El Rubio is coming today. I like el Rubio. He likes me too. I do many things for him when he’s here. Every morning when he’s here I go to Nelson’s house and I wait for him on the porch to get up. Then, when he comes out of his bedroom he sees me and he calls out to me, “mijo.” I like when he calls me mijo. Then he opens the locks and he lets me in the house.
“¿Quieres café?” I ask him every morning.
“Sí,” he says and hands me 100 pesos. I go to the Nacional and I get him a coffee from the machine for 60 pesos. He likes the Café Santo Domingo con leche with the yellow azúcar, not the white one. I don’t know why.
El Rubio lives in Nelson’s house but only for a little while each year. I wish I could live with el Rubio but I can’t. I live with my abuela deep in the patio. I have my own room with my little bed and my desk. I used to share the room with my uncle when I came to live with abuela. He moved away to Punta Cana to work in the hotel. He left me his computer because he got a new one. This old one doesn’t work so good, but sometimes I can get Facebook and when I do I write to el Rubio so he doesn’t forget me.
On my desk I have a little picture of my mother. She’s holding me when I was a little boy before she went to Italy. I keep the picture there so I won’t forget her. She sent me another picture but I don’t like it so much so I keep this one out on the desk. The other picture is newer. In that picture she is with a man and two little children, a boy and a girl. They are my brother and sister. That’s why she’s forgotten me.
Mi abuela, who I live with, is the mother of my father. Like I said, it’s nice to have someone who calls me mijo. My father never calls me that because I almost never see him since he has a new woman. And they have a son. I can’t live with them because she’s afraid of me. She thinks my father will love me more than he loves her son. I guess he loves him more than me because he gave me to abuela. Like I keep saying it’s nice to have someone who calls me mijo.
When I get back with his café, el Rubio always tells me to keep the rest of the pesos. If Nelson is there he makes a face and says something to el Rubio in inglés. El Rubio laughs. I think he’s telling el Rubio not to give me those pesos.
El Rubio sits down with his café and asks me the same thing every day. “Do you have school today?”
“Yes,” I tell him. “In the afternoon.” But it’s a little lie. I have school in the morning. I don’t think it makes much sense to go. El Rubio is only here for a few weeks, two maybe three. I can go to school later when he leaves. I like it better to go to his house, well its Nelson’s house really, and watch the TV and hear what Nelson and el Rubio are talking about. And I get 40 pesos.
Usually they talk in inglés but sometimes they talk in Spanish and I can understand. They talk about béisbol and mujeres and boxeo and políticos. Sometimes they say las comunistas are better for the people. They say the government is very corrupt, the one here and the one en los Estados Unidos. I don’t know what they are talking about but I like to listen. Mostly, when they are talking and eating their breakfast, I turn the TV to the cartoons and I watch and laugh.
Sometimes Nelson isn’t there. He is with one of his women. One time I went by to see el Rubio and no one was there. When I walked out to the plaza I saw him coming home with one of his women. He kissed her through the window of her car when she dropped him off. He didn’t see me.
When we are alone he talks to me. His Spanish is pretty good. He speaks a little slowly and sometimes the words are a little wrong but I understand. He asks me questions about me. I like that. No one ever asks me questions about me.
One time we were sitting on the roof of Nelson’s house. El Rubio likes to sit in the sun to get his skin darker. You know, I don’t really understand this. Los blancos, they don’t really like people with darker skin, but they want to have darker skin. Anyway, he asked me what was the happiest day of my life that I could remember. That could only be one day. “One time I went to Puerta Plata to a resort,” I told him.
“Just for the day?” he asked. “That’s a long trip for one day.”
I laughed. “No,” I said, “we stayed over for one night at the resort.”
“Who took you?” he asked.
“Mi tio and mi abuela for my birthday when I was eight.”
“How old are you now? I forget.”
“Which resort did you go to?”
I thought for a moment, what was the name? “Playa Dorado.”
El Rubio smiled. “I was there once,” he said, “with Nelson. They have a big pool with a slide, did you go on the slide?”
“Sí, por supuesto, sí,” I said. I jumped up on my feet. “Many times. I went up the ladder and down the slide for a whole day,” showing him with my hands how I climbed up and slid down very fast. “It was fantastic. I want to live there.”
El Rubio laughed. “Mijo, no one can live there. It’s a hotel, a resort. It’s not real life. But if you study hard in school and you become something when you’re a man, you can go there to visit as much as you want. Maybe you can bring your children.”
My children? I never thought about that. Would I have children some day? I didn’t know how to be a father. I thought about it for a minute. It made me smile and it made me sad at the same time. I would be a father like el Rubio, not like my father. I puffed out my chest. “Sí,” I said. “I will take my children to the resort!”
Now I wait in the plaza. El Rubio would be here soon. Nelson went to pick him up a little while ago. He would have to be back soon. I don’t know exactly how far away the airport is because I was never there but once when we went with Nelson to the beach at Boca Chica he told us that we were passing by the airport. It seemed to me that enough time had passed to go there and come back.
I was excited for the phone el Rubio would bring me. I had asked him many times whenever I could find him on Facebook to bring me an iPhone. Always he said the same thing. Mijo, it’s not nice to ask for gifts. If someone wants to buy you something they will. But I knew he would get me the phone. He calls me mijo. When a son asks a father for something, a real father knows what to do. With the phone I would be able to call el Rubio and to see Facebook on it too.
I was hungry. I didn’t eat anything yet today. I checked my pocket. I had 10 pesos. I would need 15 more to get an empanada. Maybe abuela’s friend at the beauty shop could give me the rest.
