caught it and, with one quick motion, popped the top open. Together they raised their bottles in the air and exclaimed to the world, "To la Vida Loca, the only one for me." And took a long drink and laughed.
They turned up the dial on the radio and let the music carry them down memory lane to their wild days. They shared crazy stories, all while sipping down beers and eating a massive plate of carnitas, rice, beans, and Eva's famous fire hot Pico De Gallo. Eva would only laugh and shake her head as they reminisced, occasionally stopping to fan their face and inhale air to cool their burning mouths. "Damn, you must've been mad when you made that Pico Eva? That is some spicy jalapenos." He told her and then took another sip of the beer. "You are good, little sister. Hell yeah!"
"I am glad that it meets your standards, cabron." She joked as she picked up the plates and left him and Jerry to their drinking. As the night drew near its end, they brought out the Tequila and took some shots. After their last liquor shot, Jerry got up and gave Carlos a hard pat on the back and said his good nights.
As the days passed by in a blur of emotions and memories, he tried his best to restart his life over again. Carlos could not find the right routine or path to take him to a fresh new start. At first, he would wake up early and walk out the door to face the world and search for employment. After spending hours riding the bus, in the hot summer heat, going from business to business to fill out applications. He would return drenched in sweat and fighting off the feeling of defeat. He would just look at Eva, fake a hopeful smile, and hold his hands together as if in prayer.
" Aye, Ojala, big brother. Let's hope so.", she would reply as she smiled back and rolled a small ball of dough flat with a rolling pin. She kept moving the palote, a wooden rolling pin, back and forth, occasionally stopping to turn the flattened dough around and throw flour on it. Once it was nice and evenly flat, she would then lay it on a hot skillet, a comal, and flip it occasionally to cook evenly.
Carlos pulled out a chair and sat down to talk to her. The aroma of the baked tortillas gently mixed with the slightly fresh air blown by the old, small rotating fan. As the fresh air hit him, he inhaled the aroma and closed his eyes. Slowly drifting away, his mind took him to an old memory but was quickly brought back to reality as Eva snapped her fingers at him.
" No te duermas, wey." she joked, laughing at the surprised look on his face. Carlos laughed and inhaled deeply, curling his proper lip towards his nose in approval of how good the tortillas smelled. Then he shook his head up and down, smiling approvingly.
" Estan calientitas," she said as she picked a freshly cooked one with her thumb and index finger only, and set it down in the top of the others. She quickly placed the lid back on the tortilla holder and slid it across the table to Carlos." Grab one, come on." she said to him, pointing at the stack and continued making more.
" Are you sure, I don't want to be rude," he asked, licking his lips hungrily and rubbing both hands together waiting for approval. He wriggled his fingers on both sides in anticipation, as she nodded yes. Quickly he lifted the top off, took a sniff of the aroma and grabbed the freshest one. He reached over to the small, white rectangular dish that held a stick of butter and a butter knife and proceeded to spread it on the tortilla. Gently he turned it around and rolled it as if it was a fresh Cuban cigar. And then folded one end up so the melting butter would not drip out and make a mess. All the while Eva looked amusingly at him trying not to laugh. He smacked his lips hungrily and gradually took a small bite out of it. Savoring every second, Carlos chewed it up. Every bit he took was like a small step back in time to his childhood. He opened his eyes and smiled at Eva very happy and satisfied.
" Evie, your tortillas are like magic. They never fail to bring back those sweet memories of growing up in the Barrio." He reminisced as he finished up the tortilla. Eva handed him an ice-cold glass of water as he continued down memory lane. "I remember waking up every morning to the smell of freshly cooked beans and tortillas. Mom was hunched over the table with the rolling pin, pressing them tortillas and flipping them over the hot comal." He continued as he leaned back and stared off into space as if he were staring at a projection of his memory. Eva just smiled and returned to her chore.
"As soon as I got a whiff of that sweet smell, I would run to that table. Mom already had that pot of boiling water ready for the coffee and knew I would be asking for that too." Carlos continued. In his mind, he was back in his younger days. "As soon as I fixed my huge cup of coffee, that is why I ended up getting kidney stones," he laughed and watched Eva shake her head in approval. "She would hand me a fresh one and either a spoonful of beans or some butter to spread on it. I think she got a kick out of me being the first one to enjoy the tortillas. That smell is one of those that just stick with you throughout your whole life and brings back so many memories."
"You are right, Carlos. Those were good days, but these days we all have responsibilities, and right now, I need to get supper ready for Jerry and the girls. "she said, trying to make him snap out of it and get out of her way. "Why don't you go and freshen up and get ready for supper, that is unless you have plans for tonight with your friends," she asked even though she knew he had not contacted his friends yet.
Carlos got up and walked up the stairs to his room. As he walked in, he stopped and looked around. Carlos wondered how things went from coming home to a wife and kid, to living under someone else's roof. He sat at the edge of the bed and reached under to grab for his luggage. After getting some clean clothes, he went and took a shower. 

