Tag Archives: family

Growing Up George: Ch. 5 The Kid’s Menu

After the funeral, my uncle Jorge, whom apparently I had been named after, invited me to dinner at Estafano’s, the same spaghetti joint we’d gone to when I was a kid. I followed his Porsche into the city, texting Aunt Matty to meet us there. But I already knew she didn’t have data on her phone.

The waitress sat us in the patio and handed me a kid’s menu along with the regular one. My uncle asked if I’d gotten into the team. I had. He asked if I had a girlfriend. I hadn’t. What my plans were for college. The waitress brought over my scallop appetizers and I ordered tilapia. But suddenly I didn’t feel like eating.

“I’m just concentrating on the day-to-day stuff I got going on, you know. Not falling behind. Staying off drugs, outta gangs, that sort of thing. Takes up a lot of energy.”

“I’m not pressuring you, but I know kids just like you who’ve graduated from that same school who are making over two hundred ‘k’ per year. You just gotta get into the right schools. The right mentality.”

You mean the mentality where you ignore your nephew for years at a time and then try to make up for it with one meal? No birthdays, no Christmas, no nothing. Just be this figure on paper who shows up when his schedule allows him.

“Nah, I pass.”

“George, I’ve looked at your grades. You don’t have to settle. With the right connection, you can get into Princeton or Yale.”

I shook my head violently. “What do you think I wanna be? Some hot shot lawyer?”

My uncle bowed his head down but I didn’t pause. “Since I was twelve I’ve been fixing Tía Matty’s car. In fact I already have a job. That’s my future you’re asking me about. The stars already lined up for me. And you know what, I’m glad you weren’t around to help all these years, cause if you were, I might’ve never learned to do even that. I might be helpless relying on some letter of recommendation from some rich condescending sponsor I’ve only met once or twice. Not unlike yourself.”

I regretted the words darting out of my mouth but not in time to stop myself.

The waitress made her usual round. “Can I get you anything?”

“I WANT MORE LEMONADE!” I slammed my glass on the table not letting my eyes stray from my uncle’s.

He laughed. “I’m sorry, Miss. My nephew’s very passionate about lemonade.”

I turned to look at the waitress, all the blood rushing to my face.

“Oh man. I’m so- I’m so-” I hadn’t stuttered in ages.

“I’ll be right back.” The waitress turned around and left.

“Sorry!” The words finally made it out of my mouth. I stood there looking up at the sky, for what felt like forever, clenching my fists, wondering why the hell God didn’t just put me out of my misery.

Yes, I had made varsity. But now I wasn’t going to have time to work at the shop. I was never going to afford my own car, much less fucking college. My life would start eventually when I’d get a girl- Cindy- pregnant and her parents would force her to marry me. Then I’d be working 12 or 16 hour days, come home, yell at her “where’s my dinner,” have a couple beers and be too tired to have sex. She’d yell at me for never helping with the kids- we’d have five or six by then- and I’d turn the volume up on the soccer game on T.V. Pure bliss.

I sat back down and put my head into my arms. “At least I’ll be there. They’ll see me and know what I look like. They’ll ask me stupid questions like how come birds fly and what happens to light after you turn the switch off. I’ll make up the best answers any dad’s ever come up with. I’ll be a good dad. And when they go off to college I’ll take my wife to Europe and all that shit. And no stranger’s gonna come patronize them, cause they’ll be my kids, not yours or welfare’s or no one else’s.”

My uncle put his arm on my shoulder and didn’t say anything. I just sat there, head down, overcome by something utterly silent and much more powerful than me, not unlike tears.

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Growing Up George: Ch. 4 The Funeral

“So, you’re seriously not going to the funeral?” I asked my aunt as she tried for the third time to fix the tie around my neck.

“I told you. I haven’t decided yet.”

“Well it’s in half an hour. So now might be a good time to decide.” She pulled the knot really tight around my neck, turned around and walked out the room. Grandma rushed to my rescue. She pulled the whole thing off and then walked me through the steps one by one.

“Así, ira, así…” Like this, look, like this. I looked in the mirror and she complemented my looks. “Ira no más que guapo.” Then she pulled the whole tie off again and made me do it myself.

The funeral I was going to was that of Tío Ben’s, my dad’s brother. I don’t remember ever meeting the guy. Supposedly I did for a few months when I was a baby. What happened after that, I’m sketchy on the details. I guess no one wanted to see me after my parents died.

“Tía Matty, I’m gonna get a ride from Tío Jorge so if you wanna show up later you can take the car.”

She yelled back from the kitchen. “Oh really? I can use my own car? That’s so nice of you George. Thank you for letting me use my own car.”

“Dude, that’s not what I meant.” A rubber chancla flew by my head.

