By Debon Victor
The fuck is snow? I see it all over the internet and in those seasonal Christmas movies; they wake up, look outside and suddenly their whole moods change from seeing those white flakes fall to the ground. Meanwhile, I live in the ass crack of Arizona, where we are even lucky to see a cloudy day, where the temperature never drops below 70 and you go to sleep at night sweating. No matter the season, no matter the time of day, all we do is sit here sweaty. Whenever it's windy, all you get is hot air in your face, no comfort breaks from the sun, just another heat wave assault. Shit, when it rains, everyone forgets how to act and suddenly they are ruining new shoes, new clothes, risking their phones to record the rain and you know what? I do the same thing when it rains. Rain is like a mistake for us, like it ain’t supposed to be here, like avocados, so we need to enjoy ever singular moment of it. But one thing we can never enjoy? Snow.
I grew up my whole life without one experience with snow, halfway through my freshman year of high school and the closest I’d gotten was when it snowed for ten minutes. The snow was melting on its way down and by the time it reached us, it was either hail or rain or both. However, this month is going to change that because this month, I will experience snow. I’ve gotten together some other kids and we all are making an effort to experience the snow in the mountains. The mountains are the only place close enough in which snow falls. I remember days where I would wake up and it would be less hot than other mornings. I would look toward the mountains overlooking the rez and there it was, in all of its glory, snow. Mom never had the time to take us, saying our car was not the type to climb mountains, that the only other vehicle that could make the trip was busted up. And that’s where the plan starts.
I like to wake up early and get ready to start to work on the truck. Well, I mostly go and get the rollie thingy that you use to get under the car. Maybe there is a name for it but I don’t know it. When I walk outside, there the truck is, the grey paint scratched all over, the passenger window to the back seat is boarded up with a piece of wood and duct tape. The driver’s side window is duct taped up as well, just duct tape this time. From the front passenger’s window, you can see boxes upon boxes inside the truck. The truck looks like shit and is shit, but this piece of shit will get us to snow.
As I look at the truck I see someone walk up to the driveway, it is Cloud, dressed in his usual sweatpants and black dress shirt. Cloud has been my friend since kindergarten, and he has been helping me with fix up the truck. Cloud is usually the one I find out here in the crack of dawn when I wake up. This time I guess I beat him to it. He lifts up a box and tells me that he brought over some of his dad’s tools to work with.
Cloud gets on one of those rollers and slides under the truck. He places his palm out and says, “Yo can you hand me a wrench?”
I look over to the tools he brought over. I hover my hand over various tools. As I am looking, I shout out, “What kind of wrench man?”
“A wrench, a basic wrench.”
“Um. . . What does it look like?”
“Fucking shit.” Cloud rolls out and he goes over to the tools and picks up some pincer looking one. He looks at me and says, “How you going to be the oldest and not know what the fuck a wrench is? Should’ve paid more attention to tools and not games and maybe your father wouldn’t have left you.”
“Fuck you, my father just left. He doesn’t beat me like yours does.” I say.
“Yeah because your mama is the one beating you.”
“Agh whatever. How is it looking under there?”
Cloud rolls out again and says, “Good. . . I think, I don’t know honestly.”
“Why don’t we ask your dad?”
“Nah he is out fishing.”
“Didn’t take him as the fishing type.”
“He said something about finding a different outlet.”
“The fuck does that mean?”
“No clue but he doesn’t come back til the sun comes down, plus he is going to a New Year's party afterwards, that means we have all day to finish.”
“Sweet.” I get up and walk to the front of the house. I see two people walking up to the driveway. Leon and Jeffery. Leon is wearing his denim jacket that is covered with patches. His hair is tied up into a ponytail, even so you can see how long his hair is from the long ponytail down to his shoulders. Jeffrey sporting a white hoodie with a black shirt and covers his hair with a hat. I wave at them as they walk up. Leon is a junior and the only one of us who can drive good enough, plus he has a part time job so we can buy snacks before we go. Jeffery is Leon’s younger brother; he is a freshman along with me and Cloud. Jeffery is the other car dude and is going to help Cloud. Really me and Leon are here for emotional support.