Chapter 3

"Guess what, Eva?" Carlos said excitedly. "I got a job working at a warehouse."

"Era tiempo, about time big brother!" Eva congratulated Carlos on his new job. She walked over to him and gave him a big hug and pat on the back, as she rubbed her thumb against her index finger, signifying money. She then smiled at him and walked away to finish watching her soap operas.

"Man, I think this calls for a celebration." Carlos started dancing, with one hand in the air and another on his waist. He then twirled around and hummed to himself." I wonder how I can celebrate this."

"Los, something came in the mail for you. It is sitting on the small table next to the door. Do not worry I did not open it." She said using the nick name she had always called him since they were kids. She pointed at the small table without moving her eyes from the show.

"I aint worried about that little sister. I have nothing to hide from you." He said as he picked up the letters and went through them, pulling his mail out of the stack. He glanced at it and saw that it was a letter from his soon to be ex-wife Sara. He set the rest of the stack back down and excused himself, he walked over to the room to read it in private. His heart was pounding as thoughts of what she wrote danced around in his head. He hoped that she had come to her senses and was asking him to come back home. But in his arrogant mind, he had convinced himself that he had wronged her. He looked at the envelope and paused before tearing it open. He unfolded the letter and in between the pages saw a picture. Cupping it in his hand, he stared at it and gently smiled while he caressed it. It was a picture of his baby girl Lilly. She was at her grandparents' house, on the porch where he would read to her every time she came over. She seemed so happy and proud of the twelve and a half inch fish she had caught. Slowly his excitement faded along with any other thoughts he had, and all that remained was a memory of all their fishing expeditions they had while Sara was at work.

"Daddee, look, look I caught me a huge fish.". The twelve-and-a-half-inch Perch wriggled and squirmed on the line as it dangled from it. Lilly would squeal in delight as she tried to touch it. He would always get joy out of her squeals and excitement. He recalled the memory.

"Lilly, I miss you so much. I miss all our adventures at the lake after work." He thought to himself as he sighed deeply. A tear was beginning to form in his eyes, but he quickly nodded them away, kissed the picture and gently laid it on his bed.

"Dear Carlos..." he read, but his thoughts were with his baby girl. Sara explained, how things had come to this and why. She laid out all her heart to him, all the hurt, heartbreak, and disappointment she felt towards him. He could not help but feel shame at what he was reading, the truth stung like an angry wasp. He hung his head in shame and slouched his back. He thought to himself; how could he have let his family fall apart? How could he have been such a monster and laid hands on his wife? The one that he was supposed to have loved above all others. He shook his head and crumbled the letter in his hands. He balled them in a fist and brought them close to his face. He closed his eyes, held his breath, and then slammed a fist onto his thigh.

"Screw this, this is what she wants, she wants me to cry for her and call her to beg her to take me back." He spoke. He threw the letter across the room and quickly stood up and grabbed his clothes to shower.

"Damn it, I am not staying home while she is probably out there looking for someone new already." He said to himself as tried to talk himself out of his shameful feeling. He quickly showered and readied himself for a night out.

