First, there was George (really Jorge) and Pedro and Eddie. Two Jims.
Mark, Philip, and Andrew. Greg, Jeff, Joe, and John. Vinny, from Baltimore.
David, Tyler (Chinese-American and beautiful), Carlos, Pablo, Wilson,
Oscar y Roberto (the only real Spanish speakers: ÉNiño! ÉNene!
ÉMono!). How to translate their affections? Child. Baby. Monkey.
Claro que sí.
We will call this one Tomás, even though the white men try to
call him Tommy (and he hates it in two ways: the diminutive Bobbys and
Dannys and Billys for men too old for names like that, the fact that
these men can't say his name right.) We will call him Tomás. They
will say Tommy.
Someone else will call him Tomás: his name is Nestor and he is
in love with Tomás. Nestor is dark-skinned and small and longs
to be under Tomás, because he is tall, with arms that could shield
him from the cold.
But it never gets cold here, because it is Fresno. Why Fresno? A good
question, but others are already in line. And this roster of names—are
these friends of Tomás? Tricks? A list of lovers that only shows
how flighty a character Tomás will turn out to be? Do we already
know that Nestor will lose out by the end of the story (and in life,
because we have mentioned that he is dark-skinned and small and these
men don't like either)?
We will have to let the list go. We will not say anything about Tomás
here. Or about why this is in Fresno and not San Francisco or New York
or any other big American city where whole battalions of these men dress
like nuns and nurses to rile the mayors. Not these men. Not here. And
Nestor will come close to death, by his own doing, but we already know
he'll survive it and live (unfortunately) in continued unhappiness.
What has Tomás to do with any of this?
Nestor likes Tomás because of what he wears. He wears muscle
shirts and open short-sleeves, unbuttoned, even to work, and Nestor
thinks that no one complains because Tomás smiles with straight
teeth and teases the women. All in good nature because Tomás has
no hair on his chest breaking through the white cotton of his shirt,
no gold chains (not even a thin one) to remind the women that he is
as dark as the men they generally stay away from. Nestor likes Tomás
because Tomás's mother knows what her son has done and wants to
do and none of it seems to faze her. Perhaps because she is younger
than most mothers, still wears lipstick, and was glad to see her husband
leave. She wears heels and holds Nestor's cheek to kiss him every time
he comes to visit Tomás. She kisses him as if she knows what Nestor
wants, as if to say, this world isn't made for you. You don't want
someone like me, and someone like my son doesn't want you. She kisses
him like that.
We can see them, from a distance, as a group of friends. We know that
a group of friends walking together to the one bar in town cannot line
up side by side as they do on television. They must walk in pairs or
threes, sometimes ones. From a distance, we can see them as just a group
of friends, but if we get closer, if we let the adjectives take on their
clothes (black pants, loose blue jeans, shiny shoes, shirts spread across
impossible backs) or scents in the air (cigarettes because some of them
get nervous, the mingle of three colognes, one like lemons), we would
find that the group is a mangle of hesitations. We can see two of them
trying to walk on either side of Tomás, that Nestor is alone and
trying to keep up.
Later, if we like, we can get as close to Nestor as we want when we
listen to Tomás tell him about why the two were walking on either
side of him. Nestor will be on the telephone. He will listen to Tomás
as he tells him how all three of them occupied each other. We can see
what Tomás does to one of these men in particular, how the other
sat back and watched in a green armchair in the corner, but it will
be more telling to stay on Nestor, his hand on the receiver. He will
be wearing a white t-shirt when he hears this and little jeans with
the cuffs rolled up and no shoes. He will be pressing one hand against
his forehead as he hears all of this. His heart will be beating fast
and we will leave him alone to put down the receiver and do whatever
he does when Tomás says these terrible things to him.
