Continued from Chapter 16.
“It’s not just mind reading. It’s about knowing in general, like knowing where the ball is going to be, or knowing that you should go to a certain place and then you find something there that you need. It’s all about keeping a high energy level, and you start to become aware of more things, more than other people. You just know.” Tony
By Richard Juarez
“‘Bout time you guys got here. We’re already warmed up and ready to trounce you.”
Pablito was shooting off his mouth again, acting like the great basketball player that he wasn’t. For some time now, the guys had been bugging us about not hanging out with them much anymore. So we agreed to get together with them to play some basketball in Chicano Park.
“Hey ‘Turo, wha’sup?” Tony called to Arturo, who was at the foul line shooting.
“Yo, carnal, not much. Just trying to improve my game.”
As I ran under the basket waiting for his shot he called to me. “How’s it goin’, Vincent?”
“Things are good,” I said, reaching for the ball as it bounced off the rim. I tossed it back to him. “So good I got an A on both those exams last week.” The four of us were in a History class and an English class together this year.
“Yeah, I aced ‘em too!” Tony said enthusiastically. “How ‘bout you, Pablito?”
“Don’t talk to me about no pinche tests! I can’t believe they’re giving exams already. We just started the school year.”
“In case you hadn’t noticed,” Tony answered, “we’ve been back about five weeks.”
“He didn’t do too well,” said Arturo, laughing.
“Let’s not talk about school. Let’s talk about this game,” called Pablito as he chased the ball. “You guys finally pulled yourselves away from the brujo man long enough to spend a little time with your friends. You ain’t been spending no time with your homies, man, and that ain’t good. They don’t like it.” He took a shot from the corner, and swished it. “All right! All right! I’m hot!”
“Is that the first one he’s made?” Tony asked sarcastically, smiling at Arturo.
“Hey, he’s hot today, relatively speaking. He’s been making quite a few. He was out here practicing way before I got here. You two go ahead and take your warm up shots.”
“Just the four of us today?” I asked.
“Yeah, the other guys couldn’t make it,” said Pablito. “We’ll go against you two.”
“Today we were going to spend time with our homies,” said Tony, “and they don’t show. If anyone complains they don’t see us, remind ‘em they were the ones who didn’t show, okay?”
Tony and I took our warm up shots and they chased down the balls for us.
“You sure you don’t wanna shoot for teams?” I asked.
“Nah, that’s okay,” Arturo responded. “We can switch later.”
Tony and I looked at each other and smiled. Perfect. We had been hoping it would work out this way. Pablito had been trying to ask us about the mind reading thing I did about the baseball game, but I always managed to avoid being around him long enough to talk about it. We knew they’d want to talk about it today. On the way over, Tony and I had worked up a scheme to make them think we were reading each other’s minds. We had set up two simple plays for no look passes using hand signals that they wouldn’t notice.
As expected, they started right in. They took it out first, and Arturo scored on a layup around me. Second time down, Pablito was dribbling and started asking about the baseball game incident. He asked that same question I had been asking Don Emilio: “How did you do that?”
“That’s part of the stuff Don Emilio has been teaching us about. I asked if you wanted to come and sit in with us when we go see him. You should come and see for yourself.” Offering him the opportunity to sit in with Don Emilio seemed to make Pablito jittery. He shot the ball and missed—air ball. Tony got the rebound and went right to the top of the key as planned.
“I think that was just a lucky guess,” Arturo said. “The Padres were playing an afternoon game, and you just guessed that we’d be going, that’s all. That mind reading stuff is just B. S. You were faking it and trying to make it look like you do it all the time.”
“Is that what you think, too?” I asked looking over at Pablito. Tony stopped dribbling and gave the signal.
“Yeah, man,” said Pablito. “I bet you can’t….”
I faked going to the outside, cut back in to take the pass, turned and laid it into the basket.
“Pablito, you paying attention?” Arturo asked. “Tony just threw that ball without looking. Watch the ball, bro’.”
“Hey, he’s your problem. I’m covering Vincent,” Pablito responded.
“Not very well,” Tony added.
Tony took the ball out and tossed it to me. I went to the top of the key and gave the signal. Tony grabbed my pass and hit a short jumper as Arturo lunged at him trying to catch up.
“Hey, Arturo, you watching the game here?” Pablito said sarcastically. “He just threw that ball in your direction without looking.”
We did two more of those and were up 8-2. They started looking for blind throws and didn’t guard us closely, so we went back to our normal game and had very easy shots. We were up 20 – 6 when they started asking about mind reading again.
“So what does the brujo tell you about mind reading? How do you do it?” asked Arturo.
“It’s not just mind reading,” Tony answered. “It’s about knowing in general, like knowing where the ball is going to be, or knowing that you should go to a certain place and then you find something there that you need. It’s all about energy, keeping a high level of spiritual energy, and living right. And if you keep that high energy level, you start to become aware of more things, more than other people. You just know.”
