Mira a los calles de oro. El Chuco.
Las cosas que nos duelen más, son las cosas que no podemos entender.
It’s a familiar spot we like to visit, all of us together. It’s always been us. I like We—Me, Brenda, and Paco, just being ourselves. It’s us. The moon looks like a piece of cheese as usual, but the air doesn’t smell like it normally does. It smells musky, like something is hanging, waiting to bite. Entonces…
“Jaime, pórtate bien,” Brenda says, annoyed.
“Brenda, come on, this isn’t even scary,” I say.
“You wanna know something about this place?” Paco asks Brenda teasingly.
“This is what happened.” Paco likes to be dramatic. “So, according to the old man that owns this farm, the KKK used to be here. In those white robes and the pointy hats. Serio.”
“Jaime, are you hearing this?” And now they are both being dramatic.
“Paco, I don’t get it.” What sort of joke is this? Khaji Da is humming around; I don’t think he understands either.
“Mira,” Paco likes to puff up his chest when he really gets into his stories. “Okay, so they used to bring the black people that they thought were raping their little girls. And then they’d shoot them, right here.” He points at this vacant spot near one of the fences.
“Why are we here?”
“Because I am trying to scare you into holding me.”
“You sure you don’t want to go to this one, Jaime?” Tim asks.
“I don’t usually go to this store. We could go there,” I say, pointing at the other store across the street. “I know the lady in there. Known her for years.”
Tim can speak Spanish; I’ve heard him speak Spanish before. But that doesn’t really matter here. I can see it in the faces of the people around us—they already know he doesn’t belong.
“Hola Jaime; ¿qué necesitas?” The woman I know, Señora Rosalinda, greets me.
“Hola Señora.” I look at Tim, and for a second I hate the way he’s looking at the store. That second stretches out longer the more I look at him.
I should start looking back at Señora Rosalinda.
“Necesito masa y los frijoles pintos que están allí,” I say, pointing at the glass. I can hear Tim’s footsteps moving further and further away.
“¿Sólo eso? Esa es una pequeña lista ¿qué no?” La Señora starts looking at Tim and I can feel my face turning red with embarrassment.
“Estoy viendo… solamente Señora.” It doesn’t sound right when Tim says it.
I really want to know why I’m angry.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“No,” I lie.
“It’s just that…” he trails off. He’s doing it again.
“Nothing’s wrong.” I smile, but I don’t think he’s convinced.
“You wanna know why I didn’t want us to go into the other store?”
“Once, when I was younger—” I lick my lips and lift my head before looking back down. “Well. Let’s just say that the guy in there isn’t nice.”
Tim’s face changes a bit. If you don’t hang around someone too much, you don’t really catch these kinds of things. But I notice it right now, and so does Khaji Da.
Tim turns away from me. “You could have just told me that, Jaime.”
“Yeah.” I could have.
School is easy. Even the college parts, strangely enough.
“So I just have to get this waiver form?”
“Yes, Mr. Reyes. You get free and reduced lunch, so you qualify for the waiver.”
“And after that?”
“Well, once I get that from you, then you can take the SATs for free. And I can put you on another list; you’ll only have to pay twenty-five dollars instead of the usual eighty-six for your AP tests in May.”
“That sounds good.”
“Just keep your grades up and make sure that you get that taken care of A.S.A.P so I can punch everything in for you.”
Don’t laugh, but I’m going to be a dentist. I already have the neon sign figured out. It’s going to have the biggest and toothiest grin ever.
I just hope the lights never go out.
It’s kinda fun having Tim hang out with Brenda and Paco. They don’t think it’s weird at all, which is good. Their opinions are the only ones that matter to me. And my parents', but they don’t know everything yet.
I don’t mind people looking. I think you get used to the looks after a while.
Having people constantly looking at you in a store, that’s perfectly normal.
“You guys,” Tim says. He doesn’t miss a thing. “Why is the manager looking over here?”
Brenda elbows him as the manager walks over. “We’re all fine, thanks,” Brenda says to her, with a sickly sweet smile. That’s all you can do.
Tim looks put off, but Brenda just smirks. The manager eventually goes away, but she keeps on looking, even after Brenda starts to giggle.
