Carry Me Home
“You ready for this, Guera?” he asks.
It’s a test, Guera. Only thing I can say is you’re allowed to fight back. Take ‘em out with everything you got.
I’d heard of people being jumped into a gang before, maybe it was Rosa who told me about it. As the girls start to descend from their spots around the room, slowly closing in like encircling wolves, I know what’s about to happen.
The realization takes hold in my chest, a quick plunge of the heart into an icy lake of fear. I back away slowly out of instinct, ready to run, but there’s nowhere to go. The sound of their skittering feet is the first thing I hear before they come at me. Me against all of them. Me against Rose Tattoo and Cigarette Twins. Me against the jealous novias. Ten sets of eyes glinting with the thrill of a fight. I flinch and turn my back to avoid the fists, but they’re all around me. One of them catches me by the shoulders, holding me in place as the other girls hit the back of my skull. My head flies forward, chin to chest.
At first I don’t know whether to swing or cover. I reach up to protect myself, but there are too many points of contact. The rush of adrenaline is intense. It blocks the pain, but there is a fiery need in me to get away. I try and kick or punch, feeling one or two connect, but the girls are everywhere. An elbow slams against my temple. My head splits and my ears ring. I go down.
Every infinite minute of being the enemy feels like it’ll never end.
Someone’s shoe stomps my thigh. Others strike my ribs. I heave and gag until I can’t breathe. But that kind of terror turns me into a resilient kind of crazy. The kind of rabid-mad that is born of desperation. I scrape and flail until I’m on my feet, pulling hair and swinging my fists, making contact with whatever I can. I don’t realize I’m screaming until Toño calls them to a stop.
It ceases the moment the girls hear his voice, and I’m left there shaking and crazed, my breath dragging in and out of my lungs in a feverish effort to return to its normal rhythm. I pant and cry, as softly as I can, but it’s hard to deny my body the relief of all-out sobbing. My head hurts. My brain smashes against my skull with the pulse of too much pressure. I taste blood in my mouth, though no one has touched my face. Now that it’s over, the pain of it all rushes to the surface and makes me want to vomit. I feel like I could die.
Why am I here? Why am I doing this?
“She’s in,” Toño says, and the cheers of the group shock my senses and make me tense up.
They all rush me, and at first I’m terrified it’s about to start again, but instead they hug me and pat me on the shoulder all at once. Each hand on my back or squeeze around the shoulders rocks me with pain, but they’re so happy. Their laughter and cheering is contagious, it flows into me, filling me with a strange sense of pride and belonging. I can’t help my smile when I see their encouraging faces. I even start to laugh.