The Eye of the Needle

The Eye of the Needle

A Story by sinNsincerity
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Creative Nonfiction Rough Draft

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Cast the First Stone

It was the Fall of 1997, and it was a sunny September afternoon that steamed the soles of my Stephon Marbury And 1 basketball sneakers. I walked to Duke’s Liquor store in East L.A and then to the Plaza Market with my mom to grab some leche, eggs, half a pound de jamón, chamomile tea, a pack of Marlboro Lights 100’s, and a TV Guide that had a picture of Princess Diana on the cover to honor her death.

My mom loved her TV Guides and she also loved Princess Di. One thing she didn’t love was clutter in our small one-room apartment that my Dad could barely afford, but she had to keep this as a collectible item. I guess she wanted a token by which to honor Princess Di. For my mother, the Princess became known and beloved as the People's Princess in part because of her tireless commitment to helping others and also using the media's attention on her to shine a light on charitable causes. I’m sure this is probably why most loved her, along with my Mom, but Lady Di was also controversial for not following the traditional rules of the crown and royal family. Some people commented on the way she dressed and how provocative she was. There was also talk about affairs in her marriage. Were these reasons enough for her protection under God to wear out? 

I would hope not. I did know that I was problematic at a young age. I questioned authority. I have always known right, but I have always chosen to take the left-hand path, while always knowing I should walk with God. Not in a malicious manner, but free enough to carve my own path in this life. Free to make my own choices. My own mistakes. To learn my lessons the hard way like a bonehead if I wanted. Free will is what I love.

To contemplate, then as an eight-year-old and now in my thirties, as to how God can allow a person’s life to be uprooted from existence the way she passed on? In a traffic accident fleeing from paparazzi, I wondered if she saw the light at the end of that Paris tunnel. Did all the good she did here on earth get her into club church? I wondered if I would be granted access to enter the pearly gates? 

As my mother and I passed St Lucy’s Church on our way back home, I was captivated by the 3 story mural that is painted on the entire North face of the church. There’s a golden cross on the face of the three-story mural that is used to divide space for four separate images. This represents the Cardinal Cross and relates to the death and resurrection of Christ. Also, the four cardinal directions: North, South, East, West. And on a deeper level, a crossroads: the right path or the left path. Right and wrong. The center of the cross holds the Cardinal Heart, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and according to Catholicism, it is the center where divine love resides within each and every one of us. Standing on the heart is the image of the Cardinal Bird that symbolizes the holy spirit. Encompassing the bird, heart, and cross is the thorn crown that laid upon Jesus’s head to mock his claim to authority. The main two images depict the Virgin Mary. In one, she is cradling a child surrounded by angels. In the other, she is doing the same to a fallen gang member son who has his eyes covered by a red blindfold. 

The Virgin Mother is depicted as a protector for the innocent baby and the fallen gang member, and, I’m guessing who seek and need protection from unnecessary pain and death. everyone else who lies in between. I again began to think about why some people, good people, were excluded from protection at times. Enough time for an untimely death. I wondered: did these good people have secrets that challenged the authority of God? A pull that pushed back? Were they conscious of walking the left path? And if so, did they consider the consequences? The pit they dug for themselves to lay in? 

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” we both recited as we passed the church, “Amen.” 

We had just hooked a right from the end of the piss-stained alley, which was connected to the main street, City Terrace Dr., and ran up vertical to my block of Woolwine Dr. As we had both just made the sign of the cross twice as we passed St. Lucy’s Church, Mom scolded me. I remember her smacking me in the back of the head when we were seven houses away from our home for not walking, standing, and looking up straight and tall. The weight of the groceries in my arms felt like I was carrying my own cross to my crucifixion. 

Smack.

"Pick up your head, pendejo. You need to watch where you're walking. You can crash into a pole. You can step in s**t. You can ... ”

“Wouldn’t it help to have my head down to not step in poop, Ma?” I asked. This really made me hot like the bottom of my And 1’s. Hot enough to wish I could cast the first stone at Mom in that moment. A stone at the firmament. A stone at God and his dumb angels. Where were those angels to shield the top of my dome when I needed protection? Where was my guardian that mom said would watch over me? Where were you, Virgin Mother? Where were you to protect the Princess? Where were you, God? The more I questioned, the more I felt alone. I felt like my questions would never be answered. Thus, leading me to crossroads. 

