Fiction Sad Latinx

This story contains themes or mentions of substance abuse.


“Can you afford that?” The calories, The pounds, The time, The money. 

The time

The money

The time 

The money 

The time 

The money 

The time 

The time 

I sit in the train station pew staring at the giant schedule board 







On time





Train fair: 3.75 one way.

Selena worked over time last week and now Medicaid won’t cover it. Tip out should be at least $10 cash, and that’ll get me home in the morning. Shit. I’m tired. I pull a crushed pack of cigarettes from my cargo pocket and pluck one out. I yank the filter from the butt with my teeth, and tear it in half. I take the slimmer piece and put it back into the empty space, and chuck the other onto the tracks. 

Marlboro reds: $14.

I’ve got 5 left. Now 4. Loosies are $1.50 and I’ve got to make the train home. Means no smoking in front of Kev today. He always wants to bum one. You can lose a pack a day to that fool. I inhale, and the heat from the cigarette unties the knot in my chest. I flick the ash and watch the gray flakes fall onto my flour coated shoes and stare at the dotted screen showing the train times again. After a while my eyes gloss over, and the numbers become blurry. When they come back into focus it’s my paycheck…

Cigarettes $-14 

Electric bill $-250, 

Work by 5 

1 extra hour +$14. 

“Psht'' I chuckle out loud. I’ve got a pack of cigarettes, for what’ll be the next 12 hours. I’m halfway through smoking, and I feel the subway's dirt and dust scratch my eyes as the breeze from the train kicks it up. The clunking of metal roars through the station and the automated sweet voice belts out “Doors are Closing”. I put out my cigarette on the bottom of my shoe and tuck it back into the crushed box. I exhale the remaining smoke out of my nose and hop on. Mind the gap

The cold Air from the AC feels like heaven. I only keep our air conditioning going in Abuela’s room. It’s too expensive to keep it on in the whole house, but it's not good for her to be that hot. She doesn't leave the room much these days. She confuses me and Daisy with Mami, and sometimes she can't recognize Selena at all. Selena says it helps when I'm home… My bones soften and the swelling in my hands deflates. I feel like I can breathe again. 

4:30 train, 

4 stops

I’ll be at work by 5 exactly.

     I listen to the clang of steel, and let the subway rock me back and forth as I stare out the window. Racing and floating above the city reminds me of pops. When I was little, we’d ride the train together and he’d tell me about all of the plants. They'd pull ads from billboards and wrap themselves around telephone wires, abandoned buildings, and homes. Homes; with scorched wood and mold on the ceilings. Nothing but ivy holding them together. That’s where my name came from, he said. I was what "held us all together”. He’d tell me that while he tucked me into his chest, and I’d drift off to the sound of rusty wheels screeching over the tracks, and his heartbeat. Some "job" I did. My eyelids began to weigh down, until I heard the voice belt out again,“Second Street Station.” I jolt my body forward and lean my head over my knees. While I'm slumped over; I pick the tobacco from underneath my nails and rub it off between my calloused fingers. Finally I push myself up, and steady my legs, by holding the metal pole in front of me.

4:55. I’m making good time. 

When I get to the restaurant, I yank open the back door and the stench of the dumpster cooking in the sun, melds with the smell of meat and vegetables sizzling on the flat top. With the taste of tar coating my tongue my mouth becomes heavy and my stomach turns over. I swallow. The door slams behind me and with its bang I hear a shout 

“IVY!” Fucking Chef. 

“Yeah?” I answer 

“Clock in. The kid called out.”

“Heard.” I clock in, tie my apron around my waist and start the dinner prep. I lose my footing. Dizzy from not having eaten since yesterday. I place both hands on the counter, close my eyes and lean forward until it passes. Then I begin chopping the grilled chicken. I toss some pieces into my mouth, while throwing the rest into small cambros, to stock the flat top fridge for service tonight. I finish, then fill an empty plastic container that once held moldy lemons, with ice and water.


1 pack of cigarettes 

Train fair for tomorrow. 

The sun begins to creep in. It’s almost 7. 

2 extra hours 

Tip out: $60 bucks, 

Plus today's pay

I finish the rest of the breakfast prep, pack up 3 Styrofoam to go boxes and clock out. 

My legs are throbbing from the night before. I kick them up onto the seat and lean sideways against the window. This time I let the subway rock me to sleep. 

I wake up at my stop, with my legs clutching the bag of leftovers and my arms crossed over my chest. Same ritual. Hang my head over my knees until the dizzy spell passes, pull myself up to the door and walk. 

8:30 am 

4 and ½ cigarettes

3 to go plates 

Selena’s overtime. 

