"Brown" from Insanities, Soundness and Reality: A collection of short stories told perhaps by the same person
By David Alberto Muñoz
He didn’t know what happened. Utterances of anxiety surrounded his ears as he struggled to concentrate his sight in the nurse’s skirt that was rather short for her business—he thought—he could feel her breast when her hands touched his shoulders, and she tried to listen to his heart by placing her ear down his chest.
“You are always thinking about sex Roger.”
“What else is there?”
It all came down so fast that when they gave him the news about his condition all he could do was to pretend everything was going to be OK. He was not certain what was going on.
“What are you going to do Roger?” “I don’t know. It is all so unexpected.” He began to sweat.
“Have you told Audrey?”
“Are you crazy? I just found out myself! I’m not even sure it is true!”
The sound of a door closing very slowly could be heard by anyone who didn’t want to listen. His eyes were burping like a stomach full of gas while the feeling in his left arm paralyzed him and his heart stopped.
He didn’t know what he was feeling.
It was her voice. He turned his head to his right side and saw her. She looked just the way she appeared when they first meet each other, young, beautiful, stunningly attractive, with the scent of a girl attempting to become a woman. He could reach with his right hand and touch her face. It was soft, smooth and silky.
“It that you Audrey?”
Suddenly, he felt like a leaf being thrown around by the wind.
He didn’t mind.
He could breathe.
“I think I’m dying.” Her expression wondered.
“Everyone is going to die.”
“I know that! That’s not what I mean…I think I am dying right now.”
Audrey looked at him with eyes of awe and surprise. She knew something was going on. She wasn’t sure what it was. It reminded her of how he used to play games every time he wanted to be with her. If she refused, he would act as if nothing mattered at all. But if she showed a minimal amount of interest, he would dive into the sea of pleasure with lust and covetousness; he needed it some much. She always thought he was a child pretending to be an adult.
She grabbed his hand tenderly and kissed him on the forehead.
“Are you OK?”
He looked at her and tried to discover who that woman standing next to his bed was.
“I don’t know. I can’t remember much. I know you and I met after I came to this city…Where do I live? Do we live together? All I can remember is the chaos in the streets, the hate of so many people towards my family and me. Why are people so angry at me? What did I do to them? I am not an illegal. I was born here. This is also my nation, but they don’t want to listen. My name is Roger, Rogelio Garcia, I am not as white as you are, but I am a kid, just like you. That is what I used to say to those kids in school that used to make fun of me. I remember I used to believe I was white like them, but one day, a teacher, Mrs. Wilson, took me into the bathroom. I was embarrassed because she came inside the boy’s restroom, but she did. She put my face in front of the mirror and almost screamed at me.”
“Look at you Roger, and look at me. What is the biggest difference between you and me beside our breed?”
“It all became very clear that day. I was brown…my skin was darker. I never thought about it before. I was just a kid of 10 or 11 years old who didn’t know the color of his own skin…it didn’t matter to me. I haven’t it even figure it out at all. But that day I began to see many differences between them and me. My Dad used to call them los Gringos. He worked as a custodian in a big building in downtown. He didn’t wear a suit and a tie; he didn’t take his briefcase to work. He was a blue collar worker. Why do we make such a big deal about colors? White collar, even my father used to talk about white women, las gringas están bien buenas…He never talked like that about my Mom…My friends used to tell me that a gringa will go to bed with you on the first date, but a Mexican girl would not do it unless she was a puta, a whore. I still don’t understand that. If I go to bed with many women, I am a real man, but if my sister does the same she is not a real woman…They, los Gringos, have reminded me of the fact that I am brown every single day of my life in this nation that says it’s the land of the free…Chingada…I remember I used to think I looked just like them, but I do not.”
His head was full of contradicting images he could not understand.
“Everything is so blurry. It is like a big dagger has taken control of my life. I tried to understand, but it is just like a stupid myth, like a play, like a short story that makes no sense. I can still see you Audrey sitting next to me…You are so beautiful; you always were, but you never believed my words. I don’t know why. Maybe you were just playing with me…I don’t know...”
“I don’t care about your color Rogelio.”
“My hands were always caressing your face, your body, what happened? All of the sudden my heart starts pumping harder and harder; it is like its swelling; you know what I’m trying to say? ¿Me entiendes?”
“No baby…I don’t understand.”
“My head hurts; I cannot feel my left arm. All I do is try to turn around and see you but I cannot do it. I don’t know why.”
“You want another drink?”
“I didn’t know I was drinking.”
“You always drink Roger…I think you will drink the day of your last breath… Are you OK baby?”
“No, I am not OK…Where are we?”
“At the hospital.”
“We brought you here. I think you had a heart attack.” “What?”
“A heart attack…at least that’s what the doctor said. You have to take it easy and rest for the next couple of weeks. By the way, did you notice the Dr. was a white man? He was very nice don’t you think?”
“No, pinche gringo, why can we have brown doctors in the hospital?
Nothing made sense for Roger. He could see only imageries, bodies, conversations spoken through a glass that was not there. He felt good but at the same time, he didn’t feel that well.
That didn’t make any sense at all.
He could not turn around; his back was hurting; his hand did not respond. He could see himself moving, but he didn’t feel anything.
His family was there. His mother was crying; his father was facing the wall. His sister was kissing him on the lips, and his brother was weeping like a child who just lost his Mom.
He could not understand.
“What is going on?”
Episodes of his life began to appear. His parents came to the United States many years ago. His father shared with the entire family how difficult it had been to leave your nation, your language, everything you knew, and wonder into a new land that promised freedom and equality. But very soon he realized he could not fit the pattern; mainstream was not for him.
“What about Audrey?” He questioned himself.