“David Jr, don’t you test my nerves, okay? You better listen to me. I’m not playing. Do you want to end up like those men in the alley who drink and do drugs all day when you grow up? Do you want to get snatched by a pervert and thrown in their trunk? Do you think it’s funny? You better stop laughing, cabrón. You're a boy and the oldest of your four brothers and sister. You need to stand up straight and tall. You need to set the right example for them to follow. Do you want to develop a hunchback? Who will marry you then? Who mijo? And don’t forget, she better be a good girl who goes to church. Your grandmother will kill me if you did otherwise. You know how your dad’s family is."

“Oh my God. I'm only eight. I just did my first communion.” Looking back, I remember how much I hated going to church growing up. The classes on early Saturday mornings meant I had to miss my cartoons. I barely had time for cereal. “Who the heck am I gonna marry, huh?” But I did like reading my bible at times. What I didn’t enjoy was mass. It turned me off because we always attended the hour that was held in Spanish. I couldn’t speak it well enough then to save my soul from the devil. I could only understand it if it was spoken clearly and directly to me. The priest at the time was very old and bored me to death. His monotone voice rained of boredom and made an hour of scripture feel like I was Moses waiting for his dove to return with an olive leaf to signal the flood was receding. I would pray hard. I promised God that I’d be good to my Mom, Dad, and brothers and sisters if time sped up. If he would have gotten me out of there, s**t, I would have broken that promise because I had done so before. “ Who, Mom? My 4th grade teacher? The nuns at church?" I smirked and laughed and almost pissed myself as tears crept out of my eyes.

Wack. 

"Don't you use the Lord's name in vain. You want real tears? Wait 'till your father gets home and I tell him what you said. I will wash your mouth out with soap and feed you beans for a week. Dios te va a castigar mijito.” “God is going to punish you my sweetie,” a phrase used by most Mexican mothers.

“But I love beans, Ma, and God loves me, I jabbed back. “Why would he punish me? I’m an angel. Plus, that’s why I have you to protect me.” I  swiftly used my ninja skills to sidestep and avoid her third attempt to smack my head. Little did Mom know that when my eyes observed the baby canyons in the concrete, I was playing a game in my head before she smacked me. Little did Mom know that if I were to step on a crack, that it would break her back. Little did Mom know, I stepped on every crack from that day forward. And I didn't care. Sadly, I didn't care about what would have happened to her at that moment. I didn't care about anything. Anything but ninjas, Star Wars, and SEGA. 

Even though I was joking, I still hated it when my mom smacked me. Not because I got smacked, but because it was a smack only your mom can give you and no one could say s**t about it. Even in public. No one. Not a cop. Not even the Lord himself. People would cheer her on in the hood. “Dat’s right girl. You teach that boy to respect his mother.” 

Now that I look back at it and took the opportunity to get to know my Mom better as I’ve aged, I get why she was so stern. I get why she smacked me. You see, my mom is first generation Mexican America. Her parents came here from Nayarit, Mexico, where it’s considered to be the birthplace of Aztec civilization. She’s told me about how much of a hard a*s her dad was. How he and his brothers would call themselves Los Macho Flacos. It translates to skinny males, but Mom said it meant more than that. She has mentioned how they would drink and get into brawls. I’ve always thought that was lame as f**k and still do. My grandfather would later leave my Mom, aunt, and grandma to start a new family back in Mexico. My Mom would later follow in his footsteps. My mom became a heavy drinker. She took the left path. She was oh her way towards a collision like Princess Di. But Mom’s was long and slow. 

David vs Goliath 


The following Fall in ‘98, I began the fourth grade. I didn’t grow any wiser that year. You can say I probably got dumber. I’ll tell you why.

I have a secret that I never told anyone about. One of my daily routines on the playground of Harrison Elementary and Middle School was another game that I would play all by myself. A game against the sun. A staring contest. In a sense, a staring contest held against God. A contest that I would always lose and one that would always set me to crash and burn like Phaethon did when he ascended into heaven and tried to drive his father’s chariot of the sun in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. At the time, I had no metaphor to explain this bout I had with the sun. I would count how many seconds I could stare without looking away. My highest record ever was nine Mississippis. In retrospect, this is the most defiant and blasphemous thing I have ever done. What made me think I could beat the sun? To face God head on like Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost? I was just pissed I had to carry a cross that wasn’t mine. Why did I have to carry the sins of my fathers? Did Christ carry the sins of his dad? Did God decide to use our sins as a cop out? These were questions I had as a little kid. 

