Am tired of doin’ the same shit. Of packing up drugs an’ burying guns. Of selling coke bags an’ cleaning the twister bikes. Of watching the ravaged kids scramble like rats on roof tops, tryin’ to find something to steal, to trade for paco. Poor shits can’t even afford the real deal. They are the living dead, rubble accumulated in the corners of el barrio, not going on for more than four years, just to be replaced by more rubble. Paco has that curse, gets you addicted in two hits, gets you forgetting all the screwed up fucks that came â€˜bout an’ ruined your life, but man, those two hits fuck you up good.
I didn’t end up like them â€˜cause of Pitbul. Tha’s why I owe him more than I can ever pay him back. But I sure am tired. I want to carry an uzi like Coco does. And not having to threaten with the handgun but never really using it, â€˜cause if I got in it deep, the damn old thing won’t work right half the time. Pitbul says I gotta be patient, that I need to stay on the down low, that am real good, got potential an’ shit, that one day it’ll be my turn. You are reborn, ya kno’, once you come into Pitbul’s crew. A whole ritual with a santera, she opens up chickens an’ does vainas bulda de raras like pat our bodies with rosemary an’ circle around us with incense. Thought all that was like mitos-not real-for ignorant people, but hell, I sure ain’t thinking that now. All that tribute, so that Los Santos will look after us, an’ we in turn will do so for our barrio, our people. Then we carry out our first trial commission from Pitbul, to make sure we got the guts, that we won’t freeze or pee our pants, make sure we are machos.
Mine was real simple. Had to cut a fucker’s face for bein’ a sapo, an’ el gÃ¼evon thought he could get away with ratting out one of Pitbul’s crew to the fuckin’ government’s puppets-the putos cops. Tha’s the law, man. Ya can’t go â€˜bout yapping your mouth to the enemy-no matter if you gonna get shot in the head. Gotta press your fuckin’ balls and take it like a man. Like a fuckin’ loyal man to your barrio. Ain’t no matter what crew you belong to, what part of el barrio you come from-la boca or the upper-end-it don’t matter. Ya press your balls an’ hold it in. Ya die with grace, or ya get your face marked, so that every time ya dare leave your house, ya gonna get owned. The punishment ain’t gonna be death, is gonna be tryin’ to come back home with your ear still glued to your head. Is gonna be living knowin’ ya shamed your whole fam.
Julian’s feet are up in the table, his knees skinned, they always are. He’s a clumsy runner. And last time we stole a fancy radio, bulda de caro, from the car of a ricachÃ³n, he fell twice when the dude went after us. Pedro snorts some coke next to me, even though he knows we heading out soon. â€˜Echale bola, he says, pushin’ me toward it, but I shake my hand. El cagado does it â€˜cause Coco don’t really care what we do, an’ Pitbul’s out. But Pitbul has been real clear about that-gotta be alert an’ clean while we out. I only use the shit occasionally, when we binging an’ lookin’ for girls that will let us stick our pingas in. But I see that Pitbul doesn’t snort or smoke it, an’ so I won’t either.
It’s Friday an’ we have to wait till Coco finishes fucking his girl. To call her his girl is just a formality, she ain’t really his; she’s a slave to the coke, tha’s the reason why she comes before the weekend hits. She used to be all pretty, wearing her brown hair down an’ her boobs real high up. Now she’s thin as hell an’ her hair is all greasy. I came in her once, when Coco wasn’t here, but she was as good as doin’ a corpse. Coco’s fat culo appears an’ disappears from the edge of the curtain. We call him Coco â€˜cause there’s not a hair on his head. Funny thing is he doesn’t shave it like I do. And the weird-ass Asian mix in his blood-not a hair in his legs or arms-can’t explain his bald head, nor his missing eyebrows. Coco grunts a last time an’ leaves her laying spread across the mattress. She’s visible from the other edge of the curtain; her black bra covering just one of her breasts, her skin drenched, her eyes slowly loosing grasp of reality, that sensation of floating, of drifting away from to’a la mierda, from this pothole. The only escape.