On paydays at the ice company where he works, Nestor cashes his check
at the draw window. We can see the Mexican nationals snicker at him,
but Nestor cannot, because his back is turned and he is busy counting
his week's pay in twenties. He double-counts always. We can see the
way the men look at him because Nestor keeps his shirts tucked and his
pants are snug and he stands on tiptoe at the window. All his posture
suggests is what these men laugh at, but there's really no telling which
of the men are just going along with the taunt (because Fresno is not
a place to be lonely).
Nestor with the tucked-in shirt and snug pants is going to San Francisco
with Tomás. They will drive in Nestor's car and Nestor will pay
for the gas and for hamburgers along the side of Highway 99 when Tomás
gets hungry. They are going for an overnight in the city, to dance in
the Big City clubs, and drive home tired. Tomás is tired already
and when the boredom of the Valley gets to him (which is not very long—he
is bored with his life), Nestor will keep driving. The roads are straight,
so we will look at them, because Nestor is too busy stealing glances
at Tomás's sharp cheekbones and his brown eyes swirling in sleep.
We will have to keep a lookout for the many diesel trucks that are coming
back empty from San Francisco and up north, coming to take away oranges
and lemons and cotton, racing by because they are always late. Nestor
will admire how Tomás slouches in the passenger seat with his legs
spread wide the way so many men do and he wants to see himself hover
there. We will notice the approaching coastal range that fringes the
western part of the Valley and how purple and green it is, a tip of
fog already visible at its peak, and we will breathe in and try to feel
exhilarated by this vision. We will try to match how Nestor feels driving
Tomás in his car, sleeping as he is, wishing someone else were
driving them so that he could nestle against him without Tomás
ever waking up.
The list of names. Here are their problems.
One of them alerted his parents about his wet dream concerning the
wrestling team. Another will bore us to tears if we listen too long
about how his parents kicked him out of the house (he thinks he is the
only one). Too many of them are alcoholics for anybody to take their
pain seriously. One is a heavy drug user and is ashamed to admit it
and the others too unaware to catch on. One was just visiting Fresno
and ended up living there when he saw how cheap it was. One plays opera
in the dark to go to sleep, very softly (because a man in Los Angeles
told him he loved him and gave him the recordings). David and Tyler
(the Chinese-American boy, the beautiful one) and Pablo were all molested
as children, repeatedly and terribly, but they will never talk about
it. But we know about it, because something must come after them besides
adjectives. Tyler is more than Chinese-American and beautiful: he is
a singer and has charmed several other young men into him by singing
in their ears. He sings with a broken voice. And David will become a
medical student years from now because he will realize that the demanding
hours will save him from himself. Pablo will circle around for years
before falling in with a man who is not right for him. But he will stay
anyway, because that's Pablo.
We can share which of them will live quite happily: Eddie. The second
Jim. Wilson and Roberto together. That will be it. They have spurious
and wretched pasts, many places where time fogged over like the coastal
range before San Francisco and their descents landed them in unfamiliar
places. But they will remain satisfied and none of them will ever stop
in the middle of eating breakfast to think about so-and-so, why it was
them and not those, those and not them. We can't learn much from them,
in the end, because they will take their own reasons and swallow them
as whole as snakes do eggs. Their jaws wide and open and such a looming
thing disappears and is crushed and only the thin film of shell is spit
out to disappear on the Valley floor.
They go from club to club and Tomás borrows money to get in and
Nestor pays. At first, Tomás lingers by the doormen, as if forgetting
that he has to pay, chatting, and so the ticketsellers look at Nestor
and he hands them one of his hard-earned twenties.
Nestor will not take pills; he will not drink, even though Tomás
tells him that the next club is only a matter of blocks, so a drink
couldn't hurt. Tomás orders beer and while he waits, he takes off
his short-sleeve and stands waiting in his muscle shirt, cavalier, but
here no one seems to notice. In Fresno, Nestor believes the situation
between them is like something heavy in his hands. Here, we see him
look around and then up at the crisscross of light and we see what kind
of person Nestor really is: he names all the colors to himself. His
lips move and we can get close enough to read them: magenta, pink, red.
