AIN'T NO PICNIC
dedicated to the lost women of Ciudad Juárez
(inspired by the lyrics to the song "This Ain't no Picnic" by The Minutemen)
working on the edge
It’s the third time in the week I spend rearranging my life in front of my boss. Same as the last time, in front of the production line with nothing else to do but look for unusual ways to spend the time, besides letting the hands do the working, the back slowly giving way to the harsh pain of standing for ten hours straight, then imagining myself as a naked woman lying by the side of the river, thinking of the hours and the threshold of tolerance I have to stand, so I can keep myself clear of the danger, the danger of looking at my boss and giving him the benefit of the doubt, making him think I do not deserve a break in life, I need to up my level of productivity, “keep those circuits going, sister! There are T.V.’s to be sold somewhere, so you better lift your chin up and forget about your dreamland”. I live in the entrails of the Sony corporation. I am a bolt.
Losing my self respect
Goddam pain! Shame is pain, is the thought of arguing over the price of your own sustenance, is the idea that any human being does not really have to ask the woman at the cash register to please forgive the twenty cents missing from my pocket, the ones I couldn’t scrape out of my measly salary, the ones needed so I could have one more piece of bread for the week. It is the shame and the pain of having to see her bite down on the piece of bread you had to leave at the cash register, because you couldn’t afford it, because the woman at the cash register suddenly got hungry, she suddenly bit a piece of the bread, made a face of disgust and threw the piece of bread in the trash. Me, my children, we could have been the ones making that face of disgust, so out of the ordinary respect I have for myself, I sneaked up behind the woman and slowly picked the piece of bread from the trash. Respect and dignity do not cost twenty cents.
For a man that presides over me the principles of his creed
A man is a man is a man, that’s what I always say, I’ve always wallowed in the idea that a man must afford some sustenance to his grief. A man is a man is my man, the one on the corner, the one with a picket resting on his shoulder, the one with the bleary eyes and the days without sleep crumbling in his face. The man is my man, the one that cried last night, for a man must afford some sustenance to his grief, and this, my man, does not have enough muscle in his body to sustain the weight of two more months without a job. We live in a life of light comforts, sustaining our grief by the hanging face of our child, the one who will become a man, the one that needs the food and the pride of his blood to continue with the struggle. A man needs to have a job, a woman needs to remind the man that she can also sustain the grief for both, can keep on working in the production line until the body gives way to pain. A man is no man when he proclaims justice in the form of terror, a scheming man that holds the women in the production line by a thread, a devious man who holds the women’s breasts in contempt, a wolf in supervisor’s clothes, reminding women that their men are out there, wasting away the hours, contemplating their own unemployment.
Punch in punch out, 8 hours, 5 days
hours sweat through the tan line of the boss’ wife, as I sit in front of a desk in an office that dwells on green card slips and the smell of old coffee. The boss’ wife cleans her forehead with a gesture of complete abandon to her own superficiality. She smells of leather and the mysterious perfume of expensive shopping malls. I glance at the clock and think about the way she spends the hours of her own life. I think about the way I spend the hours of my life. I beat the clock with mine eyes, thinking of a world in which I could have the same beautiful tan line, a sinuous figure that draws itself on the skin like some sexual desire pressed tightly against her chest. She’s constantly looking away from me, constantly reminding herself that there is time to be spent punching the clock of her own age. I need to go back to work. I punch the clock and pretend I just spit on the ground she covers with her aroma. I am in love with the possibility of becoming her. I will never be a forty-year old blonde.
Sweat pain and agony, on friday i'll get paid
I rent the spaces that surround my dreams of being an ever-present beauty to the eyes of my man. I pay for the food that fuels my ability to keep on working until the body gives and my age starts to creep in. I pay for the services that sustain this apartment of hopes. I mend the clothes that suit like armors for the battlefield of reality, so my child could keep up with this world of gratuitous expenses. I leave some aside for personal pleasure. Maybe fifty cents would buy me some candy. I am eighteen years old and sometimes beauty needs a lipstick. Not this month. There is food to be put on the table.
Hey mister don't look down on me
Hey mister can you spare a peso?
Can you spare my death?
Mister, can you help me get my feet back up?
