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  • Writer's pictureEric James

“Him to Be”

Updated: Mar 16

Adrian learns from his father their is more to the title page of a person's story.



“Everyone is not raised with a father available, let alone a good one. Cherish what you have that others do not."



Eric James, December 2021, @DistilleXinc2021

 

Smoke deteriorates vision and sight. Fog is smoke except it is much lighter and thinner. Steam is similar to fog except it’s hot. Steam comes from water. Our bodies can’t survive without water. Water is the base liquid in all drinks. It doesn’t rain Coca-Cola nor will you find rivers of Sprite. Liquid clenches our thirst. The more we are deprived of water, the more we want it. Well, tell that to senior Javier Ramirez. He goes by Javy for short.

Javy’s ego rarely reaches above the ’99 Ford Mustang he drives. He prefers watching this vintage two-door car over watching a local White Sox game. Javy has a daughter who is taller than him. His wife recently gave birth to a baby girl whose face can calm a fierce storm. Javy also has a son who enjoys fútbol rather than football. His other son, who is a bit older, has a personality more golden than pineapple soda. The names of Javy’s family cannot be mentioned yet because Javy acts as the walls of his home that protects his family from the weather but not from him. You know… Those walls… That hides inside of that house… That appears to be constructed by a genius and an athlete, but when you enter, those same walls reveal their true love for dodge ball. Except based on the condition of these walls, they don’t do much dodging.


While at home, Javy sits on a sofa that seems to have possession of the deed to his house. This auburn-colored sofa has freckles on the face of it. The arms of the sofa have so many potholes that the city can’t fill them but instead pave a new road. The legs of the sofa are as sturdy as a ball balancing a brick. It’s leaning! It’s leaning and rocking just as Javy does when he goes to a party. Imagine a forty-seven-year-old man who’s hero is Bono, snapping his fingers and bobbing his head. I refuse to stand next to him when he dances like this!


Speaking of Bob, Javy’s best and only friend is Matthew. Matthew plays guitar. He is as good as advertised. That is only if you have seen the advertisement. Javy plays guitar as well. That is about the only thing they have in common. And nothing else! Matter of fact, Javy’s daughter has more in common with Matthew. They both try to avoid Javy as much as possible.


No matter what happens in life, Javy just chugs along. He goes to work every day as if the union for his job knows his name. Last month he was promoted from riding in the delivery truck to driving it. Most of his income comes from the restaurant he and his wife co-owns. This is the smartest thing Javy has ever done in his life. He works for the company that delivers the food to his restaurant.


He drains me with his lax behavior. His daughter has a boyfriend he approves of. He comes to every one of his son’s soccer games. He goes out of his way to furnish anything his wife may need. Earlier this month, he took his vacation ahead of schedule to watch the baby so his wife could rest. Whenever someone needs a favor or gift, he gives it to them. He is a pushover. It is quite irritating to witness him constantly getting taken advantage of. Half of the people he goes around don’t want him near them. He comes off as that person who is desperate for a friend. Watching people squint their eyes and turn their noses when he shows up makes me sad.


They are embarrassed of him. It’s true. He doesn’t appeal to anybody with his scruffy hair and unaligned beard, but he cares about people. He needs to let loose of those ignorant folks and find some individuals who accept him for whom he is. He deserves better. His happiness is usually based on the happiness of others. Altruistic is the best adjective to describe him. This trait should shed immediately. This trait should shed for a little selfishness. He just needs to wake up one day and do him. No one appreciates him. No one!


But I do. On his birthday, not only will we celebrate but I will chat with him man to man to let him know how I feel. His birthday should be a rebirth of his life. A life that should make him a Da Vinci painting in a room full of amateur artists. They say they never really miss you until you’re dead or you’re gone. I refuse to have my papi, Javier Ramirez, acknowledged after his presence is no longer present.


