Cold. My nimble feet crusaded around the worn-down cement stairs that could cut my flesh in an instant. I trekked past the overgrown ant hill on the cracked flooring. Finally, I was greeted by the dewed cushion of grass that welcomed me so. My mind was a cloud as I twirled in what seemed like an eternity, and I ecstatically blinked back into my seven-thousand three-hundred-five square foot world.
All I’d known was a decomposing wooden fence, three-feet taller than my three-foot self, and the world. The world was a backyard, but it was more than my family gave it credit for. It was about the size of two houses and their yards combined. It was my playground, my house, my circus, my city, my solace. The neglected trees served as my landmarks. Between the two pecans was my basketball court, with my Crayola chalk strewn and a rusty hoop snagged from a construction site as the basketball hoop. The basketballs I had were half deflated, but still bounced even with my languid throws. The young oak was a skyscraper in the ocean. At the base, I would pour loads of water to make a beach, where my dog Oreo would play. The fig tree was the fountain of my city, a crumbling birdbath atop a pole sitting at the heart of the tree as branches curled around it. A large fishing net was draped over the trees and tied down to the fence all around the yard. It was a closed environment of sorts. The honeysuckles that curved along the fence didn’t mind that and would instead find their way along the cracks to get through to me. My small hands picked about ten at a time, and I’d run to the stairs. My dirty nails would pinch the bottom tip of the bloom, pulling the stem out along with the sugar-filled drop. They were the food of my life and were one of the few kind things in this world of profound solitude.
Then there was the shed house. It was far removed from the house and sat at the very edge of our property. Compared to the salmon pink our house was painted, it was a chilly blue, and holes from my sister’s archery practice scarred the surface. Looking back at it now, I always hated that shed house, but oddly enough I was always inside it. It was packed to the brim with boxes:old clothes, old toys, seasonal decorations, books, and just about whatever my mother deemed outdated and useless.
The shed house was my treasure trove. I would trade with the worn-down stuffed animals in there. Monday through Thursday was normal. Friday I would have rotating items that would be at a higher value. Saturday was the best day to trade! Trading was the worst on Sundays because I had to go to church in the morning. I would sometimes take naps in there too. I would pitch the tent we had inside and spend the hardest nights inside it. When my mom would come yelling, or my sisters berated me, or my brother locked me in the bathroom with the lights off so I would stop bothering him while he played video games. All this subjugation led me to believe the outside world merciless and it was “my fault”. I didn’t know what that meant until the day I saw a white jeep pull up in the driveway.
A bald man who wore a cowboy hat and aviators. His belt was that of a dead snake, a cobra from what I read in picture books. He wore a Harley Davidson leather jacket and reeked of cologne. His pointy cowboy boots didn’t make him seem friendlier either. This was my father, and after years, he’d returned. Unsurprisingly, my mother wasn’t all too happy with him, because that night they got into a huge argument, leading me and my sister to seek shelter in the bathroom until it was over. When we came out my mother rolled her eyes.
“Se va quedar afuera en el cobertizo.”
Though my father was a kind man, his living habits weren’t. He moved his luggage into the shed, and quickly it began to fill the already dusty air with the scent of unwashed t-shirts and alcohol. After he stayed there, I was no longer allowed to play in the shed house. My toys, my friends, my economy were all locked inside as my father slept his summer days away. The times he did come out it was either for food or to go out, and he’d look bedraggled. It was then that I made my quick entrance into my old treasure trove. I found it filled to the brim with junk. A TV was haphazardly placed atop the box of Christmas ornaments, and his bed was shoved to the corner, where a wall of boxes loomed over it. One day it would fall, and he’ll leave were the words I told myself. One day everything would go back to normal.
On a good day, he’d take me and my haughty sister to a flea market we called La Tierrosa due to how sandy, and gravelly it was. It was a little portion of Mexico, and my dad seemed to love it there. From vendor to vendor, there was so much to see, so much to discover, and from the corner of my eye, I could feel the weight of the world looming over. In these moments, I wanted to understand him, I wanted to know why he left, and why he resented me so. I could see it in his eyes as he stared back to mine. Untouched, innocence in my hazel eyes contrasting to the scathed hardwood tint of his unwavering stare. That stare was laced with malice, something I wanted to ignore for a long time, but at that moment it hit me. I’d read it in a book somewhere, and the scariest words popped into my head: My fault.
My fault. I’d scribble it down everywhere in the cement of my basketball court. In pink, in blue. In green. My fault. I know those words meant something bad, but I knew I hadn’t done such a thing! So why was it my fault? Was I the driving force to his departure? What did I do?
Clutching my spotted rabbit, I sat under the fig tree. It was putridly tangy, and the wasps that never stung me shifted past in the lukewarm air of an August day after the rain. Delicate fingers reaching out for something, anything, to help me. A red wasp fluttered down to my index finger, its feet sticky as it trailed down my arm, and at that moment I felt a pang in my heart.
It made sense. He’d left not long after my birth— on and off from what I was told. When I was two, he disappeared. For a child to blame himself for such things, invokes fear in me now. No one ever told me those mean things said to me were lies. If anything, their actions supported my theory. My mother never told me of my infancy, and yet she’d boast about my siblings. What was I?
I dreaded opening my eyes. The safety of my isolated world had been attacked by the real one, and the realization of my life left its permanent scar in my mind. Was there any truth to it? My guilt, and my effort to make everyone around me happy,— and I was the root of my issues.
The wasp was getting closer now, slowly inching towards my cheeks. I could feel my body heat growing ever higher, and the wasp’s wings vibrate as it readied itself.
A heartbeat and a buzz.
A second between the two.
I swung my rabbit plush towards my shoulder, and the dying shell of the wasp pathetically dropped to the grass. It struggled in its final moments, asking for help where no one would respond. They were all hungry, and eager, for the fig tree was ripe with fruit, no unnecessary nuisance was about to stop them.
Sundays were bad but praying was supposed to combat that. My sweaty palms met, shaking from the adrenaline of facing a small wasp. Its foot twitched, and I saw myself in its final moments.
Jared Pacheco is an aspiring writer from Texas. He’s deeply interested in fantastical artwork and literature. On his free days, he likes to garden and bake with his cat by his side.