Tim still doesn’t get it.
On another day, Tim and I are walking together down the same street as before, and of course that guy Tim asked about way back when has to be arguing with a cop outside his store. Across the street is La Señora, looking shocked by the scene. The cop has his hands on his belt buckle as he chews on a toothpick, his glasses hiding his eyes.
I hear it all in one go. All of it. Every single disgusting thing you can possibly imagine. The guy starts pointing at me and Tim, and then at some random passerby, and then at the ground, and finally at the cop. Everything he knows is gone, he says.
Tim’s wincing beside me throughout the whole rant, but I can’t bring myself to care. I’ve heard this all before.
It’s old news.
The ridge is gorgeous, and it would take a while before we started talking. A sky with purples and oranges and reds all swirled together with the stars peeking through. I think that’s what Tim likes the most about being here. I’ve been to Gotham a few times, and you can’t really see the night sky. Okay, well, I’ve been there in the early hours, and that haze goes away once it gets late—but who pays attention to the sky in Gotham City? All the action is down on the ground.
“So nothing he said bothered you at all?” Tim asks, shifting a little.
I pull my knees closer. “No,” I say, before looking at him.
“Why is that?” He still doesn’t get it.
“I don’t know. People are stupid, Tim. Like, how can you get rid of hate a person had for you before they ever met you? Especially if that’s all they know.”
He shifts again. “I see what you mean.”
I grab his hand and he grips back tightly. I smile as our fingers lace together, brush my thumb over a scar and hear Tim smirk beside me.
It’s nice to forget, underneath this mix of purples, reds and oranges.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone cry as hard as this before, not even when Brenda found out about her aunt, or when I went into my parents’ room a few days after I came back and saw my Mom crying on the bed.
I hate watching anyone cry, but I know why this time in particular is worse. It’s always harder when—
This is hard to watch.
I didn’t ask what this was about when I first came in and found Tim. Thankfully, none of the other Titans are here in the tower; I don’t want them to see him like this. For once, there are no humming sounds or sarcastic comments coming from behind. There’s only us—just the air and Tim gulping in as much of it as he can.
When I first found him, he didn’t want me to come near him; he threw his arms out, hurting me with his rejection. Eventually, though, he began to calm down, slowly falling back into the cot. His heaving breaths keep coming, in and out and in and out, and he hasn’t stopped crying for the past hour.
It isn’t until his breathing starts to even out that I so much as think about touching him. The cot’s small, but we both fit. He doesn’t move as I prop up my head on my hand, stretching out the other to touch his arm. Thankfully, he doesn’t flinch, so I move closer, finally putting my head on top of his.
He shifts, and so do I, as he sniffs and his eyes begin to blink faster.
“There was this kid,” he starts. His voice is dry.
“His name was Roger. He was running down the street. He had stolen maybe two grand worth of pills from this pharmacy. And I caught up with him—”
“And when I did, he—he put the pistol in his mouth—I can’t move that fast.”
He pauses. I can tell there’s more.
“It’s all okay, Tim. You don’t have to tell me.”
He presses onward. “…He looked sort of like you. Shorter hair, and a bit taller, but…”
My stomach drops out from under me.
Tim sighs heavily, letting everything out. “This is a really stupid thing to cry about.”
I lift his head a bit, putting my right elbow between his ear and the pillow, running one hand through his hair while trying to turn him with the other. His hands feel nice trying to hold onto me. As we shift closer, he starts blinking more. I kiss his forehead and then his hair. I can still feel his eyelashes on the side of my jaw.
He keeps telling me that he’s sorry. I keep telling him that it’ll be okay. His murmurs to fight and stay awake finally ends when he falls asleep in my arms.
He has nothing to be afraid of.
 Look at the fields of gold. El Paso.
The things that hurt us the most are the things that we cannot understand.
 Well then…
 “Jaime, behave yourself”
 This Asshole.
 “Hello Jaime, what do you need?”
 “Hello Mrs.”
 “I need dough and the fried beans that are over there”
 “That’s a small list, isn’t it?”
 “I’m just looking Señora.”
 The White Guy
 That hurts.