Can you spare a dime? Is there a phone near? I need to complain. I need to complain to my authorities, the ones that never believe, the ones that look down on my misery like it’s some kind of ongoing tragedy.
Can you look for my jeans?
the ones I lost in the ruckus?
the ones that got ripped off by humanity and the look in the eyes of the stranger?
the one that took my life as if it were just another face in the world?
Can you look for my dignity, dangling on the outskirts of town?
Can you look for my name, the one I believe in?
The one no one will remember?
I need a phone, need my feet back up on the ground, need to call the authorities. I’m a ghost now, I’m the shadow of the authorities’ doubt. They need to hear this, need to spare this life I just lost on the outskirts of town.
I got my bills and the rent
I got to rest the feeling of despair. Need to count the nickels and dimes, look for the face of my child, the one that lost his mother, look for the bills and the rent, the payments that keep my life going and going like some senseless rabbit powered not by batteries, but by silence. In silence I accept the responsibility of selling my soul to put a soul back into the eyes of my child.
I got the bills and the rent, and the face of some form of pride. A silent pride, the kind of pride that sends my coworkers to an awkward glance, a serious stare when I’m not looking, the kind that asks questions that the authorities do not ask: What must it feel to have your wife raped and killed by some unknown entity?
I should go pitch a tent
Can’t remember the smell of her neck, must remember it, for the feeling of desire is running all over my naked body as I stare at it in front of the bathroom mirror. Revolutions and masturbations are done in front of the bathroom mirror, when I’m not looking, when my eyes are drifting back to the day when I first felt her hips her breasts, her legs her ass her breath slipping as I try not to remember the day she went away. Must not forget to pitch a tent when her smell comes back into my memory, and not the memory of her death, her body pressed hard against the ground where she last felt the earth. Must try and feel desire back when I’m alone and thinking of her, not the her that left the earth, but the one that kept her smell inside my memory, the one that must not keep coming back smelling of her captors’ breath.
But our land is not free
The tale comes back to the time when I spelled out the names of the factories, the names of the corporations that slowly crept into my nightmare country, the country that tries to sell my child the idea that his life does not belong to himself anymore. The tale comes back to the time when my neighbors thought the world was comprised of foreign-name factories creeping up into the life of our country, a nightmare of a place where the food now belongs to little plastic boxes spelling Mc’Donald’s, where the sneakers I wear are a simulated version of the ones we assemble, the ones we will never see carrying our tortured feet through the aisles of the production line, where the pants we wear are the real version of the ones they sell in a model’s magazine, the kinds of designs that become a simulated version of chic poverty, where the life we live is the real version of some secret nightmare that the world does not acknowledge. The tale comes back to the time where real was real and the nightmare of the world was something you dealt without secrecy, without that back-of-the-mind idea that things do not necessarily have to be this way.
So I’ll work my youth away in the place of a machine
I’ll keep the youth of the woman I loved placed neatly as a photograph in my locker. I look at it every morning, before I let a day’s work slowly suck out the remaining youth in me. I’ll let the sinuous muscles in my body slowly build age in them, the scars of time whisper their fatality as I think of the life of my supervisor, his car and his body built by gyms and power bars. I’ll let the ever decreasing salary pile up my youth as I think of the time me and the guys used to challenge each other in a game of basketball, back when I was a kid and my mother used to pile up her youth in the production line of an ancient factory, back when life was a black and white picture in your mother’s family photo album. Today I felt the youth of my child reflected in the TV monitors I assemble day and night, night and day, felt his youth slowly dive into his own destiny. Saw my face his face in the TV monitor that some kid from some suburban darkness is going to own, is going to look at, one of these nights, to find out about the injustices of this world, reflected in a music video that uses tragedy to sell ideas. This cannot go on.
I refuse to be a slave
I am not the one you see in the TV news. Not the one you see standing up and chanting in front of the cameras. I am not the one that is holding a picture of his murdered wife in front of the TV news. I am not the tide that rises in the fall. I am not the movie of the week, am not the short attention span tragedy that appears on the news, and immediately forgotten after the commercial break. Not the one with the youth of her lost wife in the shadows of the TV monitors, hanging as a picture in my chest. I am not the one with a thousand others, marching down the street, refusing to become a slave to the reality of my surroundings.