“Pendejo, no voy a ir.” Dumbass, I’m not going. “And I’ve told you a thousand times not to call me dude.”

“Well I don’t like being called ‘pendejo.'”

“Did I ask you what you like?”

I rolled my eyes and ducked. I knew she swatted at me every time I rolled my eyes at her. “I’m just gonna wait for Tío Jorge outside.”

“Go do that.”

I waited by the curb so the Navigator wouldn’t push a cloud of dust all over me coming down the dirt driveway. I must have been standing there like fifteen minutes. Should I text him? Should I call because he’s probably driving? But then I’d have to talk to him and I didn’t know what to say. I looked at my phone. Ten minutes til. Zero messages. What’s the point of even going or trying to get to know my other side of the family if I was obviously not that important to them? I texted, “Hey, you coming for me?” but was deliberating on whether or not to hit send when my aunt’s station wagon covered me in a cloud of dust speeding down the driveway.

“Hey, I just came out here to tell you your uncle’s running late.”

“You couldn’t walk or call me?”

“I brought you the car menso.”

“I don’t even know if I wanna go anymore.”

“Listen, George,” she said getting out of the car, “I know there’s a lot of things I haven’t been able to explain to you over the years, a lot of gaps in your life I haven’t been able to fill. You didn’t have the childhood you were supposed to have and there’s been a lot of important people missing. But I did not pay for that suit rental just to have you skip out on that funeral.” She shoved me into the driver’s seat and slammed the door.

The church was on the classier side of the barrio. There was a police car there. A black Porsche. A green El Camino and a pick-up truck with a landscaping logo on it. I guess turn out wasn’t amazing. I wondered if my uncle Jorge was showing up or not. Maybe he hadn’t found the right suit to rent. Yeah, right.

But he was already in there, waiting for me. He fixed my tie and walked down to the front with me, saying “Sorry I didn’t pick you up. I had to stop by my client’s- it was an emergency-”

“Ah don’t sweat it, I’m here ain’t I?”

“These are your other uncles, Freddy and Manolo. Their wives and daughters.”

“Mucho gusto.” Pleased to meet you.

“How are we related?” I whispered in uncle Jorge’s ear.

“My grandmother had a son from her first marriage, your Tío Juan Miguel, who married a woman who was already the mother of Freddy at the time, and Manolo is his first cousin.”

“Sorry I asked.”

“Yeah, me too.”

There was another man I was not introduced to who wouldn’t stop staring at me. There was a cop sitting next to him. “Who’s that?” I whispered.

“The cop?”

“No, the other guy.”

“That’s your uncle Pablo.”

“Distant or blood related?”

“He’s my brother.”

There was an open casket and I went to pay my respects before the mass started. The guy was about fifty, though the pamphlet on the podium next to the casket placed him at thirty-seven. He had large eyes, I could tell, though they were closed. A skinny face and broad shoulders, kinda short, but a medium build. Black hair with silver streaks and a scar down the left side of his forehead. They had dressed him in a black shirt, ivory suit and gold tie. The dress shoes looked brand new. He emanated anger. At least that’s what it felt like to me. So much for rest in peace.

The pamphlet talked about how he’d graduated from Potato Falls High (that was my school), been engaged and had a son. Outlived by a son and two brothers. He was “friendly and charismatic, left a lasting impression on all who met him.” Well he hadn’t left one on me, that’s for sure. Lifetime: 1975-2012.

I looked around the people in the church. Some neighbors had trickled in and were kneeling, toward the back rows. Probably just religious folk who came there every day to pray for those of us who don’t. No kids though. Apparently, my uncle Ben didn’t leave a lasting impression on his son, either.

Growing Up George: Ch. 3 The Navigator

When I was seven, I remember a strange man came to pick me up from school once. He was wearing a gray suit with a red striped tie. We had parent-teacher conferences that week and I was supposed to get out early. He had a stubble beard and the librarian looked for me to tell me my uncle was there to get me.

I didn’t know I had an uncle. But if I did, I didn’t want to ruin my one chance to meet him by saying I didn’t have none. So I just asked what his name was. And I forgot what the first name was but I remember our last names were the same.

He had a really nice black ride, shiny like a mirror, with automatic windows and leather seats. It still smelled new. Back then I was barely getting into all that so I want to say it was a BMW but not a hundred percent sure. It was like an M3 Coupe and it was playing real loud Santana. I think he said his name was Jesús or José or Juan. It started with a “J.”

He asked what my favorite food was and took me to the best spaghetti joint in town. I ordered like three desserts that day- everything Aunt Matty couldn’t afford for me. He asked me if I was happy living with my tía, if I had my own bedroom, when was the last time we went shopping for clothes… pretty personal stuff, now that I think about it.

