Last night, I was sitting on my bedroom floor putting together a nightstand for my roommate. She joked that before we part, she’s going to buy a chest of drawers and have me put it together because she’s incapable. She put one together a while back and it wobbles and the bottom of the drawers fall out…it’s a miracle that it’s actually standing.
Anyway, in the midst of hammering and screwing, the loud shrill of my cell phone overcame the George Strait tunes (what? just cuz I’m a chicana doesn’t mean I can’t like him) Pancha (my computer) was playing. I picked up the phone thinking it’d be Dan the Man because he had run away from my hammering about half an hour earlier, but no, it was a number from El Chuco. I thought, “Huh, pos who could it be?” So I hit the “ok” button and articulated my most cheerful hello.
“Esta mi prima Georgina?”
“No, no esta. Jejeje”
“Ahh, como estas prima?”
For the first couple of minutes, I knew it was one of my Tía Bucha’s kids, but I couldn’t figure out if it was Rick of Jaime. I only figured it out when he said he quit his job in Reno because he got a better one in Salinas. Then he told me about his new truck and I asked him if he’d installed the cooler yet.
When we got off the phone, I was giddy that he had called me but at the same time, I was sad because he’d go back to being all alone. When I was home this past Christmas, he spent a few nights at my mom’s because he’s separated from his wife and she won’t let him stay at their house. So when he comes to see his kids, he spends then night at my mom’s or at a friend’s. Anyway, the night before he left, he went over to my mom’s and we drank a case of beer and talked. We talked about his separation, his kids, he showed me a picture of his little boy whom I’ve never met, then we talked about his mom and growing up.
When we were kids, we all hung out together, Jaime, Rick (his brother), my brother Jorge, my sister Gabi, and me. Usually, I’d get left behind on the expeditions because I was a lot younger than all of them. Sometimes, Jaime would stay back and play with me. It usually involved breaking Ken’s head because Ken was a joto. He always laughs about the time I peed on my mom’s sandal because he was making me laugh so much. I always remember him teaching me to tie my shoes and the instant popularity I gained in middle school when people found out I was Dino’s cousin.
After he was sent to jail, we wrote to each other once. (Before I scare you off, my cousin isn’t a drug dealer or cold blooded murderer. He was just a kid kicking it with the wrong people.) When he got out, we didn’t see each other much. Then after his mom’s death, I saw him a little more. He’d come over with Celia, his girlfriend, and they’d spend the night and we’d go shopping the next day or sit around and watch TV making fun the dubbed voices on the cartoons on the Spanish speaking channels.
When he got married Celia, I made the chile de arbol, which made everyone except one guy sick. Then there was some time that we didn’t see each other again. One night, we went over to his house and Celia was taking the girls to her mom’s and she was having a girl’s night out and he was staying home. My mom suggested that I go do something with him and we both jumped on the idea. We went to a lot of bars looking for a place where we could watch the fight, but no one seemed to be showing it. We ended up at this place called “Smokey’s.” We got a pool table and he snuck me a tequila shot and we hung out almost until closing time. We made friends with the guy who was playing at the table next to us who was originally from L.A. but was in El Chuco for his chamba, just like my cousin is these days in Reno or Salinas.
Sometimes in the middle of driving home or working, I think about him. I wonder what he must feel being out there all alone. I know he’s making money and he likes his job, but I bet he misses his girls and Anthony. Then I realize that he’ll probably be doing that the rest of his life so he can provide for his kids just like his mom.