By Frances A. Garcia
I am eighteen years old and on death row because I killed my mom. I don’t remember ever loving her. She always bossed me around, until I got tired of it and killed her. It was cool, just like the video games, but much cooler. There was real blood everywhere. But I want to tell my story so that there’s no mistake how and why it happened.
My mom, Marisa, was thirty-two when she had me. That’s old in my book. I know some girls that have babies when they’re fifteen or sixteen. I’ve made babies. My mom never knew about that. She was always fussing about herself, her curly brown hair, her second-hand clothes, her shapely figure. She worried about her make-up, especially her hazel eyes. I have hazel eyes just like hers. Well, I was in her way. I know. I was always in her way. She was always telling me what I should and shouldn’t do when she brought her boyfriends around to show off. She always told me I had it made. She had a rough time with her father. I didn’t understand the story then, but later I did.
Her goal in life was to please men. There were many Joe’s, John’s, and Billy’s. It didn’t matter. They all wanted to have sex. I learned about sex, when I was six. It was late, and Mom and a Billy were watching TV and kissing. I had fallen asleep on the floor, but I woke up. They didn’t see me. I watched the movie they were watching. It was porno. I saw the whole thing. I was only six, but it gave me a lift. I felt good when I pumped. They were too busy to notice me. Then, they left and went into the bedroom. I stayed very still on the floor. When they closed the door, I waited and then slid on the floor to the bedroom door, cracked it open and saw them do it. It gave me such a rush! I still remember.
In the morning she strutted out of the room yelling, “Johnny! Where are you? Find my other shoe. Where did you leave it? You damn bastard! I wish you’d get the hell out of my life. You’re nothing but a sack of rotten potatoes! Useless!”
I found her shoe, and she struck me on the shoulder with the heel. I started to cry, because it hurt. She slapped me, grabbed me by the arm and shoved me in the closet and locked the door.
At first I was too small to do anything when she made me mad. When I wanted to play with my friends, she wouldn’t let me. “Your friends are no good,” she would say. I would cry, and then she’d lock me up again in the closet and swear, “Damn you kid, you can’t get out until you stop crying.” One day she finally found something to pacify me while she slept with her friends. One of them gave her a second-hand computer and some video games. That kept me busy and out of her way. My favorite was Pac Man. I could play that all day and night, if I needed to.
When I grew older, she wouldn’t let me out of the closet even if I did stop crying. I would hear her whooping it up with her men. That’s when I realized I hated her. I was ten years old then. When she would finally let me out of the closet, she would hug me and kiss me and make me tell her I was sorry. She would cry and ask, “What kind of man are you going to be, Johnny?” These were her tender moments, which were few. Most of the time, she was angry. Then I started to grow up, and I started to get angry too. I would grit my teeth and clench my fists and hold it back because I was still afraid of her.
There were very few times when we were happy. On my thirteenth birthday, my mom gave me a birthday party. No friends, just her and me. She bought a cake and a gift for me. She gave me a Game Boy. If I thank my mom for anything, it’s for giving me that Game Boy and the thrill that came with it. The object of the game was to destroy the target. That gave me a high no beer or drug could.
I would play it all night sometimes listening to my mom and her date groaning and grunting in her bedroom. I envied them. I didn’t have a bedroom where I could do my thing. I always slept on the couch. Playing the game gave me a thrill—the thrill of killing the enemy. Destroy the enemy was the object of the game. I really loved it, and so did Mom. “Stay out of my hair, Johnny,” she would say. “Play your Game Boy.” And I did.
I never had friends. Mom made sure of that. But then I started to notice girls. When my fourteenth year came around, I met beautiful Anna. “I love your long soft silky red hair, Anna,” I would tell her, stroking it.
Anna liked me too. “You have beautiful eyes, Johnny. I love your eyes,” she would tell me.
“Is that all you love about me, Anna?” I would tease her.
“No. You know what I mean. You speak to me with your eyes. They tell me how much you care.”
Then we’d kiss passionately. I would caress her breasts and body. She would hold me tightly and say, “You won’t go away, will you, Johnny?”
I would meet her in an old abandoned warehouse called Miller’s Warehouse. There our petting grew more serious. We made love. My first time, I kind of fumbled and felt clumsy. But each time we had sex it got easier and better. I had to sneak out to meet her. If I wasn’t locked in the closet, I was playing my Game Boy. I had mastered it pretty much, and it was getting to be old news. When my mom let me out of the closet, I would wait until she went to bed. A lot of times she was too heavy into having sex with her boyfriends to pay attention to me. She only thought of her needs.
But as usual, mom screwed up a good thing. She noticed that I was slipping out more often. One day she followed me to Miller’s Warehouse and caught me with Anna. She got all fired up. “Johnny! What the hell are you doing?” She punched me. I hated that Anna was seeing me like this. Marisa turned to Anna and said, “You damn bitch!” Then, she started laughing. “You think he’s a man, do you? He’s nothing but a boy and a gay one at that!”
Anna started crying. I was trembling and tears rolled down my face.
“Remember, Johnny? Remember that guy that came home with me last Thursday? You two were laughing and giggling like two school girls. Remember how he laid you? Oh, you haven’t told her? Ha! Ha! Ha! I swear, Johnny, you’re such a dud!”