Amber, orange, chartreuse. Sienna, yellow, green, gold. Bright white.
Nestor knows colors. He keeps a sketchbook at home. He flips through
the department store catalogues and writes down the names of colors.
He sketches Tomás from memory. He gives them to Tomás so that
Tomás knows he sketches him from memory.
He is concentrating on these lights and if we paid attention, we would
want to see just how far and deep Nestor can go with color. (We might
lose ourselves in naming all the variations of blue, the way Nestor
can). So no blue—because we might not see how there are two men
looking at Nestor, both of them holding drinks. They wear expensive
watches and check the time, brown khakis, broadcloth shirts. We might
not see them swallow hard (both of them) at what they see in Nestor.
We will not get close enough to know why they are thinking what they
Tomás has a last name, but we don't think it's right to share
it. He lives in Fresno and a last name still means everything here.
Down in the smaller towns, a last name can feel worse, whole streets
owned by one family, the cars of all the young men crowding the front
Tomás needs to leave the Valley, and will. He has gotten himself
into many situations in small towns where he has been run out of a house
at gunpoint. It happened in Ivanhoe and Porterville, the back window
of Nestor's borrowed car shot out once and Nestor never getting an explanation.
Tomás does not know what happened to the boys he left naked and
surprised in their own beds, but we know. (Of course. We know what happened
Something crowds inside Tomás that we can't recognize, even if
we try. We might not understand what the old women in his family mean
when they say he has tainted blood. Tainted blood is too much the metaphor
for us; it can't take here. It can't work in the same way (though Nestor
is the worrier, wonders what courses through his veins). Tomás
is a different, more worrisome break from our lot, holding his name
back, running through with this tainted blood (a curse, the old women
say, and only some of us can sit on the lip of that canyon and understand).
Blood. Blood. Blood. Out of its element, we can't make much sense of
it, but it means much more to Tomás. It means he cannot escape
the way he is. It means he'd better not have kids. It means he cannot
be like the men of San Francisco (they are all around him in this bar)
who finally settle with someone when their looks have drifted like smoke
and decide to take in an Indonesian baby. No. This is not Tomás
and is not Fresno. He is living with himself, with a land of ranchers
and trucks, with hands reaching daily to pluck the fields (so many fields,
we can't know if we only buy oranges from the corner grocer), with the
birds that are housed in the small wetlands trying to fly away from
the pesticides, not dipping their beaks into the water, as if they know
that something will get in them and cause them to lose their feathers,
break apart like little downy pillows. He will leave that place. He
will leave Nestor there and we will not know what will become of Tomás
once he goes.
So Nestor and Tomás are lost in themselves in the middle of the
club lights while the men scout (as men will do in a place like this).
We will look at the two men who have been eyeing Nestor, because Nestor
is not thinking straight. He has been looking at the lights because
he saw Tomás talking to a young blond boy with too many teeth,
the boy's head tilting as if Tomás is too much to handle in conversation
and is anticipating what Tomás will do to him on his living room
couch. Nestor is not looking at that (trying not to) and so looks at
the lights in anger, thinking of all the variations of blue. We need
to pay attention to these men, one of whom has nudged the other, and
they are up to no good. We look at their expensive watches and their
clothes and understand how they come up with the tiny packets of powder
that they spill nervously into a bar glass of rum and coke. No one sees
them do this and if they did, they would think nothing of it (what's
cocaine or ecstasy or anything, anyway?) and we know that Nestor shouldn't
drink that drink (Alice! Dorothy!) but the anger blooming in his chest
will cause him to see one of the men and think he is a good-looking
man. (We hate to admit that the men are good-looking.) We know, even
through their clothes, that they are slick as seals and hard; they have
fun pressing themselves against men in the bar who turn around to see
what face is attached to all that muscle and aggression. We will see
Nestor turn around when one taps him on the shoulder, a blond man with
big hands, and Nestor will smile stupidly and take the drink. (We know
what he's thinking, the self-pity that is stirred in every rum and coke,
how he'll wreck the car and Tomás in it.) We will watch him gulp
it down because he doesn't know how to handle the blond man's grip on
his waist and his compliments (nasty remarks, but sexy all the same)
and we know we've lost him when the second man comes to join them and
Nestor wilts in the face of that attention and he's a goner, the spot
where he stood empty and then filled by another clubgoer. (Who cares
about that one: he comes here all the time.) It's Nestor, out of the
safety of the darkness of the music and the dim and shifting lights,
whom we should worry about.
