By Uriel Perez
My cousin finds an old switchblade when he’s twelve and I’m six. It scares me then, not because I think he’ll hurt me or anything, what terrifies me is the potential of harm the blade holds.
I start to have nightmares soon after of it malfunctioning on him. Usually, we’ll be playing – climbing trees or skipping stones – when I hear the small sound of a coil releasing tension. From his pocket the blade unsheathes straight into his thigh. When this happens I stop, but my cousin keeps going like nothing. I’ll see one streak, two, then a little river of blood going down his leg turning his stark white socks a red I won’t recognize until one of the big girls in gym years later tosses her tampon in my direction.
When he’s fifteen and I’m nine I start to see it more often. The blade’s as sharp as ever, the potential for harm even greater. He starts using it for everything – shaving the first signs of peach fuzz on his chin, carving old twigs into arrows, spreading jam on his toast.
I want to take it when he’s not looking and get rid of it forever. I wouldn’t throw it into a river or bury it in the desert – some way, somehow it would find him again. I know it. I’ll keep it and tuck it in the drawer overstuffed with socks and underwear, I resolve. In my mind, that’s the only way I can protect him from it.
When he’s sixteen and I’m ten he learns to do tricks with it. I thought, like most big kids, he would get rid of it along with the rest of his old toys. He’s so good with the thing. He can get it to land on the bull’s-eye of those targets the archery club practices on; does the thing where he spreads his hand out on a table and proceeds to stab at it in all the spaces where his fingers aren’t. We play hot potato with the blade and I can feel myself seize up whenever it comes my way, its silver button winking at me.
The blade waits till I leave for college, when I’m eighteen and he’s twenty-four. Six hundred miles from home and I can’t do a thing the night he gets robbed. The assailant is an unarmed vagrant that wants to snatch away my cousin’s two bags of groceries. My cousin offers him a couple items to diffuse the situation, but the vagrant wants the whole lot. A struggle ensues and the blade falls from my cousin’s pocket. The vagrant is quick to snatch and use it. The bags didn’t amount to more than thirty dollars worth.
I get a nosebleed as soon as the plane lands. The air at home is so dry. I let the first droplet slip between my lips and into my mouth. It tastes like a steely vengeance.
And now we’re at a downtown police precinct. The perp’s sitting all by his lonesome in one of those police interrogation rooms with the two-way mirror windows. My family’s ready to send him to the chair and fry him to a crisp, but that won’t bring Andres back – nothing will. I feel a strange sense of calm, not a trace of anger towards the man.
It’s not until one pudgy officer presents a plastic bag containing a single switchblade with bloody smudges on it that my heart seizes up in that familiar way and I feel a warm stream of piss go down my leg.
Uriel Perez is a writer from El Paso, Texas. He is completing a degree in History at the University of Texas at Austin. When not drowning in coursework, Uriel is either reading, drafting some new writing, or pushing books at Austin’s favorite independent bookstore, BookPeople. His time in Austin has re-ignited a passion for writing and he hopes to enter the world of publishing soon after graduation.