Leon tosses me a PayDay and says, “Had one left for ya.”
I fist bump him when I catch the PayDay. Leon usually likes to get us all snacks, making sure we at least have something we like to eat. I look over to him and say, “Thanks man. Oh yeah you're in a higher grade than us right?”
Leon smirks and says, “Fucking duh.”
Cloud from under the truck shouts, “Than why the fuck I am a freshman but you are in my science class? Looking like a damn father in there picking up their kids.”
Leon kicks Cloud’s exposed legs, making Cloud flinch and hit his knee on the truck. Cloud rolls out from under and says to Leon, “I know you ain’t hitting me for telling the truth.”
Leon looks down to him and asks, “And?”
Cloud shakes his head and goes back under the truck, “You lucky I am skinny.”
Leon turns to me and says, “Oh yeah why you ask?”
I take a bite of my PayDay and ask, “Why doesn’t it snow here?”
“I don’t fucking know.”
Cloud rolls out from under the truck and grabs a tool and says, “That is why you’re in fucking freshman classes. The fuck do you even do in there? Jerk off?”
Leon kicks him back under the truck. He places a snicker by the tools and says to Cloud, “Oh yeah I got you Snickers.”
Cloud rolls out and grabs the Snickers.
“Sweet. Anyways I am taking my break,” he looks to Jeffery and says, “Want to take a crack at it Jeff?”
Jeffery, who has been at the tail end of the car snickering at the comments made, nods his heads and goes over to the roller and goes under. Cloud kneels besides Jeffery and while eating his snickers, starts talking to him about the truck and what needs to be fixed. Me and Leon open the doors into the truck and look inside.
I bump Leon’s arm and say, “Welp I forgot to mention that we been using this as storage.”
# # #
We got it done, or that is what Jeffery and Cloud said. They said something about a spark plug and ignition, I think, but anyways they say it’s done and now all that is left is to test it out. Leon gets in the driver seats and I get in the passenger seat. Cloud and Jeffery hop in the back. Jeffery closes his door and says to us, “I don’t get why we are sitting in the back, we are the ones who fixed it.”
Leon looks back and says, “I can drive, and its Redd’s truck. Got a problem y’all can hop off now.”
“Why so you can guys can go and play Broke Back Mountain?” Jeffery says.
“Shut the hell up you damn weeb. Let’s just see if this junk of shit will start,” I say.
We all get quiet and Leon looks at me and nods. Leon turns the key, and the truck lets out a loud roar and shakes to life. We roar alongside the truck, shaking the truck as we jump around inside. Leon tugs on my shirt and pulls me into a hug; he grabs Jeffery shirt and pulls him in as well. Jeffery and I pull Cloud into the hug. After a few minutes we calm down and Leon puts the truck into reverse and smirks as he backs up.
“Let’s get on getting on.” Leon says.
# # #
We are on the border of the rez now, inching closer and closer to the mountains. I can’t see the mountains at the moment though because the clouds are moving in and it already got dark out. I look into the backseat and Jeffery is asleep and Cloud is listening to his own music. I look over to Leon and his eyes are red and wide open. He keeps shaking his head and rubbing his eyes.
I tap his shoulder and say, “Let me take over man.”
Leon shakes his head, “No, I got this dude.”
As he says this, the truck shakes like it hit something and it starts to slow down.
Leon hits the steering wheel, “No, don’t fail on me you piece of shit.”
The truck goes dark and it comes to a stop. Leon tries to start it again, but the truck just stutters and shakes. Leon takes out the keys and tosses them to me. He looks back and says, “I thought y’all are mechanics or some shit?”
Jeffery is still sleeping so Leon reaches back and grabs his shoulder and pulls him forward into the seat, making him hit his head.
Jeffery wakes up and looks to Leon and says, “The fuck man? What are we there?”
Leon looks at him and says, “Yeah I just decided to pull over in the middle of the road so we can get some miles in. No dumbass the truck decided to die on us.”
We all look at each other in what little light there is left in the night. Cloud looks at his phone and shows it to us, slightly blinding me.
