[This follows “Microcosm” and "Hebrews 13:1-2”]
The light breeze blowing the curtains apart cannot offer Aaron a much-needed shelter from the stifling heat of the night. He dares not moving his naked body, sticking to the unentangled sheet, for fear of breaking a sweat or disturbing Jack's peaceful sleep rhythmed by a regular and discreet breathing. The smell of melting asphalt is wafting up from the deserted street and further hinders his search for oxygen. The thickness of the air cannot prevent the distant sirens of a police car from breaking into the house, into his mind, materialising into a chase, probably gangbangers rushing down the street, vaulting over chain-link fences, taking shortcuts through parched backyards, pulling themselves up over wooden palisades, growling and grunting dogs biting at the cuffs of their baggy pants, refusing to let go.
Aaron feels guilty. He feels no different than his father. Jack's breathing is broken up by a low hum and now Aaron feels envy. He can even see the slight trace of a smile on Jack's face in the bluish darkness of the bedroom. He knows getting up would not help. He knows that the open window and its distractions will invite his mind outside, flying over the city, the valley, soaring over mountains and diving down to the desert, back home, back to Resguardo.
After a quick drink at Alfredo's, they walked hand in hand along the concrete path with the lights of the rides up on the pier colouring the mauve night, screams of glee reaching them as they made their way to Tony and Gina's. They lived in an apartment not very far from theirs, in a red two-storey building with exterior stairs. Their leather sandals beat the cracked-up concrete as their two hands swung in rhythm, back and forth. They wore matching Bermuda shorts. Jack's hairless and bumpy chest showed through the open top of his shirt while Aaron hid his showing ribcage behind a tight-fitting white Tee-shirt. Their lovingly interlocked fingers were carefully manicured and they both sported a thread bracelet with each other ‘s initial.
Gina was as he had imagined her. Short and buxom, jade-green eyes and freckles sprinkled over nose and cheekbones; light red hair interspersed with locks turned blond with sun. She wore a strapless green dress revealing swarthy shoulders speckled with beauty spots. Taking advantage of the draft, the smell of spices from Hernando's Mexican cuisine flew away as she opened the door. The trumpets of a salsa piece greeted them as she ushered them in on the terrace while the clatter of pots and pans sounded as a true dissonance.
« Honey, they're here"
The slight tremor in her voice, the redness around her eyes and the hint of moisture mingling with mascara at the tip of her lashes, Gina had been crying. She listened for Hernando's step. The sound of the heel of his white leather moccasin clicked against the wooden floor, a toothy smile, his shirt open on a hairy chest, a gold chain contrasting with the brownness of his skin, his jet-black hair shiny with hair lotion. He offered them a limp hand.
« Looks like you've been cooking up a storm" Jack offered with a smile.
« Mexican, Mamacita's favourite! » He punctuated his remark with a brisk slap on her butt. Gina was not amused. Hernando danced on one foot and then the other, grinding his teeth so tight into a smile that you could hear a faint grating. His black eyes were the darker for his dilated pupils.
« Tortilla and all? »
« Of course, my man"
Jack smirked. « You still got flour under your nose hombre"
Aaron read panic in his eye. Hernando quickly brushed it off with his wrist and breathed in through his nose noisily.
Gina had met Jack at the university. At first, she had been hopeful that the sensitive dreamboat had been the perfect match. After a dinner at her place, he had pushed back her prying hand in his lap and deftly averted his face when she had attempted a tonguey kiss. They had become the next best thing, best friends. After graduation, they had moved in for a while together before meeting Hernando. It was an on and off relationship with many a lonely tear for her as she poured her pain into Jack's compassionate ear over the phone.
Hernando handed them high balls full of crushed ice, mint and the squeezed-out frame of a piece of lime.
« Salud" he grinned as he sat down next to Gina who seemed to be inching away as the Latino lover was moving closer.
« Where you from? » Aaron was startled by the brisk question.
« Out of town »
The reply is still echoing now, in the loneliness of semi darkness with his lover so close and yet so far, in a comfy world of his own, miles away from Aaron's sleeplessness. Jack has never followed up on his caginess. Is it out of fear? Is it out of respect? Is he in the know? Does he know about his father Lou? About the night he stepped into his room, discovering Jim, the farmhand, busy behind him on his bed. They could have used the barn; they could have done it on a blanket in the coolness of the desert night but the desire was too strong and the symbolism too appealing. Stunned and surprised, Lou did not even try to catch Jim as he ran out of the room, pants down. Lou's lower lip was trembling, trying to formulate words that failed to erupt. Matching his father in his stupor, he watched as his father closed the door, knowing that this was not simply his bedroom door revolving on its hinges, but his father's heart locking up, his mother love forbidden. Banned from Resguardo, banned from home, forever. He knows he can no longer walk the winding trail leading up to his parents’ house, he knows the gate will be closed, he knows about the barbed-wire fences, the way they look impassable tonight more than ever. And there lingers, in his mind’s eye, a vision prompted by a dream he has just woken from, his father Lou, in front of their house, keeping watch, sitting on a chair, a shotgun across his lap.
* The title is from a song by Flogging Molly, it matches the story so well that I have decided to use it as a title.