I can’t believe his jerk of a friend Matthew has shown up to the party. My mami told him a month ago to plan a day with Javy so he can be distracted while we set-up the surprise party. We come into the house, on this early afternoon, to my papi still sitting on the couch. He wondered why we have so many bags in our hands. Luckily, my papi’s investigative skills are lazy. He can barely lift his arm once he eats, let alone trying to read between the lines. We take the bags to my room. My mami calls Matthew to enquire why he didn’t take Javy out for the day. This nutcase said he forgot all about it.


I’ve never seen the planner of a party forget to plan a party. Who does that? My mami let him slide by falling for his ‘busy’ excuse. So my mami decides on taking Javy out herself. She had made plans for things to do today with and for Javy, but now her schedule is squeezed. She gives me a receipt and my papi’s spare car key in order to pick up the cake up at 1pm. She also wants me to decorate the house the way she designed it and to text her with any questions or concerns. She was about to take our baby-sister with her until I offered to watch her since I’ll be here decorating. She leaves with Javy.


Time has passed. I am about to hang up a banner that reads, “You are not the best papi in the world, but you are the best father in the world.” My mami had that banner custom-made strictly for my papi who loves dry sarcasm. I tell the guests who have just arrived to come over to sign the banner, as they would a birthday card. After the person I deem as the last guess to sign, I take the banner then climb onto the stool preparing to tape it to the wall when I feel a tug on the banner.


“Hey boy, I’m about to sign it,” says Matthew. “You forgot about me.”


“I know I did. Can I hang this up?” I say.

I tug the banner towards me. Matthew leans his head back with a smirk. I tape my end to the wall.


“Okay! I can’t sign?”


“Heck no, beat it,” I say.


I tug the banner towards me even harder.


“Dang…” says Matthew turning his head around to lift his eyes at the guests. “Why can’t I sign it?”


“I thought you were too busy.”


I jump off of the stool then nudge Matthew away from the table. I roll up the remaining part of the banner that was lying on the table. I hear Daisy crying in the other room. The part of the banner that I had taped to the wall is beginning to lose its grip, so I tell Nick to climb on the stool to hold it up until I come back from checking on Daisy. Nick does so. I go into my bedroom to a squirming Daisy.

I give her a bottle of juice. She holds it to her mouth then stares at me gleefully as if she is teasing me. I tell her to drink it before I do. She giggles in reaction to my jolly fingers giving joy to her chin. I come back into the dining room to Matthew with an ink pen in his hand conversing with someone. The banner is off the wall and spread across the table. I immediately go to the table to check the banner to come across these words written under the ‘In the World’ part.


“Happy Birthday Javy! Hope you have a good time! Matthew.”


What the heck!


“Nick, I thought I told you to hold the banner up, not let random people sign it.”


I pick up the part of the banner which still has the tape on it, which is no longer sticky, and climb on the stool to try to re-stick it. Failure!


“I told you Nick, now it won’t stick,” I say. I press the taped banner against the wall. “Hand me the tape so I can finish this. You shouldn’t have let random people sign the banner. It is now starting to rip.”


“Is there a problem?” asks Matthew. “I thought you was joking at first, but I seriously can’t sign the banner?”


“Excuse me, I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to my lil brother,” I say. “Nick, the tape right there on the table by that basket.”


“Did I do something to you?”


“Thanks Nick. Hold the banner up above your head so I can tape the rest.”


I overhear Matthew tell that woman he was talking to, “You’re right, somebody do have it out for me. You know how kids are.”


“Who you calling a kid, you loose piece of change!” I yell to Matthew.


Everyone in the room stare in amazement. I hear a couple people whisper to each other “Who he talking to,” and a couple people cover their mouths with their hands.


Matthew responds very defensively as if he doesn’t won’t to appear as an adult who gets bullied by a child.


“Whoa, what is all that about little boy,” says Matthew. “Watch your mouth when you talk to me.”


“What the heck you mean watch my mouth!” I say. “You in my house.”


