I don’t know my name.
I don’t know where I am. I don’t even know where I was when they took me. But I do know that if I slow down or stop running, I’m dead. I don’t deserve this! No 15-year-old deserves this kind of crap.
A nasty little bastard and three of his loser pals are intent on killing me and three other Mexicanos about my age because we had the gall to escape. We started running as a group, but drifted apart the farther we ran. That has worked in our favor though we hadn’t planned it. Hell, we didn’t plan any of this. The chance to get away just sort of happened and when the first of us started running, the rest followed.
There are only two things on my mind right now: my next step and the paved road ahead of me. I know if I can reach that road I’ll be safe. There are homes along that road with families and trees and dogs and mailboxes and green grass. A real neighborhood. Nothing like this dry and dusty dirt road with its half-exposed fist-size rocks that will trip you in half a heartbeat.
Every second arrives with the curse that it will be my last, but leaves as a blessing that it was not. I’m so exposed in this field of waist high needle grass, I can almost feel the rifle sights burning a spot on my back. And I am so tired.
The air is hot and humid and full of bugs. I’m used to the heat but it feels like I’m running through water or something. It’s slowing me down, draining me. I have never run this fast for so long before. Part of me wonders if it wouldn’t be easier just to stop, to get it over with. It can’t be worse than the painful stitch in my side or gasping for one more lungful of hot, wet air.
It’s getting dark now. On my right, towards the setting sun, I see another of the boys running as I am, not so much towards the paved road (I don’t think he can see it yet) as away from our kidnappers. Just then he throws up his arms and falls forward. A second later I hear the shot.
Idiot! I’ve been running in a straight line! That could’ve been me! I start running back and forth across the dirt road randomly, I hope, but always towards the pavement with its unspoken promise of safety. I think of that other boy, the one who just got shot, and I wonder how much it hurt. I didn’t know him, I don’t know any of them, but part of me feels bad he’s gone.
There’s another boy ahead of me and to the right, almost at the road, and suddenly I realize how close it is. It’s less than a hundred feet away! My brain tells my body to run faster, but my body has become like those pendejo Hondas with the big mufflers the white kids in the suburbs have. They make a lot of noise, but they don’t move very fast.
Why do I even think of such things now? Concentrate! Breathe! Don’t trip! Do not trip!
And I’m there!
I was watching the dark road to avoid the rocks and it took me a few seconds to realize I was actually on the pavement. Finally! The other boy I saw ahead of me is standing on the road, too, watching me and catching his breath. Together we run a little farther down the road until it is completely dark, and so we aren’t in plain sight of the field, before stopping to catch our breath again.
We never see the fourth boy again.
– – –
The short, ugly, son-of-a-bitch leader of the gang that tried to kill me stands in his junkyard castle with two of his soldier whores, both carrying Kalashnikovs the way mothers cradle babies. He seems smug and angry, which is what passes for happiness in his fucked-up world. And yet, he wonders, how dare a bee sting him on his forehead. His forehead!
His anger turns quickly to confusion as his hand comes away with blood from the sting. He stumbles and sits down heavily, never having heard the shot. In his confusion, this puta imagines he sees me standing next to him, smiling. I don’t know how I know this, but I do and it makes me glad to know this is what he’s thinking as the last of his worthless life fades into nothing.
– – –
I don’t know how much time has passed since that day in the field of needle grass, nor do I know where we’re going, but as I switch seats to sit between my older brother and one of his friends, I realize I am safe. The fading memory of my ordeal no longer haunts my dreams, but it sweetens every waking moment. I see that the bad times aren’t as bad as they could be and the good times are better than I ever thought possible.
And I still don’t know my name.