Once he was out the shower, he dressed himself up. Then he walked over to the mirror and looked himself over to make sure he was good. His black zigzag shoes, winos as most cholos would call them in San Antonio, were spotless. His brown Dickie pants' creases were sharp as knives and baggy. They were held up by a black canvas belt that buckled into a slider military belt buckle. The belt buckle had an etching of a smiling clown face and a crying clown face. He looped the belt back after the buckle to drop down in the front. He wore a bright white t-shirt that was tightly tucked in and wore a dark blue dickies shirt that had its short sleeves creased and that he had ironed himself. The top two buttons were buttoned up and the rest were left unbuttoned. He tidied up his goat tee and put on his Locs sunglasses.

"Chingados, estas bruto Carlos. You are looking good." He told himself as he leaned back slightly trying to look cool.

"Are you almost done in there, Los?" Eva said as she screamed from downstairs. She had been waiting for him to get done in the restroom for almost an hour.

"I am sorry little sister, I got to look good for tonight. I need a good start to this single life." He replied to her as he cleaned up after himself and motioned to her that it was all hers now. Eva hurriedly ran into the restroom and closed the door behind her.

While Eva showered, Carlos walked down to the living room where their phone was and called his old buddy, Reymundo Montes. They had grown up together in the southeast side of San Antonio. They had been quite the troublemakers to their neighborhood. Back then, everyone knew them by their nicknames. Carlos was known to the barrio as Travieso, and Reymundo went by Mundo.

"Ey, vato. Hey Dude." Carlos said to Mundo. He leaned back in his bed and made plans to go out and have a wild time like the old days. He had made up his mind that if Sara was out there enjoying her newfound freedom, then so can he. They decided on one of their old hang outs, a local corner bar where all the OG's hung out at. They were well known there for all the underage drinking they had done. And not to mention all the fights they had started and ended. He was so excited to see who was still around and what had become of everyone.

"Eva, does Ma and Pa still have my ranfla parked in their backyard?" His ranfla was an old 1964 Chevy Impala He had tried to fix up back before his Lilly was born. He had been proud of that old '64 and he had big plans for it. But he had to put them in the backburner once his beautiful and precious Lilly was born.

"Yes, it is, Los. It hasn't moved since you last left it there." She shouted to him from the upstairs restroom. "Except for the occasional times that Pa would drive it." She giggled at revealing that secret to him.

"That old man is going to get an earful from me, when I see him." He said trying to sound angry. But he didn't quite mind, imagining the image of his father driving his lowered Impala down the neighborhood." he must have been quite a show for all the barrio to see in my car. I wonder what else have I missed?"

Still thinking of his dad in his old car, he hurried out the door down to the bus stop to catch it to his parents' home. He had just made it to the bus stop when it pulled up. As soon as the doors opened, he walked in, paid the bus driver, and took a seat towards the front. Once the bus reached the barrio where his parents lived, he rang the bell and stood up to disembark from the bus. He put on his sunglasses, straightened out his shirt, stroked his goat tee and started walking cool with his head lifted high in pride. As he walked down the street, the people out in their yards turned to look at who the somewhat familiar figure was that walked slowly and occasionally nodded hello to each of them. It felt like walking back through time with every step he took towards their house. He could picture all the memories of him and his friends causing havoc in these streets. The corner of Schley and Hallie Ave, that was where he got into his first of many fights. It was an empty lot that would become his and his friends, fight club school of hard knocks. He just smiled and kept walking past it. Just as he neared their house, he took off his sunglasses and stood still for a moment. Outside their home, dressed in red Dickie shorts, long red t-shirt and a red bandana on his head was his little brother Valencio. He stood in disbelief at how much he had grown. He quickened his walking pace until he reached the home and then half squatted low behind their white metal fence. Valencio, not paying attention, was listening to Kid Frost in his boombox which was laid on the porch floor. Valencio had his hands in the air, waving gang signs to the beat of the music.

"Little fool has some good taste in music. But that crazy little vato has got to stop with the gang signs." He thought as he stealthily snuck up on him. Just as the song was reaching its end, Carlos saw his opening, reached for his keys in his pocket and hastily but quietly snuck up on Valencio. Carlos Grabbed him by the back of the shirt, threw him against the tree and put the key against Valencio's throat tightly.

"Where you from Vato? You are on the wrong barrio throwing them girly gang signs around here." Carlos said as he tried hard to make his voice sound different. Valencio tried pushing against the tree to regain his balance, but Carlos kept his weight against him.