“I got some service.” Cloud says.
I shake my head and say, “No one is coming Its New Years Eve, they are home partying man” I hit the dashboard and say, “Fuck we were that close to fucking getting there man.”
Leon pats my back and says, “Sorry man, your piece of shit truck couldn’t make it.”
I open the door and get out. Looking to the white sky, I can see or what I assume is probably the white snow falling. I turn around and look back to the rez. Black skies. Shit I can see the stars in that direction. A little bit closer and I would’ve experienced at least a drip of snow. Cloud gets out with me as well and stands next to me.
“Do you think we’ll see snow?” I say to him.
“Doubt it, we are still in the reservation’s depth.” Cloud says.
“What does that mean?”
“Remember when you asked Leon why it doesn’t snow?”
“Well unlike that dumbass. I pay attention.”
The truck honks, making both me and Cloud jump. Leon is inside flipping off Cloud and he says, “Well hey at least the battery is still alive.”
Cloud flips him off back and looks back to the mountain and says, “Well the rez is below sea level. Elevation wise. So the snow takes longer to get to us than other places and by the time it does, it melts and turns to rain.”
“Fuck do I know, that was from my uncle and not Ms. Gonzales.”
“Wait than why did you bring up science class?”
“Makes me sound smarter. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you that I’m failing science.”
I nod my head and look forward to the white clouds. They look so far away and yet this is the closet I have ever been to them. I go to the back of the truck and get our jackets. I toss Cloud his and I put on my mine. Jeffery and Leon walk up behind us and I toss them theirs. We go to the front of the truck and lean against it. I tap Cloud’s shoulder and say, “What’s the time?”
“About to be twelve.” Cloud says.
Jeffery looks over and asks, “When is its New Year's again? When it hits one or twelve?”
“I think twelve. I can look up a countdown for us.” Cloud says as he starts searching on his phone, but before he can find anything. I feel something touch my face.
I look up and there is nothing falling down but I am sure that something hit my face. I touch the spot that it fell on and it is wet. Something touches my face again; I look to the other guys and say, “Y’all feeling this?”
They all look around and shake their heads. Leon looks to me and says, “Don’t feel anything man, must be you.”
I look back to the rez sky, tilting my head to see nothing but the black sky. I see nothing fall over the rez. Maybe I am being too hopeful but that is better than being depressed about something that won’t come. Or maybe it's bad to have hope, I don’t know which is worse; to have hopes and then have them crushed or to expect nothing and feel nothing. Maybe I should’ve kept my expectations low, but can’t a rez kid have dreams? Shit everyone else outside the rez gets to have everything; fancy cars; fancy clothes; schools that have functioning lights, snow. Does being on the rez mean everything is limited? Does that mean we aren’t even worthy of snow? Not good enough to experience something that is a part of nature?
We were nomads. I don’t know exactly what that means but my mother told me that it basically means that we’ve always roamed the lands. That we never had a set place to live and we had the entire country to explore. Now were stuck here where the only thing that can grow is mesquite and cactus.
Cloud elbows me and says, “Yo you being emo again?”
“Maybe.” I say as I bring my head back down.
I should’ve just stayed home today. As I think that, I feel something touch my face again. I look back up and something hits my eye. I flinch and put my head down and start rubbing my eyes.
“What the fuck?” Leon says.
I look up and look at Leon with my good eye. He is holding his hands out and feeling the air. I feel a tug on my jacket. I turn around to see Cloud with his mouth wide open staring in front of him, with one hand holding onto me and the other going outwards. He looks at me and says, “You seeing this bro?”
I wipe my eyes one more time and look in front of me. Snow? Small little white flakes fall slowly down to the ground. Even with no moon in sight, I can see farther ahead of me, like this, this, this snow? I can see far up ahead of me with no headlights. As if each flake is a small beacon of light and they are all coming together to brighten the way. It's like a falling wall of white flour. I hold my hand out and let the snow fall into my hands. I notice just now that it's cold. My hands are numb. Cold. Snow. This is snow.
Debon Victor is an San Carlos Apache Tribe member. He attended IAIA from 2017 to 2022.