The warehouse is busier than usual on a Monday. To the untrained eye everyone looks fine, but to me I see hungover and almost over their high people everywhere. Usually half of the workers are still drunk and home, but today they made an effort to at least show up.
I walk straight past everyone, ignoring the stares I always get. Nodding to the manger as I enter and not even blink and the sight. There are boxes upon boxes stacked high with forklifts and other machines moving them place to place. I know most people, even if not by name, but by nods as our introduction. I don’t bother with the first couple aisles, but when we get closer to the back I start looking for him.
I see the a boy with tanned skin and hair that at first glance is gelled back, but it’s only water. Rushing over, I jump on his shoulders and hug him from behind.
“¡Bueno! It seems a diner is missing it’s waitress.”
“Do we need to go over this every time? It’s a Monday, soooooo the lazy owner doesn’t open until 10.” I get off his back and he turns to me. His brown pebble eyes, almost like mine are staring back at me with a beaming dimpled smile.
“But, it’s good to see you Latino boy, even if you don’t want to see me.” I say with a fake pouty face. His arms spread wide for his response.
“Qué? What are you talking about?”
“You missed dinner the other night! It was you and Mamá’s turn to come over!”
“Nooooo, it was you and the girls turn to come over.”
“You forgot.” I say poking his chest.
“Yes I did.” He said poking my shoulder.
“You should have called.” I say as we both laugh.
“Mamá doesn’t like the telephone, you know that.”
“What you’re saying is that she doesn’t like paying the bill.”
“Maybe,” He says with a cheeky smile. His smile drops and so does the rest of his face, “Sofia, I have something to tell you- who’s the tighty whity pair of underpants?” That’s when I remember that toothpick is still following me. Internally laughing at the name Mateo came up with I introduce him to the scared mop of red hair.
“This is Peter? Patrick! Yes, Patrick. He is following me around because the police told him too. Toothpick is his nickname. As much as I love-
“Tighty whity pair of underpants.” Mateo butted in.
“-Yes, that. Toothpick is easier to say.” I am trying to remain neutral, but a smile does peak through. Can’t not smile at Mateo sometimes. Mateo has his dimples showing loud and proud as he shakes hands with toothpick. He pulls toothpick in real close during the hand shake and fake whispers in his ear,
“You know that there are so many more people going to cause trouble and Sofia isn’t one of them. Plus, I could hook you up with a hotter girl to follow around anyway...” I slap him on the shoulder.
“I heard that Latino!”
“Oye! I got to help a fellow man out!” Mateo says holding his hands up in fake defense.
“Shut up.” I say rolling my eyes. He leans in really close to my face with a smug smile replacing his beaming one,
“Querida, unless you got duck tape, you have to find another way to shut me up.” I roll my eyes, not even flinching at the comment.
“Maybe I will! You! Down there! Yes you! Can you get me some duck tape?!” I shouted over Mateo’s shoulder. The poor boy I yelled at was confused as ever and just walked out of the aisle looking at me like I had three heads. Mateo gave me a hard stare.
“Sofia please, let’s not joke around... the duck tape is on the other side of the warehouse, he would never get it for us.” His comment wasn’t even that funny, but the way he said it, a smile definitely peaked through.
“Latino boy would you just stop for at least one moment?”
“Nope and never.” He smiled, but it didn’t go to his eyes.
“Something wrong?” His smiles lit up his whole face, but it wasn’t right now.
“Sofia, I-I,” He started muttering things in Spanish, then took a deep breath, readying himself for my response, “I’m going to Chicago.” He looked at me guiltily and I am sure my eyes widened.
“Why the f*ck are you going there!?! It’s no better than where we at. We talked about this! It’s NYC with houses!” He tried to pull me close,
“Sofia, mi querida, I got into some trouble..” I shook myself out of his grip, taking a step back.
“You better say with the police. Latino boy, you better say with the police.” I was raising my voice, and my chest was moving up and down faster.
“J*der. Would I be going to Chicago if it was with the police?”
“Oh f*ck it! What did you do- no I don’t want to hear,” I took a second and collected myself and lower my voice to a calm tone, “When you leave?”
“Esta noche, eleven.” He took one look at my face, then tried the hug me again. How could he do this? We were getting everything together! I finally got the girls out of public school, he had kept his job for the longest time and it looked like he was going to be promoted manager.
"Mi querida, please.” I didn’t push his away, but I didn’t hug back.
“Come over for dinner.” I could feel his head move up and down in a nod.
“Por supuesto. Mamá will come too.” We stood there for a moment. Two awkward statues standing in the middle of a warehouse unsure of what would lie ahead of them both now that things had turned on their head.
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