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This is going to be unexpected…
Mr. Big Shot Quiroz looked like the Mexican version of Donald Trump; he had on a black suit and a red tie, a cellphone on his ear at all times, yelling at someone on the other end, and a suited up trophy wife sat happily right next to him. But of course, this guy had black hair (or was it a wig?) and didn’t speak a word in English.
All right, I guess it was time for me to follow the flow.
It was hot outside, Hollister Ave looked lonely, except for a couple of white men who were standing right outside the 7-Eleven. They looked just like the men I’d seen last year, when I came to Altamirano’s for the first time. Juan Carlos parked right behind a recent-model, black Thunderbird and stared at its rear-end the same way you look at a woman’s ass.
Can’t say I blame him.
“That car belongs to Mr. Quiroz,” he said. The look of happiness on his face was like the one I make right after I ejaculate.
I couldn’t help assuming I knew what his next sentence would be. “Let me guess, if I sign up with you, I’m gonna have a car like that?” I know I was being cynical about it, perhaps a bit of an asshole, too. But I think it’s good to be an asshole sometimes, especially when you’ve heard the lyrics of a song for so many times you end up having nightmares about it.
Yep, if you’re not careful, The American Dream can turn into an Anglo Nightmare.
June took over the calendar and half of the year 2007 had faded away into oblivion. It was on a Thursday, at 10:34 in the morning, when I sat in front of my desk, inside the box, staring at the blank page, hoping I could write something down. I hadn’t written a word on my journal in a while. I spent five minutes threatening the blank page with my pen, pointing at it like a bank robber who is yelling at a deaf clerk who can’t move a finger because he’s afraid he’s going to lose his life. Is that how the blank page feels?
In the year when smartphones were beginning to be popular, I still had a stupid phone, which was on the desk, between the computer keyboard and the notebook. I looked at it, praying to a God I didn’t like, hoping He could send a distraction my way, or something that would allow me to say or write down a paragraph worth reading.
And He did.
Praise the lord.
Roberto was the first person to know about my first unsuccessful attempt to romance. I went to him, like a choirboy goes to a priest, while he stocked a shelf with pencils, erasers, and a wide assortment of white-outs. By the obvious look of exhaustion on my face, he could determine I was both tired and slightly heart-broken. It was 10:30 am, and although I’d already worked a month at the gas station, I couldn’t get used to the schedule. Having two jobs was sucking the life out of me.
That day, Sunday morning, Roberto told me why. “It’s because you only work the graveyard shift during the weekend. Therefore, by sleeping your regular schedule on the weekdays, and rapidly changing it every week, you are not giving your body a chance to adapt.”
That made absolute sense. “So I’m pretty much killing myself one weekend at a time?”
Normal, happy people have cake and smiles on their birthdays. I’ve never had that. True, I wanted it when I was a kid, but at that moment, when I turned 22, it all seemed like a distant memory, something I thought of on a different life. Nevertheless, I hoped to feel happy and loved that day instead of sad and forgotten. My mother didn’t call, which was surprising, because she always did. And there was also Celia, the only girl I liked ever since my last girlfriend had dumped me three years earlier.
I’d called Celia a couple of times. She never answered.
April 2007 was now taking over the calendar and my 22nd birthday was around the corner. By then, Facebook had been out for two years and people were beginning to forget about MySpace. Two months later Steve Jobs surprised the world with the new iPhone and its slogans “This is only the beginning” and “Apple reinvents the phone.” But these two pieces of unnecessary trivia are, well, trivial, because I neither had an iPhone back then nor I was that crazy about social media. Talking to real people, face to face, will always be my favorite thing to do.
And that was what I did that day at the cafeteria while discussing Grammar with two friends, Nestor and Jorge. The three of us had a coffee on our hands, trying to brush off the tiredness of our daily, hectic schedules. In all honesty, I wasn’t as tired as they were.