He was man from Monterrey. The first time the news networks broadcast the story, I missed the majority of it, cooking in my kitchen. By the time I’d finished eating dinner in front of the T.V, the story was touched on at least three more times on other stations. So by the time I saw the report on the 11 o’clock news, I was very sure that this was the fellow I’d seen the previous morning.
They showed a picture of his face that was clearly lifted from a immigration card. The testimonials of those that knew him were given in choppy, broken English. They spoke of a decent man.
The morning before it all started was like any other for me. I woke from bed late, as I’d spent the night before playing XBox Live all night. The smell of stale Pizza carried me to the kitchen for the taste of cold pizza. I needed something to roll my blunts with so I slipped out of my basketball shorts and into a sweat suit, jumped into my truck and went a few roads over to the local gas and convenience store. I’d moved from the city to a rural suburb a few months before and I loved going to the store in the morning, because there was more happening there than anywhere else in the town, called Placid, where I’d moved to. When I got the gas station I filled up my tank, even though I didn’t have any real reason for using the gas. I was intentionally isolated. I needed this time to myself.
I stood in line behind emigrant workers as they loaded up on coffee, donuts, and 5 Hour Energy shots to get the strength and energy needed for the day of hauling and constructing the town into a sprawling suburb. They were hired as laborers for the many huge housing communities that would become synonymous with the local terrain. The bigger houses were built first. I moved into one of the model homes to save money on my piece of the land. Soon there were mornings where I woke up to the sound of lawn mowers and laborers when the homes around me became full of Caucasian families too lazy to trim their own lawns. They were so well off that lawn companies came almost daily to maintain the Kentucky Bluegrass that was imported for most of the custom built homes. A few of my neighbors bought the acres that remained undeveloped south of the community. You could see the horses and the cows from the main gate of the complex, called White Haven, where a security guard sat from dawn to dusk. When I left to get my blunts that morning, the security guard waved and gave a pleasant smile as he always did.
As I stood in line behind 5 little Mexican men, I stared out the window to my gas pump as it filled to the top. My eyes caught the sight of a man sitting in a white van, staring off into the distance. The sun was shining on his brow, and you could see a glazed distant look in his eyes. If he hadn’t blinked, you might have thought he was frozen or even a doll. His hair was slicked back under a white bandanna. He looked like a Mexican gangster I’d seen in the sequel to the movie “Friday”. I traced his stare off into the horizon, only to see that he was focused on a horse carriage that was being pulled behind a dually Dodge Ram. The scene was nothing new to me, and I wondered what kind of man he must be to get lost gazing and daydreaming at horses. Maybe he used to be a Matador or a farmer himself I thought as I refocused my attention to the clerk and my purchase. The 5 little Mexican men walked back to the truck to join their buddy, the horse whisperer. One of the men handed him a Red Bull and rubbed his head like a father might do to his son, but they looked so close in age that i doubted that this was their relationship. They hung in the parking lot a few minutes longer, smoking cigarettes and telling rowdy jokes. They were still in the lot as I left, and I could see the Mexican in the white bandanna through my rearview mirror. He had one leg out the window now, but he was still gazed on the Dodge truck with the horses. From where I was, it looked like he was crying.
I spent the afternoon smoking and playing more XBox Live. I hadn’t quite gotten past the writing block I’d hoped would be eviscerated with the new scenery. I didn’t mind though because the truth was that I was not yet a writer, so the fact that I had a block was not unexpected or terribly unsettling. When the beers caught up to me, I laid on the floor and napped until I was awoken by the hunger of a draining stomach. I turned on the news, mostly just to hear the noise and began to grill a steak on my state of the art range. I loved cooking in my new home. I wondered if one day, I’d prepare feasts for the family holidays here. I’d have to make a family first.
