I could tell it was morning. The smell of burnt egg lingered like the smell of stale alcohol from the alley. No matter how much oil Tita Carmen poured, the eggs always stuck to the pan. Los pinches sartenes as she called them, were worn like the bottoms of our shoes or the look on my mom’s face after a long day’s work. Besides the smell of the eggs, there was nothing else to distinguish day from night. The traffic outside our window seemed too busy to notice us. Sirens and gunshots warned us of a world we were too little to understand.
Waiting was the only eventful aspect of our lives – waiting for anything to remind us that we were still part of this world. Tio Chiquis, Tita’s son, called her to let her know he was stopping by on his way home to Tijuana. She didn’t get the opportunity to see him often. He was always working or grandma was always busy taking care of us. A few moments later, heard a loud muffled voice coming from outside. There were cop cars everywhere like pieces of paper scattered in no particular direction. There was a woman with a shot-gun holding the apartment complex hostage, and cops, who seemed to be bumping into each other like squirming blue ants.
Tita paced back and forth from the kitchen window to the living room, more concerned about missing her opportunity to see my uncle than the threatening woman standing outside our door with the shot-gun. Pinche vieja, no mas que se vaya’a ir mi hijo sin verlo y no se la va’acabar con migo. The window in our kitchen slid up to open and hung twenty-four inches from the floor. In a moment of desperation, Tita climbed out of the window, and the story goes she grabbed the woman in a nelson hold, slipping both of her arms underneath the woman’s armpits and locking her hands behind the woman’s neck. The cops were able to handcuff the woman before my uncle arrived.
This was the woman who nurtured and protected me for 36 years of my life; who helped me raise my daughter, until the day her (Tita’s) body conceded to cancer.