Tiffany Harrington

Neglected Landscapes

Professors Martin & Poe

September 30, 2011

Mi Corazón Negro

Slouched down in the seat of a rusty brown Chevrolet 3100, which sat on three balled factory tires and a doughnut, Amado watched. In his hand, he held a Polaroid of a girl in a powder blue dress taken on the day of her quinceanera. He fanned himself with the photograph, in between drags of his cigarette, as he watched the school children walking up the dirt road to Escuela Primaria Rubén Jaramillo. He brought the photo to his face and studied the girl in the powder blue dress; her lips were red, her eyes hazel, and her skin an unblemished brown. Amado blew smoke at the Polaroid as he propped it on the dashboard of the truck. In the rear-view mirror, children were flocking in all directions to the schoolhouse. It was the first day of school, and they came like bees buzzing with excitement, jumping, skipping, and kicking up dust on their white uniforms. It was at the moment that Amado saw her in the distance laughing and giggling with a group of girls. She wore a powder blue ribbon in her flowing black hair much like the one in the Polaroid that Amado had on the dashboard. A smile spread over her unblemished brown face, as she clutched onto the hands of her friends and chatted excitedly. Amado watched as the group approached the truck from the rear.  As they neared closer he looked at the picture one last time, to be sure this was the girl from the Polaroid. He felt the tension growing in his stomach as they approached the bed of the truck. His breathing quickened, and his sweat poured through the armpits of his tattered shirt. He glanced at his own reflection in the side mirror, and adjusted his baseball cap and sunglasses while simultaneously begging his hands to stop trembling. The girls were now making their way around the truck from the passenger side. The time had come. Amado sat up, took the last drag of his cigarette, stepped out of the truck and tossed the butt into the road.

* * *

“Did you watch the Indios game last night Amado?” Amado looked up from his beer unsure of who was addressing him. He peered around the bar, which was filled with more smoke than people. He leaned on the bar top with his forearms and stared blankly into his beer mug. Behind the counter the bartender stood up from stocking the cooler and began wiping the bar top. “It seems like every time I bet on the game, they lose”, the bartender continued. “I should ask Sergio to break Jair’s legs for missing those penalty shots,” the bartender laughed. Amado smiled at the comment, but said nothing in response. Shaken from the morning’s events, Amado waited anxiously at the bar for Rafael to arrive. Amado had a conscience, and he knew that his misdeeds would not go unpunished, but he sorely needed the money. Amado was a solemn young man in his early twenties, with a handsome rugged face that had been worn from years of work on his family’s farm. He had his mother’s kind hazel eyes, but his father’s stern disposition. He had only been in Juarez for a month, but the urgency of his situation and the lack of opportunities had allowed the city’s evil to take hold of him.  His only possessions were the clothes on his back, and the Chevrolet his father had given him the year before on his 22nd birthday.  His cousin Rafael promised him a thousand US dollars to pick up the schoolgirl and deliver her to the Ramos cartel. The Cartel was an up and coming violent presence in the City of Juarez, and Amado knew it was better to be with them, than against them. This money would be enough to feed his family for another 3 months and give him a chance to find a steady paying job in the city. He sat alone at the bar, his mind drifting back to the look on the young girls face as he forced her into the truck. His scruffy boots shook nervously against the bar stool, as he wondered what would come of the nameless girl in the hands of the Ramos members. “Quién era esta chica?” he wondered to himself.  He took another gulp of his now warm beer and tried to forget the pleading look in her pretty hazel eyes.

Primo!” Rafael grinned as he wrapped his arm around Amado’s neck and greeted him. “Sorry to keep you waiting”, he apologized.

“I have someone I want you to meet, but you have to come with me. Hurry up, he doesn’t like to wait,” Rafael boasted as he took the last sip out of Amado’s beer.

Rafael led Amado behind the bar into the kitchen, were they zig zaged past empty boxes and trash to a metal freezer door. Rafael tapped the door three times and waited for it to slowly creak open. Amado followed nervously wondering why they would be meeting this mystery man inside of a meat locker. As the door open and revealed the space, it was not at all what Amado had expected. The open door unveiled a secret storage room like that of a warehouse. The walls were made of cement bricks and the floors dingy green linoleum. The room was large and dimly lit with a wooden table against the right wall and a pile of clothes in the center of the floor. Adjacent from the table was a tall black safe and a stack of chrome rims next to it. A door opened in the room’s farthest corner and a group of men came filing out. A stocky man, no older than Amado came out last, wearing a blood stained wife beater and covered head to toe in tattoos. He walked up to Rafael and embraced him in a hug.

“What’s up brother?”

“Nothing much man, this is Amado, he is the one that brought you the gift today”, Rafael replied coolly.

Amado extended his hand to the stranger, only to be pulled into an uncomfortable embrace.

“I appreciate your help. That motherfucker needed to be sent a message. Now that we’ve got his daughter, I’m sure he won’t have any problems paying the Ramos’s the taxes that he owes us”, the stranger bragged.. His face and neck were covered in gang tattoos with the words “Corazón Negro” written in cursive on his forehead. He pulled out a chair at the wooden table and began to lace up his black military style boots.

“Listen, I don’t have much time to waste, I have other business to attend too,” he stated flatly while tucking his pearl handle pistol into his ankle holster. “Victor, start packing up that shit, its time to roll out”, he barked at one of the men standing against the wall. “The girl is in the bathroom. You can have your turn now or take her home with you, I don’t give a fuck. You just get her out of here, and don’t let anyone see you” he continued as he motioned to the door in the dark corner, and the other faceless men moved aside. “Rafael will drop your money off in the morning,” he ordered. Amado moved nervously towards the ajar door to collect the girl. When he entered the bathroom, he stopped abruptly in the doorway. Blood was splattered from wall to wall and so high that it reached the ceiling. The girl in the powder blue dress laid motionless in front of him, beaten and broken. Her eyes were swollen shut, and her naked limbs hung over the sides of the filthy tub, she was virtually unrecognizable from the girl he had so willingly snatched earlier in the day. Amado knelt down next to her battered face, and brushed her hair to the side.

Dios mio”, Amado whispered as he scooped up the small body. The girl muttered incoherently, as Amado wrapped her face and body in towels he picked up off the floor. He carried the girl back into the room that was now busy with men organizing black bricks wrapped in plastic. Amado hurried past the activities, barely looking up as he clasped the young girl in his arms. Before he could reach the doorway, he heard the tattooed monster call out, “You did good, we might have to use you again.” Amado said nothing as he pushed threw the heavy metal door and into the light of the kitchen.

He weaved through the kitchen to a back door where his truck was parked in the alley. The night was quiet and cool as Amado placed the limp girl in his passenger seat. He gently propped her up next to him and as he decided how to make his next move. Tears rolled down Amado’s flushed cheeks as he sat wondering how he arrived at this place.

“¿Cómo te llamas?” he whispered to the slumped over body next to him. There was no response. The silence panicked him further, so he leaned into the girls face, and asked again. “Me oyes? ¿Cómo te llamas?”, he begged. The girl gave no response to his plea.  His mind raced as he angrily banged his fist against the steering wheel, “A la mierda!” he shouted to himself. He started his vehicle, but with no clue of where to go, he sat sobbing in the drivers seat.

Finally, after several moments of sitting in the rattling truck, Amado knew where his next destination would be. He would go to a place where old forgotten things were swept into the sea; where nature could make the decision of life or death for him. He would give this young abused soul the chance to be rescued, or buried amongst the other disregarded bodies left in Juarez’s wakeå. He placed his truck into drive, and sped down the dark gravel alleyway towards the banks of the Rio Grande.

* * *

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