Thinking back at it, I was so stupid for doing this. I knew it would hurt my eyes, but I did it anyway. I had to. I had to know what was on the other side of the looking glass. I know by now you might be thinking how foolish it was for me to do this, but what if I told you did Sir Isaac Newton did something similar to his eyes? 

After becoming uneasy with note-taking in his scholarly career, Newton took interest and experimented with optics. On one occasion, Newton sought to experiment on himself. Specifically, his very own eyeballs. In early papers, Newton drew a diagram with notes recollecting his observations from his experiments, which, in detail, describes why he pursued very extreme experimentations. Experimentations that led him to press his fingers into his eyeballs with small amounts of force applied. While increasing the force each time, his hypothesis proved him correct that through the pressing of his fingers onto his eyeballs, Newton induced colors and other effects that led him to experiment further into optics.

The curiosity and the colors that Newton had witnessed led him to want to see past the looking glass as well. Newton would later proceed to stick and slide a sewing tool, called a bodkin, in between his eyeball and the bone of the socket. In his detailed notes, Newton describes sticking the bodkin as near to the backside of his eyes as he could. He would press with such a force to induce curvature in the eye. He stated that he saw several white, dark, and colored circles. This effect was visible and increased as he would rub his eyes, but he learned that the same effects did not occur when he held the bodkin still in place.

I saw these same white, dark, and colored circles when I stared at the sun no matter how Mississippis I counted. Newton’s relationship with vision and sensations would later lead him to stare directly into the sun for several short periods of time through one of his telescopes. After he stared directly into the sun, he would enter a dark study room to blink rapidly. This allowed him to observe the impressions made and the circles of colors which encompassed it and how they decayed by degrees. After replicating this experiment two more times, Newton recalls when the phantasm of light and colors vanished slowly in the dark and reappeared when he stared back at the sun. He did this with the right eye only and discovered that if he looked at a book, the clouds, or any object with his left eye, the same effects would take place.

Somehow, unknowingly, I shared a common curiosity with Sir Isaac Newton. A curiosity that led him to be known as one of the greatest renaissance men ever to exist. I, on the other hand, shared none of his genii. I just ended up with poor sight and glasses. I was just as dumb as Thomas Edison when he shot x rays directly into his eyeballs even though Nikola Tesla told him not to. 

I mentioned earlier that when you pull you get a push back. Though I stared at the sun, I never pressed my fingers against my eyeballs or ever thought about sticking a bodkin into my eye. Fate will sometimes stick those fingers into your eyes for you. Maybe they were God’s fingers for how defiant of a kid I had always been. Anyway, at this moment we will call them Dennis’s fingers. Dennis was a giant. Three feet taller than I. Goliath reborn. A fellow fourth-grader. A thug. 

It all began with a game of flag football held during our P.E. time. Dennis was on offense and I was on defense, playing free safety. This gave me the ability to roam freely in the backfield as I watched and followed the quarterback’s eyes without having to cover a specific player. I read the passer’s eyes and jumped Dennis’s route and intercepted the ball. Dennis made an attempt to tackle me, but I stiff-armed him right on the forehead. This forced the giant towards the ground for a moment. Earlier in the game, he had been talking smack about how everyone was afraid to guard him because he was huge. He was right about everyone except for me. I was celebrating with one of my classmates. I kicked the football away from the field to signal, “get that s**t out of here.” I admit. I was a tad bit boastful. The goliath wasn’t happy about that and choked me from behind. He then slammed me onto the dirt field, and then he pressed his hips along with all his weight over my chest. I couldn’t breathe. To top it off, he pressed both his thumbs into each of my eyes with all his might. I could have shared the same fate as Oberyn from Game of Thrones

All I could think of at the moment was to stay alive long enough for the Virgin Mary to save me. God? Jesus? I thought, “f**k, I’m going to die.” I wanted a teacher to grab this monster. Somebody. Anybody? Where was the teacher? Where were my friends?

I was three Mississippi’s deep when I began to see the white light Princess Di must have seen. Was this my end? She had done a ton of good as far as I knew, and I hadn’t done any good in this world. I wasn’t ready to meet you yet God. I knew I would go to hell if I died then. I would beat up my brothers, curse my parents in my head, I never did my school work. Yea, I was going to hell for sure. Was I going to have to carry my eyes on a dish like St. Lucy, but in hell, if I lost this battle? This couldn’t be my end, so I swore to be a good son and prayed to God, that if he gave me the strength to get out of this one, that I would never sin again. That was a lie. 