“And it’s about connections between people,” I added. “It’s about both the personal connections and about the spiritual energy connections that exist between us.”
Tony threw another no-look pass over his head to me and I laid it up again.
“How did you do that?” Pablito asked with frustration in his voice.
We did that one more time, then went back to our regular game because we didn’t want them to catch on. We ended up winning 30 to 10. We mixed up the teams for the next two games, and since we were on opposing teams we didn’t do that trick again. But I think they kept wondering if they’d see anything else. After the third game they decided they’d had enough for the day.
“It was good seeing you guys,” Arturo said, walking off the court. “Don’t be so scarce.”
Pablito was still thinking about the mind reading. “So this stuff is useful for basketball and knowing who’s going to a baseball game. Is it good for anything else?”
“Pablito, I tell you, you oughta come sit in with us,” I said. “It’ll blow you away.”
“Like … poof!” Tony added, throwing his fingers at Pablito like a magician.
“Yeah, yeah. Well, maybe sometime. See you guys later.”
Once they were out of sight, we busted out laughing.
“Man that act really worked great. We really had them fooled,” said Tony. “They thought we were reading each other’s mind!”
We sat for a little while to rest, watching the other people on the court. Luckily it wasn’t crowded yet. A mix of small kids and older guys were playing at two of the other three remaining half-courts, with one vacant, so we didn’t have to share our half-court.
“Are you keeping up with all these energy practices?” I asked Tony as I got up and took a shot from the top of the key and missed.
“You’re kidding, right? Now I understand why he has these sessions spaced out with at least four weeks in between.” Tony drove to the basket and made a layup. “I’m not complaining about how much there is to do, I just can’t do all of them every day. So I do as many as I can.” He ran down the ball and bounced it my way. “My goal is to do them all at least a few times before we meet with him again. But I make a point of doing one of the two meditations everyday.”
“Yeah, he did say to do what we can. I can’t do them every day either, but I’ve mostly been keeping up. Lucky for me the new karate classes don’t start for a few weeks. I thought I would be able to do everything, but it’s tough. I’m not complaining either, because I’m beginning to understand why it’s important that we practice this stuff. I like your idea of at least doing everything a few times during the month. And right now I’m also doing one of the meditations every day, and building energy and sending it out once or twice a week.” I dribbled down the right side and shot a jumper—and missed.
“I like building the energy up and feeling it in my hands,” said Tony, “and sometimes throwing it. Tai chi is good for that. Hey, are you giving thanks at one meal a day?”
“Yeah,” I said, bouncing the ball back to him, “and trying to eat mindfully too, at least once during the day. Not always at the same meal, but I do try to get those in.”
“Let’s do another game of around-the-world,” Tony called out as he went to the foul line to shoot for first up. He was about to shoot the ball, but then stopped suddenly, staring up the street. He kept looking and looking, trying to see who was walking toward us on Logan Avenue.
“Hey, speaking of things we’d like to have in our lives, isn’t that Gloria walking this way?” he asked, still holding the ball.
“Whoever it is, is over a block away,” I answered, “and I can’t … yeah, I think you’re right. I think that’s Gloria. So stop staring man, and just shoot the ball!”
“You think she’s walking over here by accident? Or did you tell her we were gonna be here? Or maybe you’ve been sending energy her way?”
“Tony, stop staring and shoot the ball!”
He finally shot, but it missed, just short of the front of the rim. I picked up the ball and went to the same spot. I dribbled the ball a couple of times, then held the ball, lining up my shot. Then I dribbled a few more times, held the ball, and looked at the basket again.
“Yeah, I talked with her yesterday and mentioned that we were gonna be out here this morning playing basketball. But she didn’t say anything about coming over here to see us.”
“To see you, not us! She’s not coming here to see me. And for Chuey’s sake, shoot the ball!”
“Hey, don’t rush me, man,” I said, as I dribbled again then took take aim. “I don’t want to look foolish and throw up an air ball like you. She’s getting closer. I gotta make this look good.”
My shot hit the backboard and bounced straight down into the net, so I moved to the first spot on the key at the side of the basket.
“Okay, folks, he’s looking good, but he’s gonna choke on this one.” Tony tried to psych me into missing, but I didn’t let his chatter get to me. I made all four shots without missing, and was back to the free throw line just as Gloria came up alongside the court.
“Hi, guys!” she said, walking onto the court. “Can I play?”
“Well, I guess that’s about it for me,” said Tony.
“You don’t want to play another round?” I asked, knowing he wouldn’t.
“I can count,” he said. Three’s a crowd.”
“Oh, come on, Tony,” Gloria implored, “You just don’t want me to beat you.”
“No, really, I have to go. I have to work at the store for a few hours. Here,” he said, passing the ball to Gloria, “you two can keep playing. Bring it to me later today, Vincent.”
