For Teens

Joyce Brennfleck
Shannon, Editor

I am fourteen years old --- catorce años. The old man won't stop beating me. He uses "el cable," the electric wire, doblado. Last weekend when he was drunk again he gave Mama the black eye again. She tries to hide it behind her hand when she's feeding us supper.

My younger brother Miguel --- he's trece años --- Papa kicked him in the face when he tried to stand in front of Mama so she wouldn't get hit, broke one of his teeth. Rosita is sixteen-years-old and she's got a harelip. She went pregnant and won't say who done it. Papa says he knows she did it on the roof with one of the guys on the fourth floor and he thinks it was that "medio-mayate" --- half-black. He's gonna kill him when he finds him he says and he's got the gun to back it up. He says he ain't going to be abuelito for some damn "nigger."

Still I can't help Mama because I gotta stay out of the apartment because last week Pepe our "uncle" moved in again with his girl. She's tricking and he's dealing. If he gets caught dealing they'll send him back to the pen and me back to juvie. The last time I was in juvie the social worker asked how was I doing I said "fine" because I didn't want to tell her about the homeboys from mi barrio who tried to do that stuff to me in the showers. When I fought back three of them caught me and held me down and stuffed soap in my mouth so I couldn't breathe but I never let them do what they wanted to do with me. So I have to stay mostly out of the apartmento because of Pepe. 'Frisco one of the hoods from Los Crips on the other side of the car lot tells me he is going to kick my ass unless I make a delivery he wants but if I get caught that'll put me back in juvie again too.

Julia says she wants to be my novia but her man Tomás --- the chaparrito with tattoos of snakes and lizards on his arms --- says that if I ever get near her he'll cut me. He's the one who shot my compadre Sergio because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time with a navaja --- knife. They think he'll live.

Mama told me she is wanting to go back to Oaxaca if Papa beats up on her one more time. She says she can't take it no more. Juana turned away when I looked up at her window and I thought "Shit, man, this ain't worth it." I remember my gangbanger friend (we called him "El Puto" even though he ain't --- we call him that because we're friends) when the cleek cornered him and shot him in the back so he couldn't walk no more. Before he left rehab he had saved enough pills to where he took them with a bottle of ron and that was it.

So I go to the only place that's safe, the library where I get to work the computers. The librarian there Mrs. Silvers is OK. She taught me how to go online, and doesn't mind if I stay late, even sometimes after closing if they're busy. Near the desk where I'm working is this book that says Suicide Information for Teens. I'm thinking it will tell me how to do it without leaving no blame on anyone else so I take it down. It is telling me to talk to my "guidance counselor" at school and, sure, I can go to Mr. García, that's his name, and tell him about Pepe and 'Frisco and my old man and the next thing we know García has called in las placas and everyone gets their ass busted. And everyone knows it is me that did it. ¿Qué onda, no?

"Hot line," it says. "Call the hot line." A huevos. They'll know who did it especially 'Frisco who knows everything going on in the barrio. His homeboys will do to me what they did to Willy across the alley ... they call him "La Mariposa" ... when he tried to pick up on 'Frisco's brother you don't even want to know what they did to him in the basement of "Los Billares" on 9th avenue at the back what with his clothes cut off and the razors and all.

I guess the lady that did the book Suicide doesn't know shit about our lives and how you don't mess around calling counselors and hot lines. "Many adolescents experience mood swings and depression," she says. "This is partly related to the biological, developmental, and emotional changes associated with puberty." I figure she went through puberty in one of those güera schools where kids' moms drive up in SUVs to deliver them in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon, take them back to a house in Rancho Rico with gate guards to keep out the likes of me. She probably had a house with three garages and a "play room" for the kids with a television as big as the wall over there. My Uncle Lorillo worked there at the Rancho digging dirt, watering the lawn, spraying the roses and grass and bushes, drowning his lungs so now he coughs all the time and can't hardly get out of bed to go to the bathroom and my Tía Reina has to clean up after him all the time.

In the chapter "Weird Words" Shannon defines things like "Homicide" ("Murder, killing someone") and I think, "¡Saco! lady --- don't you know we know that?" Then there's "Borderline Personality Disorder," those big words they use to hide people's troubles behind so they won't have to think about it, no? The one I like the best is when she defines "Suicide." "Killing oneself," she tells us. What planet you think we come from, lady?

The part most interesting, at least my tío would like it, is called the "Children's Medication Center." If you are "6 or older" and your Mama talks fast enough at the clinic they'll give you Adderall XR --- "amphetamine (extended release)." The chart says it is a "Stimulant Medication." A huevos! There's Ritalin and Dexadrine and Dextrostat ("dextriamohetamine.") The preferred age is three "and older" which says that if my Tía Irma wants to make a "cristellera" out of cousin Florcita --- cinco años --- all she has to do is head over to La Clínica del Barrio, convince one of the medicos that the kid is out-of-control and they'll give her enough speed for her man to sell and pay for groceries for a week. But Irma don't do that shit ... she wouldn't be giving speed to Flora, ever. She knows better than that.

The name of this one is Suicide Information for Teens so I figured I could get a little information on how to do it if things got to be too much like this week. But I guess I got the wrong page, wrong chapter, wrong book. For $58 we could ask for something more than this pinche basura.

--- José Luis Castañeda
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