We head out to la boca of el barrio where it meets the city. Coco supervises the bunch of us, but am the oldest of the kids, I’ll take charge of the cagados soon. And then, I’ll carry the uzi. For now, we walk ten feet apart from each other, Coco being the last. Sometimes we stop at the communal kitchen, where we get free arepas, but not today, says Coco, we have no time. Coco’s walkie goes off, an’ he halts us, sayin’ that we ain’t gonna be selling coke to randoms, that El Conejo is on his way. His cousin is a funny-looking dude, bulda de alto y bulda de peluo, with two real big front teeth. Tha’s all ya see when he opens his mouth, two big-ass mutha fuckin’ golden teeth. How mierdas he is Coco’s cousin, I dunno, â€˜cause they sure ain’t look related. El Conejo passes by me an’ gives a hard smack to Julian’s balls, who was bending to pick up a cigarette butt, an’ gives a jump from it. GÃ¼evo-sucking maricÃ³n, Julian yells. And we all crack up when Julian slips trying to chase after him. Te cagaste to’o, says El Conejo roaring of laughter an’ pinching his nose as if Julian had actually shitted himself. El Conejo is â€˜bout his cousin’s age-thirty-somethin’-viejo pal coÃ±o. The fucker punches my shoulder an’ tells me, I have a mamasota waiting for you, y estÃ¡ como Dios manda, with tetas the size of watermelons, you’ll see, you gonna come before time cabrÃ³n. And I get stiff, just remembering the last puta he brought me, her tits could swallow my face, an’ those were melon-sizes. El Conejo swings his rifle from his back to show me a new carving, a rabbit smiling, he was â€˜bout to say somethin’ when Coco, comes between us an’ asks-Qué pasÃ³ lacra? Why we headin’ to see the Ripers?
El Conejo shakes his head, an’ his goofy smile fades.
Mierda, I dunno, El Conejo mumbles, some shit went down last trade, say we cut â€˜em short on purpose.
And now what? Coco asks.
Pitbul said to take â€˜em some bags, talk it out.
We ain’t never gotten along with the Ripers. Those gÃ¼evones have a hold of all la boca of el barrio. We always gotta be real awake when we head to the lower end, but they bulda de easy to spot-they have R.I.P. tattooed in their necks. The head was un malandro that had lived in California awhile, an’ somehow the fucker made it back an’ began his whole gang here. Ripers speak in gringo code or some shit. Fuckers made their name â€˜cause when they kill someone they like to bury â€˜em properly-a tombstone an’ all. Ya always kno’ if one of yours got killed by them, â€˜cause they engrave R.I.P. in the stone. They are known for ripping any pendejo’s tongue out if a fucker owes them a little too much. They say the Ripers keep the tongues stacked in jars. I would trade my handgun to see that shit.
Coco is not hiding his uzi but he’s not flashing it around either, he’s sweating more than normal, an’ that spikes my nerves. Something’s up. But I see the usual; a tipa washing her naked child with a bucket of water in a corner, wild dogs diggin’ in hill-piles of trash an’ a little girl shitting next to â€˜em, some old dudes playing domino, an’ a kid flying his papagayo, while another, with a mud-painted face, chases a dove with a slingshot. That, I do miss. Walking around with nothing to worry about, just flyin’ it, free from the ground, an extension of your arm, lets ya reach the sky. But you gotta grow or you’ll get eaten. Gotta be able to defend yourself, to own others, to have respect. So that no bullshit will go down, so that nobody dares lay a hand on you or your close ones. Even if we ain’t got nothin’ to eat, we have that. Respect.
“Tito, get up in that roof,” says Coco. “Whistle if you see them coming. Ripers shoulda been here by now.”
Coco signals us to take out our guns, an’ I climb some rocks, put my foot on a pipe an’ reach the cemented, flat rooftop. But nothing. They ain’t nowhere; not in the narrow alleys that turn sharply in every turn, nor near the houses of different colors with clothes hangin’ on the windows to dry. The view is fuckin’ beautiful though. Ya can see nearly everything: the bunch of small-ass stores that got rebuilt from a fire with the whole barrio’s help; the exact spot where Laurita-of a tight lil’ ass-lemme tongue her an’ touch her perky nipples; the bright yellow walls where all los mocosos, like I did, go to learn to read an’ write. The high buildings ain’t far off either; they are surrounded by mountains, an’ sit in the valley clustered together as if the barrio was menacing it. But it’s like Pitbul says, no matter how far away they like to pretend we are, we have already infiltrated them. And they, too, have infiltrated our barrio, bringing their corrupt cops an’ rotten ricachones. How the fuck do they think we feel? Cruising around in brand new cars, when we ain’t got shit to eat. They like to pretend we don’t exist. I see â€˜em walking around in their expensive shit, not even turning a look to a beggar. Rotten ricachones come to la boca of el barrio to fuck our girls an’ buy our drugs. And the cops are in it too, if we don’t cut them a good deal, trouble comes down. But Pitbul knows how to handle â€˜em, he don’t negotiate with â€˜em no more, he threatens â€˜em instead. Keeps what’s ours here. Tha’s why he’s different. Different from the Ripers an’ any other gang in el barrio. Pitbul looks out for us an’ says fuck to the money if he has to.