“She is over there…in the corner…she was the first to get here but I don’t think anyone has noticed…Audrey has always been here…I remember no one in my family liked her at first. Especially my Mom, she wanted me to find a good wife, someone who would take care of me in the traditional way. When she discovered that Audrey and I went to bed together she almost kicked me out of the house.”
“How can you do that Rogelio? Eso es un pecado delante de Dios. It is a sin in the eyes of God. I could never understand why everything that makes you feel good is a sin, and everything that is oppressing is good, the will of God. I felt good every time Audrey and I had sex together, but my Mom wanted me to feel guilty. Don’t you do it with Dad Mom? How do you guys do it? Do you have a secret that makes it good?”
“We are married in the eyes of God.”
“OH, you need a piece of paper that says the union is sacred; it was a sin, she told me. Everything I did was a sin, from the moment I became conscious of my life my parents have told me I need to be careful with what I do. Because I am the oldest in my family and my little brothers, want to imitate what I do. I am responsible before God all mighty. I always wonder, one day I am going to hear a trumpet, like in the races, and out of heaven, Christ is going to come down like as Superman and save the entire world. Is this a joke? Just think about it seriously…Eventually, I believe they accepted her…Time changes people… Audrey? You were very kind to my family and me. Gracias.”
“We are gathered here today to say goodbye to a son, a brother and a husband who by the designations of God had to leave this world early…”
“Audrey and I never married. I bet he is saying that because she told him to do it. She never wanted to be embarrassed in front of her friends. What would they say? ¡Qué diría la gente!”
“But perhaps we need to be aware that right now, it is too late.”
“I hate to be late! I remember my father was always getting late to his obligations. Well, not to work, he was always very responsible but to other social commitments. He loved to make entrances. And my mother always had to wait for him. I never liked to be late. I felt embarrassed if I was late. I hate to be late!”
“Rogelio’s life is full of moments of compassionate actions, because even when he was angry, he was able to give more of himself to others. He was a kind man willing to take away his own jacket and give it to a stranger.”
“You are making that up jerk! I don’t know why when somebody dies he becomes the best human being in the face of the planet. Goddammit, I am imperfect like everybody else. Stop making things up! I am not a Saint.”
“Today we wish to say to Roger Garcia, Rest in Peace. God in his almighty wisdom, who is in the heavens and the earth, and yet he moves upon the face of the waters has decided he should leave us for a better place.”
“A better place? It is the same shit! People are gossiping about each other. Envying, desiring what the other one has, sometimes wishing to destroy your neighbor, lying, hating, why is there so much hate on this earth? “
“If anyone wants to share some words about Roger this is the time to do it. If not, forever hold your peace.”
“Isn’t that what they say in a wedding?”
Audrey got up and walked to the front of the funeral home named: Los muertos.
“I met Roger when he came to this city, America’s finest city as is known. He was a very sweet and intelligent man. He was so shy that I was the one that approached him. Although, when I asked him out he panicked. He didn’t know how to react. I guess he was raised in the ways of his culture. He used to tell me he was always the one to ask the lady out because that is the way his father did it with his Mom, and all his uncles and relatives have done it the same way. Silly Roger, she met a woman that was his equal and he didn’t know how to deal with it. But he was always willing to listen. He had a big heart and his own imperfections as well. Nobody is perfect. But somehow, he managed to teach me how to enjoy life more. How to smile in the midst of difficulties. How to live the moment to its fullest and forget about the problems of life, because tomorrow, when we wake up, our problems will be there. After a few dates he became my man, we became a couple. I have to be honest our cultures were so different. I remember one time he and his family were going to go and visit Old Mexico with their relatives, and I became so upset because he didn’t invite me. He used to come all the time and spend the night in my house. My parents liked him a lot, and I could not understand why he would do something like that. It was my Mom the one that told me. In their culture Audrey, they invite the girlfriend to meet the parents only if it is a serious relationship; you would have to be engaged…I didn’t know that. I’m really going to miss him.”
“Thank you, Audrey, for sharing that. Anybody else wants to share some thoughts about Rogelio?”
The place was in complete silence.
“On behalf of Roger I want to thank you, I thank you for remembering who he was, and one day we will follow in his steps. In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen!”
“What seems to matter is the memory we leave behind…does anyone care? Why do we have to be concerned when someone dies? We are all going to the same place. And it won’t matter whether we are brown or white. We are all going to die.”
Roger was dead. He didn’t even know it himself. It was all in the mind…life is all in the mind…it is an image, a film showed in a Sunday afternoon for a couple of kids who are touching each other in the last seat of the movie theater.
Audrey cried…Roger was death.
“I don’t understand…it all seems to be the same…I am dead, and they don’t even speak about me anymore… yet… I’m still here… yes… I’m still here… well…I’d like to believe I am still here…I don’t know… I think I can still feel my body…or maybe not…but I’m still thinking.”
Audrey wept…she was the only one that went to the cemetery…no one, absolutely no one came to say goodbye to him, not his family, not his friends, nobody…
Rogelio was dead… and he could not understand.
Audrey looked at him, and she saw the face of her lover, but she would never figure out what is like to be brown.
The only thing he knew, was that he was brown, even after he died.
© David Alberto Muñoz
From the book: Insanities, Soundness, and Reality: A collection of short stories told perhaps by the same person. Editorial Garabatos, Sonora, México, 2016.
David Alberto Muñoz
Se autodefine como un cuentero, a quién le gusta reflejar "la compleja experiencia humana". Viaja entre 3 culturas, la mexicana, la chicana y la gringa. Es profesor de filosofía y estudios religiosos en Chandler-Gilbert-Community College, institución de estudios superiores.