Home’s wherever you are at the time
Le street artiste Mario E. Figueroa Jr., alias Gonzo 247 (gche) et Leo Tanguma (dte) devant 'The Rebirth of Our Nationality', lors de son inauguration le 10/06/2018
Once, I asked Roberto if he liked it in Texas. He looked at me forever. Called it another place with a name.
Could be worse, I said. You could be back home.
Home’s wherever you are at the time, said Roberto.
You’re just talking. That doesn’t even mean anything.
It would, he said, if you knew you didn’t have one.
Lockwood (p. 10*)
She’s gotta be white, said Javi. He’s already got a nigga. Otherwise, there’s no fucking point.
She could be Chinese, I said. Or mixed. She could be like us.
Why the fuck would he leave home to go back home.
Doesn’t matter what she looks like, said Jan. The point is that he’s gone.
My brother waved that away. He didn’t even look up.
We spent whole days guessing. At what she looked like, where she stayed. Javi swore our father’s puta was a model. Or an actress. But for the longest time I held out for something more domestic.
I painted her as a hairdresser. Maybe a dentist. A vet, although a year ago our father’d drowned the dog because none of us ever walked it. These conversations usually ended up with Javi smacking me down, pinching the fat on my ribs. Wondering how I could be so stupid.
610 North, 610 West (pp. 22-23*)
Nowadays she doesn’t come across as one of those women who dupe themselves, but back then Ma wore it all on her face. That was the worst thing. You could spot it across the block. And not because he left us—that shit could happen to anyone; and it did end up happening to us, eventually—but for the years leading up to the break, she thought she’d be the one to reel him back in.
My father was a handsome man. Wore his skin like a sunburnt peach. He was someone who could sing, who actually had a voice worth listening to. He’d pace around the restaurant, beating his stomach like a drum, humming the corridos he’d never taught us way back when. He’d flip me over his shoulder if he found me at the sink, carrying me away, convinced that it was the last place a boy needed to be.
Es solo para mujeres y maricones, he said, because the real men of the kitchen were out killing pigs or whatever.
But you, he said, you’re like your old man. Hierba mala nunca muere.
Then he’d drop me back onto my toes, kicking my ass with the flat of his foot.
Ma said that kind of wildness put boys in the dirt. But then our father’d grab her, too. Back when things were still good you wouldn’t catch them again for hours after that, which left Javi and me up front, tending to the customers, counting receipts.
610 North, 610 West (p. 24*)
One day, Javi asked Ma if our place was haunted. And it was, in a way. By our father’s other woman.
It’d nearly been a year, and even if we’d never seen her she still floated over our space, over the restaurant and the apartment. We walked and talked around her. Made room for her at the table. But Ma still asked my brother if he was the one hawking the shit disappearing around the house, and he laughed in her face. He told her garbage didn’t sell.
610 North, 610 West (p. 27*)
He knocked her up in the usual way. For six minutes it looked like he’d stick around.
But then I was born, and he stepped out for a glass of water, and believe it or not he’s been thirsty ever since.
I’m told my mother held me close. That she’d smiled. Pinched my cheeks. And after the usual recovery riffraff, she took off to find her guy.
Bayou (p. 53*)
She studied at the college downtown. Wanted to plan the insides of buildings. It took her a year to tell me, and at first they were just words because when people here say they’re doing something it’s either tomorrow or the day after.
But she did it. She figured it out. And from then on, she was busy. Whenever I actually saw her I thought she’d already upped and moved.
Bayou (p. 54*)
Change anything too much, it gets harder to keep it alive.
Lot (p. 64*)
Couple months before he started to turn, Javi got it in his head that he’d teach me to sock a baseball. This was before Jan’s baby, and the military, and the neighborhood’s infiltration by money, but after my father left, a time when you could probably look at the four of us and still call us okay. It would’ve been summer, because he slugged me in my shoulder, said we were going outside, to get my ass off the carpet and take notes on being a man. I was watching a movie, Princess fucking Mononoke, and he told me I had till he counted to one.
Lot (p. 66*)
My mother’s the only girl in the world who smiles as sad as she does.
Lot (p. 67*)
When our father split, he took every sound in the house with him. Ma wouldn’t talk for another few weeks, at least not to us; so the last things she’d called him were what floated in the air.
Lot (p. 69*)
I looked back at the man on the road, because of course sometimes people see things. Your eyes will show you what they want to, or whatever they think you should see. They’ll show you a happy family when all you have is bodies in a room. They’ll show you a man worth walking out on your whole fucking life for, a man who will leave you with three kids and a half-rotting lot, but because your eyes are your eyes and you know what you know, you won’t see the train until it finally hits you.
That’s him, I said.
Fannin (p. 95*)
Yo was the only one who knew where I came from. I told her about my brothers, and our home above the kitchen. I’d tell her how Javi essentially ran a brothel out of his bedroom, or how, some nights, my mother woke up just to sit at the dinner table.
Yo would brush her bangs. She’d whistle real low. Say, Weren’t you and I lucky to make it out of the crazy?
But, the thing is, it was never really that bad. Or it was bad, fucking horrible, and what I did was deal
Fannin (p. 96*)
She looked me in the face, and said, The thing about slow learners is that they eventually do learn.
And there was a lot in that. Another sentence behind it. Something I knew that, if she told me, I would never forget. But before she could open up and give me whatever it was, the bell dinged down by the restaurant’s register, my brother had let someone in, and my mother gave me one last look before she disappeared, and that was it, more or less, the conversation was gone.
Fannin (p. 97*)
And although Nacho still called him el pinche pendejo blanco, there was warmth in those words from there on out. Not respect or gratitude. Nothing akin to praise. Just acknowledgment. An acceptance of the way things were.
Waugh (pp. 99-100*)
Worse were the ones who popped the question: could you live with them? The ones who swore they’d take care of you. All you’d have to do was hang around, take a fucking every now and again. Disappear when they needed you to. Reappear just as suddenly. They’d tell you how much they loved you, how they couldn’t live without you, and that was Poke’s cue, it was all he needed to hear. He rubbed their heads and scratched their chests. He smiled at their jokes. He did all of these things because they’d never see him again.
Waugh (p. 106*)
With Ma gone, the house is an album. A literal Greatest Hits.
Here’s where Javi got bopped for talking big.
Here’s where I took my first steps and busted my ass.
Here’s where Javi taught me how to box, where he told me I’d never be anything, where he swore I’d end up in the tent city behind Leeland with the Jesus Freaks and cabrones struck by maldiciones.
Elgin (p. 123*)
* sur ma liseuse
Bryan Washington - Lot, Stories (Riverhead Books, 2019)
de 73 m de long réalisée à l’origine dans les années 70, au 5900 Canal St., Houston, par Tanguma,
aidé alors d’étudiants de la Texas Southern University et de bénévoles du quartier.