football, but we both played baseball and after moving north Isidro
also became a good basketball player. His food was different, that
was one thing. And he shared a basement with four kids, and often
there were cousins or nieces or nephews there at the same time, so
he slept in a sleeping bag on the floor until he was a teenager. That
was the extent of the deprivations he complained about. His parents did not speak English, I remember that, so when they came to
the U.S. to visit, Isidro had to translate for them for his wife, who
doesn’t speak Spanish.
“When you leave at night, where do you go?”
I am surprised that he is asking me this now, not having asked
me any time in the past year when we both turned in different di-
rections toward separate areas lit by the streetlights filtered through
“Different places,” I tell him.
When I leave, I usually walk several blocks, and then around
3:00, I come to a little shop that stays open all night. This shop is
where I buy cigarettes tax-free, only guys like me who know the
manager can ask for the smokes under the counter. Or sometimes
Somehow they will trudge on towards
oblivion, death waiting for them not so
far off into the future, fireflies, lit up,
then off. Yet I still like them, almost all
of them, they know not what they do,
these youthful innocents.
“You go where?” Isidro seems more
awake than usual.
“I go places. I go to places that have
the lights on, where maybe there are a
few people in the seats, coffee shops,
you know, places. Sometimes maybe I’ll
go see a friend. If I’m lucky it might be
a lady, but these days it is mostly just to
places that stay open late where I can sit
and smoke and read.”
Isidro considers this, then changes
the subject back to him, which makes
me more comfortable.
“If I owned this place, I would
change a lot of things.”
“You talk like an entrepreneur.”
“Don’t use your big college words
I laugh again. Isidro goes toward the front foyer, turns the lights
off there, turns the lights off in the dining areas, and we walk to the
back door. It smells like chlorine from the cleaning we have given
the place. Isidro is a good work partner. He does things the right
way. I open the door for him, turn my back to him and lock the
door. Then I face him. He is standing close to me. I’ve never felt
comfortable how close he stands to me, it’s another trait I don’t
understand but overlook.
“Maybe one of these nights, I’ll go off in your direction with
“It is too late at night, you have a family. When you walk
through the door, your wife rolls over in bed still asleep but sighs
and puts her arm where you will be in just a few moments.”
“This is true.” He turns in the direction he will be going, and
“I hate this place.”
“You will not be here long. You have a fantastic future ahead
Isidro reaches out his hand, elbow crocked, and we join palm to
palm, then we slide our fingers across each other’s fingers and form
fists, bumping our fists against each other, and then we pull our fists
back and say “bam.”
He’s young. It is true, he will not be at this place this time next
year. There are those of us who stay, and those of us who move on.
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