(page 6 of 13)
He pauses again, sounding as if his voice will soon abandon his body. I can hear rain hitting the windows. Everything appears less threatening in the rain, everything softens My head is calmed by this thought. Litio disappears.
“They said to me, laughing, ‘Rueben, it’s your day to be a man, don’t be afraid, she is willing, don’t worry, we paid her. Remind that old bitch she is a woman. Show her what you can do, don’t shoot too soon, make it last.”
“I was in a dark room with a bed, and on the bed was a woman. I knew her. She worked for us. It was Marta, an Indian woman who worked for us. Marta stared at me with fear in her eyes. I was trying. . . not to cry. I tried as a man should…It was Marta who carried me as a child, fed me, sang songs to me, gave me caresses when I was hurt. My mother had died . . . when I was born… she died. And Marta raised me . . .gave me a mother’s love, a mother’s kind touch she had for me.
He stops speaking. Again he stops and several of the men look disappointed. They are rankled by his too-many pauses. Their arched eyebrows fall and their boners slacken. And they don’t like it. And they don’t like Rueben for it. He is teasing them with a good story. He builds suspense, with much drama and the twisted thoughts of a fucked-upped man. Then---wham, he stops. Like a woman he teases. They mumble words of support, “Go on, go on,” they say. But Reuben’s heart, bigger and weaker than all of ours combined, overflows, straining itself beyond repair. It takes all he has not to brake down and weep. If it goes any longer, a lifetime of stupid, savage tears will flood us all.
Litio returns, foul odors trail him. But the alcohol on his breath is clean. He whispers it tastes of rain. “There are three bars on this side of the street alone,” he laughs. His laughter staggers the air, waking even the hardiest of sleepers.
Meanwhile, everyone sits and waits, most staring at their worn shoes, wondering about the awful things they’ve done and how it’s led them here.
Outside, the rain slows. It leaving the city for the countryside. Though it’s soft and cradling and does its best to soothe the slum’s concrete and rusty tin fevers, they burn anyway. They burn through us all. The city burns, everyone’s going down in a blur of dirty flame. And the hottest fires erupt here; fueled by a pack of cursed men, condemned to unravel as one.
Reuben swallows large gulps of air. He is like a punctured balloon attempting to inflate itself, with too many holes to fill. Still he tries, so very hard does he try to give himself form, believing some kind of shape is better than none. But we don’t give a fuck for shape here. We only want the spicy details behind his wound. It gives the men insight on how to best feed their individual atrocities.
“I threw myself on her yelling, ‘You want it, don’t you, don’t you.’ I could hear the men outside the door laughing and cheering me on. I took off my pants and rubbed himself against Marta who lay on the bed while I pushed myself against her. I kept thrusting myself against Marta’s body, pushing wildly with my thing. Marta looked at me as if I were an animal. By then, her tears had dried, leaving salty white lines against her face. I pushed and pushed until I wet on her legs.”
Reuben stops, not to start again. He can’t start and we can’t finish. For this reason, the men, both beaten and aroused, are in need of hard drink. Or something to stop them from consorting with the demon spirits set loose by Reuben’s story. Or something just to stop them, to hold them, to sleep through the night with them without demanding payment at sunrise.
After Reuben’s story the meeting breaks. The group’s leader, a man with many chains around his neck, many rings on his fingers, an abiding love for cheap-plated metals, rises. With nothing better to do, we rise too.
“Brothers,” he starts, “we struggle everyday in the presence of weakness. We must control our urges. They are wicked and bring wicked things to us.” He closes his eyes and I sense trouble. “Brothers, the holy spirit has entered me since I have stopped drinking. Let it enter you, brothers, let it enter you.” He barks a command to hold hands. We obey. Many mumble a prayer. But I haven’t stopped praying since I entered this building.
The Other Side continues...