“Well, I don’t know what your problem is… I haven’t done anything to you,” says Matthew. He is talking in a gentlemen’s voice tone as if he doesn’t want to look like a malcontent cussing out a child. “If I have done anything to you let me know, but I am not about to sit here and be disrespected.”


“Well if you don’t like it, then leave my house!”


“I’m not leaving.”


“If I want you to leave… YOU will,” I say. “Aint nobody scared of your big self. You can leave my house NOW.”


“From my understanding, this is your mom and dad’s house, so I’ll leave when they tell me to.”


I know he didn’t go there! How you get all cocky where I live. He’s posing to appear buff but overuse of sugar challenges his muscles tone. If he knew how he looks with that tight blue shirt on. How the heck can someone wear a tight blue muscle shirt with some dress pants. The only reason that shirt is tight is because its small.


“This my house too,” I say. “I f I want you to leave then you will.”


“Anyway, I am not about to argue with you, a CHILD,” says Matthew. He turns around then takes a couple steps toward the mantle, “I’m about to call Javy and tell him about this.”


“Call who?” I say. I jump off the stool nearly ripping the banner. Nick runs over and grabs the part of the banner that nearly ripped. “I know you not about to call my papi. You didn’t call him when you were supposed to take him out today.”


“What are you talking about!” says Matthew, he raises his voice sounding like an asthmatic. “What the blue cheese are you talking about!”


“You know. You were supposed to take my papi out so we can plan the surprise party but your wiener behind forgot,” I grip the tape-roll tighter engraving it with my fingerprints. “Then you have the nerve to trot in here like nothing is wrong. My mami still had to take him out. If you was so call was too busy, why are you here now? You should have come over to take him out.”


“Boy, your papi didn’t want to go out,” says Matthew balding his fist. “I called him and he said he would rather stay at home.”


“What! Aint nobody falling for that rotten bologna!” I say. “You knew for a month we were planning a surprise party. It didn’t matter what he said. You should have come over to take him out anyway. You didn’t even come in to ask where he was. You should have asked and found out where my mami took him. The you should have met up with them to hang out with him so my mami can come back here to finish up.”


“Since you all in adults business, I did ask her,” says Matthew pacing in one spot. “She said it was nothing for me to do.”


“Duh!” I say. “Of course she gon’ say that. She don’t want it to be any confusion on my papi’s birthday. I saw the look on her face. It inconvenienced her you nutcase!”


“HEY! I am not disrespecting YOU so DONT disrespect ME,” shouts Matthew. “I am a grown man. I am not about to take this from some puberty-laced child!”


“BOY! Who you calling… Boy!” my shoulders tense up. “If you was a man then nobody would have tell you what to do. A REAL man would have known how take care of the situation. But you gon’ call ME a child!”


“Where the blue cheese is all of this coming from. You need to stop this NOW!” shouts Matthew balding one hand into a fist and punching it into the other. “You better watch your mouth. I’ll…”


“Do what! You aren’t going to do anything!” I yell as I smack the tape against my hand, “You think you going be tough man where I live.”


“Why don’t you guys stop it,” says the woman getting between Matthew and I. “He is just a child. He don’t understand things yet.”


“He better understand,” says Matthew.


“Understand WHAT! I yell. “It’s MY PAPI birthday not his.”


“Oh my GOD,” she says.


“You know what Adrian, you are being VERY disrespectful,” says Matthew. “I’m calling your papi. NOW! I never thought you were this way.”


“Well if you didn’t know, now you know,” I yell. “How you gon’ call my papi. You can’t hold your own.”


I see out the corner of my eye Nick picking up the house phone and dialing a number.


“You always call my papi when you need something. You NEVER call him to hangout to chill. You like those people who are only around somebody when they got something or if you NEED something,” I overhear Nick telling my mami over the phone I am arguing with Matthew. “You ain’t going to keep treating my papi like trash. He might be too soft to correct you but I’m not!”


