Tag Archives: teenager

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?

 

 

 

 

 

A Post About Teenage Incompetence

Ok, I can understand a teenager not passing their drive test.
Driving is in fact a very complicated task and not for everyone.

But what about not being able to use public transit?
Do 16-18 year olds really need to be given a ride everywhere they go?

When I was 18 I already had an A.A. Degree and was planning my wedding.

Not that I’m an example to follow…

But still, I’ll never be one of those parents who chauffeurs their almost young adult everywhere, or pays for fancy shmancy trips with their friends, or buys them clothes and food and stuff.

In true Mexican custom, my parents made me and my brother work for everything.
We had to serve and wash our own dishes, buy our own presents…

My brother’s taken the opposite approach to his kids.
The white upper middle class approach.
The “you’ll be lucky if your kids know how to dial long distance from a landline” approach.
-Something I had to teach my current new coworker.

But she’s not a teenager.
She’s just incompetent.

Just kidding.
I was overwhelmed with a project at work and my manager, (who has since asked me to refer to her as “our CFO”- not my manager, even though I’m technically not even an employee of that company) has hired me an assistant, who happens to be a church friend of mine.

This is the same assistant who filled my position when I almost moved to Europe that one time last year and met Leo.

Leo is this guy who saved my life in a park in Rome but he didn’t take advantage of me like some might argue he should have.

I don’t know his last name or profession.
All I know is he lives in London and has friends in Florence.
And he has in-depth appreciation of fine art.

image
I imagine it would have been better to have loved and lost.

Anyway, I eventually came back to my job because.

Some people at church thought maybe my friend was going to keep my job, myself included, but no, my boss and the CFO are way past the point of no return with me.

Which is too bad because it’s not exactly my field.
I don’t share their passion for root canals.

I don’t know why I came back to my job really, why couldn’t Leo just take advantage of me?!?

Thus ends an informative post about teenage incompetence.

flash fiction by Ave Valencia

When Izzy Met Lizzy

Izabella, or Izzy, as her mom called her, had a way about her that instantly attracted people to her, old and young.
If she was going to the store, she would knock on her elderly neighbor’s house to see if she needed anything.
If she was going to the library, she would ask the little kids in the ghetto apartment complex if they wanted to go with her.
They’d always say yes, and off they went across the street like a trail of ducklings.
Her mom was a project manager and was always getting reassigned to different cities, ever since her parents divorced when she was six.
Izzy also attracted the wrong kind of people.
Society’s dregs.
Sometimes older men would offer to walk her places, and of course, being the sweet darling that she was, she’d say yes.
Her mom wasn’t aware of this, working 60+ hours a week as she did.
Sometimes older men would offer to buy her drinks.
And of course, she’d say “no,” but if they insisted a little, if they got her hung up on some silly personal story, then she’d walk into a food joint with them, and before she knew it, she’d had three or four drinks.
Then someone would text her, she’d look at the time, she’d excuse herself gracefully, or as gracefully as one can excuse one’s self in slurred language, and the guy would call her a cab.
Then one night the guy got in the cab with her.
She can’t remember how many she’d had to drink that night, or the guy’s name.
She’d seen him a few times at the library.
He seemed respectable enough.
Maybe 23? 25? years old.
He told her he was in college, but she can’t remember which one.
Anyway, that night was Izzy’s 16th birthday.
Her mom had called her a few hours earlier to cancel dinner plans.
Her dad hadn’t returned her voice mails.
Izzy could have been with her friends, but she felt frustrated.
She knew that soon her mom would get re-assigned to another city and once she left, all her friends could care less about her.
So she stayed up late drinking with this sort of stranger.
When they got out of the cab they had been making out for 15 straight minutes.
Izzy looked out the window as the guy paid the driver.
“This looks like my old house I used to live in when I was 12,” she said excitedly.
The guy got out and opened the door for her.
Izzy laughed.
“I don’t live here.”
“It’s alright. You can stay with me tonight.”
Izzy looked at her cell phone as if still expecting her dad to call back any second.
She frowned as she gave up on that idea and bounced out of the cab.
The following two weeks, Izzy was busy packing and she never ran into that guy again.

At Pine Valley High, Izzy had trouble making friends.
It was the middle of the school year and her cheerfulness seemed to rub people the wrong way.
It was too late to try to join any teams.
She was the only one in her class who had a driver’s license, since the state she was coming from had a lower age requisite to start driving than the one she was now living in.
Then there was Lizzy.
Lizzy was the quiet studious type.
Nothing in common with Izzy.
She had a relatively small group of friends and would often run into Izzy while walking home.
Izzy would offer her a ride.
On one occasion, Izzy told Lizzy she hadn’t gotten her period.
Lizzy gasped in disbelief.
“Do you think you’re pregnant?”
Izzy looked down embarrassed.
“Have you told your mom?”
“She’ll kill me,” said Izzy. “She’s been saving for me to go to college since I was five. No way in hell will she let me keep it.”
Lizzy started giggling.
“What’s so funny?” asked Izzy, annoyed.
“Your mom thinks you’re gonna get into college.”
Izzy floored the accelerator and turned the music up.
She got on the first on-ramp of the interstate south.
“Where are we going???” asked Lizzy.
“To find the guy.”
“Izzy, you don’t even know where this guy lives, let alone his name!”
“I know where he likes to eat.”
Lizzy turned the volume down.
“You’re gonna get me in trouble. Take me home.”
Izzy pulled over on the side of the freeway, got out of the car, and started kicking it.
She didn’t notice Lizzy was crying inside.
The sun was setting and Izzy’s rage seemed to fill the sky a fiery red.
Finally Lizzy got out of the car and yelled, “It’s OK! You’ll be alright! I’ll take care of you!”
Izzy turned around with drops of sweat glistening on her forehead.
She couldn’t believe Lizzy was willing to stick her neck out for her.
They had only known each other for a couple months.
Then she turned around and threw up.

95 Mustang 65 Mustang

Daily Prompt: Only Sixteen

Ah. 16. The age of vanity.

90% of the pictures I have of myself are from when I was 16.

It turns out I did quite a bit of acting that year (1998-99).

play practice
The blonde in the back was my crush.
demo w/ mom
Doing a demo in front of around 800 people with my mom on how not to behave like me.
girls acting
Video for school project: dressed as militants in Mexican-American war
school film set
Anti-smoking campaign commercial! w/ my bro

I was a natural performer.

girl guitarist and cat
I had been practicing guitar for a year…
girl guitarist annoyed face
Then performed at a talent show at my best friend’s house. By the look on my face, I was mad at him. Probably. 🙂

I started doing a lot of volunteer work for my church.

pioneer school
With my friends at a school to become volunteer ministers.
Pioneer school
I made the photographer move all his equipment so I could take a picture by the swans.
Teenager and little girl
This was the first child I studied the Bible with.
She is now a minister herself.

But I did normal things too.

girl shower
Took showers.
pizza order
Ordered pizza.
brother sister goofing off
Goofed off with my brother. (Still can’t dance).
Mustang light saber
And of course, drove Mustangs around town, cause if you’re gonna get your 16 year old a car, it should be a Mustang.
And don’t forget the light saber to go with it.

It’s fun to reminisce! Once in a while. Thanks WP Daily Prompt!

I had forgotten how cool I was.