Perfection. I must put up a perfect mix.
As Ma drives me in her beat-up Chevy to the junior competition that could kick off my DJ career, I can’t stop thinking about the techno samples and their order and the transitions.
She leans forward and grips the wheel harder, her long jet-black hair cascading over her shoulders. “¿Estás bien, Alejandra?”
“Yeah, I’m okay.” I want her to call me Alex like everybody else, but she doesn’t like it.
She peers at me and frowns. “Español, Alejandra.”
“Sí, Ma. Estoy bien.”
Ma insists I speak Español because “I’ll forget my Spanish.” Since we moved to Los Angeles five years ago, I practice it every single day, video-calling with my friends back in Mexico. And they tell me I speak like a gringa—Chicano accent and all, but they’re just messing with me.
Ma faces me as the car stops at a red light. “¿Segura?” She asks if I’m sure I’m okay.
I open my mouth but don’t dare say a word because it took a big effort to convince her to drive me across the city.
She cocks her head. “Responde.”
“Estoy segura,” I say.
Locking her brown eyes on mine for a moment, she sighs and turns her attention to the road.
When the car moves, I power down my window and let the fresh night air fill my lungs. A few people stroll here and there, and lamps light the street, passing by the window, one after the other. But we’re going too slowly.
“Vamos a llegar tarde.” I say we’ll be late.
Ma glances at me. “No me gusta tu pasatiempo.” She doesn’t like my ‘passtime.’
I hate when Ma calls my DJing—my passion—a passtime. “No es un pasatiempo,” I say through gritted teeth.
She shakes her head. “Eso no deja dinero.”
I shift in my seat and ignore her. Ever since I told her I wanted to a DJ, she insists there’s no money in DJIng, and that I’m too young to be a DJ. I started mixing last year, when I was fifteen years old, but famous DJs start even younger.
We enter a shady part of the city with abandoned buildings. The trash on the street, and the lack of people and cars give me shivers. I check behind us. Nobody, as if we’ve entered a ghost town. I set my headphones around my neck and drum my fingers in my lap, doing a mental exercise, counting the beats per minute of the first sample.
As the car turns, rusty warehouses come into view, and people rush on the sidewalks, heading to a warehouse with a rainbow of lights coming from inside. We line up behind a million cars moving so slowly, I worry I’ll miss the contest.
I grab the door handle. “Aquí me bajo,” I say I’ll get out here.
Ma stares at me. “No.”
I’m already late, I think I am, but Ma’s glare keeps me in place.