Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Alejandro the Great

  I play only pickup games with neighborhood kids here at the small park in East Clayton, near my house. I've got a reputation for being rock-hard and fast, two traits most people don't put together in soccer players. Nobody can catch me, and nobody I've played with comes close to being as bulky strong.
Fink comes at me again, fuming. It yet again ends badly for him, and he whines. "You're a freaking wetback, Alejandro, I know you are. Someday they'll come and arrest you and send you back to beanerland. You stupid illegal."

I don't say or do anything. My best friend, Sedgwick Benson, comes over to Fink, and I jog off, continuing to follow the game's action. "Knock it off, Keith," I hear Sedge say. "You know he's a mini version of The Hulk. Pull your panties out of your butt and let's play."

"He's a freakin' fire hydrant," Fink says, "and one dog too many's peed on him. He smells like piss."

Later, heading home, I ask Sedge over for supper. Earlier Mama had said it was okay to invite him; it's not something I've ever done before. My family trusts Sedge and his mother too, like they do Maggie's family, even if they're citizens and Mormons. Mrs. Benson --- her name's Ivy --- and Sedge's sister, Tonia, are going to some church dinner just for mothers and daughters. Sedge's father is dead; he died in Iraq a couple of years ago. He was a soldier.

If I don't invite Sedge, he'll be home alone eating something microwaved instead of Mama's home cooking.

Sedge knows we lay low. I'll ask him what he thinks it means to be an American.


"Alejandro was born in the desert," Mama tells Sedge, "in November 1995."

In the Mexican desert, I've always been told. Nobody's told Sedge about it before. I know I haven't, but I think he assumes it. Mama doesn't say now that I came out a few yards south of the U.S. border, but that's what I've always been told. My family wishes I'd been born in the U.S.

"So he was born in a desert and not in a hospital?" Sedge asks. "You're kidding, right?"

"No, it was a desert," I say. "Papa saved me. I would've dropped straight out of Mama's belly onto hot sand and cooked weeds, but Papa caught me. Papa's got good hands."

"That's right," Papa says. "I caught him."

“You dropped him on a cactus,” Juan says. Juan's mama's uncle, Grandma Augustina's brother.

We all laugh. Juan always says this whenever the story comes up, usually around the family or other undocumenteds we trust. It's Sunday, so my family is all here: my parents, Emelio and Mariana; my grandparents, Carlos and Augustina; my uncle Juan, grandma's brother; and me. And of course Sedge.

“It’s how your hijo got that scar on his caboose,” Juan says.

It's a legend ---that scar --- a family one. Part of it, at least, is a myth. I do have a big mark that looks like a scar en mi trasero. Whether it's a scar or birthmark is anybody's guess. It’s where it’s hard to show anybody: on my right cheek, near the crack. The only place anyone could ever see it these days is in the shower, after gym class; I doubt anyone would be looking. It's not as cool as a lightening scar on your forehead.

"Harry Potter's got nothing on me but location," I say. I always do say this when the story comes up. It gets a few laughs.

"Butt location, B U T T," Sedge says.

Everybody laughs again.

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