I use the treadmill not so much for exercise as for the sensors which measure heart rate through your palms. I do this to ascertain whether I’m still alive. Red letters display proof of existence, a number that often doesn’t surpass the weekly murder rate of this city. The drug war has crippled our family. We’ve lost three members: two innocent bystanders and a Sinaloa cartel cousin caught in a hail of gunfire. I watch my pulse fluctuate, the numbers proof no bullets have entered my blood stream: yet.
I pedal, my foot against the metal as if I have a gun in my mouth. I can taste the barrel, metal scratching against the enamel of my teeth. Looking into the chamber, I see blackness, starry night as I pedal into the distance, my vision blurry as I hurry to escape the madness of my imagination, as the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels chase me down the street, my feet burning, my bloody hands confirming my worst suspicions, I pedal into the apocalypse.
Electronic oars: how I hate thee. Still, we beat on, against the invisible Rio Grande current in the dead of night. The stars our only compass, aroma of body odor our only evidence of past struggles—besides the broken blood vessels in sunken eyes we beat on toward freedom, one wave at a time.
My hands grip the metal bars like a prison cell, held captive, I fight for freedom, reaching toward the heavens, demented Gringo in a land of guerillas. Monkey bars and jungle gym and fruit smoothies and only the echoes of gunshots in the distance, tinted bulletproof windows: my best friend. Barbells toward the sky, we fly.
Must be named after the atavistic meritorious meatheads in front of the mirror admiring their pecs. I lift mine in front of the wall in the corner, away from all the pervasive mirrors, an escape from the cathartic narcissism of the gym. The windows may be bulletproof, but nothing is safe in Juárez. Exhausted, I collapse onto the floor. Nobody notices; this is Juárez after all.
Crawling like a spider, I admire my image in the mirror, spinning a web around an enormous balance ball I look like a tourist, sweat dripping, my intestines gnawing against dirty porous carpet, mouth wide open. Who the hell cares what they think? They don’t even hear the gunshots anymore; murder is more common than birds chirping. Lurching my stomach on top of the ball, rolling over, back and forth, until there is nothing keeping me from jumping on top and running down the street like a circus performer. Make it a little easier for the cartels to target me. They’ll get us all sooner or later anyway. God bless America for consuming drugs like Hoover vacuums.