“Adrian, mami wants you,” says Nick nudging me. “Adrian, my mami said go to your room and call her,” Nick places the receiver back to his ear. “They’re about to fight.”


Matthew paces to the couch to grab his jacket. I feel a warm embrace. A voice starts to fade into reality. It is my mami’s friend, Maria, holding me while on the phone. She is telling my papi what just happened. I just sit there breathing hard with tears in my eyes.


Matthew rushing to pick up his jacket results in his keys dropping. He is still talking mess.


“What I look like. Javy better check his son,” screams Matthew.


“Your papi wants you to go to your room sweetheart,” says Maria. “Matthew, Jessica wants you to leave immediately.”


“I’m leaving, don’t worry about it,” says Matthew pacing back and forwards near the door as if he is waiting for another confrontation. “I got kids his age.”


“Then you should know how to raise one!” I shout.


“Settle down,” says Maria holding me. “Too young for drama.”


Nick spins slowly in a circle scanning the room then he takes off down the hallway.


“I don’t know, he just came at me all wrong,” says Matthew.


“That’s his problem. He thinks he’s innocent. He couldn’t take my papi out,” I say to Maria. “He only around when he wants something. How are you going to be a Free Mason borrowing dog food from my papi.”


“Borrowing dog food! I got money! I got money! I work,” yells Matthew. “Why do I need to borrow dog food from your papi. I can pay for my own dog food!”


“Nick… didn’t he borrow some dog food a couple weeks ago?”


“Yeah,” whispers Nick.


“Maria, all he does is use my papi. He only around my papi when he wants something. I’m just supposed to watch my papi get misused,” I say with my trembling mouth. “He don’t give a crap about my papi. My papi gave his last $200 dollars to him a month ago so he can pay for some windows because somebody apparently broke into his home. Then he spent a night a couple weeks ago.”


Nick comes back into the room then hands me my phone. Everyone else in the room is just standing to the side watching in astonishment. I bet they are thinking this surprise party for Javy was a surprise for them.


“My mami wants you,” says Nick trying to hand me the phone.


I brush him off as I am texting my papi. Nick puts the phone on speaker phone.


“Adrian go to your room. NOW! Go to your room. Your papi and I are on our way home. Go to your room so we can talk,” yells my mami.


“I’m getting tired of him treating papi like he nothing.”


“It’s okay sweetheart,” says Maria holding me close to her. “It’s gon’ be okay,” she takes the phone from Nick and holds it near her shoulder. She is now talking to Matthew, “Can you leave.”


Matthew nods his head in an arrogant manner then leaves the house. I go to the window to see him sitting in his black range rover. He eventually pulls off. I sniffle, wipe my nose, then head to my bedroom. A few minutes later my papi comes in.


“Now before I begin, I want you to understand that you are not in trouble. I was telling your mami, I was glad to hear you upset without using any over the top derogatory language. You said nutcase but I can live with that. Baby steps. You will apologize to him either way.”


“I’m sorry I ruined your birthday party.”


“Ruined! The party just started!” my papi gets up then starts to lean and rock.” Lean wit it! Rock wit it!”


I facepalm myself. My youthful eyes should not be devastated by this sight. It did, however, instantly turn my frown upside down.


“Lean wit it! Rock wit it! Come on Adrian,” says my papi reaching for me. “Put your back into it. Lean wit it! Rock wit it!”


“Mami!” I shout. “Papi is ruining his surprise birthday party!”


“Surprise!” shouts my mami from the living room. “Lean wit it!”


“Rock wit it!” says my papi.


“Oh my. I swear if this doesn’t stop I will replace the banner on the wall!”


“Okay. Alright.” says my papi taking a seat in my gamers chair. “This feels like heaven. Maybe we should switch.”


“Never. I mean never. I would sell it before I observe you giving it tinnitus with your Godzilla sounding snores.”