When I get home, my feet are pounding. I jerk open our rusty screen door, pretending to be ornate, with its lazily welded foliage and the white spray paint chipping away, and falling onto our crumbling cement steps. I push open the second door and find Daisy, nose deep in a textbook the size of her head. The kitchen table is littered with empty instant bustelo packets, and her thick curly hair is halfway thrown up in a messy bun falling in front of her forehead. She’s still pretty though. She looks just like Mami. Sleepy and gorgeous with her head in a book. 

“Qué te pasa loca!?” I yell, laughing. She doesn’t look up. She’s too focused and gets annoyed when I try to interrupt her. 

“Haz me un café…” I order playfully. “And not that fake shit you're drinking.” 

I put the leftovers on the table, and her coffee brown eyes light up. She rummages through the tattered paper bag, snatches a to-go box and throws it into the microwave. Then, she pulls the coffee can down from the cupboard. She frantically throws a filter into the pot, and dumps some grounds in. I’ve never seen her measure anything, and it’s always the best coffee.

While I wait for it to brew I fly up the narrow staircase to the Abuelas room. Her door is held shut with a sock wedged between the frame and that little slope that's supposed to go in and out when you turn the knob. It just sticks out these days though, and the knob doesn't move. Her room is cold, and the AC must be blaring too loud because she's put her hearing aid on the nightstand. 

    "Hola Abuela." I say softly, while holding her head and kissing her on the cheek. Her thick gray hair scattered all over her face.

    "Hello… my love." she says to me. Slow and sad. "Estas bien?" she asks

    "Yeah, yeah I'm fine, just tired." I say, trying to reassure her.

    "I am lost. que dia es?" she asks. I look down to try and think, I've been working so much I'm not even sure. It's the 1st though I know that.

Rent is due 

4 cigarettes 

What day is it? 

9:00 am 

    "It's Monday Abuela." I tell her, recalling the aftermath of brunch strewn across the prep station last night. 

Eggs benedict is the special on sundays 

    "Does the lady come today?" she asks

    "Yes, Selena will be here later." 

    " Can you stay with me today?" I take the clip from her nightstand and put it in my mouth. Then I wrap her long grey hair in a swirl and tuck it behind her head. I reach for the clip between my teeth and open it to secure her mane in place. 

    "I have to work tonight." Otherwise I'd stay here all day, and we'd talk and watch telenovelas, and I'd tell her what day it is, as many times as she wanted me to.

 After combing her hair, I fill a small basin with water, and grab her toothbrush from the bathroom. I come back and sit it on the nightstand. I lean over her, to move her legs from the bed, to the floor. She wraps her arms around my neck, and I gently hold them in place thinking she’s trying to steady herself. When I lift my head up to look at her, I see her naked collar bone. “Where’s your virgen!?” I yell. Selena wouldn’t take it, or Daisy. So who? Did she lose it? I frantically start turning over pillows, and pill bottles until I hear a light jingle following me. I look down, and the weight of her golden blessed mother necklace, sits on my chest. 

“Happy birthday Mijita, you’re 19 today.” 

She remembered. I sit back down infront of her and begin to unlatch the chain from my neck. Gently with her tiny hands, she pulls my arms down to my side and presses her forehead to mine. “I’m sorry.” she whispers

1 hair clip

1 virgin

1 sinner 

4 cigarettes

Rent is due

9:15 am

The time

The time

The time

 I light a cigarette and start sifting through the tower of mail on the kitchen table. The gas bill is on top. I haven’t paid it since it’s summertime. But it’ll be getting cold soon. I set it to the side. 

“Cochina!” Daisy says. “You know those things can kill you?” 

She speaks through a mouthful of steak and potatoes, whilst handing me a cup of coffee. I don’t answer. I’m three quarters of the way through the stack and still nothing. It’s the 1st. So where is it? Daisy looks down and starts to walk out.

“Where is it?” I say quietly. Pulling in the heat of my cigarette behind my words. The cherry turning orange as I fill my belly with smoke. 

“What?” She asks 

“Daisy quit playin’ where’s abuelas checks?” She gulps down a mouthful of mashed potatoes and wipes her face with her arm. Her eyes look like glass, and I can see the bruises that wrap around her wrists.

“What happened Daisy?” 

“Tío got out.”

10:30 am 

3 cigarrettes 

1 cup of coffee 

2 to-go plates 

The words squeak through her lips, like an injured mouse fighting to keep hidden in the corners of an empty home. 

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“Yeah, he just gripped me up.” 

“I thought we had 6 more months!” I rub my face and my nose begins to itch from the sooty residue on my fingertips. 

The bills

The gas

The rent 

The money

The money

The money

“The parole board approved him early…model inmate.” Tears stream down Daisy's face  as she shovels the last of the food into her mouth.

“Is that all you’ve eaten today?” I ask.

She opens her mouth to lie and shakes her head. She can’t even think of a story to tell me. 

“Take the other and then feed Abuela.” I pull the $50 from my pocket and hand it to her. 

