by Alberto Reyes Morgan
In the evenings of Santiago de Compostela, Tonatiuh liked to control the birds. In the twilight he’d meander the medieval walkways, his face warm from Galician white wine and blood filled with strong tree that he’d buy from a puppeteer in a dungeon converted into a bar. The puppeteer’s show involved Jimi Hendrix and the Devil, so Tonatiuh knew the guy was holding. The worn red tiled roofs sprouted branches, green moss carpeted the brick walls, and the narrowing alleys that veered into archways, uphill, downhill, and into dead-ends—all made the ancient city feel like a painting from Remedios Varo, like the one of a town that spirals into itself.
Tonatiuh would end his walks at the central plaza next to the Burger King with the good bathroom he liked to shit in. Flocks of diabetic pigeons flew in the sky over him. He’d clap once and the birds would all together change direction. He’d clap again, they’d go the other way.
Laughing and clapping he’d keep at it. But the birds would fly away as the cathedral bells rang. Tonatiuh would persist, still clapping, but the birds wouldn’t listen anymore. So, he’d sit, waiting. And the ringing of the bells bounces off the old stone wall that once protected the city and disappears into the black clouds.
Farina down below me, open eyes staring. They look like broken glass, his eyebrows bleeding, his tongue slurred out. And me, yelling at his body, my hands waving. I think about jumping down the hole of the roof he fell through, but I’m afraid. He’s in a living room, next to an altar with a San Juditas, next to the big fucking TV we’d seen through the window, and I think I see the bald head of an old man going up to him.
I run away, and he does some time. I keep hitting the mona and he’s trying to stop using in there he tells me over the phone. Fixes up a deal where he gets out and goes to an anexo. They make him stand naked and throw buckets of cold water on him, call him an hijo de la chingada and all kinds of things. Cures him.
I see him by the Cuatro Esquinas and goddamn me, he’s showing off his smooth cheeks and clean clothes. That guayaba-sized cyst on his cheek that he was always picking and digging at with his dirty nails, it’s gone. He finally gutted it.
And now I’m the one holding the filero to the Sabritas man’s neck, he was unloading boxes of chips from his creaky yellow truck. He drove by all bouncing metal and creaking tires, his loud radio hissing at me, and he’s trying to convince me not to hurt him. “We’ve done this before. Your friend was here, remember?” he says, scrambling back, tearing open the velcro of his wallet.“But Farina’s not here,” I say, and the Sabritas man knows.