It was a lie, but Anna ran away. I looked for her, but I never saw her again. That was Marisa, always messing with the good things in my life. I felt shame and hatred well up inside me. I wanted to explode, and one night when Marisa came home drunk, I did. I was fifteen and bigger now. She was in a bad mood because she had not found a man to come home with her. She started fussing at me, then punching me. This time I punched back. Then I grabbed her curly hair and slammed her head into the kitchen door. Then I beat her into a bloody pulp. She was too drunk to fight back. She vomited on the kitchen floor and passed out. I dragged her to the closet by her hair and locked her up!
In the morning when I woke her up, she was folded up like a fetus. “Johnny, why the hell did you do this to me?” Her eyes were bloodshot, in a daze, listless.
I felt free and powerful! “Things are going to change around here,” I said. “You’re going to do what I say, and if you don’t, I’ll punch you out again. You hear me?” I grabbed her chin tightly and thrust my face into hers. “Things are going to change!”
But Marisa did not change. .”Go on, stupid,” she’d yell at me. “Find yourself some bitch to give you a brat! We need food stamps!”
I had to fight her all the way. She couldn’t hold her liquor anymore, and when she was drunk, she got loud, slapped me, and I’d slap her around too. . She couldn’t lock me up in the closet anymore, but sometimes I let her because it was a place I could think. But I knew that it was my choice to be locked up. I was a man! I felt like a man!
I grew tired of the Game Boy. I needed more action, more excitement, and violence. By chance I met Julio, the leader of Los Aguilas, the Eagles. I was walking down the street and a drunken black dude tried to steal my six-pack of beer. I got angry. Marisa came to my mind. She would hide my Game Boy, and she would shred my clothes with scissors. She wanted me to blow up. That’s all. She still had the control. So, I beat the old guy up.
In the shadows, a tall lanky brown-skinned Latino stood watching me. He came up to me and said, “Hey, dude, you’re good with your fists, man.”
“Yep!” I said, out of breath.
“Where’d you learn to fight like that, man?”
“My mom taught me,” I said, and we both laughed.
From then on Julio and I were inseparable. I did have to be initiated, though. That was easy. I had to steal a six-pack of beer from Gino’s Corner Ice Store. Gino was old and Italian. He couldn’t hear or see very well, so it was easy. Later, on, though, I was really put to the test, and things turned sour.
It was a hot, humid late summer night. The moon was full. Los Aguilas, including Julio and me, went to the rich side of town, an upbeat neighborhood. Some of the guys stood as look-outs in this really huge house. Earlier that week we had staked it out, and watched the owners pack their bags and drive away. We figured they had gone on vacation for the summer. We were sure there was no one left in the house. But we were wrong.
When we entered the house and turned the lights on, it was awesome, the most beautiful place I had ever seen. There were chandeliers, rugs, elegant furniture, and statutes and paintings. But we were hungry, so we headed for the fridge and raided it. Then, before we knew it, he was there, a tall thin older white-haired man standing in front of us holding a piece. He spoke funny, like those British dudes.
“Get back! The police will be here shortly!”
I was standing closest to him, thinking of how easy it was with the Game Boy. The gears in my brain rolled, and I made a quick move. I kicked the gun from his hand, then, thinking of Marisa punched him to the ground and beat him senseless.
Julio said, “He saw us, man!” I picked up the gun and shot him once in the head. Then we ran like hyenas as fast and far as we could. That night my life of crime replaced the thrill of video games. The thrill was to destroy the enemy. For me, of course, the enemy was always Marisa, though.
That thought began to tease my mind. Destroy the enemy. The enemy was Marisa. I knew she couldn’t beat me anymore, but she was alive, and so I had not won the game. The object of the game was to win, and to win you had to destroy the enemy.
She was nagging me again that morning. I couldn’t stand it. I wanted to be free. I had still had the gun I had carried ever since the first incident with Los Aguilas. I sat at the kitchen table drinking beer for breakfast, and Marisa was washing dishes. “You damned kid! You never help around this place anymore. You just hang around with those no good sons-of-bitches Damn you! You’re a son-of-a-bitch too!”
“Yes, I am, bitch!” I yelled back.
I took the gun from my pocket, staring at her slender back. She turned around, and her fiery hazel eyes met mine, but when she saw the gun, they glazed with fear. I walked over to her, looked straight into her eyes, and she froze. I placed the gun against her forehead and pulled the trigger. Blood splattered on my face. There was an instant before she fell. I pulled the trigger again and again. More blood splattered. I didn’t feel anything. I just kept shooting until the gun was empty. She lay slumped on the floor in a pool of blood. Some of it was on me. I didn’t care. I only cared that the game was over. I had won! I knew I would go to jail, but I was ready. Maybe I could think there.
When I got booked, I was calm. When I went to trial, I plead guilty. It was short and sweet. They sentenced me to death by lethal injection. I have been waiting for it, but some groups of people want to appeal and help me. They say it was not my fault. They say I was a victim of child abuse. I keep telling them it’s just a game, and if I die that’s part of the game—the end of the game. I know I won. I destroyed Marisa. That’s all I ever lived for.
Now I eat and sleep waiting for my execution. I am not afraid. I am not sorry. They send preachers and ministers to pray with me, but I send them away. I tell them I am ready to die. I don’t need them to tell me anything about God or love or my soul. I am finally free!
After six months of waiting, the day arrived. In the morning they will inject me. The night lingers on. The guard offered me a final wish. I asked him to bring me a Game Boy. He did. I did not sleep. Instead I played all night and won every game. It is a game I have mastered. That’s what I want everyone to know. I’m a winner, not a loser. I always win!