Anywhere else, his triple-zero batting average with the girls might have passed unremarked, but this is a Dominican kid, in a Dominican family. Rodolfo had four kids with three different women, so the nigger was without doubt the family’s resident metiéndolo expert. Ana drove a Cressida, and instead of taking them to the local theatre she headed down to the Amboy Multiplex. She held up her hands and flexed the fingers in playful menace. The next day he woke up feeling like he’d been unshackled from his fat, like he’d been washed clean of his misery, and for a long time he couldn’t remember why he felt this way and then finally he said her name. Ana was on her way to Penn State, honors program, full ride. She always got back to him after a couple of days and was pleasant about it, but still. When he was in a better mood, he let Ana discover Manny, who would be hanging from a light fixture in his apartment, his tongue bulbous in his mouth. That night, he and his sister both fell asleep on the couch, she first. Before he joined her, he decided that this would be the end of it. Her eyes went soft, she put a hand on his hand, her chair scraped closer, there was a strand of yellow in her teeth. When we were in the dorm together, he was either working on his novel or talking on the phone to his sister, who I’d seen a few times at Douglass.
Everybody noticed his lack of game and everybody offered him advice. Oscar’s sister Lola (who I’d start dating in college) was a lot more practical. It was so hard for Oscar to believe what was happening that he couldn’t take it seriously. Little did he know that he’d entered into the bane of nerds everywhere: a let’s-be-friends relationship. It was also in April that her ex-boyfriend Manny returned from the Army—Ana told Oscar during one of their trips to Yaohan, the Japanese mall in Edgewater. Apparently, Manny had got into trouble again, drugs, but this time, Ana insisted, he’d been set up by these three cocolos, a word he’d never heard her use, so he figured she’d got it from Manny. Then she cancelled three Fridays in a row, and he had to settle for the clearly reduced berth of Sunday after church. The news of the imminent attack on the TV, a note pinned to his chest. And then Oscar would comfort Ana and say something like, He was too weak for this hard new world. —the opportunity to meet the famous Manny, which was about as much fun as being called a fag during a school assembly (which had happened). He was this intense emaciated guy with voracious eyes. He would tell Ana how he felt, and if she didn’t come away with him then he wouldn’t speak to her ever again. Ordered two chicken-katsu curries and then sat in the large cafeteria with the view of Manhattan, the only gaijin in the whole joint. He looked out through the glass at Manhattan’s western flank, looked out like he was some deep nigger. (I’d tried to put a couple of words on her because she was no joke in the body department, but she cold-crumbed me.) Those first months, me and my boys ragged on Oscar a lot—I mean, he was a nerd, wasn’t he? Besides me fucking with him, we never had no problems; he never got mad at me when I said shit, just sat there with a hurt stupid smile on his face.
He broke up with Olga the next day on the playground, Maritza at his side, and how Olga cried! In later years, when he and Olga had both turned into overweight freaks, Oscar could not resist feeling the occasional flash of guilt when he saw Olga loping across a street or staring blankly out near the New York bus stop, wondering how much his cold-as-balls breakup had contributed to her present fuckedupness.
The Eyes of Mingus (a comparison he made himself one day, going through his mother’s record collection; she was the only old-school Dominicana he knew who loved jazz; she’d arrived in the States in the early sixties and shacked up with morenos for years until she met Oscar’s father, who put an end to that particular chapter of the All-African World Party).
Throughout high school he did the usual ghettonerd things: he collected comic books, he played role-playing games, he worked at a hardware store to save money for an outdated Apple IIe.
His two nerd boys, Al and Miggs, had, in the craziest twist of fortune, both succeeded in landing themselves girls that summer. It killed him that they hadn’t thought to include him in their girl heists; he hated Al for inviting Miggs instead of him, and he hated Miggs for getting a girl, period. Acne galore and a retard’s laugh and gray fucking teeth from having been given some medicine too young. He tried to turn on the radio but she said, No, my head’s really killing me. It had the density of a dwarf motherfucking star and at times he was a hundred per cent sure it would drive him mad. We talked a little, mostly about girls, comic books, and our corny whiteboy neighbors who were pussy asshole cocksuckers.
