Seeking some clue to the subject at hand, I turned to Ana with an inquisitive expression, but she only acted the part of a mirror and returned to me the same look of bewilderment, with only a slight shrug as an interesting variation.
I swiveled my head back to the brawling braggadocio who had instigated this confusion. “Okay, I give up. Tell me what?”
Octavio leaned closer to me and spoke in a slight whisper. “Some of the people in this town…” He paused, panning his head in order to ensure that no other eavesdroppers were present. “Some of the people in this town…are not here legally.”
Ana tossed her head back and laughed out loud. “Ha! Oh, and I got a secret, too…that Dominican bitch who’s talkin’ shit about me will fuck you for food stamps. But I can’t promise that yo’ dick won’t fall off.”
“Okay, okay,” I said in capitulation, as they continued to chuckle at their own juvenile jokes. “Never mind I said anything.”
On top of a large black mat adjacent to the small boxing ring, we pulled out our respective sets of jump rope and proceeded to break into a sweat through small bouts of competition, attempting to best each other’s number of consecutive double-unders. Initially, I proved to be a modest contender. In those moments of mid-air suspension, there is a certain superlative feeling of satisfaction and power as dangerous tentacles tenaciously encircle your body, unable to penetrate a force field exuded by one’s confidence of skill. However, as with gravity, all things must come down, and my competitive clip landed as did my feet. Even with a handicap given for my advanced number of years, I still failed to come even close to their higher scores, and eventually, I underscored my loss with accidental lashes on my back and legs that were incurred from the rapid ropes. If you’ve never had the pleasure of experimenting with masochism and if you’ve ever been slightly curious about the historical experience of being flogged, feel free to pick up a jump rope and whirl it about your body at accelerated speeds. Eventually, physics and poor reactions will create an ideal situation, where pain can be achieved at threshold levels and body modifications (like permanent welts) come free. (Such modifications might not be as decorative as Tā moko, but they’ll make up in street cred what they lose in beauty.)
Remaining consistent, I stepped once again onto my swinging weapon of nylon and redirected its course into the small of my back. “Jesus Christ! Motherfucker! Not again!”
“You gotta pick up your feet, old man,” Octavio advised, just before he started running in place while performing a rapid series of criss-crosses. He was breathing only slightly heavier than he did when simply standing still. Is it wrong of me to suddenly wish for him to slip and to break his punk neck right about now?
“Well, thank you for that wonderful piece of wisdom, Octavio,” I replied with a seething smile and sweated brow. “I’ll be sure to write that shit down. The problem is that these outdated parts don’t respond to commands like they used to.”
Ana completed her own series of criss-crosses as she flashed me a coquettish look with the shining black opals that were supposedly her eyes. “Does that apply to everything?” Ana asked, in the midst of weaving her own pattern with the ropes.
“Nope. It’s mainly the feet and hands…but everything else works just fine.” Taking the moment to catch my breath, I smiled confidently back at her. “Thanks for asking. I’ll give it to the both of you, though…you are my betters.” Conceding my defeat, I dropped my rope and sat on the floor to do a few stretches, and as they finished their respective sets, they tossed their ropes to the side and started their own stretches while standing.
“Sooooo,” Octavio mused, in the midst of trunk twists, “About that question from earlier. Why’d you ask? Is all the melanin in Little Peru starting to freak you out?”
“Eh, I see things, I hear things,” I said while circling with my arms. “I’m not quite sure what to make of them…For example, I saw a cop and another dude going into the basement of my building. The dude was carrying a bag…”
Ana was also circling her arms. “A bag? What was in it?”
“I don’t know…but it was a big one. But when the dude in the red jumpsuit came out with the cop, the bag was empty.”
It was only momentary…but when I mentioned the phrase red jumpsuit, I noticed that Octavio slowed the momentum of his trunk twist. In fact, he stopped momentarily with the pensive look of one who is attempting to recover something discarded long ago, as if it might be lost in one’s attic. It’s a falsehood that memories are faded; they only appear ghostly since they are ensconced in iridescent cobwebs. And from all appearances, there were silken strands being pushed aside in my young friend’s mind.
I raised my voice in order to break Octavio’s trance. “Hey, you heard what I said?”
Crashing back into reality, his usual effervescent self took over once again. “Huh…what? Me? Yeah…I’m…Yeah, I’m doing great. Hey, we’re just getting older by standing around…well, maybe not you. You can’t get any older!“ Octavio laughed. “Come on, old man. Let’s skip the drills. Put on your helmet and get in the ring!”
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.