I didn’t have my own bedroom at the time because my grandma had come to visit for six months from Mexico, but I didn’t want to get my aunt in trouble, so I just told my “uncle” everything was as good as it gets. I told him I had my own bike (that was true) and we were setting up a game room with a 120″ television and a Play Station.

“You know how to swim?” he asked over a tall glass of beer.

“Yeah I took classes last year and this year we’re gonna build our own pool. With a water slide. We have a big yard, you know? It’s bigger than the kinder playground at school. I think we’ll get a trampoline too.”

He told me to order something else. Whatever I wanted. I wanted to order something for Aunt Matty but couldn’t decide whether I should lie and tell him it was for me and then give it to her. I didn’t want to order for my grandma though cause she was mean and would’ve just said she didn’t like it. Probably would have fed it to our dog Sancho, and he was fat enough.

(Sancho was an old dog we used to have. He had short brown fur on the bottom with black on top. We had him since before I was born but he died when I was twelve. Now Aunt Matty says she can’t afford to get a new dog).

So this man in the suit, he drove me home without asking me any other questions, not even my address. When we arrived, he parked on the street and asked if I had any questions for him.

I asked him for help on my math project but he admitted he sucked at math. He asked if my aunt was home and said he’d get out to see her.

I ran up the long dirt path to the front door to try to warn Aunt Matty that this really nice impostor was invading her territory. But she was already standing at the doorway when I got there.

Tía there’s a man here. He says he’s my uncle. He gave me spaghetti but he sucks at math. Do you know him?”

She hit me on the head with the weekly coupons newsletter and told me to get inside and stop asking so many questions. I hid under the desk behind a chair so I could listen in.

“Matilde. I brought you Strawberry Crepes. Are they still your favorite?” the man asked as he came up the porch. My aunt took the bag he handed her.

“NO. What are you doing here?”

“You told me to cover the conference for you.”

“It was just the conference, Menso. Why you gotta go taking the boy from me?”

“We just had lunch. That’s all. He’s home now.”

There was a long silence after that and I really wished I could see from under the desk.

“Well won’t you come in?”

The man sat on the sofa and my aunt pulled out the chair from under the desk. I covered my head with both my arms, expecting the worst.

Ah que chinga-” My aunt stopped mid cursing and turned to look at the man, rolling her eyes. “Very funny George. Get outta there. We’re trying to have an adult conversation here. Go to your room.”

She meant Grandma’s room. I obeyed. Grandma was sitting in my old bed reading a book. I told her in broken Spanish there was a strange man visiting and she went out to check up on it. I crawled out the window, went around the house, and crept under the living room window. The three of them were arguing in Spanish. Something about the boy- whom I assumed was me- and not having a father. Something about money. Grandma was cursing and someone shut the window.

A little while later, I watched from behind the corn patch as the man drove off in his shiny black car.

I don’t remember ever seeing him again until nine years later, after soccer tryouts. He was leaning against the fence, drinking a Gatorade like one of the coaches. Same stubble face. Same red tie/ gray suit. I wondered how long he’d been standing there, if he was going to say anything or if I should just walk past him and pretend I didn’t know him.

Well, a good lunch was a good lunch and I’m pretty sure I never thanked him back in the day so I directly approached him. “Hey man, what’s going on? My aunt call you?”

“George Ballesteros. You remember me.”

I did a 180°. Pointed at the back of my jersey.

“George Lara. My bad. Hey listen I’ve got meetings all day and have to run but there’s an issue I need to tell you about and I was writing you a letter but figured you’d think I was a coward if I didn’t deliver the news in person.”

The field was clearing out. Everyone was heading back to the locker room. The head coach yelled out he’d post the list on the gym door the next day.

My “uncle” handed me a Gatorade.

“Hey man, no offense, I don’t even know who you are. You took me to lunch way back when. Thanks for that. But as far as I know, you’re a distant relative. My aunt wasn’t happy to see you last time either. She won’t be happy if she knows you came out here today.”

“I understand.” The man pulled out his phone and checked the calendar. “A ‘distant relative’ has passed away and I think you ought to go to the funeral.”

“Who was he?”

“My brother.”

“Who are you?”

“I gotta run. I’ll call your aunt with the details. I’ll leave her a message. She never picks up.”

“Wait up, wait up, just call me.” I had managed to afford one of those prepaid smart phones from helping neighbors clean out their yards all summer.

The man stalled. “I legally have to run this by your aunt. But yeah give me your number and I’ll text you the details.”

As he saved my contact to his phone, walking backwards toward the parking lot, his SUV beeped open. Shiny black Navigator. But what was that prep’s name?