"You messed up, esse. My homeboys are in the canton, and they're going to roll your dumbass." Valencio tried to bluff as he mustered up his courage to try and get himself free. As much as he tried, he could not turn his head around to catch a glimpse of who was pinning him against the tree.

"Hey, you little shit. Get the hell away from my son." An old man came running out the house, waving a bat in the air. Carlos turned around and his eyes widened as the old man got nearby. He took one step away, with one arm still against Valencio's back. The other hand he waved at the elderly man, signaling him to stop. Just as the man got near and swung his bat low, Carlos jumped back. The bat missed him and accidently hit Valencio's thigh.

"Whoa, Pa, calm down, por favor." Carlos hunched back with both hands in the air and trying to calm his father down. Carlos took off his sunglasses and said," It's me Carlos, Pa."

"Hijo de tu, you son of a... Both of you and yall's silly games. One of these days it is going to go too far." Pa said angrily as he threw his bat on the floor and pointed his finger at both. He waved them off and stomped back to his lazy boy in the living room.

"What the hell is wrong with you, carnal, bro." Valencio said in an almost irritated voice. He walked over to his boombox and hit the stop button. Carlos extended his hand out and shook Valencio's hand. They then laughed about it and joked around.

"I better get in there and apologize to Pa. He must be upset." He mockingly said trying to imitate how his father looked when he was angry. He laughed as he climbed the concrete stairs of the porch.

"¿Como estas, Pa? How are you, Pa?" Carlos asked in an apologetic manner. He sat in a chair beside his dad's lazy boy and patted him on the back.

"Mijo, you need to leave all that childish behavior behind grow the hell up!" He lectured Carlos as he shook his head but ended up smiling and shaking Carlos' hand.

"I missed you a lot old man." Carlos responded as they started to conversate about his show and memories growing up. Then his mom walked into the room in the middle of their conversation, and he stood up to give her a huge warm hug.

"Ay mijo, How I missed you. It has been a long time since we have seen you." His mom's soft brown eyes looked him up and down and nodded at him. "Life has been good to you mijo." she said," Asi me gusta."

"Quieres un baso de te?" She motioned for him to follow her to the kitchen for some tea. She opened the fridge, pulled out the jug and grabbed a glass that used to be a Mole sauce food container. She had many a glass that she would keep and reuse as drinking glasses. Latina mothers were well known for doing that, especially when the kids were known for breaking them regularly.

"What happened to your wife, mijo." She asked trying to understand what had gone wrong in their marriage. His mom believed in the old Catholic ways, that once you got married you stayed married through it all, good or bad. He looked at her, and his face saddened. He looked down and sighed deeply.

"How do I tell you, without disappointing you, Ma?" He rubbed his forehead trying to find the words and leaned his elbow on the table. Biting his lips, he looked up at her and was about to start to explain but was saved by his little brother barging in.

"Thanks, carnal." He looked at his brother in relief and shook his head in approval.

"Anytime, carnal." Valencio said as he pulled up a chair and sat next to them. "What are we chattering about, people."

"We were about to talk. But like always, you come in with your bad timing." Their mom said disappointed and shot an annoyed look at both.

"Next time, Ma. I only came by to pick up my Impala." Carlos said as he quickly stood up before she could object and insist, they talk. He pushed in his chair and leaned in to give her a kiss on the forehead.

"The keys are on the wall, mijo." She pointed towards the wall with the homemade keyholder that Valencio had made in his shop class at school. The keyholder was a basic design, a foot long 2x4 with an Aztec etch design and some Home Depot bronze hooks attached to it. He was so proud of it when he gave it to Ma on Mother's Day.

"Gracias, Ma." Carlos hurriedly replied as he grabbed them and exited the house and walked quickly to the garage. He opened the door in excitement as he reached for the tarp to pull it and reveal an almost dusty 1964 Chevy Impala. He stood beside it admiring it.

"You need a bath, boy!" He said to his car as he ran his hands on it and inspecting the amount of dust on it. He dusted off his hands and gave the Impala a walk around inspection. He bent and knelt as he looked at every curve and corner of the Impala. His excitement grew and his heart started pumping fast at the thought of showing up at tonight's gathering driving this old boy. He walked back around to the driver's side as he grabbed the tarp and set it aside to climb into it.