We can call Tomás insensitive if we like. Witness: he drinks
a beer and talks to the blond boy, a real New Yorker who Tomás
can't understand, but it forces the two of them to step closer to each
other to hear. Tomás exaggerates his own English, hobbling it with
an accent here and there so that the New York boy (with a small apartment
in San Francisco because he can) has to keep asking him again and again
what he means. The New York boy tells him about his boyfriend in Italy,
a student at an art school, and the letters that come from Rome to say
sorry. Tomás listens while he drinks, but doesn't ask why the New
York boy is telling him any of this. Tomás knows why, of course
(and so do we—a part of us knows this New York boy is naïve
and manipulative at the same time) that he wants Tomás in his living
room and then a letter the next morning to send to Rome (the romance
of thin air mail paper). We might grudgingly accept Tomás accommodating
all of this, asking where the New York boy is staying, and they leave
the bar and we know what will happen. Tomás has seen the two big
men talking to Nestor earlier but makes nothing of it, cannot picture
Nestor completing such a bargain with men like that. He leaves without
much worry. But we purse our lips at Tomás and the way his head
does not pivot in all directions to look for Nestor, to tell Nestor
(however guiltily), that he will be back in a couple of hours, his tone
implicit that they can leave the club after that to eat at a diner.
He doesn't do any of that and we know he should because if he noticed
that Nestor were nowhere to be found, his jealousy would finally surface
and we would finally see, in his frantic searching of the bathroom stalls
and the dance floor, that Tomás harbors a need for Nestor's sweetness,
even if he never returns it.
Do we want to see it happening? (We know what's happening.) Do we
want to enter Nestor's haze as this goes on? Or would we be better off
(in the way that none of us ever wants to see the accident, but want
to see the glitter of glass) seeing how Nestor will be found? Do we
want to see him from afar, the dawn beginning to break over the slim
alley where he will lie, and do we want to hear a soundtrack swelling
over this sight like in the movies? (Perhaps the opening bars of "Goodbye,
Yellow Brick Road," but no, Elton John is too sentimental for what happens
here and besides, Nestor and Tomás and all the rest are not children
of opera and showtunes but Mexican ranchera in the mornings.)
So we will imagine Lola Beltrán and Amalia Mendoza, the one who
cries at the end of every song she sings.
How about policemen? Should we witness them as they find a very broken
Nestor, his pants tossed against a dumpster, one little black shoe lying
upturned (as if he'd been hit by a car), the other still, somehow, securely
on? Let's assure ourselves with the fact that both of them will approach
him with their jaws dropped and that they will not call him a faggot
under their breath, but they will think of their own sons at home, their
Is it better (or worse) for us to go back a few hours and see the two
men who didn't wait for Nestor to start buckling from his rum and coke
concoction? Do we want to enter that terrible space (inside those hearts
and minds and bones) inside those men, who want inside Nestor? Will
the parallel be too uncomfortable? And if we do get that close to that
hour (it was nearly three in the morning), will we see both men, or
the more brutal one, the one who wouldn't stop pressing up against Nestor
even as he cried against the brick wall? What the brutal one wanted:
will we ask to hear anything more about his childhood? (He had one.)
Will it serve to explain how it felt to handle this young man? (He knows
his name is Nestor because Nestor said so before he drank, but when
he mumbles it to himself as he pounds Nestor against the brick, he isn't
saying it right.) What will we make of his enjoyment of not allowing
escape, of feeling his own body control another one, his memory of kittens
squirming to get rid of him and his own big hands (big hands for a kid
his age) always catching little paws and tails and napes?
