I did see it. He really did do it. The filth he’d collected from hours of handling machinery and money behind the counter polluted the cup in front of us. I’m at the movies with my mother. She’s pregnant but a stranger wouldn’t know that yet. I’m thirteen and it’s just us. My father and sister didn’t want to come. My mom ordered a root beer from the pimpled boy only a few years older than I. The redness of his face makes his blue eyes brighter and I can’t believe that for a second I thought he was cute. He asked my mom to repeat herself four, five times, unable to make out the accented words spilling from her mouth. Un rrrruuuttt beeeeeer, she sighs, a little quieter. She wants a root beer, I say annoyed. With him. With her. He walks to the soda fountain a few steps to our left. He should have felt my eyes on him. Then I see him do it. We both do. His hand, his disgusting hand, held over the brim of the cup, the soda filtering through his boney fingers. ¿Qué? ¿Viste eso? I hear her say under her breath. I know she’s not talking to me. He brings over the drink, places the stupid cup in front of us, and she asks to see his manager. He acts confused as if he didn’t know we’d seen him. She’s nervous to speak again. I can tell by the redness creeping up her neck, her ears sanguine. Her voice exits her mouth with mixed inflections trying at once to hold back tears and sound more American. I don’t know what to do. I don’t remember what I did. But I know she got a new soda. And we saw the movie and went home and no word of it was spoken to my sister or father. I dream my mother and the newborn baby die. They’re T-boned at an intersection I can’t quite make out. They’re in a body of water, floating, panicked and waving for help. Then they’re not. At school a few weeks, maybe a month later, I’m at the vending machine. I want so badly to press the button that will dispense the sweetest soda. But I don’t have a dollar. I must have left it at home, in the pocket of another sweater. The group of older boys behind me grows impatient. The junior high lunch hour is almost over. I turn and ask Drew, the tallest, the only one I know by name, the only one of those boys who knows me, if I can borrow a dollar. I’ll pay you back tomorrow, I add. And then he says it: I don’t trust Mexicans. The boys laugh. The bell rings.
Eloisa Amezcua is an Arizona native. Her poetry and translations are published or forthcoming from Poetry Magazine, The Journal, Prelude, and others. She’s the author of the chapbook On Not Screaming (Horse Less Press) and editor of The Shallow Ends. You can find her at www.eloisaamezcua.com.