I am the coyote
Over the last several years, just about every Thursday night that I’ve been at home I’ve played indoor soccer from 9:30pm to 10:30pm with a bunch of Mexican gentlemen. I was introduced to this weekly game by one of my best friends from High School, henceforth known as Brown Bear – we used to be really into scrubs, and him being Brown helped us really get into the JD/Turk, vanilla Bear/Brown Bear mantra. BB is Guatemalan, and he was an illegal alien when he came into this country until he was about 10, when his family became naturalized citizens.
Apparently that whole process is harrowing, as basically you show up with your whole family at some very official government building, and once there, you either get the opportunity to become a US citizen and continue to live your life in peace and quiet or they deport the fuck out of you. How they make that assessment is beyond my ken, though I think having 5 kids in the family may have helped.
To make a long story short, his mom is one of 13 children, and every year or two one of her brothers will find their way in from Guatemala (there’s four here now, and I gather they take trucks, as air travel requires a level of legality beyond their means), live in their house for a couple months until they can find work and some roommates, and then go on their merry way. Their English isn’t particularly good so they find jobs at Mexican restaurants, where they make friends with the Mexican guys who work there and love soccer, and it is in this roundabout way that I know they play soccer on Thursdays and get to play with them.
It felt a bit awkward at first for me, since I’m the only white American guy who plays with them on Thursday nights. Of the 15-22 guys that show up every week, only perhaps four speak English well enough to say anything other than hello or pass, and despite playing with these guys for years the only interaction the majority of us have is the traditional good game fist bump. In keeping with this, despite playing with them for years, I know almost none of their names. I know one guy, Kris, partly because he’s the one everyone gives the game fee too, but mostly because he’s the only one who speaks English well enough to complain properly when I trip him. There’s Wilmer, Brown Bear’s cousin, but everyone calls him Cabanas, with the n having that squiggly thing that changes the way you pronounce it. And Raphael, who is about my age but always brings this 4-5 year old girl, which makes me think he’s either a really helpful uncle or made a horrific mistake.
After that though, I’ve got nothing. They call this one guy something that sounds like Weedle, which I hope is actually his name because I love nothing more than people who don’t know their names are also Pokemon. The fat kid I thought was named Albert they always shout “Chivas” at, so I’m going to assume that’s his name but will continue to call him Albert in my head. One of Brown Bears other uncles is called taco, make of that what you will.
Despite this utter lack of common language, communication problems aren’t that big a deal, and Spanish is starting to slowly creep into my lexicon. I never shout time anymore, it’s “tiempo” and faster has become “rapido.” I will refrain from a cheap “pass is passo, get it, because Spanish words end in o” joke because no one has ever made one that’s actually good.
Outside the language problems, there’s also a fun clash of playing style. They play exactly like I always sort of thought Mexicans would play. First, they all love to dribble. I used to watch the Argentine professional league and even the defenders there play as if they aren’t allowed to pass until they had dribbled past an opponent first, and the same rule seems to apply. That’s partly because we’re just messing around and beating people is fun, but it also just seems ingrained that they like to hold onto the ball perhaps a couple seconds longer than they should. It’s actually a refreshing change from the sterilized, serious soccer you see at club level, where it’s all first touch passing and movement and dribbling is frowned upon, but it can be annoying when you’re hanging out wide open in front of the net and they resolutely tell you to fuck off by trying to finagle their way through a packed defense all alone.
They’re also sneaky fast, and incredibly shifty. Everyone seems to have this preternatural, innate ability to turn on a fucking dime in the middle of a full sprint. They’re also great about shielding opponents from the ball and turning themselves every which way until they’ve shaken them off – they’re tricky people!
But you don’t give a shit about soccer so I’m going to get to the part that amuses me about the games, and that is that every single guy I play with is in America illegally. BB and I had been joking about it for years, every Thursday he’ll ask if I’m down for some illegal soccer action, something silly like that. All in good fun! Then one day two years ago, “gato” stopped coming. After about a month I thought it was a little weird, and BB confirmed that there had been a police raid on Acapulco’s, the restaurant Gato worked at, and he had been deported. WOW! I thought. Shit got real! Gustavo, the Brazilian kid who used to play with us had self-deported after his Visa ran out when we were in high school, but this was the first actual non-intentional country eviction I had been privy to.
Surely this was an isolated incident I thought, and didn’t bother thinking about any of the other guys’ residence status. Over the next couple years none of them disappeared that I could remember, but I was in school a lot so didn’t play for months at a time and couldn’t be totally sure, and never really paid it much attention – as I’ve stated before, being oblivious is a talent of mine.
Then, last month, Gato came back. He wasn’t as good as he had been but it looked like the same kid, and everyone certainly seemed to be calling him Gato. While the odds there were two similar looking Mexicans nicknamed cat in my area were probably pretty high, I was still confident I had found a match, and I mentioned it to BB. What follows is a pretty accurate transcript of what we said, as close as I can get wearing a wire when I wander around. “Hey is that Gato? It looks like him. He’s not very good anymore though, I don’t think prison agreed with him.”
Winnie agreed with me that Gato had indeed come back and was shittier, and I followed up with, “Hey so how many of these guys are actually here illegally? Like how did Gato come back?”
Winnie gave me the look he always gives me when he re-remembers that while I’m his friend, I’m also a hopelessly clueless and naïve member of the white establishment. “Vanilla Bear. You’re a retard. they’re all here illegally. Gato came in a truck.”
“Wait all of them? I always thought a couple of them were and we were just kidding.”
“I mean we are kidding because it’s funny but none of them are here legally. Like, Wilmer got deported last year. They threw him in jail for a month and sent him back to Guatemala and then a couple months later he hitched a ride back up here.”
“Wow! Holy shit!” this was some serious fucking news to me. “They actually put him in jail? I was just kidding earlier. Jesus that’s rough. And he just came back in a couple months?”
“Yeah they all do. It’s not that hard.” This was absolutely blowing my mind.
“Even though they might go to jail? That would be awful I would definitely do very poorly in jail.” As I thought about it, the wheels started turning in my head, because I’m always one for entertaining fictive hypothetical’s. “So Winnie, is there like a reward for turning in immigrants? Like if I called the police here one day would they give me a million bucks?”
“They might give you a sticker or a certificate or something. Definitely no money. Oh and we would all beat the shit out of you.”
“Wait you would join them?”
“Well I’m not going to help you fend off two dozen pissed off Mexicans. Especially if you’re going to pull that kind of a dick move, you would deserve it.
“Nah I wouldn’t do that, I was just wondering. What would happen though if the police just randomly cased this joint while we were playing?”
“Oh they would all get deported. You’d probably go to jail though, they would think that you were the coyote.” The coyote? Now there is a sweet term for a criminal, I feel like someone could do a lot worse than to be called the coyote. I was learning things left and right! “The coyote is the guy who leads everyone in to the country. They don’t come in blind, they need to have someone pointing them out where to go and what to avoid, all that. And as the resident white person, you would be the coyote.”
So there you have it kids. If I ever disappear for no explicable reason, odds are that haven’t been kidnapped – who would want me? – or run away, because I’m a creature of comfort, and where would I go? No, you would do well to check my local jail, because I am the coyote.