Will it hurt us to know that Nestor was fully aware of what was happening?
(He was, broken from his daze like a gunshot, a breaking and swelling;
he flashed a memory of boredom at work, the ice factory, how the ice
blocks broke apart with a sudden momentum, cracks never showing in the
translucence). He felt the men and heard them and the brick wall scraping
his left cheek and his own crying, his one bare foot exposed to the
cold of mid-morning. It is fair to say he will not remember. It would
be stupid of us to think he prayed (but he did, suddenly Catholic).
Where in this picture comes the best view of what has happened? Maybe
the secondary: the other man, who did the same to Nestor, but in an
absurdly soft and caring way. Maybe him. We won't comment on the barebones
here: he was hard and he slipped right into Nestor after the other had
done most of the work (a fish too long out of water stops flipping,
not hard to hold down.) But he took the time to enjoy the soft skin
of Nestor's back and pulled his face away from the brick wall as if
that would stop his crying. He thought he was more of the moment and
he kept saying, "Relax, relax," and we will have to consider that this
man actually meant what he said.
In the New York boy's San Francisco apartment, Tomás has the
the boy naked, legs resting on his shoulders, the boy curled up to take
him in. The lights are off and we are beginning to hear snippets of
dialogue. "Yeah, oh yeah, yeah," the New York boy keeps saying, but
he only repeats it, so the sound of his voice makes us think we really
don't need a description. The voice is sweaty and lusty and insatiable;
there isn't substance to it.
It is Tomás we want to hear, isn't it? To hear him speak? To be
close enough to hear his voice and how he might sound to Nestor, if
it will explain anything about him. Tomás groans to his greater
need, only groans and sighs. He likes the giving back of his own push
inside, the resistance, then the release, and how he sees white every
time that happens. But he doesn't talk during any of this; he is not
one for that kind of talk.
When they are done, the New York boy says, "Do you want some water,
babe?" and Tomás says yes, but he bristles at being called babe.
What we know about Tomás, though, is that he calls Nestor pet names
all the time. In Spanish, he calls him papí and nene
and mono and chango and Nestor wonders what about him
is monkey-like. "Monkey?" Nestor asked. (Nestor's intonation suggests
that he loves the name, the question not a question, the second-guessing
not second-guessing at all.) His voice is an electric spark of good
intentions, clean water, flowers blooming in ridiculously bright colors.
His voice is filled with love for Tomás, but we know Tomás
must put up something to resist hearing it. "Monkey?" Nestor asks again
(a whirl of good weather) and Tomás answers him so gently we can
only be angry at him for being so kind. "Monkey, sí," he
says, mixing Spanish and English, knowing that Nestor loves how they
(and only they; can we?) do that and Tomás hugs him close, knowing
that Nestor participates too much in this giving.
"Here's your water," the New York boy says, to interrupt, and the lights
are still off, but if we looked as hard as Tomás does, we can see
this boy's blue eyes glow in the dark and Tomás takes a long sip.
Without asking him, he begins to laugh as he brings the New York boy
back to the couch and they are at it again, the give-and-take, and Tomás
watches the boy's eyes widen in surprise at every entry and Tomás
is mean enough to wish Nestor were there, watching this. He wants him
to see how he can make this boy's blue eyes widen, how the mouth opens,
and even we can't figure out what that New York boy would want to say
at that exact second.
We are grateful, in a strange way, that the two men have stolen Nestor's
wallet. We are grateful because the policemen have ordered an ambulance
to cart him away to an emergency clinic and his injuries (kidneys: the
brutal one slammed the palms of his hands on Nestor's back) require
blood tests and a phone call home. They ask him where he lives and Nestor
does not want to say because his parents do not know about him and even
being in a clinic will not change that. He is awake and we see his eyes
register the possibility of his parents.