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Up George: Ch. 2 Cilantro Seeds

You ever get the feeling you’re capable of more than people give you credit for? It’s like I always surprised people that I could read and write.

And then there’s the opposite. People giving me too much credit because they expected a lot outta me. They expected me- little George from the Barrio- to grow up and become Cesar Chavez and then president and come back, repave the alleys and build a bridge to paradise. And I couldn’t even figure out who my dad was. Much less, college scholarships.

Not that I was even trying. Not for the scholarships, anyways.

My auto shop teacher knew a guy and I was going to start working there twelve, maybe sixteen hours per week. Help my aunt with the bills. Get a decent phone. Maybe buy my own ride. Eventually get a girlfriend. Girls didn’t want to ride bikes by that age. It’s like they grew up too fast and that killed part of the magic. But you couldn’t date a freshman cause then you knew eventually you’d break up cause you’d be 18 and she’d be like 15 or 16.

But if you had a nice ride, then you couldn’t lose. You’d get a girl your own age and if you really liked her you could get really down with her in the car. But then if it didn’t work out, eventually she’d go to college or move closer to the city and you wouldn’t even have to break her heart. That’s what the guys on the varsity team said.

I was going to try out for varsity soccer that year but I wanted the job more than the extracurricular credits.

I guess what I wanted was the girls. Or maybe just one girl.

Cindy Nuñez had moved to the other side of the neighborhood along with her seven brothers and sisters back when we had started middle school. She didn’t speak English back then but she didn’t have to say much to get to know her. It didn’t take her long to fit in or become popular because she was so sweet. Her straight long brown hair just barely covered her bare waistline when she’d wave at you and then turn around hurrying off somewhere. I had been studying her summer schedule and figured out she always went grocery shopping with her oldest sister on Wednesday mornings.

So the following Wednesday, I asked my aunt Matty if she needed anything from the store.

“I just went Monday.”

I was afraid she’d say something like that so I had drank half the milk and orange juice the night before, and poured the other half down the drain.

“Yeah but we’re outta milk.” I opened the fridge. “Looks like we’re outta o.j. too.”

“Already? Jeez Louise, are you training to become a wrestler? You’re already tall enough. Stop drinking so much milk.”

I was really only like four inches taller than Aunt Matty, which wasn’t saying much.

“I was thirsty.”

“Alright alright, that’s not how I meant it. Here, get me cilantro seeds.” Aunt Matty handed me a ten dollar bill.

“That’s alright, Tía. This one’s on me.” I had been weeding out my neighbor’s yard and had about twenty dollars on me. I reached for the car keys by the door.

“What are you gonna take the car for? It’ll fit fine on your bike.”

I clenched my mouth and looked up at the ceiling with my eyes closed. Took a deep sigh.

“I did some work on your car last night and want to see if it’s running good,” and I shot out the door.

“Mentiroso!” she yelled behind me, liar, and I heard one of her rubber chanclas that she wore hit the door, but I was already backing out of the driveway in a cloud of dirt.

I scanned the grocery store parking lot and saw Cindy’s sister’s Corolla there under a magnolia tree. Checked myself in the mirror. My hair was too long and bushy, beyond the help of gel. I slapped on my Pirate’s cap and glided inside. I had to extend my two minute trip inside to be long enough to bump into her.

Luckily, she was in line at the register reading tabloid headlines when I walked in. Everything else seemed to fade in her presence. Sounds became faint and echoed, like when you’re under water. She was wearing her hair in a bun and had a strappy red camisole on. If I said her name, she’d turn around and smile, and I’d have enough to live on for another week. But then she might expect me to say something back to her, and I wasn’t prepared for that.

She must have felt someone staring at her because she looked up and our eyes met. I felt the soles of my shoes melting into the floor. She waved.

“Hey George. Are you trying our for varsity this year? I just got an email saying the girls’ tryouts are tomorrow and Friday.”

“Uh. Yeah. Of course.”

Because, duh, the girls’ soccer players always went to the guys’ games and vice versa and Cindy had played defense the year before. How could I have forgotten that minor detail?

“Good luck!” she went on, “Hopefully I’ll see you around then.”

“Looking forward to it.” Well, that was stupid. What a loser thing to say. ‘Looking forward to it.’ The words resounded in my head for like the next forty-eight hours. Cindy had just giggled and held up a magazine that said someone important had broken up with someone less important. I shrugged and went on my way.

‘Looking forward to it.’ Man was that stupid.

 

Growing Up George: Ch. 1 The Headline

“George. George. My car’s making that sound again.”

Now I love my Aunt Matty but 6AM on a Sunday???

“Can you check it before I go to church?”

I rolled over and covered my head with my pillow.