Nothing special, skanks really, but girls nonetheless. Al’s getting a girl Oscar could comprehend; Al looked completely normal, and he had a nice gold necklace he wore everywhere. What little faith Oscar had in the world took an SS-N-17 Snipe to the head. So he sat back and watched the Hess Building and the rest of Woodbridge slide past through a snarl of overpasses. Ana seemed unaccountably sad and she chewed her bottom lip, a real bembe, until most of her lipstick was on her teeth and he was going to make a comment about it, but he decided not to. Every Dominican family has stories about niggers who take love too far, and Oscar was beginning to suspect that they’d be telling one of these stories about him real soon. Once, he blacked out while crossing an intersection. Girls, though, were point zero; they were the world to Oscar.
She’d say anything to anybody and she cut her hair short (anathema to late-eighties Jersey Dominicans) partially, I think, because when she’d been little her family had let it grow down past her ass—a source of pride, something I’m sure her rapist noticed and admired. They’re disgusting, they bother Mami, and they’ll never get you a date. He was one of those niggers who didn’t have any kind of hope. Her girls were the sort of hot-as-balls Latinas who dated only weight-lifting morenos or Latino cats with guns in their cribs. and could out-salsa even the Goya dancers; Leticia, just off the boat, half Haitian, half Dominican, that special blend the Dominican government swears no existe_,_ who spoke with the deepest accent, a girl so good she refused to sleep with three consecutive boyfriends! Ana nodded; she smelled of a perfume, and when she pressed close the heat of her body was . When he returned to the house, his sister said, Well? On one of these little trips, she let slip, God, I’d forgotten how big Manny’s cock is. So you’re Ana’s little friend, Manny said derisively. Manny smacked her, Manny kicked her, Manny called her a fat twat, Manny cheated on her, she was sure, with this Cuban chickie from the middle school. Her face was so swollen from recent crying it looked like she was on cortisone. Wasn’t it Turgenev who said, Whom you laugh at you forgive and come near to loving?
Oscar, Lola warned repeatedly, you’re going to die a virgin. Another five years of this and I’ll bet you somebody tries to name a church after me. It wouldn’t have been half bad if Paterson and its surrounding precincts had been, like Don Bosco, all male. (His sister was the anomaly—she dated the same dude all four years of high school, a failed Golden Gloves welterweight who was excruciatingly courteous and fucked her like he was playing connect the dots, a pretty boy she’d eventually dump after he dirty-dicked her with some Pompton Lakes Irish bitch.) His sister’s friends were the Bergen County All-Stars, New Jersey’s very own Ciguapas: primera was Gladys, who complained constantly about her chest being too big; Marisol, who’d end up in M. It wouldn’t have been so bad if these girls hadn’t treated Oscar like some deaf-mute harem guard; they blithely went on about the particulars of their sex lives while he sat in the kitchen clutching the latest issue of Senior year found him bloated, dyspeptic, and, most cruelly, alone in his lack of a girlfriend. On the ride home, Ana complained about having a headache and they didn’t speak for a long time. They reached the Elizabeth exit, which is what New Jersey is really known for, industrial wastes on both sides of the turnpike, when Ana let loose a scream that threw him against the door. That’s me, Oscar said in a voice so full of cheerful innocuousness that he could have shot himself for it. They couldn’t talk ten minutes without Manny beeping her and her having to call him back and assure him she wasn’t with anybody else. she asked over and over, and Oscar always found himself holding her awkwardly and telling her, Well, I think if he’s this bad you should break up with him, but she shook her head and said, I know I should, but I can’t. Oscar liked to kid himself that it was only cold, anthropological interest that kept him around to see how it would all end, but the truth was he couldn’t extricate himself. What he used to feel for those girls he’d never really known was nothing compared with the amor he was carrying in his heart for Ana. I didn’t invite him out to no clubs, but we did start going to Brower Commons to eat, even checked out an occasional movie.
Oscar didn’t imagine that she remembered their kisses but of course he remembered.
THE MORONIC INFERNOHigh school was Don Bosco Tech and since Don Bosco Tech was an all-boys Catholic school run by the Salesian Fathers and Brothers and packed with a couple of hundred insecure, hyperactive adolescents it was, for a fat, girl-crazy nigger like Oscar, a source of endless anguish.
He forgot the perrito, forgot the pride he felt when the women in the family had called him hombre.