Live From Fresno y Los by Stephen D. Gutierrez

Just Everything

So on a Thursday night Walter finds himself on a strange porch with his new friend Nadia under a moon the size of a grapefruit, making out. She called him up out of the blue (actually she always called him up on Thursday nights, and on Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays too. Walter pretended he didn’t like it but liked it very much) to say that she was here, in the City of Commerce, at her mom’s friend’s house on a street called Jillson or something.

Walter dressed up in his best Levi’s and t-shirt and trucked on over there. She met him on the corner, and now they lean against the railing looking up at that moon the size and shape and color of a grapefruit in the sky. He squeezes his eyes shut and imagines himself on it, scooping out spoonfuls before he dissolves into her shoulder, biting her.

They bite each other. They lean against each other and sigh, slurp, hold tight. They nuzzle fondly in the barren part of Walter’s neighborhood, where the bank jets straight up into the sky like a concrete geyser dimly lit by the ground lights, and the rushing roar of the traffic on Washington Boulevard is constant behind them.

The house is a small, wooden structure that Walter has not noticed before, tucked into a corner between the bank on one side and an alley of similar rundown houses on the other; weeds stick up out of the dirt. Vacant lots are scattered around them. Then the neighborhood proper starts, where Walter came from.

Her name reminded Walter of a Russian princess wrapped in furs, but she was nothing like that. “Nadia De Leon,” he liked to repeat to himself when he thought of her. “Just a new girl I know.”

Walter met her a couple of weeks ago at Atlantic Square Shopping Center where he was selling raffle tickets with his buddy Fernando. He and Fernando walked up and down the sidewalks talking to people but really trying to score on the chicks strolling by.

Walter didn’t know what they were doing, really.  But before the night got too old, three girls from the neighborhood in Monterrey Park had come up the path between Newberry’s and the next row of businesses, kind of cholas, kind of not, swaggering and chewing gum and giggling.

They had make-up on and were pretty beneath it.  There was the skinny one, Alicia, and her even skinnier little sister, Elisa, who might have been in junior high going into high school next year (she was so fake when he asked her outright, “How old are you?  What school do you go to?”), and Nadia.

Nadia had freckles and a nice butt and ripe melons and wore just a little bit of rouge on her cheeks and that purple stuff around her eyes. She liked to laugh.

She had slight buckteeth, but Walter thought she was cute in a weird way. Her eyes shone bright, and she was already rubbing up against Walter by the night’s end when the stores started closing and the lowriders, streaming down Atlantic Boulevard toward the main drag, Whittier Boulevard, slowed to a colorful crawl in front of them.

Walter sat on a planter with Nadia next to him, and Fernando and Alicia and Elisa chatting on the other side of the lush green bush, in front of Newberry’s. Fernando stretched his arms out across the bench he was sitting on, like a man of the world. He still asked people going in and out of Newberry’s if they wanted to buy a raffle ticket for the Maloney High

Most of them said no, because they were all hurrying on now before the store closed; it was halfway empty inside, with one or two of the aisles darkened.

But some of them stopped and dug into a purse or a pocket to find a dollar and buy the ticket. Fernando always said thank you with a courteous smile and then turned to the girls as if they were no big deal.

They were obviously absorbed in him.

They kept asking him if he had somebody.

They wore brown, ironed corduroys with a slight flare at the bottom, square-toed, soft-suede shoes and white blouses that were tight at the chest. Elisa’s was a little different and she had a long key chain dangling from her belt loop nearly to her shoe. She wore slightly darker Wallabees and chewed gum with a louder snap.

Sometimes she got bored with Fernando and looked around.

Nadia bumped against Walter and said, “Guy, I hardly know you and you’re already asking me for a date?”

“What?” Walter turned to her with a smile on his face. He moved his hair away from his eyes but kind of kept his hand there. He had a big nose and didn’t like to face people too much.

“I said you’re picking me up at what time?” She smiled widely—more like a weird goofy grin popped out of her—and then Walter got the hint and laughed and hung his head. “I don’t know, about seven, tomorrow.”

She kissed his cheek and said, “Okay, let’s go, girls,” and then the three kind-of cholas were walking up the sidewalk back home to the streets of Monterrey Park, which ran just behind Atlantic Square, on the other side of the short wall at the end of the parking lot. He could see them climb over the wall, making fun of each other with small pushes and soft slaps, and hear them laughing and shouting. Then they disappeared under the trees into their neighborhood.

He got up. “Let’s go, Fernando. Let’s hit the road.”

Fernando was already swaggering up to him with the bucket at his side.

It was a little white bucket that he kept the stubs in, pocketing the cash in his pants. He was an all right guy, his best friend. He trusted him. He trusted him for everything.


From the book Live From Fresno y Los by Stephen D. Gutierrez. Excerpted with permission from Bear Star Press. Copyright © 2009 by Stephen D. Gutierrez.