Carlos is cocooning. The sound resonating inside the pupal casing of his mind is the dull thud of shock. He's been here before, when he was a kid. Now 19, the handsome, young, undocumented Mexican-American is dodging bullets and beat cops again, trying to find a moment's rest while he gets his bearings before taking flight again.
"Last night I had a dream," he says, as he walks the streets of Chinatown at dusk. "I was on a ride going somewhere but not knowing where. I saw my uncle's face, then I was in a place where I seen the earth and a big-ass hole in the earth. In the dream there was a long hallway with a bright light at the end."
Carlos knew that a storm was brewing when a friend took him to see a medium in the projects in East L.A. a few weeks ago. She told his fate by reading cigarette ashes. When she said he was being pursued by an aggressive spirit that he had provoked, he knew exactly what she was talking about. Things had been going wrong for the last three months. He traced his bad luck back to the day he visited a friend's apartment, where there was an altar to San Simon.
San Simon, the dark saint in a black suit, red tie, wide-brimmed hat and mustache, is an incarnation of the pre-Columbian Mayan god of the underworld, "Mam" (aka the Ancient One), later known as Maximon, the "opener of the way" usually seen seated at a crossroads. He is the champion of the hopeless.
"He likes money, cigarettes," Carlos says. He threw a dollar on the altar on his way out the door. "Later I told my other friend and he said, 'Hey, man, the thing you did there was wrong. That's a really jealous santo.'
"I started having bad vibrations, so I went to get a limpia [spiritual cleansing]. They clean you up and take the bad vibes out of you."