“Fair. Anyway. I just want to tell you. Like I said. I heard not only what he said but what you said. Look Adrian. I am grown. I know my life. I know Matt is not the best of friends. He tries. I am not a pushover. I am just beyond the chaos. I want serenity for you and my family.”


“He does nothing for you.”


“He helped your mami and I get the restaurant. He got me the delivery promotion. You don’t see everything.”


“Well,” I sigh heavily. “So that nullifies how he treats you?”


“No it does not. I give it to God. He will deal with him. I have told him things. I am still his friend because he tries. God never gave up on me. I will not give up on Matt. He tries. Now if he didn’t try to get better then he would be a distant person. I would thank him for what he has done and love him from a distance. But he tries. He really does. In all honesty, you may have hurt his feelings.”


“What! How? I was keeping it real!”


“Sometimes keeping it real hurts others. People know who they are. If you figure it out, then use it to avoid being in that same spot the are in. Don’t give them reasons to blame you or others for their well-being. They will not learn anything.”


I had no idea my papi was this wise. Where has this been. You would never know my papi is wise by observing him chowing down on a meal at Frontera Grill. He loves that place. He models his restaurant after theirs.


“Where did you get this advice from? Did you research before you got back home?”


“No. I research both our papi’s. You wouldn’t know because you never go to church!”


“Oh!”


“I am not going to force you either. When you are ready for God, then you’ll be ready. God is always waiting. I’m not going to force you to church every Sunday so I can be one of those righteous parents and brag. God doesn’t hold grudges. He’ll be waiting. I prayed last Sunday to God for a trillion dollars. I want to buy Mexico. It’ll be a kingdom for our people and others who respect us and themselves. I keep it to myself. You are the first to know.”


“Well, second,” I say astonished by my papi’s non-selfish idea. “That’s cool. I could be vice president.”


“Not with that anger!” laughs my papi. “Calm it down some more. You have fire. That is good. I like how you stood up for me. That made my birthday. That was a surprise. I honestly thought you guys staged it while I was in the car. Your mami kept saying it wasn’t. I thought you guys were trying to cheer me up since I been down lately after the accident at work.”


“Will you get fired? Will you have to work for another delivery company?”


“I don’t know yet. It was my fault so…” my papi scratched his throat. “Maybe they will give me a second chance. Maybe not. I’ll give it to God. You showing you care that much was a great present. I never knew. I mean, I know you love me but you teenagers never really show it because its lame. No one might share their Yu-gi-oh cards with you.”


“Seriously papi. Yu-gi-oh cards! How OLD are you?”


“48 and handsome!”


My papi leans and rocks again. He is immediately dismissed from my room. He said some real deep things to me. There are two sides to a story despite what I think. I didn’t know Matthew helped with the restaurant. I still do not think it excuses his actions. But if my papi has patience with Matthew then I’m just sucking thin air fighting him. The timer on my watch goes off. The cake. I’ll worry about Matthew later. I leave my room to the like of his presence.

He is chatting with my mami and papi. I inch by signaling my mami I am going to get the cake. Mostly everyone is gone. She meets me at the car.


“I was thinking. The party is not ruined. I texted everybody and told them to leave. They are to pretend they are leaving to give you guys space for a couple hours. Your papi expects the party to start in two hours. Wrong. Matthew texted me feeling bad about forgetting while you guys were arguing. I’m coming with you to get the cake. Your siblings will leave with Maria to, so-called, by more things for the party. Matthew will then take your papi to give him his gift. He is really taking him to a friend of mines house. That’s where the party will be. We’ll yell surprise when he gets there! Good plan right!”


“Wow. That is clever!” I say with a smile. “Matthew is coming through.”


“Yeah, he loves your papi. And you too. Come on. We got to be sneaky!”


Javier Ramirez ended up being surprised again. Now, he really thinks we staged the argument! It all worked out. Matthew ended up apologizing. I did too. All is forgiven.


 














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