He dusted the black leather driver's seat and slowly got comfortable. He grabbed the 16 3/8-inch, polyurethane, and red faux leather steering wheel, leaned back, and pictured himself cruising it down SE Military Drive. "Boy, they are going to go wild when they see us cruising into the parking lot, homie." He turned the key and started the Impala. The engine turned and purred like the last time he had driven it. He revved the engine as his excitement grew with the increased sound. He slammed the door shut, reached for a panel with chrome switches on the center console, and started pushing each. The Impala started to dance, rising, and falling, side to side and kicking up dust. After a few minutes he let it settle down and then put it in reverse.

"It is finally happening. Boy lives!" Valencio said, referring to the Impala. They had christened the car Boy, after a well-loved cousin that had made a huge impression on Carlos. Valencio slightly squatted, leaned to his right and squinted his eyes admiring the car slowly backing out of the garage. The sun hit the bumper first, spotlighting the license plate that read "BOY 64". Carlos cranked up the volume and played the song "The Boys Are Back in Town" by Thin Lizzy. The candy red with gold flakes paint job didn't quite gleam with all the dust that covered it. He made a show of driving it out as if to impress the family who had come out to see what was going on. Ma, smiled with excitement and pride in seeing her son back, Pa grinned and reached over to Ma to hold her tight and squeeze her. You could feel the excitement in everyone like static electricity in the air. He set it in park and climbed out. He stood beside it and patted the roof of the vehicle, full of pride.

"I call shotgun, esse." Valencio demanded running to the passenger's seat and quickly opening the door.

"Not this time, carnal." He said to his brother, nodding a no with his head. "Next ride is yours, carnal."

"Ok, ya dijiste. You said it, no going back on your word." He told Carlos pointing at him and closing the door.

"Ok, Ma and Pa. I am going to get going. I have things to do. But I promise to get together and explain everything." He said as he gave them a hug and kiss." Things are changing very fast for me."

"Ok, mijo. Cuidate. Take good care of yourself." Ma said as she gave him his blessings and made her way back to the house.

"I know you are going out drinking with your crazy friends." Pa started to lecture him as he laid his hand on Carlos' left shoulder and gave it a good squeeze.

Carlos patted his father on his back gently and got back in the car. Valencio leaned into the passenger's window and looked at Carlos and flipped him off, and they both laughed loudly.

"Aye te wacho, cucaracho." Carlos said jokingly towards him as he pulled out the driveway. He put it in drive and cruised off. As the Impala passed by the neighbors came out to see it pass by and admire it. They waved at him, and the neighborhood kids ran behind him trying to keep up.

Carlos pulled into the car wash and inserted the dollar twenty-five in quarters to wash it. He power washed it, vacuumed it, and put a much-needed wax coat. He spent a few hours detailing every inch of it and admiring it, and occasionally talking to random people. Some even took pictures with Carlos and the car. Carlos missed the days when he and Boy were treated like celebrities cruising down Military Dr. His car would always get the most attention when he would pull up into the car meets.

At 7 pm, he started to go towards the corner cantina named Chavela's. It was a small barrio cantina, fashioned from an old, abandoned home. The owner had bought two lots and turned it into one big lot. The outside was covered in stone and had the old Spanish tiles on the roof. The lawn had been turned into one big parking lot covered with cobble stone. And it had a valet person for the big band events. The inside walls were covered in murals of old Spanish village life and wooden floors. The ceiling was adorned in chandeliers with faux candles. Outside the sun was already starting to set. And as it set the streetlights turned on and made all the Lowrider cars glimmer like jewels on display.

"Damn, this place still looks like something out of an old Pachuco tale." Carlos thought as he pulled up. Outside stood Mundo, smoking a cigarette, and looking all old school gangster. Tonight, he had decided it was a special occasion and had to wear his Zoot Suit which he always kept dry cleaned and ready to be used. He wore black Stacey Adams shoes with a wing tip, black Zoot pants that were held up with a dark brown leather belt, and a white button up shirt that had black suspenders over it and covered with a black tailored Zoot Suit coat. On his head he wore his favorite tando, hat. It was also black with a small red feather on the side.