Mierda!-they popped out of nowhere. I want to whistle but they are shirtless an’ already waving their a-k 47s. Some wearing black bandanas, they are too many-seven, nine?-way too many. They never come for trade rounds in these numbers. Only two of â€˜em kids. Coco signals so that Julian an’ Pedro bring out the bags, showing â€˜em the coke. One of â€˜em argues with Coco, I can’t hear what they say, but he’s mad. Not enough, I kinda hear. El Conejo steps down from a wooden box an’ starts walking toward â€˜em. One carrying a gold necklace throws the bag out of Julian’s hand, pushes him to the floor, an’ sticks his gun in Julian’s ear, which makes El Conejo aim his gun-Suéltalo mamagÃ¼evo, he screams at the Riper, but the fucker won’t let Julian go. You want plomo, eh, cara e’ verga? The Riper in front of Coco yells back, an’ raises his a-k at El Conejo. Put it down Conejo, shouts Coco, bajala. Ripers circling my crew, trapping â€˜em. D’ja think I woulda stayed eating snot, one tha’s mad-ripped says, waitin’ for yo boss to fuck me again? And tha’s when I see the skull tattooed in his chest, the Riper ain’t just one of the fuckers, he’s their head. The fuckin’ head. Coco waves his hands up an’ down. They all screaming, can’t distinguish shit they say. Pedro switches his gun from one to the other, which pisses a Riper off, an’ the fucker elbows his face, Pedro drops to the floor, his nose bleedin’. Coco tries to calm â€˜em down again but one of â€˜em is pissed, real pissed. He shoots. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I’m aiming, but the shit won’t fire. A shower of shooting, they all disperse covering behind anything they can â€¦ an’ Pedro, still on the floor, fires, but he aims wrong an’ hits a girl â€¦ the mother crawls next to her-blood everywhere. El Conejo fires his to all directions, crouching and racing away. Is all screams an’ all runnin’. A Riper is nearing Pedro who’s crawling ’cause his leg’s hurt, so I shoot him, an’ this time the shit does fire, an’ hits the Riper’s chest. Another Riper looks at me an’ points his gun so I sprint. I Jump down the pipe an’ trip but am back up, flyin’ through debris. I can hear â€˜em calling out, they following, they are in my heels. And all I can think of is that they shot him point blank, an’ the splattered mess coming from his head.
I turn the corner so quickly my arm is cut with some metal that was sticking out. I look back to see two after me. I throw a stack of potato bags to the floor, but they jump it quickly, fuckers pick up speed an’ so do I. I bump a guy’s cart which makes him stop shoutin’ pineapple-papaya-mango juice an’ curse me instead. I dart, zigzagging between some women holding huge knives. I step on some gross-ass, gooey liquid an’ feel the shit between my toes, chop, a fat women decapitating fish, chop, chop, chop, a fish head flies an’ hits my feet but I try not to trip as the yellow eye looks at me. Blood an’ guts on the counters. Red and viscid leftovers everywhere. I look back again; fuckers still catching up. Next corner-I jump a bone of a man sittin’ on the floor tha’s missing a leg, bees, fleas an’ a filthy dog surrounding him, I evade some girls jumpin’ rope an’ push one aside to reach stairs. The roof is filled with women washing textiles, I slip, an’ my ass skims the floor a few feet, my gun slides away too far to pick up. I propel myself up, an’ the Ripers are almost to me. One of them grabs my arm, but it’s wet from the floor’s water, an’ his hand slips. Is over. There’s the edge. Nowhere to go. They gonna get me, gonna get my tongue an’ then blow my brains out. I don’t look down-I jump.
