on the mats from them being used all day since opening
time, when Michael, the manager, who is Steve’s friend from
Los Angeles, opens up. He’s the cheerful type, Michael is,
but Isidro is not the cheerful type at all. Isidro has a misanthropic streak. He thinks he dislikes a particular group of
people, like these college kids, but after working with him
for a year, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, I have
come to know him better than he knows himself, and he
does not like people,
that is his problem.
He’s not mean
about it. He isn’t go-
ing to hurt someone.
It’s just his way of
looking at the world,
very negative. He’s
self-centered. He thinks
only of being a success. There Isidro is,
mopping, when I come
back inside dragging
the mats I cleaned with
the pressure washer
dripping wet back onto the floor in front of
the two grills, the
four-burner stove, the
fat fryers and the double boilers. He’s just
mopping along when I slide the mat in front of him and
start attaching it to the next mat, like puzzle pieces fitting
together. I’m kind of bent over so my ass is pointing at
him, which makes it awkward now that he wants to talk.
“It drives me crazy, this job.” I stand up to face him.
“You always say that. But you come back.”
“You never understand. I have a family. I have to come
back. Not like you. You have nobody who relies on you.
You can leave any time.”
“I understand,” I say. “You tell me I don’t understand,
but I do. I have had times in my life when people relied
on me, too.”
He leans the mop up against the counter. He steps back,
leans up against the counter next to the mop. He fishes in
his pocket for a roach off of the joint he smoked in the
walk-in freezer when he started his shift. There’s nobody
around but me and him. Michael came by and picked up
the register trays and put them in the back of his Escalade
and drove off around 2: 15, when the cops were sweeping
drunks off the sidewalks. In ten or fifteen more minutes, I
will walk out with Isidro, and I will lock the door, because
they trust me with the keys and to set the alarm. Isidro will
walk to his car, drive to his home, where his wife waits for
him, and I will walk off in the other direction.
I stand up and lean against the double sinks opposite
“What do you have to worry about? You have a wife.
You are young. The future is fantastic for you.”
“And what about you?” Isidro asks me.
“I am not so young. My future is behind me now, there
is more in my past than in my future.”
“You talk like a Viejo. You have your lady friends, I see
them come by.” “They are friends is all, they like me for
Isidro laughs. He
has a sharp and boister-
ous laugh. “We should
open our own place,”
Isidro tells me.
“With what mon-
“We could rob a
Now I laugh. I once
brought a newspaper
article to him that said
most bank robbers
get away with $2,000
or less and have more
than a fifty percent
chance of being arrested every time they
commit a robbery. “I
graduated from high
school, cabrón. I can
tell you that the math there is not in our favor.” He was not
convinced. He thought it could be done if planned properly. He once told me a story about making a friend with
an employee, who said she would leave a key in a hatbox in
an alley and we could open the door to the bank, and we’d
have a pallet full of $100 bills we could lift right into the
van Isidro wanted to rent. You would think he would be
more suspicious than he is.
Isidro is out of Hermosillo, northern Mexico, in the
state of Sonora, which borders Arizona. I’ve worked with
lots of guys from Mexico. Bartenders, cooks, dishwashers,
the ones who clear the tables. They are different depending
on where they come from. The workers from Chiapas and
Oaxaca are short and squat with round faces, Mixteco not
Mestizo. The northerners from Baja and Sonora are taller
and thinner, and they are more modern in their outlook. I
had been to Hermosillo once with a female friend of mine.
We stayed in a motel. In the morning, we took a bus to
Kino Bay, on the continental side of the Gulf of California.
For some reason, I was surprised by how much Isidro knew
about the Bay and the desert and Hermosillo, but then I
realized, this was his hometown. It became this curiosity,
like how it would be to grow up in Hermosillo instead of
where I grew up, in Phoenix.
It turns out it was not all that different. There were local
FIC I T O Nh o n o r a b l e m e n t i o n There are Those of Us Who Stay, and Those of Us Who Move On Isidro has a misanthropic streak. He thinks he dislikes a particular group of people, like these college kids, but after working with him
variations, but mostly he had what I had, soccer instead of
for a year, I have come to know
him better than he knows himself,
and he does not like people.