Just a minute or two ago it was 1958. I think Elvis was in Germany that year, but you all know what I think about Elvis, so don’t get me started.

It was at the Stations of the Cross, the one at the little apostolic church on La Vega down in the south valley. You can still drive by it even today, but now they keep the fence chained and locked, in case someone should just walk into the churchyard and steal a soldier or a bleeding wooden Jesus before the next resurrection. Anyway, it was right there that I had my first kiss. I closed my eyes and thought about James Dean or Marilyn Monroe, and when I opened them, I was looking right up into the thorny face of the Son of God. 

Put me off for awhile. That boy’s name was Jimmy. Actually, his name was Jesus, Jesus Benito Rivera, but he went by Jimmy. He was a tough guy all day at school and around town, but I knew in my heart he was a good Catholic boy when he got home at night.

I haven’t thought about Jimmy in so long, it’s funny seeing his name in the paper today. I can’t think about anything else. Don’t think I read the obits every day. I don’t know why I did just now.

One day I’m riding on the back of Jimmy Rivera’s old Indian, holding to him tight enough so he can feel my breasts pressed up against him even through his leather jacket. Every curve a stroke between us, every turn in sync like we never could be at the school dances. He was so tough, goggles and an unlit cigarette hanging off his lip while we rode, first west on Bridge, then south on La Vega about ten miles, far enough that my brothers wouldn’t catch me out with him. We rode right past the Stations of the Cross at first, then circled back when I caught it out the corner of my eye.

“Jimmy,” I hollered and patted on his left shoulder, “go back.” I waved him toward the churchyard with my one free arm. The other was still hanging on tight. Jimmy swung the bike around. I almost swooned, the way my hips rocked on his tailbone by the maneuver.

We roared into the yard where the stations were erected. Jimmy turned off the engine. In the silence as the dust settled around us, soldiers led Jews up the hill to be crucified. A wind-swept Mary looked up at her son. Rough-hewn brown wood faces, painted in strong bright colors. Jimmy took my hand, and we walked through the quiet haze of the afternoon. In the distance I heard dogs howling at an oncoming train. My hand felt prickly, sweaty and nervous and dry all at once with his holding it, and I looked down at my feet, suddenly shocked at myself for being there like that with a boy in black leather. He felt me look down, I guess, put his index finger under my chin, and turned my face up to his. My eyes closed, my mouth opened, and his lips touched mine just for a moment. My eyes flicked open, and there He was above me, with blood running down His face, nails hammered into His hands and feet, and an expression of unholy terror that said Cassandra Cassandra why have you forsaken me? I threw up on Jimmy’s jacket and had a fit that lasted three days.

When I came out of it I had a conversion, you might say. Started planning my life as a handmaiden for Jesus, praying so constantly that I had to replace my rosary within a month. Didn’t take, though. Turns out my favorite Jesuses were the ones that called themselves Johnny or Benny or Gil. Oye, those deep Latin faces, brown eyes I kissed in sweet communion.



©1996 Teresa Phillips

This story appeared in the 2007 edition of Sin Fronteras.


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