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The Barrel

I am staring down the the barrel of a gun. I am thinking of my father, who took me along the beach but wouldn’t let me chase the seagulls. “Don’t scare ‘em Rosa, god knows they need some peace and quiet like the rest of us.” And those birds stood there all milky white, taunting me. Telling me I would never be more then a rich daddy’s precious, obedient daughter. And then I slipped from his hand and kicked up gray sand in my wake and I chased that damn bird to the end of the shore. And the sting of the slap I got from my father on my return was a high in itself. It was with that same vigor I would leave home, that I would dye my hair. That I would find myself disowned and penniless, and that I would just plain find myself.

And now I remember I am staring down the barrel of a gun. I remember that I am supposed to be thinking of deeper things, of who I will miss. I realize there is nobody. Nobody important. But sure, I will miss the little things. I will miss the dirty pigeons who clustered around the banister. They fluttered around my dirty window like oily butterflies, blocking my view of the sun. I will miss the smell of cigarettes. There was something comforting about their smell, clinging to me, marking me as the nothing I never did admit I was. So unapologetically disgusting that I felt I was in like company. I was a waft of smoke in a world of flowers. Maybe I will miss the bone gray concrete, always lubricated with a film of oil and gutter sludge. I will miss the water that beaded on my window, when it was raining and for once that ugly street felt clean. But I do not think I will miss a person. Over time people have just become the instruments of my pain. They are as ravaged as the shadows on my walls. They are as soulless as a flickering street lamp. Man is nothing. And man is what has led me to be staring down the barrel of a gun, on a long forgotten street in Brooklyn.

As I stare down the gun I think briefly of myself. Struggling to find some higher realization about who I am, but can find none. I am just Rosa Maria Sanchez. Full lipped, wide hipped and cowardly. I am still the same soft spoken, brown, Peruvian high school dropout I have always been. My mind in the gutter, my eyes on the pavement, one hand in my pocket and another on a dirty coffee mug of hard liquor. I am a woman of many parts, some of them that melt together, others that are as distant from me as the ones I once loved. There is that hopeful part of me that has long ago died. Suffocated by cigarette smoke and things I have lost. There is that part of me that crumples me up from the inside. That makes me want to scream and cry because I know that I am a disappointment. To everyone. There is a large part of me that is a child. And then there is the part of me that is still unborn. That is naive and stupid and gets me into trouble. The part that doesn’t know how to act or exist. The unborn Rosa Sanchez waits. It waits for me to realize that you can’t live on whiskey and gun shots. And it sits there, flowering, developing and suffering in the womb of the world.

As I stare down that silver snout I start to think about this whole death thing. I don’t care about pain. Pain is an illusion of the mind. Like love or mirages or imagination. What scares me is what is undeniably real. The gun, the man, and me. That gun is so real that I can almost feel it in space. It glows with ominous possibility, with the evil and cruelty it is capable of. The smell of gunpowder is nothing new to me, but the sharpness and cruelness of the smell surprises me, as it lingers on the tip of the barrel. But the scent of cigarettes that still clings to me seems to fade into the aroma of gunpowder and spray paint. Creating a scene almost to abrupt for my own reality. This is my fate, and i meet it with almost unsettling vigor.

I look straight into his eyes. The frightened eyes of a teenager. He is young and foolish. He has not yet seen his time of pigeons and cigarettes and concrete. He has not yet discovered the potency of humans or the danger of chasing a seagull. The thing about gulls is that once you start to follow them you never can stop. And they had brought me to this terrified kid... with a gun in his hand like it made him a man. His hand reached for the trigger and I laughed. I smiled with the same eagerness as a child on the beach, as a scorned woman in the slums, as a lonely teenager under a streetlamp. All of which I was once and remain to be. I look kindly at him with eyes that would one day haunt his dreams.
“I will be the one you regret.”
The shot fires. The alley resumes to business. The mugger collects my wallet.
And the lonely street heaves with one last gasp.



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