Let me tell you about my neighbor Dave. He built up his own mobile plumbing service with just his van and scavenged parts, and he works like the Devil trying to compete against the big guys who service the same area. He’s married to a sweet older woman named Jasmine who never had a family of her own, but she finally has one with him. He has two children – one able-bodied helper and one who will be stuck in a wheelchair for life. He loves them both the same.
Oh, and one more thing about Dave. He voted for Trump. He didn’t make a big deal out of it – he didn’t even intend to tell me. I just heard it slip one day while I was bringing the trash out to the street.
“He’s going to make America great again, you watch my words. Four – maybe eight years from now, the sun is going to rise on a brand new country.”
He was chatting with the mailman at the end of his driveway. And it didn’t just stick me the wrong way because I’m Mexican and the president is a racist ingrown toenail in a suit. I didn’t know Dave that well – we always got along fine, but never really spent time together. Just knowing he believed the hateful rhetoric spewing from that fear-mongering egoist changed my whole conception of him though.
We caught each other’s eye, and he looked away for a second. Like he was embarrassed. Good – he should be. But then he looked back and grinned.
“You voted for him, didn’t you Eddy?” He said to me.
“Nah, I was going to but something got in the way.”
“Didn’t vote?” he asked. “‘Cause I know you’re a solid guy who couldn’t have been fooled by that lady harpy.”
“Just my conscience,” I said.
After that, we stopped saying hello to each other when we passed on the street. It wasn’t anything hostile – not yet. We just nodded and looked away. I couldn’t imagine having any common grounds with someone with such a perverted ideology, and I didn’t want to have a confrontation by trying to convince him how he was wrong.
He must have felt the same way and said something about it to his kids. One of them – the tall one with the baggy hoodie, I forget his name – started spray painting on his side of the brick wall between our property lines. I waited until he was gone to walk around and see what it said.
Build a wall, Kill ’em all.
Well shit. I guess I shouldn’t have been so offended by that. He didn’t even make it up – it was just some stupid campaign sign that was held up at some of the Trump rallies. I could feel the blood boiling in my veins though. Now anyone who drove by my house would see that right beside my front door. They’d probably think the whole neighborhood supported that cat-vomit with a hairball on top.
Knock knock knock. I didn’t even know what I was planning to say when I knocked. I just wanted to vent some steam. Dave opened the door, and I pointed a silent finger at the wall.
“Yeah?” he said. He stepped out to get a better look. Then he chuckled. “Well look at that.”
“You gotta have a word with your kids, man. I don’t want that hate speech on my wall.”
“Your wall? What did he mark your side too?” Dave walked up to the wall to peer over.
“No, but it’s right next to my house -”
“Oh so it’s not on your property. Sounds like you wouldn’t even notice if we had a bigger wall.”
After that, we didn’t even nod at each other. He sometimes gave me a little smirk, and I’d just turn away from him. I don’t care if it was his property, I couldn’t understand how he – a grown-ass man – could condone that kind of hate.
I stopped saying hello to his wife too. She would smile and wave while watering her rose bushes, and I’d just pretend I didn’t notice. The message was still on their wall – she must have known about it. If she wasn’t painting over it, then that was the same thing as supporting it.
That’s when my kid started getting picked on in school. Rob wouldn’t tell me who did it, but I knew it was those bastards next door. I saw the look Rob gave them when they all left the bus together: like prey sizing up a predator. The tall kid in the hoodie smirked – the same idiotic sneer his father had.
I couldn’t pick a fight with Dave until Rob actually pointed a finger. I’m always trying to get that kid to stand up for himself, but he hates fighting. It would just be my word against Dave’s. But I still wanted to send him a signal that said I knew what was going on, and that I wasn’t going to stand for it.
I waited until night to sneak over to his yard. All the lights were off and I didn’t even use a flashlight so I know nobody saw me. I took a pair of garden clippers and chopped the heads off every rose in front of his house. As an afterthought, I stuck the clippers in the ground and wrote:
Hate begets hate.
Yeah I know it was childish, but you know what? I felt damn good about it. It serves that bitch right for raising such hateful kids.
And I know I was being hateful too, but that was the point, wasn’t it? To show them their actions had repercussions. They wouldn’t have any proof, but they’d know it was me and that when it came to my kid, I wasn’t playing around.
Maybe instead I should have written Hate begets hate begets hate begets hate… because it didn’t end there like I was hoping. This time it was the side of my house that was spray painted.
Go back to Mexico.
I was livid. I knew they were racist – the moment I heard him say he voted for Trump, I knew it. They were all a bunch of racist pricks. My son was being bullied worse than ever, my mail was being ripped up and thrown around the street, and my trash was scattered back into my yard.
This had to end. I waited on Dave’s driveway for him to get home. He just sat in his van staring at me, so I opened the door for him.
“What the hell are you doing in my driveway?” he snapped.
“Go ahead. Say it. Say what you really mean,” I said.
“What are you talking about?”
“Ask me what I’m doing in your country. That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? That you belong here and I don’t?”
“Look man, I never said that.”
“Your kids did, and you let them. Your president did, and you voted for him. Why don’t you grow the balls to finally say it too?”
He opened his mouth, then looked over my shoulder and shut it. I looked around. Rob was standing there. Dave’s other kid – the one in the wheel chair – he was watching too. I could see Jasmine peaking out from behind their kitchen curtains. Dave took a deep breath.
“Get inside, all of you!” Dave yelled. They did. We both watched the kid in the wheel chair until he was all the way inside, then we turned on each other again.
“Well? Are you going to say it to my face now?” I demanded.
He shook his head and let out a long sigh. He looked as tired as I’ve ever seen him. “Look man, I would if that’s what I believed, but I don’t. I just want a better life for my family. I’m sorry if my kids have been misbehaving. I’m out working all the time and they’re acting out for attention. I promise it won’t happen again.”
My fire was dying down. What could I say to that? I know Dave – hell I’ve known him a long time. He never did a thing I didn’t respect before this political bullshit came up. I wanted to apologize too, but it felt so good for one of those Trump boys to finally admit they were wrong. I told myself I would bring him a bottle of wine or something tomorrow and just accept this victory right now.
Back inside my house, Rob was waiting for me right inside the door.
“Did you win, Dad?”
“Yeah Rob. I won alright. See what did I tell you? When you know you’re in the right, you can’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. You gotta fight fire with fire.”
“Okay Dad. I’ll remember that.”
It was cold outside. The wind always picked up in the early morning. I’ve been standing out here for an hour waiting for the firefighters to finally finish spraying down Dave’s house. The kid in the wheelchair (Alex – I finally learned his name) didn’t make it out. They wanted to go back in for him, but the firefighters wouldn’t let them. They swept the house, but by the time they found him he had suffocated in the smoke.
They say it started around 1 AM last night. There were kerosene soaked rags stuffed into the air vents, so it wasn’t an accident. They were able to contain the blaze before it got over the wall between us, and it was amazing to see how different the two sides looked now. The charred beams jutted accusingly into the sky, and the ground was filthy with ash and debris. His side of the wall was blackened by the fire, but I could still faintly make out the the slogan.
Build a wall, Kill ’em all.
The two sides of the wall really weren’t so different before the fire. Now it was night and day.
“That’s what you wanted, isn’t it Dad? You wanted to fight back.”
“Go inside Rob. It’s too cold out here. We’ll talk about it later.”
Hate begets hate begets…
I think I’ll need to bring Dave something a little stronger than wine.