Some trash bags break my fall, but I stand up wrong an’ my left foot bends real bad. I look up an’ the Ripers don’t jump but they finding a way down. I ignore the sting in my foot an’ keep at it. I can’t go as fast. I hear â€˜em shouting, they â€˜bout to reach the corner. Am way too far from Pitbul’s side. And am not gonna make it. I kno’ I ain’t. Am looking where to hide, a women stands in a door, but as soon as I gaze at her she’s already inside-knows trouble’s coming-an’ the door won’t budge. The sweat slowly reaches my mouth, the smells an’ sounds are stronger, louder. Of urine, an’ the stink of trash, an’ the roasting of corn. Of a baby shrieking, an’ a dog barking, an’ the terrifyingly-close hooting of the Ripers. Everyone moves bizarrely slow. I rub my eyes. Am not seeing well. My heart pumps at a minute’s pace. I can hear an’ feel the blood running in my veins, takin’ its time, savoring every last turn. Am frozen, don’t kno’ how or where to move to.
A reflection of light catches the corner of my eye an’ I turn my head, searching for the source-a flickering light-in the darkness of a narrow gap between the walls of two stores. I hurry to it, limpin’ a bit. It’s sheltered from the sun, an’ I squeeze in, but is hard to move through it. The two Ripers run by, guns in the air, but they don’t see me. I suck in air as if I had been holding my breath, a familiar smell. I don’t hear shouts, or gunfire, or â€¦ I don’t hear a thing. The light is not here though; is all dim, as if I had entered a windowless room. I turn my head an’ a â€¦ a lady is dressed in white, an’ she’s galloping effortlessly. Her black curls bounce, but do so without weight, flying â€˜bout, not really bound by gravity. Her hair is so similar-similar to-MamÃ¡? I chase after her, trailing after her smell, the smell of guayoyo an’ papelÃ³n. Ma? I scream an’ rush to her. She won’t turn to me, but I hear her humming, humming the lullaby, the lullaby she used to sing to us â€¦ And the words pop in my head, her voice so clear, so warm â€¦ Cabecita que sueÃ±a lino y almohada, mi criatura risueÃ±a cuentos de hadas. My hand trying to reach her, I can almost touch her. Déjame que te duerma mi carricito. There is light at the end of the gap-Cervatillo asustado de la maÃ±ana-she’s bouncing toward it-Conviérte en un hombre niÃ±o adorado-an’ my fingers miss her hair by an inch. She enters the sun-a blinding flash-an’ she vanishes. Her curls, her humming, her smell … gone.
Dale, quémalo-spits out Julian-burn that hijue´puta to the ground, and raises with his short-an’-skinny-ass arm the stolen a-k 47, the shit’s almost his size, but he sure points it high to the stars. The whole crew’s here. Whatcha waitin’for? One shouts behind me, fire up el viejo â€˜e mielda ese pue’. We all kno’ the wars on. That there ain’t no going back. Pedro elbows a few to squeeze in, hoppin’ around with crutches â€˜cause he still can’t rest on his wounded leg, lemme see, lemme see coÃ±o, says el cagado. Carlos trailing behind him-the new addition to the crew-he’s eleven, a year younger than Pedro. We sure gonna need more tipos if we wanna stand up to the Ripers. Fuckers always had the numbers on us. But is on now. Ain’t no going back.
We all kno’ shit gonna rain down soon. But we live in it all our lives, we thrive from it. They ain’t got nothin’ on us. Just numbers. And numbers ain’t family. Ain’t the skill, the will, the trust of our barrio. They handle the lower end with threats, but we don’t do that in our hold. We help â€˜em out, like Pitbul did with Estella’s brothel an’ her lot, when he fenced off the cops from closing it an’ got part of his face blown off by a shot. Like Pitbul did with the communal kitchen, giving â€˜em cargo we stole. Our support comes from real trust, we have earned it, not demanded it like the Ripers. An’ like Pitbul says, tha’s gonna show at the end of the day, tha’s what will make us prevail. Fuck â€˜em up for real an’ take the lower end from â€˜em. But we ain’t stupid. We kno’ shits gonna rain down first. And many ain’t gonna make it.
