I saw this guy crouched in front of my car, letting the air out of the front tire. I was maybe 100 yards away and I came up behind him as quickly and quietly as I could. When I was about 10 feet away I recognized him: no doubt about it, he was one of those dirty-rag guys, you know, the guys with filthy rags who’re always coming up to your car when the light turns red and offering to clean your windshield with the world’s most disgustingly filthy dirty rag, the guys who offer to watch your car in a bad neighborhood for only $5 but you know if you don’t pay them, they’ll steal your hubcaps, windshield wipers, tires, wheels, everything that isn’t nailed to the car, so you’ve got no choice, you fork over your last fiver, all the time telling yourself this is it, this is the last straw, I really have to move out of this fucking dirty crazy city before I turn into one of these crazy dirty freaks myself – and this guy, my local dirty-rag guy, he’s taking all the air out of my tire, probably cause he got pissed off, cause I parked my car there in the one empty spot on the street, the one spot he thinks belongs to him, where he does business, offering to fleece more idiots like me out of their $5. And he’s muttering to himself like those crazy guys always do and now I’m so close, I’m less than 10 inches away, like the shadow you never see till it falls on you, like the aroma of that new perfume I can’t afford, Carnal Iris, which I’ve only tried in Palacio de Hierro where they give you free samples from ‘testers’, one second you don’t smell it, the next it’s like this carnivorous flower is all over you, taking you prisoner and driving you insane (soy Totalmente Carnal), and the snotty blue-haired bitch who was behind the counter never noticed the tiny bottle disappearing inside my pocket, and meanwhile my rag guy is so intent on his fucked-up criminal enterprise he still doesn’t notice me, doesn’t feel me breathing on his neck, and I’m feeling pretty insane myself as I pull the gun out from inside my jacket but when I press its metal barrel into the soft flesh of the nape of his neck he freezes and my voice is so low most people wouldn’t hear it, but I know he does as I tell him, “that air you took out of my tire, now you can put it all back in, inflate it just like it was,” and I realize his pants are getting all stained as he’s peeing himself and a little stream of it is flowing down onto the pavement where he’s crouching, and when he mutters one word under his breath, a word that begins with ‘b’ and ends with ‘itch’, my voice almost has a smile in it as I add, “and don’t get one drop of that on my car, cause if you do, I’ll turn your face into a new rag, you got that, Jack?” and when he doesn’t answer, the barrel presses a little deeper into the base of his spine and I’m asking again, “you got that?” and he doesn’t want to say it, but the metal is pressing harder and finally he grunts, “yes,” and I go, “yes, what?” and there’s a long moment and finally, he really doesn’t want to fucking say those two words but he’s got no choice cause he knows just how crazy people get in the City, so he does, “yes, ma’am”.
And I’m grinning to myself as he’s pumping the tire back up, putting back the air he stole from me, and my free hand, the one that’s not holding the gun, slides inside my pocket, closing around the Carnal Iris and the next instant that cannibalistically dangerous smell is invading my nostrils and I can’t help my instinctive reaction, my reptilian brain taking over, losing any final veneer of civilization, of compromise, as my finger tightens on the trigger and –
It didn’t happen.
None of it. Except in my head, where it happens every day … and except on the street … the street outside my apartment … the street where I go to work … the street outside your apartment … every street I know, cause that’s the way we do things around here … that’s the way we roll … in the City.
Original text by Adriana Degetau
Translation by Miguel Tejada-Flores