“Were you going to go with me today, George? George? I know you’re awake.”

“No I’m not.”

“Come have breakfast.”

Aunt Matty, at her forty years of age, was full of energy, but her long silver hair made some ask if she was my grandma. She took me in after my parents died, though I’ve always been somewhat unclear on the details. She never really had boyfriends, and sometimes she openly told me she hated men, so she was gonna try to keep me a boy for as long as possible.

However there are some things that at sixteen a boy just cannot ask his aunt and at breakfast that morning I found myself cautiously trying climb up my family tree.

“Didn’t Dad have no brothers?”

“Whadd’ya wanna go knowin’ that for?”

“It’s just you never talk about it.”

“They’re all dead.”

“How many were there?”

“Three.”

“Including Dad?”

“Look George. I could lie and tell you your dad was an air force pilot and he died for all our freedoms and all that romantic crap. That ain’t what happened. You ever seen any uncles pull up to our house in their Bentleys looking for their long lost nephew?”

“Well, no- I just-”

“Then you don’t have none.”

“Well they ain’t gotta be rich. I could use a regular one just the same.”

“As far as you’re concerned, I’m your dad and your uncles and your ma all rolled into one.”

“That’s fine Aunt Matty. I didn’t mean to-”

“You going to church?”

This woman thinks I’m the Flash expecting me to fix her car and clean up in time for the 9 AM service. “I’ll try to make the afternoon service.”

That afternoon, I ended up at the library. I hadn’t been able to fix her car and I resorted to YouTube. Did I mention we didn’t have internet at home? Well we didn’t. My aunt said it would have disturbed the spirit of peace in our house but looking back I think we just couldn’t afford it. That’s the thing about growing up poor. A lot of times you don’t know you’re poor unless other kids point it out, and I wasn’t the type to openly share that information.

So there I was, looking at “car videos” when I stumble upon the city’s newspaper site. Main headline: “Parole Panel Delays Decision in Ballesteros Murder Case.” I didn’t care much for criminal law. But my last name was Ballesteros. At least it had been, originally, back in grade school. Then my aunt had it legally changed because the other kids were making weird comments like “Don’t mess with George, he’ll have you sniped,” and “You know where my brother can buy stardust?” Things that suddenly made sense upon reading the article, because this Ballesteros, whoever he was, had given my father and uncles a bad name.

Still, I thought if I could talk to him, maybe he’d have the answers my aunt didn’t want to give me.