El Conejo stands in front of the piled up tires, his arms crossed. He don’t make no sound, he ain’t moving. He just waitin’. Ya can only see the Riper’s beaten face, sticking out from the tires. His left eye swollen like hell, an’ a canal of blood from his eyebrow. Pitbul’s in the middle of the crowd. A machete in each hand. And the huge mark across his left cheek, with the nasty rounded bulge, tha’s a mess of skin, holes an’ scars. But that’s like a brand now. And if it had been me, I woulda shown it too right after it happened. Tha’s what he did, never covered it with a bandana, with nothin’. I would show it to all. Let â€˜em see that I too could protect el barrio, an’ beat any mutha fuckah who came â€˜bout screwing my crew. Just like that, plomo to the head. Burn â€˜em up in the tires, microonda their asses.
Pitbul raises the machetes an’ rasps â€˜em, a screeching sound tha’s drowned by the hoots of all. El Conejo empties a bottle on the Riper’s head. He beggin’ El Conejo not to do it, fucker eating his own tears an’ snot now. El Conejo lights up a match an’ throws it. The tires melt, an’ the Riper catches on fire. El coÃ±o e’ madre screams an’ twitches. Never heard such a fuckin’ loud an’ long squeal, ya can almost feel it. Not even when we stabbed the hand of an agÃ¼evoniao that had wanted to steal some hundred grams I was carryin’, not even when un pelaito from our crew got shot in the stomach-â€˜bout nine he was. No, this howl fires up my spine, makin’ me twitch too.
When Pitbul found out that Coco had been wiped, he took two from our crew an’ in the middle of the night, went down to the house of a Ripper-the one that had canned Coco-an’ brought the fucker here. A move that meant the war was on. But it had been on for a couple of months, just not declared, tha’s all. The Ripper don’t scream no more, an’ there’s fuss all over, everyone roused, guns in the air, firing plomo to the sky. There ain’t no cryin’ â€˜cause life is just a moment. The clock is halting, little by little; we just don’t hear the clicks. And this time, it was Coco’s that stopped. We gonna avenge him-show the fuckers that if ya hit one of our crew, ya mess with us all-an’ live it up. Live it up for Coco. Like there ain’t no tomorrow. I raise Coco’s uzi, my uzi now, an’ shoot to the sky, lightin’ up the stars.
We don’t quiet down, we hug, bump our bare chests, an’ push one another. The commotion carries us all to the bonfire, where Pitbul had sent to set the party up, just above the communal kitchen. The whole upper-end of el barrio is up, an’ having a hella-good time. The music blares through the tall speakers, yet the drums an’ bongos can still be heard if near â€˜em. A mulata shakes her fat, round ass, an’ her tits rub against those of a negrita. Both sweatin’ like drenched from a pond, lookin’ all good. Some tipos with their arms tattooed, are doin’ the dance-fight, snakes wrapped in their arms, to see who gets bit first. I find El Conejo sitting next to Pedro, he takes a cartoncito from his pocket an’ hands it to me. It has the drawing of the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland-fuckin’ hilarious-no wonder tha’s his favorite. But there’s no way in hell that am gonna take it again. Damn acid lasted for eight hours last time I took it, made the place melt around me, an’ spawned all sort of shit. Pedro sniffs coke from a bill an’ I do that instead. Tonight’s okay. Tonight we live an’ celebrate.
One hand with beer, the other my uzi. I pump â€˜em up, while a carajita rubs her ass against my pinga. Fuck, it feels good. Real good. And we kings, we kings tonight. She turns around, an’ I smack my lips on hers, stick my tongue in her mouth. She bites my lips till it pinches an’ I can taste blood. This broad knows wha’s good. I lick her face, her sweat. I finish my beer an’ throw it in a can but miss. I put my hand in her shorts to touch her pepa. She likes it. Rubs her tetas harder against me, sucks my ear. I grind against her, an’ I kno’ she ready, she wet as hell. I take her hand an’ move her to a corner, makin’ her face the wall. She lowers her shorts, an’ places my hand on her pepa again, an’ I rub hard. Am rock solid an’ I stick her, thrust it in, she moans, fights it off, so I dominate her, pushin’ harder, pressing her until I burst. And am king, am king tonight.
I wipe the bugs from the nose. Pick up the toothbrush to clean the engine, damn oil an’ grime always getting up in all the hard parts to reach. But am making it spotless, â€˜cause Pitbul said am ridin’ it next time. Fuck-yeeeeh. Carlos stacks up some bricks an’ comes near me. He wants to help me clean the twister bikes. But I ain’t letting. El cagado don’t even kno’ how. And I want it to look real good, sparkle an’ shit.