“Selena will be here at noon. You’re off from school today right?” She nods

“Give her that, it’s her overtime.” I finish my cigarette, and grab Papi’s old baseball bat, leaning in the corner of the living room. It sits, next to a pile of busted sneakers by the door. The only nice ones are his last pair of forces. The laces tied together for a memorial no one showed up to. No men to play bolas with the shoes of another lost soul.


The time 

The time 

The time 

“Ivy! No! Please!!” Fuck. She’s sobbing. I clench my jaw and swallow. 

“I’m just gonna go find him. It’ll be fine.” I pull the last of the cash from my shift out of my cargo pocket. Its wrapped around my crumbling box of Marlboros. 

“Get some groceries and pay the electric bill. I’ll be back in a few.” She grabs the money from my hand and snatches the cigarettes with it. The snot and drool pouring out of her. Her eyes pleaded with me to stop. I didn’t say anything, just stared back. She handed the cigarettes back to me, folded the money and put it in her pocket. 

“I’ll be back.” I say.

“You don’t even know where he is!” 

11:00 am 

2 ciggarettes 

Papi's bat 

1 flapping rubber sole 

$-20 work shoes

When I get to Marcus’ house I can hear the regetón blasting from the top of the block. I bang on the screen and, the cheap metal pounds against the wood leaving chips in it. He only answers if he thinks it’s the cops, or a customer. They both knock with the same frantic bang.  “Who the fuck is knocking like that!?” I can hear him through the window. He opens up, and the grey cloud hovering around him seeps out of the house. The smell of weed, cat piss, and crack hits me in the face, as he leans against the doorframe, wearing a dirty, white tank top and shorts. 

“Damn Ivy! Whatchu knocking like the cops for?” He purses his chapped lips at me, while picking ash from his beard. His long thick fingernails, green with whatever dirt was caked beneath them. 

“I know he’s here. Let me in, Marcus.” 

“Not with that muchachita. Can’t have you fucking up any merchandise.” Fuck. I inhale sharply. I pull the screen door open, and grab his face. I bring it close to mine and let him lean in. His tongue, hanging out of his mouth like a dog getting ready to go off leash. As he leans in closer, I weasel my way between him and the doorframe and race through the house. I run, tripping over strung out bodies and cracking needles beneath my feet. I can hear his heavy footsteps behind me. I make it up the stairs and toward the back room. From the hallway… I can hear tío laughing and snorting like a vacuum. Fuck. I hope that shit is a homecoming gift. I know better though. He’s pulling our lives up his nose. 

The rent

The meds 

The pills

The gas 



I swing the bedroom door open and I'm lost.  I’ve got a headache from trying not to cry all morning. This is the first time I've seen his face since I was 16. I scan him, and can see the wreck he's become. The yellowing between his fingers, gives a gold filler to the purple slowly fading away. Track marks, from the places he missed.  He used to be so beautiful. Now… this is all that’s left of him. A bag of bones covered in dates on headstones. 

“Oh fuck.” He says, as I stand there clutching papis’ old bat. The splinters in it, digging through the calluses on my palms. He looks just like Pops.  

“It’s gone Ivy, so you can get the fuck out.” He won’t even look at me. He snorts another line, wipes his nose, then pinches it while tilting his head back. Like he might lose some around the edge of his nostril if any mucus seeps out. My heart is pounding. I hate him. So why does seeing him like this hurt so much? He's dirty, and pathetic, with nothing left, but coke, and a corroded mattress covered in piss and blood. 

“You ain’t gon’ do shit with the bat so just get the fuck out before I fuck you up.” He hissed, while snorting another line, and knocking the scorched spoon over the cardboard box he'd been using as a table. 

"If you need cash just pawn that." He points to the heavy golden virgen that abuela gave me earlier.

 "It's the last of her good jewelry, and she gave it to me for my birthday." I say, trumpets thundering in my throat as I sink into the girl I still am. 

"Sell it to the pawn shop and leave," he says. My eyes widened. Leave? go where? I could… I could go to the shore, work as a cook, but who'd take care of…

"Doesn't matter who takes care of them. Just fucking leave already, your mom did. Why can't you? You're still a kid Ivy, no one would blame you." I stood there in silence and then began making my way toward the door. I heard him snort another line as my stomach growled and I wanted to take the bat to his head. 

“You look just like he did the week he died.” I say, with my back now facing him. 

“Skinny, with sunken eyes and rubbing his nose.” I let the tears fall down my cheeks, wiping them clean from the soot and grease of the stove. I walk out of the room, and down the stairs, stepping over strung out bodies, and cracking needles beneath my feet. Marcus  lies snoring in the tattered leather chair by the door, the yellow foam chewed up by rats. I open the door and sit on the stoop, twirling the pendant between my fingertips. 

I could leave….

12:00 pm

1 cigarette

No cash 

The time 

The time 

The time 

September 02, 2022 20:09

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