You wouldn’t notice 1221 Ripple if you drove past it. The neighbor’s lime green, wrought iron fence would scream at you. Or the smoky, snappy carnitas tent my other neighbor sets up in her front yard would catch hold of your nose and make your car slow down. If you were walking along the broken sidewalk, the pit bull behind the green fence would bark like ay, ay, ay and make you cross the street.
My house is 1221 Ripple and you really wouldn’t notice it. But if you did, if you were a mailman who didn’t just leave our bundle of magazines and bills in the mailbox and then walk away, if you were an Avon lady who didn’t remember the time my mom told you to get your skinny ass out of our yard, or if you accidentally kicked your ball over that green fence, you might see my house—my not really-white-anymore house that looks like nothing. Little nothing windows behind rusty bars. Peeling, painted steps that go right up to a little nothing door.
But maybe if you really looked and you didn’t run right past on the way to the ice cream truck for spicy candy or nachos or bolis, you might notice the windsock I made in kindergarten hanging faded from a hook above the front door. You might see the crack in the window from when my uncle got really mad at my mom and threw the remote control at her head. You might see the weedy patch of dirt where I tried to grow a garden one time. Or you might see me.
My mom calls me Chelita or Michella Linda when she is mad. I try not to make her mad, so most of the time I stay outside. It’s OK because I keep my toys outside too. I keep them in a box so they don’t make my mom yell if she steps on one. That doesn’t happen that often ‘cause she mostly sleeps until lunchtime. Then she turns on the TV.
When my mom says my eye isn’t purple and green to make my teacher ask too many questions, I can go back to school. My teacher will ask me for a note and I am supposed to say that I was sick. When I don’t bring a note, nothing will happen. My teacher will forget and it won’t matter anymore.
Today, I pretend I am sick and I watch the dog next door chase birds and I write my name on the broken sidewalk with a rock. I watch the other kids come home from school. The little grandmas walk behind them pushing babies squeezed into strollers. I see backpacks swinging and the grandmas scolding. I see men who laugh like hoy, hoy, hoy in cowboy hats with fists full of carnitas. I see my neighbor laughing too with her bruised mango cheeks. I stay in front of my not-really-white-anymore house that looks like nothing and listen to the TV my mom is watching inside. This is where I live. And if you were driving by, you probably wouldn’t notice.
< back to Published Fiction