Everyone has an archenemy. It is the sheer essence of life. Rising does not feel like rising unless someone or something is attempting to hold us down. Batman has the Joker. Superman had Lex Luthor. Even Papa Smurf had to do battle with Gargamel from time to time. I was not any different. I’ve had to battle different foes through my existence, but none have been as wily or as conniving as Juan the Border.
Juan the Border grew up in my father’s hometown. He was as tough as nails. In fact, the man looked like he ate nails the way most people eat trail mix. He had the body of Clint Eastwood from “Every Which Way But Loose” with cigarettes rolled into his white t-shirt, but he had a face like Ronald Reagan. I never knew his age, but I knew he was old because his eyes were sunken inside the wrinkles of his face. He used to live on our couch for a couple of hundred dollars a month. He got along well with the rest of my family. However, he did not take too kindly to me.
In his eyes, I was not tough and far too soft bellied. I was supposed to be some kind of premature man beast. He would always make some outlandish claims about his life and times when he was 6 years old. He would belittle me for asking for a bandage for a scraped knee because when he was my age, he would have to make his own bandages from a homeless drifter he had gutted for no particular reason. I remember he would trick me into shaking his hand and he would squeeze until enough tears streamed down my face as if there was a magic number that would seal a victory.
Looking back now, I feel that we both battled for my father’s attention. Here was this man who wanted the boys to keep on swinging forever. There I was as the talking, walking reason why my father could not get wasted out of his skull on a Monday afternoon. Juan the Border would sit out on the porch, drinking his beers while looking at me with contempt. In fact, he would go out of his way to oppose me. There was a point when I wanted a cat. Then when we had a mouse problem, I saw a way to foster my argument. A drunken Juan rose to his feet when he saw a mouse. He cornered it and began stomping on it until there was more mouse on his boot than the wall. He then turned around and informed us that we did not need a cat.
The cat was the last straw. After that I started to grease the wheels of revenge, I would do things like switch his beers with the beer cans my dad had thrown his butt in. My dad did not really discipline me, because he abided by one simple rule. If he could laugh at it, then there was probably no harm in it. Dirty deeds were done dirt cheap, so I started doing things like emptying out his denture adhesive. My parents would dismiss his claims, because I was a child and children were incapable of such evil. I would flutter my eyes and draw pictures of him and I and title it “Amigos”. That would make his blood boil.
In the end, Juan the Border went the way of Oscar Zeta Acosta. He went back to Mexico, and he never came back. There were rumors that he was shot after a card game. Other people said that his old wife did not appreciate his adventures in the United States especially when it came out that he was supporting another family so she had him killed. All I know is that Juan the Border went down swinging.
[Photo by scataudo]