Before blacking out, I attempted to punch him in the throat. I landed flush on his Adam’s apple. I had heard him choke and the weight of his body release me as I landed the blow. My stomach was numb and my eyes throbbed. I held back the tears the best I could, some still slide down my cheeks. I was tough that day, but I got wrecked. Wrecked like Diana. Wrecked like Phaethon. I learned that life could hit you hard sometimes when you don’t see it. Maybe I shouldn’t have made Denis look stupid after the interception. Maybe he would have never would have attacked me? Maybe Diana would be alive if she never got in that car? Maybe I should have kept my head up as my Mom said? Like 2Pac said? 

No teacher knew about what happened that day. I liked it that way. I didn’t want more people to hear of my defeat. To hear that I didn’t have a heart, that my friend Joe had to guide me to the restroom so I could flush out my eyes with cold water as if Jesus was going to give me my sight back. 

Luckily for me, Dennis had been sent to Angel Gate Academy, a boot camp in San Luis Obispo where the bad kids got sent when they lacked discipline, respect, and order. I received all that in one day. I may have lost that fight, but I learned that you can’t quit on life just like I didn’t. Just like my Mom hasn’t. I also learned that sometimes we are on our own. Sometimes we won’t be saved. Sometimes life stabs you in the eyes. Sometimes life takes you short like Princess Di. Sometimes you have to punch life in the throat when you feel doom lurking. I’ve learned you can stare at the sun and still have sight. That you can stick needles in your eyes and still be enlightened. I believe that my tribulations give me strength. If there is really a heaven, I can endure my cross. If not, f**k it, I’ll be staring at the sun with bodkins in my eyes for eternity I suppose.

© 2020 sinNsincerity


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Reviews

Wow I haven't read anything of yours in a long time - and I have only ever read poetry - it seems you have a real flair for writing - well done... I love the opening - the talk about you and your mom - that really got me and hooked me - i like the way you described things early on - like areal snippet into your past reality. I do like the mention of Diana but you probably (in my wee opinion) could have kept that short. All of the God stuff went on a bit for me - but that cos I was not bought up on God stuff.

I think you really have the makings of something here - with some refining - you could probably bleed about half the words away - keep it snappy like at the start - it could really develop - I am loving this style - well done my friend and happy new year to ya XX

Posted 1 Week Ago


Your story kept me glued to the screen. Nice one.

Posted 1 Week Ago


I am no great reviewer of fiction, lacking the patience to close-read long texts. But the parts I scanned seemed fine, racy tempo, good style, good write.

Posted 1 Week Ago


In the narrator and his mother, you have created vivid characters and established the tension between them as a background for the drama to play itself out. That said, I think you need to establish a central theme early and adhere to it throughout the story. I felt you were wandering into sideshows throughout the work. You did bring these all together at the end, but the lack of unity before that caused me to lose interest. Go over the piece again and see how you can tighten it up. You might even have the makings of a novel here.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


well done. i read the whole thing. i liked it.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


Wonderful was glued from start to finish great !

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


I found this really fascinating and well told. The way you've painted your childhood really sets the mood and the atmosphere of being in Los Angeles in that time, and it felt tangible. As someone who is not religious and never has been, the way you question what being religious means and how that impacts your life at such a young age was interesting to me and I like that you split the discussion with that bit about Newton, since science and religion is often opposite. I'd be curious if you could take this further and if you're planning too. I think that you could really dive deep into yourself and make for a wonderful biography/nonfiction telling of your childhood and how that's shaped you today. I think that would be a fantastic read.

From a technical standpoint, there were a couple little grammar and punctuation errors in here. They didn't detract from the story, but may be worth another copy edit if you want to publish this anywhere.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


Mmm Mothers God will make you eat beans

things mothers say

We got eat your crust it will make your hair curly
"I don't want curly hair - they will call me a sissy"



Posted 2 Weeks Ago


great life story my friend,,real,relate able

Posted 2 Weeks Ago



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Added on January 13, 2020
Last Updated on January 13, 2020

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sinNsincerity
sinNsincerity

East Los Angeles, CA



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