Mope, the One-Eyed Mutt

Mope wasn’t always named “Mope.”
Long ago, he was an “André,” fearless puppy of the night, keeper of justice for the barefoot children that played soccer in the alley.
Brought up on chicken and tortilla scraps, with all his shots current, he had a bright future ahead of him.
He would follow Alexis to school everyday, wait for him by the gate, walk him back home, watch him do his homework, and then he would responsibly destroy said homework.
Around eight they would have dinner together, and he would listen in from the corner on how everyone’s day had gone.
Papa Edmund had a new secretary at the bank.
He would take the kids to the beach that summer if they got good grades.
André had never been to the beach.
He’d seen it on T.V. and other dogs had talked to him about it.
He looked forward to romping in the waves and running through freshly built sand castles.
Mama Mayra said the meat had gone up at the butcher’s and fruit never seemed to be in season anymore.
Sister Sylvia said she was trying out for the volleyball team.
Alexis fed André bacon under the table.
Then, religiously every night, they would go play soccer with the neighborhood kids.
The months went by and the weather got warmer and warmer.
The beach vacation became more and more prevalent in the family dinner discussions.
Everyone talked about what they would pack.
Papa Edmund would take a cooler and a barbecue pit.
Mama Mayra would take a picnic basket and wine bottles, sunscreen, and her crochet needles.
Sister Sylvia would take her volleyball, a couple of mystery novels and her new bikini, which her dad had been unaware of until then.
Alexis would take André, a soccer ball, his snorkeling gear and a boogie board.
André would take his favorite bone and cushion.
The last day of school was excruciatingly hot and Alexis brought water for André, who was faithfully waiting outside by the gate in the sun.
When the bell rung, Alexis, Sylvia and André ran home from school and packed their bags while their mother yelled “Don’t forget this! Don’t forget that!” from the living room downstairs.
The a/c had broken the day before and everyone was sweating or panting.
Papa Edmund came home from work and the family gathered around him, welcoming him home with a big bear hug.
“Mayra, we need to talk.”
The couple entered the bedroom and André ran under their bed before they closed the door.
“What’s wrong?” asked Mama Mayra.
Edmund sat down on the bed.
“You look upset. Did something happen?”
Edmund didn’t look straight at her, but mostly looked past her toward an open window. He got up to shut it.
“Edmund, it’s 100 degrees up here! Leave the window open.”
“Stop telling me what to do! There you go again, giving me orders.”
Mayra bit her lips and shook her head.
It had all seemed too good to be true.
She started pacing around the room packing more things into her beach bag.
“We’re not going to beach, god damn it, Mayra! Stop packing!”
“Well I’m not going to stay here. You promised the kids. At least one of us has to keep their word.”
“I lost my job.”
Mayra stopped packing.
She tried to hug her husband, but he just stood up and pushed her away.
“What happened?”
Edmund’s cell phone rang. Mayra looked at the caller ID. It was his secretary. Mayra crossed her arms and her face and looked intently at Edmund.
He took the call in the bathroom.
A few hours later, Mayra had packed the station wagon full of as many things as a family relocating could possibly pack in a situation in which they are fully incapable of packing the most important thing of all.
The kids were crying in the back seat and André, confused, put his paw on little Sylvia’s face, alternating licking each child’s cheeks.
They had driven about two miles when Mayra pulled over and said, “You know what? We have nowhere to put that dog.”
The children screamed in resistance.
Engulfed by jealousy, she was willing to get rid of anything that reminded her of any decision her husband had ever taken without consulting her, including bringing home this mutt.
“What are we going to feed him? I don’t even have a job! We have nowhere to live!”
The kids protested in indistinguishable whimpers.
She opened the back door, picked up André, and left him on the side of the road.
She turned red as she realized, walking back to the driver’s seat, the unrighteousness of her vengeful act.
André barked and ran after them for a good three miles, while Alexis stuck his head out the window, shouting that he loved him and he would return for him.
Eventually, André lost sight of the station wagon and he had nowhere else to go but back home.
When he got there, he was thirsty as hell and ready to collapse on his cushion.
Papa Edmund had been hitting the bottle and now he seized the opportunity to take out his rage on someone.
“So you’re the only one who came back? Stupid beast. Where are the rest of them? Are they gone because they can’t stand to see me like this? Because they’ve always known I’m a liar?”
André looked down and rested his head on his paws.
Then, Mr. Edmund did something that André cannot believe to this very day.
He took the bottle and broke it straight into André’s right eye.
The next morning, still hungover, Edmund took André to the pound and said he was a stray he’d found near his house.
André is no longer a puppy.
No one has adopted him because they say all he does is mope in his cage, so the staff there baptized him “Mope.”
He awaits Alexis’s return to this very day.

The Last Day of My Life at Bar Happiness

If at the end of your life, you were given the option to live one day out of your life over again, just one day, just for the next 24 hours, what day would you choose?

Who would you spend your last day with?

More importantly, how do i come up with these questions, and why do i try?

We were eating at California Pizza Kitchen, one of my favorite places (even though today they put bacon on my veggie pizza and brought me the Seasonal Sam Adams instead of the Draft) when my mind drifted to when we ate pizza in Florence.

Next my mind drifted to when we visited Lago di Garda in northern Italy.

And I then asked myself
How do I work this?
And I then asked myself
Where is that large automobile?
And I then told myself
This is not my beautiful house!
And I then told myself
This is not my beautiful wife!

Sorry, mind drifted again.

(Letting the days go by… Water flowing under-)

And I thought,

Same as it ever was.

j/k ok sorry, i thought, i would love to live that day over again.

The day we spent at Lake Garda.

Bar Happiness
Happiness Bar at Lago Di Garda where you can literally drink up happiness.

So naturally i asked my husband the question at the onset of this post: what day would you live over?

His answer didn’t shock me but it was a wake up call.

“I would choose the day my mom told us she was expecting my brother.”

Aww! How sweet, right? Wait. There’s more.

“Because everyone was there. My brother, in my mom’s womb, my sister, my dad and my mom.”

Everyone was there.

As in- everyone that matters?

Everyone you would want to spend more time with?

Everyone who isn’t your wife (aka- ME)?!?

Wait- there’s more.

“I was going to say our wedding day but my sister wasn’t there.”

I wish i was making this up.

But it’s practically verbatim.

Then of course i proceeded to get all teary-eyed, after which his usual reaction of having no idea what’s going on with me- the “did I say something” script.

I tried not to dwell on it and changed the topic to pizza.

Then he asked me the same question.

“What day would you choose?”

I was embarrassed of my initial choice.

I ransacked my memories for alternates.

I came up with a couple other memories i could do over.

Both with him in them.

“It’s not important,” i said, dipping my pizza crust in ketchup.

He insisted to the point that i figured he must be thinking i must be thinking of some other guy, all the while i was really thinking, ‘don’t let him know you love him more than he loves you, don’t let him know you love him more than he loves you.’

