WE USED to lay there, on our backs, on a tin roof the color of a sardine can, peeled back at the eave, black tar sealant spread like mustard on bread where the hard rain found the holes, looking up at the stars on a Friday night at 1 a.m.
“You’ll think you’re home safe. That’s when he’ll get you.”
And we’d laugh, and sometimes if we got him thinking about el chupacabra long enough, he’d just spend the night there on the roof of that ramshackle abandoned building we had no sense being at in the first place. Structure of that old building was about as sturdy as a house made of straw on fire. It’s a wonder the roof never collapsed on us. It would a few short years later like a sink hole opened up.
“I’m okay,” he’d say as he lit one last cigarette for the night, and he’d ball his flannel shirt up and place it under his head and put his knees at a bend, and he’d just sit there looking up at the sky as we made our way back in through the window.
Sometimes after I crawled through that crooked window and got down to the first story, I’d look around for el chupacabra on my heels and I’d walk a little faster home than I would in light.
Sometimes we’d all lay there for the night, together, nobody knowing where in hell we were, smoking cigarettes and drinking malt liquor if we’d washed enough cars that day, taking pulls of Wild Irish Rose straight out the bottle until it all ran out. Ricky offering up his theory of circles, how everything that controls the universe is circular.
“We think we’re outside of the circle, but we’re not.”
“What the f—k are you talking about?”
“Circles, man. You can’t get out the pattern. Even if you think you’re out, you’re not.”
“You gotta be about a damn drunk to buy this shit with your own money.”
“I’m not washing that man’s car again if he’s going to get us shit wine.”
“I know you’re down there somewhere,” I could hear my mama call out. “I can hear y’all talking. You need to come home so I can go to sleep.”
And it was true. You could hear everything someone said downtown from my house. It all carried clear in the night. But we weren’t downtown. We were further down. She didn’t know that.
Everybody would shut up, and I’d wait her out. I could see her in her gown from where we sat on the rooftop, and I knew if we stayed quiet long enough she’d just walk on back to the house and fall asleep on the couch in the living room.
And once she did, we’d light another cigarette and rib each other and talk about all the dumb shit you talk about when you’re fifteen years old, like girls and love and getting high and el chupacabra on a Friday night at 1 a.m.
“I’ll tell el chupacabra where the hell you live too if you don’t shut up.”
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Currently listening to: “Iron in the Fire,” by Tall Heights. Part of my July playlist on Spotify.
Read of the week: “Where the Highway Splits,” by my TNB bud Gloria Harrison.