Tag Archives: teenagers

Growing Up George: Ch. 8 The Password

It wasn’t that Tío Jorge wasn’t in a chatty mood- he welcomed us into his office, where he apparently slept most nights. He picked up a stack of binders from his desk, put it on the floor, and sat on the edge of his desk. He asked us about our classes and if I was working for the mechanic I’d told him about. He asked Meztli about her parents and if her mom was still having back pain. He offered us leftover pizza.

“I eat it cold. I don’t mind. It tastes the same, just cold.”

Meztli made a gross face.

“But I can warm it up for you.”

“I’ll take a slice. Cold is fine,” I smirked and glanced at Meztli out of the corner of my eye.

“We just came over to ask you about this article we found at the university library.” She pulled out the brown damp paper from her backpack.

“Oh. You kids are diving into the deep end. You know, they say that what you don’t know can’t kill you, but I say that what you do know can get me in trouble.”

“What?” I asked.

He took the paper in his hands. “I promised your aunt I wouldn’t talk about this.”

“Is it about my mom?” I really didn’t want to know the obvious answer. It was actually my first time in his office. Meztli walked toward a bookcase and pulled down a framed picture with a very young version of my mom and aunt on it, hugging each other, wearing Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears.

“Did you take this picture, or did they give it to you?”

“I took it.” His phone rang. “Oh, excuse me kids, I have to take that.” He opened the office door and asked us to wait in the lobby. The sofas were old, worn leather and seemed to absorb our bodies into them.

Meztli put her legs up on the armrest and took a deep sigh. “Is he always like this?”

“Like- nice but kind of an ass?”

“Yeah. That.”

“I can’t say I know him all that well.”

“Haven’t you two known each other your whole life?”

“I don’t know. Have I? I can count my memories of him on one hand.”

Meztli plugged in her headphones and I scrolled through my phone’s WiFi networks. The firm’s network was probably the one called “ProSniper,” as it had the highest signal strength. I took a wild guess and typed in my mom’s name as the password with my year of birth.

“Bingo.”

“Did you say something?”

“I got into his WiFi.”

“How?”

“Just did. Check it out.”

“Wait. Did you bring your laptop? Maybe we can hack into some of his legal files.”

“That’s probably a felony of some sort.” And No, Meztli, I do not have a laptop.

She took over my cell phone and I grabbed her headphones, turned the volume all the way up. “I was just trying to look at YouTube videos. Not get arrested.”

But whenever she got like that, I seized to exist. She was all passion and I didn’t even want to be her audience.

A song and a half went by on her phone when she pulled the headphones off of me. “He kicked us off!”

“You don’t have to yell.”

“I had been talking to you for like a minute. You didn’t hear anything I said. You never listen!”

Since when did I have to listen to girls I had no intention of ever dating?

“Good. We shouldn’t have been on there in the first place.”

“Don’t you want to know what happened to your mother?”

“Of course I want to know. But how’s hacking into his client files gonna help us?”

“He must have a ton of information on the murder case. Wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah. I suppose. Or I wouldn’t want anything to do with it. Besides, he’s a defense attorney. He wouldn’t have worked on this case. He wouldn’t have defended my mom’s murderer.”

“Sorry about that.” My uncle was standing right in front of us. “This guy ran over a homeless woman. She’s suing for 500,000. We’re trying to settle out of court but it’s going to trial this Monday.”

“Was he drunk?” I was curious.

“High.”

“So about the newspaper article…” Meztli kept pushing her case.

“What newspaper article?”

“The one we brought into your office a few minutes ago.” She stood up and put both hands on her hips.

“I don’t remember any article.”

“Can we have the paper back?”

“Are you talking about a paperback novel?”

Things were getting tense.

My uncle wasn’t very tall- about my height- but towered above Meztli, and watching her trying to stare him down, in her fuzzy boots and fuchsia cardigan, with her Sailor Moon messenger bag across her body… Him in his big tough black suit, with a pair of stupid designer sunglasses pulled over his head, and his stubble beard that you just wanted to punch… It was all quite humorous if you stepped back and looked at it.

“Hey Tío, we’re sorry we broke into your WiFi. Thanks for the pizza. We really should be heading out now. But if you’re ever in the mood to talk about this, feel free to call me, any time, day or night.” I extended my hand toward him as a peace offering.

He scratched his head, flustered. “Of course, Son. Just, uhm, hey you know what- Let me make a photocopy for you. You know, you have the same demeanor as her. Your mother. She was always so- Well your aunt and I, we’d always argue about everything. Your mom was always trying to get us to-”

We had followed him back into the office. He put the paper against the flatbed and changed topics.

“So if you’re not working for the mechanic yet, maybe you’d like an internship here? You can choose your own hours.”

“Uh- well it’s not really my field.”

“Right. Just tell your aunt I said hello.” He handed me the photocopy. “And never ever show this to her. She’d shoot me.”

So I was finally starting to get the hang of this “Uncle” thing.

The ride back was short and boring. Meztli kept complaining about missing that one waterfall picture and how I hadn’t kept my promise. As I dropped her off, she said, “Hey, my dad’s looking for someone to help him with landscaping. You know, if you want to work for him.”

“Well that depends. Do you take after him?”

“Haha. Very funny. Come in; you can talk to him about it right now.”

“I can’t just walk in and ask a guy I hardly know for a job.”

“Then maybe just fix his lawn mower. He’ll pay you.”

 

 

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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.

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.