Rebirth

I was born on April 30, 2010 behind a rusty, old shed in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. Who or what brought me there? I believe it was God. I was only 20 years old when He resurrected my soul and brought me back to life. The moment I opened my eyes, I saw the world as a magnificent place. The trees were greener, the air was fresher, the stars shone brighter, even the tiny, little, flying bugs roaming around the lights were beautiful. Life was great. At that moment, I could appreciate all the blessings in my life. There was nothing in the universe that could be better than the gift of life.

The day started out crappy. I had to wake up. I had to take a shower. I had to get dressed. I had to brush my teeth. I had to go to work. I had to be the cook, the cashier, the backup helper, and I had to be the store manager. I had to do everything. Life was miserable. I did not ask to be reassigned to a different store. I was doing great at the Church’s Chicken in Nederland, Texas. If I had known that Port Arthur was going to be the reward for my excellence, I would have done just a good enough job to stay in Nederland. Now, I had to find some adequate “smiles” to run my registers and someone with enough “chicken genius” to fry my chicken. I managed to recruit a couple of teenage kids willing to wear the funky, flaming red, chicken hats. They became my starting crew along with my three loyal employees who accepted the transfer with me: Doña Luz, Don Roberto, and Gracie.

The morning went by smoothly for the most part. The usual questions, “How do I close this box?” were asked, followed by the “Where are the fries again?” Nothing major yet. All the fun started during the night shift. Ironically, by that point, we were all running around like chickens with their heads cut off while a multitude of people piled up in the lobby area. It was a zoo out there. The little monkeys jumped from chair to chair and climbed on the tables. They peeked over the side wall into the kitchen area curiously while a herd of lions gathered at the farthest, right corner devouring their prey. Only the bones were visible under the table. The mothers stood in line completely ignoring the chaos caused by their little monkeys and engaged in laughter, an unbearable, piercing sound like the cry of hyenas that reached all the way to my cooking station. I had no time to worry about absent mothers who let their children run around like crazy or adults without table manners. My only concerns were counting down the minutes until the next batch of spicy chicken and calming down the cotton head lady screaming at Doña Luz for running out of receipt paper after Doña Luz had patiently waited to receive two dollars and seventy cents worth of pennies, nickels, and dimes.

My white, button down, oxford shirt glowed like the rays of the sun on a hot summer day at that instant. All eyes were on me. There was a problem; I had to fix it. I walked over to the sink to wash my hands as I counted to ten in my head and concentrated on the number one rule in customer service: “customers are always right.” I proceeded to take off my apron and dusted the flour off my face. I approached the woman standing in front of the register. I pretended to listen and nodded in approval as I tried to decipher the expert level maze imprinted on her matured forehead right above her droopy eyes that slowly became part of that maze as her voice got louder and louder. “Yes ma’am. I apologize for the inconvenience and” I responded, “please enjoy a free cup of soda while I bring your receipt.” There was no receipt paper inside the restaurant, so I rushed out the back door ignoring the sign with big, bold letters stating “this door may not be used as an entrance or exit to the building during operating hours.” The letters written on the door meant nothing to me. I had my mind fixed on finding that receipt paper. It was around eight ‘o’clock at night when I ran out that door. Little did I know that there would be no turning back.

I ran parallel to the door, past the drive thru speaker, and headed towards the beaten down storage room located on the far right corner of the parking lot. I jumped over a pothole the size of a tire and slowed down to a power walk while crossing the parking lot. Suddenly, glancing through the corner of my right eye, I saw a small, white vehicle with a fishing pole sticking out the back door window. For some inexplicable reason, as it drove slowly around the front of the building, it caught my attention. When it turned, the front headlights shone my direction and nearly blinded me. I felt like a lost deer running across a highway. Being significantly smarter than a deer, I was aware of the loose gravel and the holes in the ground, so I walked rapidly but carefully, away from the light, towards the heavy duty lock securing the shed. I reached into my pocket to find the key, and once again, looked up to locate that intriguing car. “Great, more customers,” I sighed when the car pulled into a parking space past the big, front windows, between the yellow, brick, side wall of the building and the faded, decrepit storage room.

I stood in front of the shed and struggled to open the ancient door. Finally, with a horn-like war cry, as the metals grinded against each other, the door opened. I stepped into the storage room and began looking for the receipt paper. After I pushed a box from one side of the shelf to the other, some twenty-two ounce, yellow, drinking cups fell on my head and then to the floor. I battled my way through the boxes and could not manage to find any receipt paper.

I defeatedly walked out of the shed into the obscurity of the night. As I closed the door, I noticed a tall, unrecognizable figure exiting that white car and headed my direction. My hands started shaking as the unidentified creature of the night came closer and closer to me. I grabbed the lock and started to fiddle with it pretending to close it as my heart pounded harder and harder against my chest with every passing heartbeat. I panicked. My feet were glued to the ground and every inch of my body was paralyzed. I could not move; I could not scream. A man, as big as an oak tree, brushed his stomach against my shoulder. I looked up and my eyes came across his. They were two perfectly round and yellow eyeballs floating in the air and lost in the midst of darkness. Their sight was directed straight to me, but it was as if he could not see me. He had no soul. I could tell by staring into his eyes. I was terrified. Those eyes reflected – emptiness. It was as if he had been possessed by an evil force and had no will.

As I gazed deeper into the gates of horror, he lifted his hand and grabbed my shirt lightly pulling it about an inch off my right shoulder. Then, he slowly leaned down into my ear and whispered, “Go inside” pronouncing each individual letter with a deep, monotone voice. My body failed to respond. I felt a cold shiver flow through me. My eyes were now closer to his and fixed into that diabolic gaze. My entire life began flashing through my head: Christmas with the family at the age of seven, riding bicycles around the neighborhood with my brothers at the age of 10, going out to my first middle school dance at the age of 13, falling in love at 15, graduating high school at 18, crushing my mother’s heart at the age 19 and at the age of 20, I found myself trapped with a pointy, sharp blade against my throat. I had no way out. No one could hear me. No one could see me. It was just me and him alone in the dark. Forest Guidry was pressing the point of that blade deeper into my throat. I had the contrasting feeling of the cold metal blade and the heat of his breath melting my ear as he whispered softly one more time “Go inside or I will kill you.” I didn’t want to die.

He finally pushed me and picked me up by the front of my shirt in an attempt to throw me inside the shed. I didn’t want to die. I kept pulling back and pulling back. I didn’t want to die. He was losing control waving the knife back and forth as if to stab me. I didn’t want to die. I wanted to tell my mom that I was sorry one more time. I didn’t want to die! I didn’t want to die! I didn’t want to die! I let my body drop and closed my eyes. I began to fall slowly into an endless black hole. As I was falling, I realized that I was already dead. I died the day I turned my back on God, the day I hurt my family, the day I stopped looking forward to waking up in the morning and enjoying a new day. I died the day I could no longer appreciate the people, nature and objects surrounding me.

When I finally hit the ground, I started breathing. The beast fell on top of me and continued to fight. I was not willing to die again. With one blow to his chest, I threw him off of me. I sprang to my feet and began running. God had given me a second chance. As I reached the front door of the restaurant, the simplest of tasks was considered precious. The most ordinary and mundane events fulfilled hours, minutes, and seconds of my life. As I walked through the main entrance of my new store, I acknowledged the fact that moving to Port Arthur was the best reward. I began living.

Thanks for reading,

Gabby Salazar

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