The crack epidemic of the 1980’s and 1990’s was one of the worst devastations our varrios ever experienced. Crack forced women to abandon their children, sons to steal from their mothers, and kids to go hungry and become demoralized. In my novel, Barrio Bushido, I confront the reality of this devastation by providing a magical narrative from the Santo character.
Santo is the saint of the streets. He loves unconditionally and sees beauty even in hell, as long as he can sacrifice and give strength to his gente. In the video you are about to watch, he has recently been shot by the love of his life, Maricela, and has been left for dead. Maricela has stolen his money, yet Santo still loves her. This video explains how he feels as he is recuperating and what he does to deal with the pain of love lost. It also shows the fate of many gente who became sick from the crack disease. This scene is one of the most intense and graphic of the novel, but I believe by showing it in this manner, we can come to a better understanding of the sickness and the humanity and even beauty of the sick.
Meditate on the message.
“El Santo” from Barrio Bushido, a Novel
Mari. She had gotten away. Good for her. I wasn’t angry at her. She did what she needed to do to make her dreams come true. She was in Florida, and I missed her. I missed her pussy and fake smile so, so much; how she could make me feel supreme. I missed the lies now that I was confronted with the truth. How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be when there is no comfort in the truth! The truth was that Mari did not give a fuck about me, a sucker. The truth was I wanted to flow down the river of love and forget the world. I wanted her high voice and sweet, sweaty body funk. I wanted to hear how much she loved me if even just one last time.
And so, alone and blue, three o’clock in the morning, with her picture in my hand, I pulled out a piece of paper and a pen, and I wrote down words, images, disturbed poetry. I imagined all of the beautiful things she would tell me and added things that no one would ever say to anyone:
I love you so very much, more than I can begin to express. I will not insult you with words—but if you were here now now now you would know the meaning of love. For I would stroke your hair and kiss your hands, and wash your feet with my happy tears. And afterwards I would no longer cry as the wind does on this loneliest of nights. I would no longer punish myself with your precious memory: of days walking and talking, of nights moaning and groaning, of time between dusk and dawn when you held me tight in your strong arms. For you would be here, and nothing more would be needed. No dreams of green grass and red roses, no fantasies of roaring rivers on a rainy day, no hallucinations of a place called paradise. For you would be here, and we would be there. For you would be here, and one moment, one breath, one damning kiss and heaven would shatter into a billion tiny pieces, and God would damn us eternally because no people, no beings should feel so good, so pure, so much love as we would. Together.
I wrote with the finest penmanship: beautiful penitentiary style calligraphy handwriting with wide fine loops. On the envelope I drew a giant heart with a knife running through it. Blood dripped down the knife’s point. I put a stamp on the envelope and walked down to the corner mailbox and mailed it to myself. I went to my abuelita’s house and waited. When the letter came the next afternoon, a tear strolled down my face as I thought about how much Mari loved me.
I walked to Mari’s spot at eleven o’clock at night. I didn’t expect her there, but when I peeked in the window, I saw her sitting in the corner of her dark living room with a glass pipe in her hand. She was not in Florida. Maricela was in another world. On the table beside her lay a giant white planet of crack cocaine. Sitting wide legged, her pussy hairs peeking out, she chipped off pieces of crack every few minutes. She wrapped her lips around the glass dick and inhaled deeply. She stared straight at me yet did not acknowledge my presence. She simply looked into me, kept hacking at her titanic, twenty-five thousand dollar shot that she had probably gotten down at the Alamo housing projects, and she blasted off to another planet.
Mesmerized by her, I stood there that whole night, but when the darkness of day came I left and went to sleep. When the night’s lights woke me again, I went back to Mari’s. She sat in that same corner, in the same wide legged position, and she chopped away at her work. Squinting my eyes, I noticed that underneath her on the floor was a huge puddle of piss and a tall pile of shit—flies flew fast—for she did not move from her chair for anything. The planet of crack on the table had now become a meteor. I left to buy a twelve pack of beer, and when I came back, she smiled, but, still, I stayed outside. I stayed outside and looked at her through the window.
After I hammered the twelve pack, I walked in and sat down on her couch. The rotten egg stench was horribly thick and musty. Almost vomiting, I didn’t think I could handle it, but as I watched her calmly sit, chip away, put fire to the crack, and inhale deeply, I knew if she could tolerate it, then I had to. Maricela did not look at me. Her eyes wide open, she stared at the window that I had stood at the night before. She saw where my nose had implanted its mark, and she remembered. Maricela recalled green ooze, and her cheeks sunk down low into her face, and she sucked her stomach in deep, and then she exhaled china white crack smoke through her nose.
On that night, five nights after she saw the fate of man, her meteor was now a pebble. She stuffed her tiny pebble into her pipe, and she spoke for the first time.
“Ask me the way to the sky, and I might say down. Ask me the shape of this room, and I might tell you round. But ask me what man is, ask me what a human is, and I can’t tell a lie; there is no such thing.” Maricela did not say this to me. She said it to the other presence, the presence that was with us since the beginning.
When the last flame of fire was extinguished from her pipe, she let the pipe roll out of her hands. It landed in the big pile of shit beneath her. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of flies buzzed around her, covered her entire face, and she looked over at me. Panic swept across her. She realized she was not in Florida. She was here with me, and she knew about green ooze and other planets, and Maricela inhaled the air in the room, flies invading her orifice, and her face twisted in horror from the sour putrid stink.
She needed another planet. Another planet would take away all her worries and kill all uncertainties. She looked down between her legs, dug the pipe out of her huge sun of shit, and scooped up a healthy pipe full. She molded that shit between her fingers and stuffed it into the pipe. She turned her head away from me, and she lit the brown shit bright.
That next night, when I returned, all of the shit had vanished from the floor. The entire room was spotless. Maricela stood up for the first time in six days. She put makeup on her sweet face and lifted her skirt up almost to the crack of her ass. She graced past me, opened the door, and all the flies followed their queen. I watched from the window as Maricela walked down to the corner street and posed for cars passing by. A Chevy Blazer stopped, and she was certainly the most beautiful woman I would ever know.