from Behind the Eyes

As he walked past the projects, he felt the dry, desert heat of El Paso bake him. Beads of sweat appeared on his upper lip and temples.  His father and Filiberto were like each other. Everybody said so and you could tell. Hector was different. He had been raised to believe that he was different. Now, however, as he strode on the dirt road toward the cotton fields, he felt that he was becoming more like his dead brother and his dead father. He was going to let this new power take him wherever it wanted to take him.

By the time he could see Gloria’s house, he was soaked with perspiration. His heart pounded harder as he got closer to the white car parked under the shade of the pecan tree. An Impala that rode low to the ground.

He stopped, feeling as though he was on the edge of a precipice. If he took another step he would fall. He could muster enough strength to turn around and head back to the apartment with its heavy curtains, the island fortified by the moat that was his father’s garden, the coolness and silence of the old church, the crowded halls and classrooms of his school, where he could disappear anonymously. Don’t do anything stupid, Mrs. Garza had said.

Then he saw the silhouette of two heads in the car’s rear window. He stopped thinking. He felt a force lift him off his feet and carry him forward, the way Filiberto must have felt when he pushed the gas pedal to the floor and steered the truck straight into the oncoming locomotive. He took a hundred steps forward, but it was only one letting go, one falling—no, soaring. Then he was beside the white Impala parked under the pecan tree, and through the side window he saw them in the back seat, kissing and groping each other. Chava’s left hand was on Gloria’s breast, and his right hand was behind her neck, bringing her head down toward his open mouth.

Behind the Eyes cover

Light breaks where no sun shines; where no sea runs, the waters of the heart push in their tides.  This line of a poem he had memorized for English class was, of all things, what filled his head as he opened the car door and grabbed the open-mouthed Chava by his hair. Hector had to try a couple of times to get a hold of his hair, because it was greasy, but when he did, he pulled so hard that some of it came out in his hand.  Hector ended up with a tuft of black bristles that reminded him of a cheap paintbrush. He reached in again and managed to grab part of Chava’s face.His clawing fingers found Chava’s nostrils, and he used them and the open mouth to pull Chava’s body out of the car. Gloria began screaming almost as soon as he opened the car door.

“No espérate! It’s not what you think!”  She kept screaming as he pummeled Chava’s face with his fists.

Chava’s nose cracked under his knuckles like a twig.  In Chava’s terrified pupils Hector observed, as if from a distance, his own raging figure in miniature, and it looked strangely familiar. Then Gloria was behind him, pulling him away from Chava’s bloodied face, yelling that she was only trying to help, that he had it all wrong.  She pulled his shoulders back so he lost his balance, and he found himself seated on the ground with his legs stretched out. This gave Chava enough time to pick himself up.  Hector saw Chava wipe his bloody nose with his skinny arm and then he saw Chava’s leg move back, taking aim. Hector turned his head so as to not get hit in the face with the point of Chava’s boot, but it struck his right ear. Hector was on his back, his arms outstretched.  Again Hector saw himself from afar. He looked as if he was lying on top of a hill, after a picnic meal, observing the shapes of the clouds. How did that poem go? Dawn breaks behind the eyes; from poles of skull and toe the windy blood slides like a sea. Yeah, that was it. The secret of the soil grows through the eye, and blood jumps in the sun. Then what? Above the waste allotments the dawn halts. He curled himself up like a shrinking fetus and covered his head with his hands.