Abuelo died before I was born, so I never got to know him— or, not the living version, at least—but his ghost started talking to me in high school. Now, as I get ready for graduation, I wish he would leave me alone; all this, because I quit wrestling.
Pinche chamaca floja!
He screams other stuff, too. Thankfully, I don’t know much Spanish and miss it. I pop in headphones, and he goes quiet, eventually.
Freshman year Desertwood sucked. I got my Ma’s thick, Mexican hips and my dad’s freckled, bony shoulders. The other girls, of all colors, let me know I didn’t belong.
“Yo, it’s vanilla-rice-and-beans!”
“What’s good, white-back?”
“Outta the way, fucking halfie bitch.”
This one girl shoved me to the floor. Laughter surrounded and assaulted me like car alarms. Somewhere, cutting through all the laughter, though, I heard a voice say: frégatela!
I charged at her, drove my shoulder into her stomach, and took her ass down. As she scrambled under me, I went to work. I tried to choke and twist and pull until something broke. I felt energy I never had before: a far-off battle cry, a warrior’s spirit. It was Abuelo.
After I served my week-long suspension, Coach pulled me aside in PE while everyone else ran laps.
“Listen, you got a solid base, and shoulders made for pain.” He squatted, smacked his thighs and arms. “Plus, your aggression and attitude are made for the team.” He said “team” like it was a secret only loners understood. I wondered if he’d also been alone in high school. Had a dead ancestor also helped him channel loneliness and anger into fighting?
I was in.
With Abuelo in my ear and watching my back, I drilled and trained like a girl possessed. He wouldn’t let me lose. I became an All-Region 106-pounder. My senior year, I placed fourth in state and we took bronze as a team.
We celebrated after. Abuelo danced as a shadow cast by the sunset while Coach grilled carne asada for the team.
Best of all, high school was basically over. Wrestling got me through it; that was all I needed. Abuelo didn’t get it, though; didn’t get why I turned down a Division III offer from somewhere in Idaho, to stay closer to home and to the friends I’d made on the team. He’d put on DVDs of wrestling or boxing when I walked into my house, or he’d wake me up at dawn pushing me to run or jump rope.
“Ma,” I say as she does my hair and fastens my graduation cap. “Was Abuelo, like, a good athlete when he was alive?”
“Not really, mija,” she says. “He was really short and never very fit.”
“Really?” I look in the mirror, see Abuelo messing with my reflection—making me fat. I blink hard. He’s gone.
“Well, was he a big sports fan?”
Ma snorts. “Only if you consider gambling on cock fights a sport.”
Oscar Mancinas is a young, fly mestizo poet and prose writer from Mesa, Arizona. Currently, he resides and writes in Boston. Other work by him can be found in Contraposition Magazine, Blue Mesa Review, Phoenix Rising Review, and latinosbelike.tumblr.com. Follow him on Twitter @Oscar_Wildin