By Christain E. Hallaway

This fucking figures. I’m wearing these jank ass wings to school for bird report presentation day and Hector, fucking Hector, is in full costume. That little prick has everything. Rich parents (at least around these parts), good grades, girls. You name it, he’s got it. Meanwhile, my wings look like wet toilet paper hanging out of my armpits because papi has money for losing lotto tickets, but not school projects. Hey daddio, how about a sip of your redbull? That’ll give me wings. At least better than what I got. Hector can probably really fly with that shit he got on. How about a break, God? Throw me a bone just once. Being twelve in the barrio ain’t bad enough?

If only we’d been five minutes later. Just five minutes and I could have avoided this pendejo.This place doesn't even open for another twenty, but we’ll just stand here, waiting. Not speaking. Dad’s buried in his phone looking at god knows what. Safe bet it ain’t help wanted ads, though. Probably checking last night’s numbers

“This is the one, Juanito.” “Today is the day”. “You’ll wake up tomorrow the hijo de un millionaire!” It's always the same story. I’m too afraid to call cap on his bullshit, though. I don’t have the heart to tell him he’s a loser. That he’s where I get it from.

“Hey, Juan,” Hector says to me as if we’re friends. “Cool wings.”

I think long and hard about ignoring him, but unlike being a loser, ignoring people around me isn’t something I inherited from my dad.

“Piss off, dick stain,” is what I want to say. “Hey Hector,” is what I actually do.

“I’m heading to school. Wanna walk with me?” Holy crap, he really does think we’re friends.

“I’m waiting for the deli to open. With my dad.” I tilt my head toward my dad and say it like I wasn’t a prisoner there.

“Ok. Cool. I’ll hang with you guys until it opens then we can go!”


“Yeah, cool man. Whatever.” Amazing how just when you think a situation can’t get worse, whoop dere it is.

So now it’s been like five minutes and Hector won’t shut up. I mean he just keeps talking like he’s in love with his own voice. Although, I gotta admit, it’s a pretty good voice. Of course it is. Like I said, Hector has everything.

“You know what, Hec,” I interrupt, “ I think I’m gonna walk to school now after all.”

Without even acknowledging padre I start walking to the school, briskly, hoping Hector won’t keep up. Dad doesn’t even notice I’m gone, which is fine because he didn’t really notice that I was with him either. Unsurprisingly, Hector keeps up. And never stops talking.

His voice is rattling in my head like a bean in a maraca and I finally can’t take it anymore. He stops dead when I turn on him.

“Will you please just shut up for five seconds!” I shout. And he stops.

When I turn around and resume walking it's a minute before I hear his footsteps behind me again. We walk in silence, footsteps matching pace, for about three minutes before he speaks again.

“I know what you think of me, you know,” he says. “I know what you all think of me.”

I stop walking, but I don’t turn to face him. I just listen for a moment.

“You think I’ve just been given everything. That I’m too rich to be here, in the barrio. But you’re wrong, you know. Mom died last year. Dad cries a lot, but doesn’t want to lose me so he spends whatever we have on me. He wants me to be ok. It's just me and him so I’m good at stuff because he helps me. But really, he’s all I got.”

I turn to face him. He’s still wearing the mask.

“Why are you telling me this?” I ask him.

“Because I think you’re cool.”

“You think I’m cool?” I know, I don’t believe it either. “Bro, you gay or somethin’?”

“No!” His hands reflexively go up as if I had just propositioned him. “It isn’t like that. I just think you walk around like nothing bugs you. You know, you play it so cool with everything. I wanna be more like that.”

“Shit, man, you crazy,” I say before walking toward the school. “I guess we can walk together. No homo, though.”

Hector laughs and rushes to catch up.

Copyright (c) 2021 by Christian E. Hallaway