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Splitting up wasn’t anything mystical. Or like any of those other halfie stories, Jekyll and Hyde, that Italian knight and duke. Or like an episode of every science-fiction show ever where Commander Goodnwhite splits into the evil half with a dick and the sissy one with the brains. It’s not about good and evil. It was more like gentrification and white flight coming together, or in this case pulling away. My brown side had about enough with getting pushed under the water and stymied. Equally so the white side was sick of thinking he was going to get a bit of white male privilege and instead be ignored like he was Chewbacca, who only fixes things and speaks in growls. It was time to go our separate ways.
It may help to know that I, that is the old I, the whole half-breed, talked to myself. And it escalated. Walking about I’d say something like, “Orale!” And then as a joke to myself, “Shut up, beaner.” Or in a store, I’d want to complain to a manager and I’d say, “Forget it, you stupid gabacho.”
We got a mannequin we each could use to complete the lost half and since we could only find a white mannequin, we went outside and spray-painted one half brown. When Halfie me looked down at the two sawed wooden halves, he felt the split already happening.
Yet the actual operation began in the shower. Separating took a long time, looking for pale spots and pushing, finding brown ones and shoving, but eventually, moving this lump, stretching the scalp, and pushing on our nose made it so one side was white, pale, and the other was brown, chestnutty. Brown me could already think better in Spanish, but was still not fluent. Still Chicano, after all. I felt unsteady and at war and we slipped down into the tub. We fumbled for the saw and started sawing. Blood gushed till we pushed the lumpy skin around the wounds and some kind of balance returned and the bleeding stopped. Everything down the middle, as we agreed, but laying in the tub, I didn’t trust the white boy because of the usual reasons: broken treaties, exploitation, greed, entitlement, airs of clueless blamelessness, and all that line cutting. I knew him and what he thought after being tied to him for a lifetime. And I knew from a lifetime of being half brown that any agreement with him would just be a delaying action to better rip me off, like with Cortez or any American president. His paler and paler hand was constantly getting slapped down by my browner and browner hand as he aggrandized parts of my body. As we split and floated more apart in the tub, my dark brown eye stared into his left blue eye (he was taking after our white grandfather more and more) with anger till we completed the most uncomfortable partition – the wang (his flushed pink like a dying salmon, mine a purpley redwood). And then all the skin was sealed, and finally we were two separate halves.
I, brown me, looked down in the tub as water mixed with blood and the floated bits of skin and saw a squishy organ that looked like we should have been more careful with before it lay looking like cat puke in the grimy bathtub. My big toe cleared the drain, though. No time for haruspication of entrails. We both crab-crawled out of the tub and he probably thought the same as me – now what?
Because we hadn’t discussed things like who’d get what or who’d live where. It was on my mind as we laid there on the bathroom floor staring at each other flopping around like dropped goldfish. We both grabbed our wooden halves and superglued them on and hobbled to the counter for our clothes. Polo shirt and a Cosby sweater for him. Chinos and a button-up for me. Once dressed, I stood unsteadily to stare into the pale face of every unaccepting family member and every coward who jumped me with his friends. He must have stared into the brown eyes of every Mexican that called us pocho or vendido and let the half-breed fight packs of rednecks by himself.
And then our fight was on.
It was like two peg-legged pirates in a brawl. He of course escalated by grabbing a weapon, the toilet brush, since he knew we both hate germs. He D’Artagnan-ed me out to the living room with the icky brush till he reached the phone. He held me at bay as he said in the whitest, nerdiest voice I’ve ever heard, “There is an intruder in my house, I do believe he is armed and a Mexican.” Then I knew his plan. He was going to go for our white father’s shotgun and gun me down or let the police do it so I’d be just another dead Mexican with no documentation and he’d be rid of me neatly. Brown rage got me through other fights and so I slapped him and the brush down on the floor and got on top. Then I made an infinite mirror regression by forcing his real hand to slap his head and telling him, “Stop hitting yourself.” Then I realized I didn’t need to fight. I stood and grabbed the wooden white mannequin half of him and dragged his ass out the house with him screaming, “Come on guy! That isn’t fair!” and locked the door.
And when the police came, I won, for once, mostly because in the US, there is no “a little brown.” As I stood with my hands in the air, they threw me down and cuffed me. They talked to white me forever and only came and asked me half a question and then they checked our ID for the usual hour, because not many Chicanos are named Scott Duncan. Yet the police didn’t notice my hair is now black instead of dark brown or that my beige red skin is now full on nut-brown. White me was screaming in that nerd voice, “That goddamn spic stole my identity, officer!” but I had yearbooks, certificates, and my neighbor came out and said he never saw that white guy before. The police didn’t look happy, they acted like they were doing me a favor like my white neighbor did, and though they didn’t apologize for knocking me to the ground, putting guns on me, and asking me if I spoke English as we spoke English, they took my white boy away.
Now I don’t know if I feel decolonized, more true to la raza, or if I am closer to the dozen of colonized Indian tribes within me, but empowered or not, I’m still the beaner, the conquered people of the Southwest who can get shot for walking by an imaginary border or just for walking in our own neighborhood. White me has no place to live, can’t prove his ID, has to make new friends, is unrecognizable to family, and now has legal troubles, but he has an education and light skin. He won’t get ignored like Chewbacca, but get seen as Han Solo, white hero no matter how much smuggling he does. And I’ll be fighting with him the rest of my life and no matter how eloquent or close to the truth I get, people will still only hear me growl.