Despite the warm air she felt goose pimples all over her. She was afraid. What if bad people were lurking around? A naked, defenseless girl -- bad things could happen to her. She was so far from everything that even if she screamed for help no one would hear.
She looked up again at that house. It was all dark, no lights on. Not surprising at this time of the wee hours -- the madrugada. She thought of her little house on Bowie Street, her parents and her brothers and sisters sleeping, her empty bed next to Dorilda’s and Luisa’s. Her parents might be staying up, thinking of her sleeping at her friend’s. She blinked back tears. She missed her family so much right now.
Now her thoughts were distracted by the itching from those weeds.
There was something in front of that house. It was hard to see -- a diving board. They must have a pool.
She looked down at her scratching fingers and suddenly realized -- poison ivy! Or something like that. The weeds must have been full of it. Now her toes rubbed against each other, and she felt something burning between her thighs, and a place behind her shoulders she couldn’t reach. She knew that scratching only made it worse so she stopped. But as she stood there, fists at her sides, the itching became unbearable. It felt like bugs were crawling all over her body, bugs with burning little mouths biting her.
She had to get into that pool and wash off!
Once again she broke into a sprint. She got closer and closer and saw that to get to the house she had to climb a mountain of big rocks. At least it wasn’t more weeds. She hopped onto the first rock, a sharp edge cutting into her foot, then bent forward to reach the next rock, breasts wobbling. Were there snakes hiding here? She avoided the smaller rocks and tried to climb the bigger ones, away from the low dark places, fingers and toes clutching every little crag. Halfway up, a dirt path appeared. She hopped onto it and ran up the steep incline, calves and feet straining forward.
Finally her head poked up behind the flat surface of the sparse lawn. There was a whiff of something really foul. It must be garbage from behind the house. Dios mio! White people call us Mexicans slobs but they’re more sucio than we are!
Now that she was up close she could see for sure that no lights were on. Not that she was thinking clearly any more. She had been driven half-mad by the itching and had to get into that water. She had enough wits left not to jump in and make a noisy splash. Instead, she slid in to the deep end, just under the diving board, and felt cool water wash away all that grit and dust and poison ivy. It was heaven. She came up for air, then went down again, fully submerged, and rubbed herself all over, starting with fingers in between toes and then up to her lower lips, which she gladly separated and rinsed, and even spreading her butt to get at her butthole, then rubbed all over her breasts and shoulders and arms, finally her face and got the dust out of her hair. Ahhhh!
She came up for air again and was again hit with that foul smell, like a disgusting dirty toilet. Then she went down, and realized how good it felt to swim naked, water flowing past all those places that usually were covered by the modest one-piece bathing suit she wore when her family went to the community park. Or that cute one-piece she had as a little girl when her uncle Roberto took her along when he went to clean the Crocketts’ pool. She swam underwater toward the shallow end, and then felt her feet touch the bottom. She slipped, it was so scummy.
After slipping some more she finally emerged, unsteady on her feet, water dripping from her nose and chin and hair and nipples.
This water was foul! She had to get out! Slipping some more, she went up the steps and stood on the cracked concrete. This pool was not like the Crocketts’. No chlorine filter. No little tank at the side. No sound of a motor, or of water running.
She looked toward the house. It was deserted -- broken windows, an open door half off its hinges.
That awful, acrid smell. And she realized it was now coming from her. She had been immersed in that foul water, and let it into her most secret places. She was covered with algae, inside and out.
She swatted away a mosquito, and then another. Her filthy self had become a magnet for them, and in seconds they were all over her face, in her eyes, biting her butt, her legs --
She ran into the house, through that open door. Maybe there was something in here that could help her. A working shower? Or bug repellent? She had to find the bathroom. She stepped on something warm and furry and it squealed. A rat! She was terrified of rats. Every Mexican had a fear and hatred of them. She heard sounds of little claws scurrying around the trash-strewn floor and realized there must be a whole nest of them circling her.
Once again her instinct took over. Without thinking she got the hell out of there, back across the crusty lawn, hopping down the rocks, ignoring the mosquitoes that attacked her face, her back, her breasts, her thighs --
When she got down to the bottom, stinking and bitten, she rolled around in the sand, flopping around like a fish, spreading dirt over every place she could get to with her frantic hands. It was gross but not as gross as being covered with foul water and bugs. She got up and ran again, then scaled a little hill. The sand dried and fell off and there was only a mild whiff of foulness now. She had outrun the mosquitoes.
She kneeled, feeling dirt fall from her hair onto her nipples, and some more falling from her back onto the sensitive skin of her anus. Again the naked, virgin teenager prayed, ignoring the little stones digging into her knees. So many bad things, so fast. Why?
Maybe God was punishing her? Older folks would say such things -- “God is punishing me”, or “God is rewarding me” when something good happened. Kids her age dismissed such thinking as superstition. But now she was beginning to believe there was a reason for all this.
She remembered hearing in church the story about Pharaoh being attacked by plagues because he wouldn’t free the Jews. So far it had been scratchy weeds, snakes, poison ivy, algae and rats. There were ten plagues. She hoped there weren’t five more in store tonight.
Was she being punished for dancing like a puta? Or maybe for lying to her parents?
Near the horizon a faraway cloud lit up. Then, about half a minute later, thunder. If lightning was coming she had to get away from open ground. After saying “Amen” to end her prayer she stood up.
Her travails had shrunk her bladder. She had to pee. Ridiculously she looked around to make sure no one was watching. Of course not! She had never peed outside before -- and naked! She squatted and gratefully let go, the stream hitting the dirt, echoing loudly around her in the dark silence. In the dimness she watched the stream run down the little hill. The warm smell of urine wafted up to her face. She felt like an animal, peeing like this. And right after praying! When she shook the last few drops loose she wondered if she should cover it up. She decided to leave it like it was.
Her mind was clearer now. She stood bolt upright, all four feet eleven of her, breasts thrust out over her concave tummy, and decided she would make her way toward that highway on the other side of the basin. The lights of another truck, barely visible, reminded her where it was. Until now she didn’t know what direction to get home, or at least back to her barrio. She hadn’t paid much attention to the way to La Chiquita Peligrosa when one of the girls drove her there. But suddenly she had a efinite feeling that the highway was Calhoun Boulevard, which led into town. And what would she do when she got there? She had hitchhiked before -- most kids around town did. She could not do that naked. But where there was a highway, there were stores and houses. Anything was better than rattlesnakes, poison ivy, foul water and rats. This time pacing herself, the naked girl began her long trot in that direction, watching her bare feet so that she stepped on only soft sand and not rocks or trash.