“Bones” by Jon Michaud
--page 4

         On Thursday I washed and straightened my hair. I put on a dress. I wanted to look my best, not to please my father, but to let him know that Mami had done a good job raising me without him.
         “Yo, Sis, you look nice,” said Bones as we rode the A train south. “You and your boyfriend going somewhere special today?”
         “Shut up,” I said. I’d decided not to tell Bones anything until I had a better idea what our father was up to.
         When I got to the restaurant, Papi was already sitting in a booth, chatting up the Puerto Rican waitress. He was wearing a shirt with palm trees on it, jeans and no socks. He never wore socks--not even in winter. Finding him like that, flirting with a girl who could have been my sister, reminded me of everything I’d forgotten about him and obliterated my hopes for our meeting. He was pushing fifty, but he still acted like the young and charming campesino who’d married my mother, the tall, athletic kid with a promising arm and an itch in his groin. I could picture him now, in whatever apartment he lived in, with whatever woman he was cheating on, drinking his water from a tin cup, using his knife like a fork, refusing to grow up. Whenever he bought a new pair of shoes, he would lick the soles. “Look,” he’d say. “Clean enough to eat.” It used to make me ashamed that I was related to him.
         “Imelda, this is my daughter, Maria Jose,” he said, introducing me to the waitress. He stood to make the introduction and I noticed that he was developing a slight stoop.
         “Hola,” she said, smiling but self-conscious. She clutched her tray to her breast and walked back behind the counter.
         I sat down and Papi gave me a little wolf-whistle. “Mija, you look beautiful.”
         “Thank you, Papi,” I said.
         “Ay, Maria. I have missed you and Edgardo so much. How is my boy?”
         “He’s fine,” I said.
         “And your mother?"”
         “She’s good.”
         Imelda came back out and took our orders, acting as if she were meeting us for the first time. My father wanted only coffee. I asked for pork fried rice, spare ribs and wonton soup.
         “Your mother doesn’t feed you?” he asked.
         “Of course she does. You know her pernil is still the best. I’m just hungry.”
         “Oh,” said Papi, vaguely. Something had changed. He looked like he was about to cry.
         “What’s wrong?” I said. Was the memory of Mami’s pernil that powerful?
         “Nothing,” He waved his hand dismissively. He looked at the table and I studied him, wondering if this was all some kind of act.
         “Where do you live now?” I asked, trying to bring him back to a normal conversation--if any of this could be considered normal.
         “Brooklyn,” he said. “Bushwick.”
         “No,” he said. “With a woman, Dolores.”
         “Dominicana?” I asked.
         “Do you have any children?”
         “A boy,” he said. “Hector.”
         “How old is he?”
         “Six.” He paused cruelly to let me figure it out, but I didn’t need it: the arithmetic was easy. Hector had been born two years before Papi had left us. I had a half-brother in Brooklyn. Everything was crazy.

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