After Tony left, we took a few shots at the basket, but it was soon obvious that Gloria wasn’t there to play basketball. She wasn’t even trying—just sort of killing time.
“So, Glo, what are you doing walking around over here?” I asked. “Had to run an errand for someone?” I pointed to the brown paper bag on top of her purse.
“My nana asked me to go to Porkyland,” she answered, motioning up the street. “She likes their tortillas.”
Doña Rosa was like my nana. They prefer to make their own tortillas, but if they don’t want to go to all the trouble, or want some right away, Porkyland tortillas are about the only ones they’ll buy.” The Porkyland tortilleria and restaurant was two blocks up Logan Avenue.
“I need to be getting back home to give those to her. She’s making burritos for lunch.”
“Yeah, so I guess you better get going then.”
“Well, before I do, I … uh … I wanted to ask you … about your tío.”
“Which one?” I knew very well who she wanted to talk about. She didn’t have any interest in my other tíos.
“He’s not my tío, he’s my grandfather’s …”
“I know, I know. You said what he’s been teaching you is to think about light touching your head, saying prayers before meals, and dancing?”
“No, not just dancing …”
“Okay,” she said quickly, cutting me off again, “movement.”
“Yeah, movement. That includes karate, tai chi, Toltec movements, and dancing.”
“And thinking about sunlight?”
“Not just thinking about it. Focusing attention on the light energy, or meditating on it.”
“Oh, yeah, I’ve heard about meditation. But what’s the big deal about learning from a brujo? I could go to the YWCA and take classes on different types of movement and dance. My Nana always leads our prayers before we eat. And lots of people meditate.”
“I never said it was a big deal. And I don’t know why people are so concerned that Don Emilio is a brujo. Well, I do know. It’s because people have these strange ideas about brujos. That’s why Don Emilio doesn’t even like the word brujo. He prefers the word shaman. Brujo makes people think about black magic and strange rituals.”
“Like the chickens,” she said smiling.
“Yeah,” I said with a laugh, “like the chickens!”
“Linda and I still laugh about that one. You guys got her good that day.”
“Got her?” I asked. “Just her?”
“You don’t think I believed you guys were doing rituals with chickens, do you?”
“Oh, no, no. Ah, what kind of rituals did you think we were doing?”
“Come on, Vincent. I only know what you’ve told me. That’s why I’m asking questions and trying to understand what you are learning. When my nana or mother say something about your tío or about brujos, I want to be able to inform them if they have some wrong ideas.”
“Do you think they’re going to change their minds about brujos because of what you say?”
“Well, I hope so, because they don’t like me seeing you or talking to you, because they know you’re learning from a brujo.”
“What the heck is this?” I said, raising my voice and starting again to feel the pressures of everyone trying to tell me what to do and what not to do. “Why should I care what your grandmother or your mother think about Don Emilio?”
“Because … I don’t want them to tell me not to see you.” She turned her head and looked down, avoiding eye contact. “I like being around you … and talking with you.” She paused, and neither of us said anything for what seemed like an eternity. I guess she was waiting for me to tell her the same thing. Finally she looked up at me and said, “Well, Vincent, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I like being around me,” I said with a big grin.
“Vincent! You’re impossible!” she said, slapping me on the shoulder. “Be serious!”
“Okay, okay. I like being around you too,” I said, quickly running on to my next sentence, “but what else can I do to get them to change their minds about Don Emilio?”
“Nothing, I guess,” she said reaching out and taking hold of my right hand with both her hands. Then, moving a little closer said, “Just keep helping me understand what you’re learning, so I can tell them they don’t have anything to worry about.”
“I hadn’t mentioned this to you before,” I said, “but Tony and I have talked about wanting to share this stuff we’re learning with the guys … ”
“And girls,” she quickly added. “You were planning to share it with the girls, too, right?”
“Uh … well, yes, of course. That’s why I’m mentioning it. It was a struggle for us to understand a lot of it at first, but I think it’s beginning to come together now. I’d like to figure out a way to share what I’ve learned with you … and others. This stuff Don Emilio is telling us is too important for us to just keep to ourselves.”
“Well, I can’t wait until you guys figure it all out. Just keep telling me as much as you can, and I’ll keep talking to them and hoping they don’t forbid me to see you.”
“Hey, if it’s any consolation to you, my mother and my nana don’t like me studying with Don Emilio either. For the same reasons, I guess. They don’t really know what he teaches.”
“But, they’re letting you?”
“And they’re still against it?”
“I guess so. But we haven’t been meeting with him very long. It’s only been about four months. I guess they’re still waiting to see what happens—whether he straightens me out, or … ”
“Or turns me into a sorcerer’s apprentice.”
We both laughed. But I think she wasn’t so sure if it was a joke.
Copyright © 2013 Richard Juarez
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