Death Is The Only Thing We Have Guaranteed InThis Life
Or as Chente so famously said: lo importante no es llegar primero sino saber llegar, because in life there really aren’t any guarantees. None whatsoever. Not even the feelings inside of our hearts are guaranteed to stay the same forever.
De mocoso I wanted nothing more than to be like my big brother. He sharp and fast, beady eyes, never at ease, climbing trees, running faster than me, tougher than me, cooler than me, the one everyone always wanted to play with. Me, lanky and awkward, legs and arms not strong enough, eyes round and slow, bewildered at the world around me, not fast enough to keep up with him or my cousins. Them, playing cowboys and Indians, bank robbers and cops, chasing after one other, roughing each other up, figuring out who could take the hardest punches. Me, playing with my little brother in the sand, lost in our imaginary world of fantasy and make believe, awing at the tiny worms and snakes found underneath the surface of our dirt roads. Everywhere dad went, he went, little boots and sombrero running after him – me, much happier at home, listening to my sisters’ singing, my mother’s footsteps in and out of the house, the scent and sound of her cooking, washing clothes, giving me comfort, kneeling outside in our yard just close enough to hear everything going on inside.
Still, I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be the one climbing fruit trucks, throwing cantaloupes down for everyone else to catch, sticking up for my younger brothers, following my father around and actually liking it, confident in my agility, knowing I was every bit the little man my parents said. But I wasn’t him.
Sixth grade, we were the same. My book smarts, his street smarts, together, everyday, standing at the corner, riding the Metro to school, our cousins, our friends, playing hooky, five finger discounts at the Galleria, baggy pants, big t-shirts, wino shoes, hair slicked back, gelled down, and we were cool – cooler than we’d ever been before. With each other at least, not entirely sure about the rico suave part. That was before he found me soft and nerdy – me, all his friends and the things he wanted to do stupid and pointless. Sin querer queriendo we grew apart.
High school, one year away from graduating, infatuated. She was pregnant, not by me, but I didn’t care. We’d met in Catechism school of all places and I was smitten…even if she wasn’t. You need a ride to church, home? Want to stop for a raspa? You want me to take you to the doctor? I don’t mind, it’s okay. I’ll wait. It’s okay. Nothing would have made me happier than to be correspondido, but a big fat nothing is what she felt for me. What she always felt for me. Even the younger brother could see it, though he never told me anything, just looked down and away from me every time I’d beg in front of him. Baby delivered, still nothing, not even a kiss, just a hug here and there, a smile, tears, maybe of guilt, and many, many thank-yous all the time. Trips to the zoo just the three of us, nothing; pamper runs to the pharmacy in the middle of the night, nothing; talking to the baby daddy, it was okay, I understood. Then one day, bam! Married and too busy for our platonic game of cat and mouse anymore. Nothing but anger and bitterness left.
Años later, brother and me still little boys at heart, connected by a mixture of street and book smarts, mostly what you’d call the sangre running through our veins calling out. Me still nerdy, he still brave, little brother still wondering with me, no thirst for love, no anger, no bitterness, gray hairs filling my head, a man of my parents creation and education, sisters, not two, but four, in love with what I’ve been given, not what I would have wanted to have. Proud, a worrier, never perfect, but happy and trying hard to hold on to what’s in front of me because if there’s one thing we learned in our home of ‘puro sudor, sacrificio y a duras penas’, above all the tears, heartache and drama, it’s that: la muerte es lo único seguro que tenemos en esta vida.
This one goes out to all the ones coming up behind. Que nuestros tropiezos les sirvan.