Shilita Montez | 5
hands snap his chin up sharp lettin’ me know we cool. Yeah. I know we cool. The lil’ homies know a project girl when they see one.
Mrs. Chang is still starin’, so I tell her I’m gon go back and get me some spices, and I hurry along the dusty aisles to where the vegetables is piled up in wooden coolers against the back wall. I hear Mrs. Chang say somethin’ in Chinese and I been knowin’ her long enough to know she talkin’ ‘bout me, so I turn around. Mrs. Chang is coverin’ her nose with one small hand like she smell somthin’ stinkin’. She done called her husband and they both watchin’ me. I press my lips together tight and give a little double shake of my head. I lift my shoulders and spread my hands as if to ask . . . WHAT? No response. I know they don’t think I’m tryna steal nothin’ out they dusty store! Oh, well! I don’t know what the hell is wrong with them, and I ain’t got time to be tryna figure it out. I got ‘tails to cook.
I grab me a red bell pepper and a green one and a couple a chile pisillas ‘cause that serrano shit is just too hot, and I quick step it back to the counter to pay up and nod and bow at the Changs. Most the time, they like it when I do that, but this time they don’t bow back. They just stand there lookin’ at me like I really did steal somethin’. Mr. Chang start puttin’ my stuff into a black plastic bag, real slow like he can’t keep his eyes off me long enough to bag groceries!
“Somethin’ wrong?” I ask them straight out, puttin’ my hands on my hips.
Mrs. Chang hand come up to her chest and rest there for a minute, like she clutchin’ pearls, then one of her tiny fingers point to a mirror over by the butcher counter. I follow her finger to where it’s pointin’ and see myself. In the mirror my hair is stuck to my head in some places and stickin’ straight out at different angles in others. My eyes is wide white circles peepin’ out from darkness, and some reddish-brown color stuff is all over my face. The same stuff is on my white shirt, but there it’s bright, shoutin’ red. I blink and the me inside the mirror blink too. I remember the blood. Daryl blood. I stare into the glass, into my own wide eyes, and try to remember more. But all I can see is myself starin’ back at me. Behind the counter, the Changs is starin’ too.
I throw some money on the counter, and I don’t even wait for the change. I just snatch up my grocery bag and switch my butt outta there. Fuck the Changs. They can’t stop no blood. Maybe they need to pray to that little, fat dude they got sittin’ on that altar ‘bout they messed up attitudes. I giggle out loud at my own joke and grin over one shoulder at the Changs as I step out into the sunshine. I head for the car, my head down, my body already feelin’ its dark, leather interior.