Chapter 33

Jose’s eyes are on the twisting road ahead of us. He switches on the radio and I’m treated to that song again and this is really making it feel absurd. I am white. I grew up white, I have white relatives, I live in a white part of town—kinda. I have white friends—kinda, I go to an American High School, I work in a . . . okay, but I’m still white.

Cousin Jose has black hair, brown eyes, deep brown skin. He speaks Spanish, listens to Mexican radio and goes to Mexican schools and I’m sure, has Mexican friends.

He is my dad’s brother’s son. Is he the Mexican version of me?  If I had grown up here we probably would have played together, liked the same things, had some of the same friends, watched the same movies, eaten lots of meals together, played together. We would have grown up together and we would be like brothers. I would be more like him than me.

But if his dad had moved north with my dad, we would have had the same friends, played together, gone to the same schools, watched the same movies, speak English . . . he would be more like me.

I guess we were separated by fate, grew up in two different countries, speaking two different languages, going to two different schools, having two separate friends, even two different skin colors.

Of course that could have happened anyway, if his dad had married an American, or brought his wife up north with him, but anyway, what was I . . . oh yeah, this guy is like my brother. I can’t deny it. It’s a fact.

I am a Mexican . . .  well, some Mexican anyway. I’m still an American, can’t change that, I wouldn’t want to, but I’m also Mexican, but wait, that doesn’t work the other way around. Jose is Mexican, but he’s not American too. So we are different.

How do I feel about all this? How should I feel about this? Is there a right way and a wrong way?  Is any way okay? What is the honest way? Should I feel proud of being Mexican? God, I used to hate Mexicans. Should I just keep my American Identity? Do I buy a Mexican flag and hang it from my window? Should I start learning to speak better Spanish? Is it okay just to be American? Can’t I just live the way I did before I came here? Everything was so simple before I came to Mexico.

And my dad! He died trying to get back to his family. He didn’t just run out on us. How do I feel about that? It feels strange to know that the one thing I knew for sure, the one thing I could depend on, was not really true after all. So If I can be so horrifically wrong about that, can’t I also be wrong about all this?

Damn! This is so hard. Life can sure get complicated fast—overnight even.

We seem to be heading into a town, more houses and tall buildings. Time to start a little conversation. “Como se llama?”

Jose looks at me seriously. “Jose, you no remember?”

There is a slight pause, then we both start laughing. “No, esta bario.” I mean the upcoming town, but by the look on his face, I can tell my Spanish was less than perfect.

“Ixtlan del Rio.”

This is a good-sized town from the look of it. This freeway seems to be skirting around it though. Just as well. The sooner I get home, the better. If the radio hadn’t been playing this whole time it would have been one quiet ride.

I wonder if he is thinking the same stuff as me? Is he having the same realizations too? Does he feel weird and uncomfortable? What if he IS like me? What if he used to hate Americans and now he feels weird having me as his nephew? He looks deep in thought—It’s true. He is thinking the same as me. I am so uncomfortable right now.

This is silly. I don’t know anything for sure. Maybe he’s okay with this.

Maybe we can have one of those language wars again. . . “La musica es bueno.”

He smiles. “Yes? You like?”

“Si” . . .  Well that was another quick conversation. “Donde tu escoola?”

He gives me a funny look, then smiles, “My school?”

“Si”

“Guadalajara.”

“Qual es tu favorite-o subject-o.”

He smiles. “I like business.”

“Si?”

 

“Yes. Supervisor.”

“Yo tam bien.”

“Yes?”

“Si, yo supervisor en Taco Bell.”

“Yes? I cook in McDonalds.”

McDonalds. I wonder if he was there when I ate there? I want to say wow and express my surprise. I know, “Ay yay yay.”

Dead silence. Even the song on the radio ended. We bust out laughing. Yeah, this is another strange conversation.

We begin to pull away from town and our speed increases. Lots of farms re-appear in every direction. They sure grow a lot of cactuses around here. “Mucho Cactuses,” I say. Surely, cactus is a Spanish name.

“Agave.”

Okay, so cactus isn’t Spanish for cactus. Agave? Why would anyone grow Agave on purpose, and why is there so much of it around here? Aren’t cactuses like a big ugly weed or something? I don’t even want to begin that conversation. I think I’ll just take a nap.

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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