How does Tomás get there? He has been to the clinic before because
once muggers stole his watch and wallet and sliced at his hands when
he moved too quickly. It is the emergency clinic in the city that takes
in late-night trouble. We see Tomás wander around the club
at five in the morning. When he cannot find Nestor among all the bodies
still threatening to rupture at so late (or early) an hour, he considers
going to the usual diner. Maybe he will be there. He refused to think
that Nestor would ever go home with anyone (though we can say here that
Nestor has, because Nestor is much quicker about these things than Tomás,
doesn't linger and continue letting anyone call him 'babe'; he leaves
quickly because he is shy).
But he is not at the usual diner, and on the way back to the club Tomás
sees two policemen enter the doors. He asks two club-goers outside
what has happened, hoping to hear that a drug bust has gone on, but
they tell him that someone had been beaten in the side alley, that an
ambulance has carted him off. Tomás remembers the two men
He thinks of all the places to go. A police station, Nestor's parked
car. He remembers the clinic and goes to a phone booth across the street
from the club to call and ask if anyone has come in with a broken arm,
someone short and dark, and the nurse on the other line puts him on
hold. She comes back to him (we know her voice will be different, someone
has told her to keep Tomás on the line), but Tomás hangs up
at the first sign of hesitation.
He hails a cab to take him to the clinic, and when he arrives, we will
know something more about Tomás. He is thinking ahead, in a way
that will better suit him (but we know that he is convincing himself
that it is for Nestor's best interest) He will sit across the street
on a bus bench to see if Nestor will come out in a few hours. He wonders
if Nestor will be stupid enough to give his real name so they can send
him a bloated bill for whatever he got himself into. He doesn't think
much of Nestor's skill at living. (But we know Nestor is already afraid
and Nestor even gives a fake name and address and says he is okay to
It isn't until nearly three in the afternoon that Nestor finally exits
and he looks determined despite his slow gait. What Tomás doesn't
know is the whole story, nor that Nestor had to talk to the police,
that he was swabbed and counseled, and that he eventually broke down
in tears and wept harder than he ever had in his life and told them
(again his voice, sad as violets), "My name is Nestor Alvarez," and
gave his real address and told them, please, not to call his parents.
We know that the counselors told him about pressing charges and his
own willingness but all Nestor wanted was a ride to his car so he could
go home. One of the police officers gave him ten dollars so he could
catch a cab because Nestor didn't want to go in a police car.
So there. All of that, as Tomás approached Nestor ready to berate
him for his trouble, and Tomás doesn't know. Nestor will turn on
him and begin crying, without saying just yet what happened twelve hours
earlier, that late afternoon the last time Nestor was much of anything,
the beginning of the long road of remembering Tomás as the greatest
of failures, and of Tomás thinking that things were his fault.
(Tomás can't stop the course of a story, but we want to hate him
as much as Nestor does.) We will hate him as much as Nestor will for
the rest of his life.
They are going home. They are on the road by five, having taken a
cab back to Nestor's car and it will be Tomás who will drive. Nestor
is crying because the cuts on his cheeks will not heal in the five hours
before he gets home. He is crying because he is tired of lying.
How much do we think Nestor will tell Tomás on this trip? Will
he revisit the entire incident for him? Or will he break down and use
it to filter himself into Tomás's life, to say (as we have done,
let's not deny it), he is owed now. This experience gives him claim
for Tomás to take care of him. Is Nestor like that, using something
like this to his advantage like George (really Jorge), who used the
occasion of his mother's death to keep Tomás around? Now we know
that story. (Really, Jorge.)
