“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.
“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.