My back hurts, my legs burn, sweat painting my neck. I scrape my hair out of my face and find pieces of lettuce and dried enchilada sauce. Angel is just as filthy, the hours stuck to us in layers of grease while time has burrowed even deeper in my father’s skin.
He’s been waking up at three AM every morning for the past fifteen years. Cooking migas and tamales and pozole and carne asada. Cleaning up broken glass and spilled drinks and half-eaten food. Hiring cooks and bartenders and dish boys, firing them too. Wondering if people are going to show up that day, if they’re going to like the food, if they’re going to pay what it’s worth. And going to bed every night hoping that it was enough. To pay the bills. To raise four kids. To open the doors another day.
I can see those worries on his face, and even covered in filth, in food my father used to love, in sweat I can’t wait to wash off, there’s nothing I want more than to wear the same worry he does, to wake up with the same freedom.
“You smell like shit,” my father says.
“You mean I smell like money,” Angel corrects him.
My father almost laughs but then his eyes track to the rearview mirror. To the shadows lined up across the street. He backs out slow, the glow of the neon sign stamped against the hood of the truck. NACHO’S TACOS stretches to the curb, bleeding into the streetlights. The one across from us is just about to burn out, gasps of white drawing my eye.
“Just stare straight ahead,” my father says.
“How long have they been out there?” Angel asks.
Our father is quiet and I know it doesn’t matter how long they’ve been out there. All that matters is who they’re looking for.