In fact, Nestor says very little. He says, first (that voice), "I got
beat up, okay?" and then fifty miles later, after Highway 101 and crossing
into that coastal range Nestor speaks up again and says, plainly, "I
got raped by two guys," and we learn much about Tomás because he
does not know how to respond. He doesn't say a word for the rest of
the trip and neither does Nestor. They come back into the Valley and
since we don't have anything to hear from them, we have no choice but
to look at the scenery. The road twists, the diesel trucks are much
slower (because they are fully loaded with tomatoes and peaches and
dead chickens) and the vegetation becomes browner and drier as the elevation
comes down and Tomás and Nestor descend back into the Valley. Yes,
they descend, but we can't make much of that. This is simply how they
got home, Tomás taking Nestor inside his house and witnessing Nestor's
father having to hold back kicking Nestor's ass for being so stupid,
all that work at the ice factory gone because they wanted to go where
they didn't belong. (Do we think they belong there, not here?) This
might be where we will have to divide our attention because after Tomás
leaves to walk home, these two will never speak again, and we need to
close the circles on them. If we stay with Nestor, we will hear the
fury that boils over in this house when Nestor tells the truth (he will
be kicked out that very night; it happens, even though we think we've
heard it over and over.) If we follow Tomás, we will see him go
home and lie in his bed and he will cry, but we can't say whether he
knows why. We can't know because Tomás doesn't know, either.
So what is the story? Where do we turn? What do we focus on? Who do
we care about? Who do we identify with? How do we deal with Fresno?
Will we come to agreement about what has really happened here? Will
we see the same implications?
We want the irony or the softness, one or the other. We want the moving
past of struggling with parents (because don't mothers already know,
anyway?) We want to see people like Nestor and Tomás simultaneously
looking at men with lust in their hearts, and then not bring it into
their brief mentions of life. We want them to speak Spanish on the page
(because some of us like that, admit it, the dirty words you've learned)
and are disappointed that they don't. We don't appreciate that this
story is itching to close on an image of Nestor (still in Fresno) eating
a breakfast of cereal and orange juice. Mid-bite, he remembers Tomás
and is angry at himself because an erection greets the memory. We can
tell you that this story will close with the added information that
Nestor briefly dates a woman (so does Tomás, two in fact, but we
will have different reactions to that). Nestor is eating breakfast.
We can't know what Tomás is doing. We can't know what Nestor will
do after this moment because the story wants to close.
With eating breakfast? He is eating cereal and drinking juice. He ran
in the same crowd with Tyler, the Chinese-American beautiful boy (who
was molested by an older white man because the man found him too beautiful
on his tricycle). The two men in San Francisco are in Geneva; the gentler
one never did anything like that again, the other one did and never
got caught. They are eating croissants in the late evening (time difference),
taking bites at the same time Nestor eats his cereal (if we want it
that way). How do we want it? Do we want music? Country music (because
of its neutrality, in some ways, Charley Pride, just for a loop)? Not
opera and (God, no) not Judy Garland. Not here. Just trumpets with a
Mexican flair (yes, Mexican).
It isn't fitting. We are splitting and not agreeing because Mexican
trumpets are too specific. His name is Nestor and some of us think he
should levitate or endure something spiritual like that to close this
story, floating right through the ceiling, sprouting wings. His name
is Nestor and don't stories with names like that need to have levitation
and a good deal of magic? No, not this one. It won't. It can't. Leave
him be, eating his cereal. Some of us will stay with him. Others of
us won't (so go to Tomás, or Tommy, because he lets people call
him that now). The rest of you can go to him on an invisible cloud.
The rest of you can go see him in his new skin and bones. We will stay
with Nestor and finally hear what the deal was about his dating a woman.
He will speak (if you stay or not) and you might miss his voice. He
will speak about another man, too (the magnificent, if brief, Geraldo).
Broken, maybe, but old bones become new bones, old skin is second skin.
Flowers wilt and come back. The Valley falters, then blooms. He's eating
cereal on July 1. Stay with him until the fireworks because fireworks
are the greatest broken things of all (as Nestor will tell you, brilliant
with color). •
Manuel Muñoz was born in California's Central Valley and
lives in Brookline, Mass. He received a grant from the Constance Saltonstall
Foundation to complete a story collection.