Lot by Bryan Washington Read Online (FREE)
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Roberto was brown and his people lived next door so of course I went over on weekends. They were full Mexican. That made us superior. My father found every opportunity to say it, but not to their faces. So Ma took it upon herself to visit most evenings. She still didn’t have many friends on the block—we were too dark for the blancos, too Latin for the blacks.
But Roberto’s mother dug the company. She invited us in. Her husband worked construction, pouring cement into Grand Parkway, and they didn’t have any papers so you know how that goes. No one was hiring. She wasn’t about to take chances. What she did with her days was look after Roberto.
They lived in this shotgun with swollen pipes. It was the house you shook your head at when you drove up the road. Ma brought over yucca and beans from the restaurant, but then my father saw and asked her who the fuck had paid for it. Javi, Jan, and I watched our parents circle the kitchen, until our father grabbed a bowl of rice and threw it on the tile. He said this was what it felt like to watch your money walk. Maybe now Ma’d think before she shit on her familia. And of course it didn’t stop her—if anything, she went more often—but Ma started leaving the meals at home; instead, she brought me and some coffee and tinned crackers.
Roberto had this pug nose. He was pimply in all the wrong places. He wore his hair like the whiteboys, and when I asked why that was he called it one less thing to worry about. His fam couldn’t afford regular cuts, so whenever they came around the barber clipped off everything. I told him he looked like a rat, like one of the blanquitos biking all over town, and Roberto said that was cool but I was a fat black gorilla.
He was fifteen, a few years older than me. He told me about the bus he’d taken straight from Monterrey. His father’d left for Houston first, until he could send for the rest of them too, and when I asked Roberto about Mexico he said everything in Texas tasted like sand.
Roberto didn’t go to school. He spent all day mumbling English back to his mother’s busted TV. Since it was the year of my endless flu, and I didn’t exist to Javi anymore—he’d taken up with the local hoods by then—that meant I spent a fuckton of time next door. They had this table and these candles and a mattress in the living room; when Roberto’s father wasn’t out breaking his back, I usually found him snoring on it.
His mother was always exhausted. Always crying to Ma. Said it wasn’t that this country was rougher—everything was just so loose.
Ma told her to wait it out. That’s just what America did to you. They’d learn to adjust, she’d crack the code, but what she had to do was believe in it.