Pitbul is back an’ he walkin’ with a tipa. Her legs real thick, but not in the gettin’-mah-pinga-hard kinda way. She old am guessin’ even more than Pitbul is. I put the towel on the floor near the bucket an’ the toothbrush â€˜cause they walking toward me. La tipa stops a few feet from me, an’ I see that she is Estella. Dunno why she starin’ at me like she come to tell me somethin’.
Get in, Pitbul tells me, as he goes inside the house.
Whatha-hells goin’ on? I have only seen Estella come here twice an’ ain’t never been for a good thing. Maybe the cops came in an’ close her house again. Gonna spike the whole barrio if tha’s wassup. Or maybe just need some dough for the week. Ain’t make no sense either way, why Pitbul callin’ me in for? But she don’t enter, she stays outside.
He’s sitting in his dark brown couch, which at night ya can’t see what part is his arm an’ what ain’t. Right next to the altar draped in black of La Santa Muerte. I used to see her cold, skeletal face as sinister but tha’s before I came under her veil, under her protection. Pitbul has us surround her every Friday an’ Tuesday with red carnations an’ then he lights the candles. He always finishes his prayers with bring forth your strength, power and omnipresence against those who intend to destroy me. I repeat it, too, in my head, an’ I know she hears me.
Siéntate, Pitbul tells me, so I sit. It’s takin’ him long to say a thing an’ my leg shakes. He ain’t never sat me down before. Not really. All he ever tells me is on the go, sorta shit you learn hands on. Ain’t your theory type a guy.
Your grandma’s dead, he says. Just like that, like a slap.
Starts saying somethin’ â€˜bout she not wanting to eat. She not moving. And of bedsores â€¦ bedsores, whatha? Ain’t none of it making sense. I knew she wasn’t moving much. Pitbul says Estella came to ask for help to move Buela, for the wake-the wake-like for MamÃ¡.
All the white lace lining surroundin’ her, never seen MamÃ¡ so pale an’ so still. Like a grown angel without wings. I was waitin’, waitin’ for her to open her eyes. The eyes all say I got from her an’ to see myself mirrored in hers, just like I always did, when it was my turn for her to sing me to sleep. Leen was tired an’ whining; people wanted her to be away, for her not to see. But I said, Naw, that she hadda see it, hadda be there, an’ so I carried her. While her lil’ face hid in my neck. And Manolita, she squeezed the hell outta my hand. I could hear her sobs, real hard, real deep. Buela stood behind us, but she didn’t last long, she couldn’t see her any longer. MamÃ¡ looked so beautiful, with her hands in her chest an’ her rosary tangled on her thin fingers. I coulda stayed watching her, waitin’, but they didn’t lemme.
â€˜Ta bien, Tito, let it out.
When Pitbul says that, I notice that my cheeks are wet. Fuck am weak, like a stupid kid made of paper skin. I wipe â€˜em with the back of my hands.
There’s no shame in it, Pitbul says, real men cry too.
I wanna believe him, but it gotta be bullshit. â€˜Cause he never cries. And Coco, El Conejo an’ the whole crew will laugh their asses off if ya ever as much as wince a tear. Tha’s for women an’ for maricÃ³nes.
Know what else real men do? Take care of los suyos. And you got a sister, no?-I raise two fingers-Bueno, you all they got now. You do what you gotta do, but you ain’t never lose sight of that. TÃº me entiende?
It all flashes in my head. Of Manola passing me the ball to score an’ clappin’ when it hit the net. Leen ridin’ on my shoulders from school. Of Buela lying in bed, an’ me complaining â€˜bout having to move her so that Manola could bathe her. Buela not moving. And Leen not talking. Until, until that day that I hit Manola. For what? â€˜Cause I felt de pinga for my insides were boiling, an’ was all envergado â€˜cause she had wanted to sell my Nikes. And I couldn’t come back, how the fuck could I? Leen ran one day that she saw me in a corner near the house, just sprinted, like fire was on her ass, like I woulda hit her too.
Take care of los suyos.
SÃ entiendo, I wanna say, but can’t muster it, so I nod. I nod repeatedly an’ lower my face, tryin’ to hide a flood of tears.