As the reporter sounded off in the other room, I was pretty oblivious to the newscast. I’d heard bits and pieces of a story on commercial development and zoning but didn’t care enough to leave the kitchen and watch until I heard the anchor, Emily Rosario, speak about the White Haven community I’d just bought a piece of. There were some problems with the draining system, so I assumed it was a follow up to the previous story about the community being flooded from the storms. When I got to the television, I saw the image of the Mexican I’d seen earlier in the day for a split second before the Emily Rosario went to the next headline. I had ignored a knock on the door from my neighbor in favor of my siesta, and now I wondered what I’d missed. I turned the stove down and sat in front of the Plasma, flicking through the new HD news stations looking for more on what happened. I tuned into CBS in time to see the entire story.
A burglary and double murder had occurred that morning. Allegedly, the Mexican fellow I’d seen that morning, was wanted for the crime. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I watched other broadcasts cover the story. The details were thin. Sometime that morning, the Mexican man was said to have gone crazy and killed the homeowner he was contracted to work for. The man’s wife was on the news now and she was crying uncontrollably. You could see spit and snot collecting on her upper lip. Her face was familiar because I’d seen her at the gas station a few nights before when I drove there for beer or blunts. I remembered her from the huge rock on her finger as she wiped her nose on camera. She sobbed about her husband and being a widowed newlywed. It was a bit much for me to take so I changed it to another station to get more details. The second murder came at the gate. The security guard, whose name I didn’t know, but whose smile I did, tried to stop the Mexican at the gate and was murdered as well. The report was done from the gate, covered in crime scene tape, killing any doubt that this was happening on my street. The burglary? The story said that the Mexican stole the homeowners horse.
I wondered what that look in his eyes was trying to tell me, but I would have never interpreted murder from his gaze. He seemed beaten down and broken, and far too weak to commit a passionate crime like murder. I thought to myself that maybe I could have interceded somehow, but didn’t think too much of it because I knew there was nothing that I could to turn back the time now. I also wondered how the property value of White Haven would be affected by this blemish on what was to be a utopian community.
I woke the next morning to the sound of a knock on my door. It was my neighbor Al. He was probably the same person who knocked the day before. “You smoke one blunt with your neighbor and they think you’re best buddies”, I thought as I walked to the door tightening my robe. It was 7:12 am. Sure enough it was Al. I invited him in for “wake and bake”, but he said he had to drive into the city for a meeting. He knew I didn’t order the local paper so he came to drop of his copy. There was a follow up story on the murder from the day before and he wanted to show it to me.
I took the paper from his hands and closed the door after we made plans to watch the fight that weekend. I sat down at my kitchen table and flipped through the pages until I found the article Al was talking about. The details follow:
A man suspected of a double homicide was caught and killed just north of the Rio Grande River by U.S Marshalls and the border patrol. Oscar Reyes Vino was shot as he tried to evade the arrest on horseback. When Border Patrol saw the man riding alongside the border they became suspicious that he was helping people cross the border and began to chase the man, who evaded cars and trucks by going off road into the hillside. U.S Marshalls were called for back up and went on foot, horseback, and ATV’s into the mountains behind him. Texas Ranger John Walker told reporters that the man refused to dismount his horse and when he pulled back on the reigns to make the horse gitty-up, the officers shot him out the saddle. He carried his ID and a note for his daughter, dying in an orphanage in the rural countryside near Monterrey, Mexico. These last details explained the empty gaze that I’d seen in his eyes the morning before. I felt sad because I knew his fate didn’t fit the mood on his face and again I felt that maybe I could’ve reached him in that abyss of sorrow covered his being the previous morning.
The evening news covered the story the same. The widow denied a follow up interview, but the next mayor made a campaign of the tragedy in hopes of boosting the property tax because he argued it would put more police officers in the budding community. Zoning bills were passed easier with the attention now on crime, and soon a Wal-Mart was scheduled for groundbreaking in the big field across the street from the convenience store where the story began. The other beautiful horses were still visible from the security gate, but my days in White Haven were numbered. The Wal-Mart signaled the end of the utopian dream i’d bought into at White Haven, and it turns out my writers block was permanent.