"Chingados Wey, dammit guy. You did not say it was going to be this kind of get borlo, dance." Carlos told Mundo.

"I have always said carnal, trucha. Be prepared." Mundo replied laughing. They greeted each other and walked into the Chavela's. The DJ played salsa and merengue music to get everyone on the dance floor. The bar was still not packed since it was clearly early. They walked over to the bar and ordered their favorite beer, Coronas and Tecates.

They raised their bottles and made a toast to the old days and old ways. "I hope this time you are back for good, vato."

"It is looking that way, homie." Carlos said as he took a drink from his cerveza and then slammed it on the counter of the bar.

"I hope Wisconsin did not soften you up, esse." Mundo ribbed Carlos and lightly punched him in the chest.

"Who the F$@# is this in my bar, vatos." A voice said in curiosity. The stranger walked up to both Mundo and Carlos and motioned for the bartender to bring three more cervezas.

Carlos turned around quickly to see another old friend, Smiley. Smiley was the runt of the group but had a mouth that always got them in trouble. In the old days he had been the cause of many a fight, because he did not know how to stay quiet or always roasting people with offensive jokes.

"Chingados, Smiley." Carlos said shaking his hand and smacking him on the head.

"That is right, holmes, I am still here. They will never hold me down." Smiley said, proudly strutting around as if he was the toughest of them all. If he had not been their friend, most of them would have beaten him up already. Mundo and Carlos always wondered why they didn't give him the nickname Mouth instead. One by one the rest of the gang arrived all dressed for a night out. And behind them Las Unicas, well at least the remaining ones, arrived walking and dressed seductively into the bar.

"Uy, Uy, here some the heinas, the babydolls." Smiley said fanning himself with his hand and nodding towards the ladies entering. He waved them over and signaled for a table. The waitstaff led them to a group of tables that were joined together to seat more people. The waiter took their drink orders and they all settled down and got the party started. The whole night they all laughed, danced did a lot of drinking and flirting with the ladies.

"What is that Viejas, old spinsters' problem." Said one of the half-drunk ladies, pointing to the short woman that passed by their table. "She has been passing by here all night and looking at us."

"Hey Reina, calm down. Our table is next to the restrooms, she has to pass by here to go piss." Carlos remarked trying to calm Reina down. "She is probably checking out Smiley and his big mouth." Smiley looked at them and made a sexual gesture with it at everyone at the table.

"I am going to go see what her damn problem is." Reina said standing up and stumbling towards the other table at the far end of the cantina. Carlos and Mundo tried to stop her, but she pushed them away.

"Lady, what's your problem every time you pass our table?" She raised her voice and slammed her palm onto their table. She was trying hard to steady herself as her body waivered slightly back and forth from too much alcohol.

"I am sorry, I did not mean any disrespect I was just..." the lady tried explaining but was cut off by a female friend from the same table. The new girl, Dimples, grabbed Reina by the arm and demanded she return to their table. She stared at Reina menacingly and led her back.

Carlos stood up and walked over to the slightly shaken girl and apologized." I am sorry, senora. My female friend is just drunk. I promise she will not be any more trouble."

The lady stood up quickly and stretched out her hand as if to introduce herself. "Kristina."

"Perdon, excuse me?" Carlos turned back around and shot an inquisitive look at the strange girl with her hand stretched out. She smiled at him, and he smiled back trying to keep from escalating any more trouble.

"My name is Kristina Cervantes." She said as her eyes softened, and she flipped her palm over as if asking Carlos to kiss her hand. She was trying to flirt with him, but Carlos was not showing any interest.

"Ok, lady!" he replied, showing no interest in her whatso ever. Then asked the waiter to serve her a beer on him.

"Enjoy your night and let's just forget today happened." He said as he walked back to his table and went back to drinking.

"He is the one, Cindy, he is the one." Kristina said, sitting back down and smiling towards Carlos. For the remainder of the night, she kept glancing at him and kept talking about him to her friends who just rolled their eyes and shook their heads.

 


Submitted: October 29, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Carlos.arce. All rights reserved.

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