I had to come up with a better answer fast.

“You know, i haven’t really thought about it. Rather, i need to give the answer more thought.”

So now i’m thinking, whatever day i would want to live over- i probably haven’t lived it yet.

Cause if all my favorite memories are post-marriage, and yet my marriage-mate essentially does not see me as part of “everybody,” then perhaps i’ve overrated my life thus far.

Maybe, if God gave me the choice, i’d just say, “uh, thanks, just shut me in a cell with an ocean view instead. That way no one has to spend any more time with me.”

Italian Audi
Or maybe i’d just ask God to please let me drive around Lake Garda in an Italian sports car listening to The Talking Heads.

Because if i’m not “everybody,” then I must be some form of opposite of that.

Perhaps, “nobody.”

At least not anybody important.

The good thing now is, i’ve got two cats that really look up to me.

Sure, i’ve had more suicidal thoughts in the last couple weeks than i did in the last 6+ months, but it’s hard to leave or kill yourself when that would disturb your cats’ daily rituals.

Also, i’m not sure my alter-ego would be able to update this blog as well as i do.

TBH, she’s kind of neurotic.

The Wallflower Hums

There is a tape recording of me as a child crying in the background while my father plays some of his songs on his guitar.
Then the tape stops abruptly.
You turn it around and I continue to cry.

My parents listened to a lot of Santana, Roberto Carlos, Rocío Durcal…
Mostly 80s latino sounds.
That was 50% of it.
The other half was when we’d play what we wrote ourselves.
There is another recording in which my parents are pressuring me to sing a song i wrote into the tape recorder.
I refuse because my brother is “looking at me.”
I was a very self-conscious 4 – year old.
While my present style of writing music is heavily influenced by Rocío Durcal, if no one else, i discovered Classic Rock when i was 12 and would say my lyrics have also been influenced by what’s her name, the blonde one.
Stevie Nicks.

I saw Christie Hynde (the Pretenders) perform not too long ago.
I love her 80s music.
But she’s really rude on stage.
Not Rock rude.
Bad rude.
Not bad rude.
Stupid rude.
For example, the concert opened with this great Irish guitar duo.
Then Christie got to the part of her show where she presented her band.
She didn’t know the pianist’s name and regarding her guitarist, asked, “When was the last time you heard a good guitar player?”
Uhm, half an hour ago?
Your opening band?
She cursed every time a flash went off.
Then she kept saying she was leaving but kept coming back.
I understand when bands do this to take a breather.
Or hit or whatever it is they do backstage.
But she did it over and over and over.
My husband and I kept walking down and then up the theater stairs to go back to our seats.

The theater where she played has a whimsical romantic style about it.
My best girl friend in high school and i once saw the Wallflowers play there.
After that show, we knocked on the bus door and the drummer asked us to have sex.
“Uhm, we’re underage?”
YOLO.
But not us, cause we’re Christians, so we told him we just wanted to talk about God.

To be honest i never really have been able to play or sing my own songs in front of my family.
They’re so much more talented than me when it comes to music.
The other day i was playing a recording of my newest song in the car and my husband inadvertently turned it off.
Then i texted a fb friend of mine who also composes if he wants to do a collab, but he wants to barter for his services.
I feel a bit deflated.
Which is great kindle for a wannabe song writer.
I’ll try experimental sounds next.
Perhaps an album where i cry for an hour.

If you agree with me that sound is music, i recommend you watch the movie Frank.☆☆☆☆☆

This was written in response to yesterday’s daily prompt, but i fell asleep before i could finish it.

Values, Sibling Rivalry and Stuff

As i sit here on the front porch of my only brother’s new forest dwelling, i wonder how two people with the same roots can wind up having such different approaches to life.

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My husband and nephew are wrapping up a game of chess in the living room.
It’s a stalemate.

They have found their intellectual equals in one another.
(My nephew trains with a Master).
That is something I have been conscious of for years now.
And it should come as no surprise, seeing as how my brother’s wife has the same personality as my husband.
It makes sense that my nephew would have so much in common with him.
Even if i feel they all have little in common with me.

My family has always stretched out the joke that I was adopted.
The truth is I was switched at birth.
I don’t recall if I’ve ever written about this; i apologize if i redund myself.

It was the first time my mom was going to breastfeed me after having given birth.
She says the nurses brought her an Asian baby.
The baby didn’t take to her and she didn’t take to the baby.
For starters, the baby didn’t speak Spanish.
My mom pressed the red emergency button by her bed and a couple nurses came running in.
“No es mi bebé.” (This isn’t my baby).
The nurses looked embarrassed and apologized.
Then they brought her the “right” baby- Me.