I walked over and stood in the doorway. The ladies were sitting in the chairs talking very quickly and laughing. The smell was very bad, a smell from the sprays they used on their hairs. The music was playing and one of them, Henrietta, a short negrita with a big stomach from the baby inside was complaining about her boyfriend. She had dyed her hair blond and she looked like one of the characters from the cartoon I saw on Nelson’s TV.
“What do you want morenito?” Teresa asked me. “Why are you standing in my doorway?”
I looked down and mumbled, “I need 15 pesos.”
“What do you need it for?”
“I’m hungry. I want an empanada.” I kept my head down and my eyes to the floor. I lifted them just enough to see her face and her expression. She looked over to la Negrita who was pulling at the hair of her customer with a comb and straightening it with a noisy drier and lifted her eyebrows. La Negrita said nothing. Teresa looked back at me.
“Tu abuela didn’t give you something to eat this morning?”
“No,” I said. “She left early for her job. I was waiting in the plaza for el Rubio.”
Her face lit up with a smile. “Ah, el Rubio arrives today?”
“Sí. Nelson told me.”
“It’s February,” said la Negrita then laughed. “He will be disappointed when he sees this.” She pointed with the drier to her huge stomach. The ladies also laughed.
“Can I have 15 pesos Teresa? Please.”
Teresa looked at me. “Go up to my house,” she said. “By the door you will find a box. In the box are some white plastic bottles. They look like this.” She picked up one from the counter. There was yellowish streaks on the side from where something had leaked down. “Bring the box with the bottles here and I will give you 15 pesos.”
I ran up the stairs to Teresa’s house. Her niece was sitting on the couch texting into her phone. Soon I would have a phone like that too. She ignored me. I looked around the room and saw the box with the bottles by the kitchen door. I tried to lift it but it was too heavy. I pulled it to the door and then, bump, bump, bump, down the stairs. Teresa turned. “Coño. What are you doing?”
“It’s too heavy,” I said as I pulled the box down the last step.
“Gracias a Dios, it’s plastic,” she said. She reached into her pocket and took out 15 pesos and gave it to me.
I ran to the cart by the corner and gave the man 25 pesos. “Queso, por favor.”
“Ketchup, mayonnaise?” he asked.
He dipped the empanada in the hot oil for a few minutes to warm it, then pulled it out to put it on the counter and striped it with ketchup and mayonnaise, then placed on two napkins. It was hot and burned my fingers. I blew on it as I walked across the street and back to the plaza to wait for el Rubio.
I sat down on the bench and blew on the empanada again then took a bite. It was very hot but very tasty and I was very hungry. I took a few more bites then stopped to let my stomach rest. As I looked up I saw Nelson’s guagua pull up and park. I jumped up and without thinking dropped the rest of the empanada. I was very sad for a moment and then el Rubio got out of the car and I became very happy. “Rubio, bienvenidos,” I called to him.
“Bienvenidos,” he called back to me. “Como te va, mijo.”
I ran up to him and wrapped my arms around his waist.
He laughed. “You’ve gotten very tall,” he said to me.
“I’m almost a man now,” I said.
“You have school later?” he asked.
“Yes,” I lied.
“Morenito,” called Nelson. “Come over here and help us.” He handed me two small bags. “Take these to my house.”
I ran with the bags to Nelson’s house and opened the gate and climbed the stairs to his porch. I watched as el Rubio and Nelson walked slowly into the patio. All the people stopped to say hello to el Rubio and to ask after him and his family. Finally, they arrived on the porch.
“Tell me about you,” Rubio said.
“I’m fine,” I said. “I’ve been waiting for you to come.”
“Well, I’m here,” he said. “I feel like I’ve come home.”
Nelson laughed. “You always say that, brotherman.” Rubio laughed as well. They hugged each other. “It’s always good to have you here,” Nelson said.
“It’s always good to be here,” el Rubio replied.
I couldn’t wait any longer. I tugged at el Rubio’s pocket. “Did you bring something?”
Nelson became angry. “Is that the way you behave with our guest?” he shouted at me.
El Rubio smiled. “That’s all right. Cristian and I are friends. I’m not insulted. I did, mijo.” He reached inside one of the bags I had carried from the plaza and he took out a box. It was much larger than an iPhone and the wrong shape. Perhaps it was a tablet. “This is for you.”
I took the box and tore away the fancy paper that covered it. I took off the top and inside was a watch. But I wanted a phone. I didn’t need a watch. I couldn’t call el Rubio on a watch. I wanted to cry a little but I didn’t.
“Do you like it?” el Rubio asked.
“Yes,” I said, but I didn’t look up at him.
“Here, let me show you,” he said. “You can set an alarm so you won’t be late for school.”
“What do you say?” Nelson shouted at me.
“Gracias,” I said, but I didn’t feel that way. I was sure he would bring me a phone. In America everyone has a phone and they are cheap.
“Come, Richie,” Nelson said. “The girls are waiting for us with lunch.”
“Okay,” el Rubio said.
We walked out to the porch and Nelson locked up the house. I waited on the terrace watching them. El Rubio waved to me as they left the patio. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, mijo.” My stomach grumbled. I was hungry. I would have to wait till abuela came home.
I opened the box to put the watch back in. When I pulled off the top the paper in the box came loose. There was something underneath. I moved the paper with my finger. I could see it now. It was 500 pesos, no en moneda, en papel. I was happy. El Rubio did remember me. I slipped the watch and the 500 pesos into my pocket and threw away the box. I would go back to the empanada man. I wouldn’t have to wait till mi abuela got home. Maybe after that I would go to school. El Rubio would like that.
To learn more about AJ Sidransky and to purchase his books, visit his website http://www.ajsidransky.com/.