I have heard this story so many times that I have a vivid recollection of everything that happened even though, technically, I wasn’t there.
A few of my dad’s clients are neo-natal nurses.
He says sometimes he hears them chat about how they remove the id bracelets from the newborns and then try to guess who is who.

So who knows how many people in my hometown have actually grown up with the wrong family.

All my cousins say I look exactly like a younger version of my paternal grandmother,  so I have never bought into my family’s “you were adopted” joke.

To be honest it is really my brother who is different.

He is far more determined and assertive than any of my other relatives.

I worry we are too different now.

He was the one person who always got my sense of humor.

Then, his success made him hyper-conscious of being overly culturally sensitive and politically correct.

See, when you’re a minority, it’s easy to joke about the stereotypes attributed to your own culture.

But if you don’t share in that culture’s problems, it seems insensitive to joke about those who do.

That’s why I take great care to never make insensitive comments on this blog, not even about white people.

My brother saved my life once.
He walked me to class on the first day of school.
He taught me to respect my parents.
But I don’t see myself adapting to this new lifestyle of his.
A lifestyle in which he expects me to keep my point of view to myself.
Perhaps nothing’s changed at all.
Come to think of it, that’s the way it’s always been.

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"A dip in the pool, you say? Silly Girl, the only way to thrive is to adapt," (Baby Lizard has Australian accent.)

Unbeknownst Self

Another hard day draws to an end.
The typical night fog clouds up the stars.
Murky sky.
What have we done to the night sky.

I ended that with a period because it’s rhetorical.
Or it ought to be
You, the reader, ought to be meditating on your carbon footprint.
I’m trying to imply concepts but we each have to do our part.

Not that I personally have much of a part.
If I do, then I’ve forgotten my lines.

The neighbor has turned off their porch light making the sky less bright but still murky.

I sit in the car and stare at people walking their little dogs between the mobile homes.

When we had to move here in February, I practically threw tantrums on the floor every night.

I have a 1 hour commute to work Mon-Friday.

I never have time or energy to cook or do laundry.

Then I thought… I hardly ever did that before anyway.

Once I settled into the new routine it became less hard.
I gave up on trying to get to work on time.
I am not a morning person.
Never have been, never will be.
Lucky for me, neither is my boss.

I stopped trying to change myself to fit so many conventional norms.

I stopped talking back to narrow-minded idiots.

What difference does it make.

(Note the period?)

My car is cold.
The day wasn’t hard because of the commute.
My assistant I recently wrote about made a rude remark and it makes me sad.
She said, “You can’t just please yourself all the time.”
Her tone and words imply pleasing myself is all I ever do.
I want her fired.
She’s known me for years so it really hurt.

We’re not close friends but then again I’m not close friends with anyone.

Speaking of close friends, a little while ago, my husband and I were speaking with our loan broker, who happens to be the beautiful wife of my ex-best-guy friend.
He was my best-guy-friend until he broke the golden rule of guy-girl friendship.

After being close friends with each other for half our lives, he made disrespectful comments to me late last year.
He tried to get me to do something for his employer by hitting on me.
I don’t know him anymore.

My husband sought out his wife to see if we qualify for a house loan- which of course we shouldn’t- but being the creative persuasive woman that she is, she has helped us find a lender at a decent rate.

“Yes, yes,” you are thinking, “Blahblahblah but why are you in the car?”

Now you must know as well as I do that everything in this world has a catch.

The catch to this “let’s buy a house” project is that it’s really a duplex and I will have to live next to my in-laws forever, or the rest of my life, whichever ends first.

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I’d be fooling myself if I told myself my husband wants to buy a house for us as a couple cause that is the normal way of couples who love each other.

Idk maybe I’m just cynical.
He wants to buy a house for his parents to retire.
I said “Ok but not your brother.”
His mom said, “Yes your brother.”
He said, “Oh well.”

Today is a hard day because he doesn’t hold my feelings or opinions in any regard.
I mean, he doesn’t even read anything I ever write.
I’m not writing this behind his back.
I’d be relieved if he read it.
But it hurts that he doesn’t really care.

Well he did bring me a quesadilla out to the car a few minutes ago but sometimes that’s just not enough.

My biggest problem is I can’t remember things.
Like I know he made me really sad the other day and I deleted his messages, but today I have no recollection of what happened.
I don’t understand- do I forget cause I love him?
Is that forgiving?
Am I really just pleasing myself all the time?

I miss my friend- the broker’s husband.
He’d let me rant on about this for hours.
His broker wife probably knows too many things about me.
She must know about my writing habits and my imaginary stalkers and how I was in love with someone else a while back.
It is awkward that she is helping us.
Or maybe…
Inadvertently, she’s not.

For just a few seconds, I caught a glimpse of the moon.