I spoke with Indira on the phone tonight. She was worried about me because I hadn’t picked up the phone the other day. She’s always been so diligent about staying in touch, even when I’m not. I love that about her; she really calls me out on my sh-t. Indira can be hot-headed and really impatient with her younger cousins. I think it’s mostly because a lot of times she feels misunderstood. Kids at school are horrible to her and it only makes her more calloused to… everyone. Worst of all, it really distracts her from recognizing her own beauty and worth. She’s a sharp girl — I think she’s aware of that — with such a keen sense of perception, it almost seems borrowed from someone much older. She knows exactly what she wants to be when she grows up (a social worker). And it’s based on what she’s observed in her community and within her own family. On nights where we’d go out for dinner, I’d drive home wishing I could just stick around until she went off to college. Or maybe got married to an exceptional man, someone who’s ass I wouldn’t have to kick.
When I met Ashley, she was five-years old. She was also feisty, uncooperative, mildly violent and pretty belligerent. If I recall correctly, within our first few interactions she managed to kick me, hit me, pull my hair and dig her fingers into my eyeballs. Ashley was very good at crumpling empty wrappers onto the floor for you to pick up after her. But, I remember when we took her to Disneyland, she insisted on holding my hand the entire day. Finally! We’d come a long way from the days she used to bruise my shins and grab my hair. Her face is like a jolt of sunshine — she’s undeniably adorable and wears the look of mischief like it’s a full-time job. Many of us were at the mercy of her ridiculous smile. Her aunt always made sure I was completely aware of how hard Ashley’s life has been, at five-years old. Jostled around in the foster care system, absent parents who came in and out of her life. It was incredible. With a face like hers, I’m afraid to say she’s already a grade-A, fully certified heartbreaker.
Anthony is Ashley’s older brother. He probably hated me when we first met because I wasn’t afraid to tell him when he was being rude or disrespectful. He would glare at me a lot. A game of soccer seemed to be the key to his heart — or at least the gateway to a potential friendship. Anthony was always acting hard, like he was three feet taller and ten years older than he really was. Hopefully, one day, he’ll realize the race to growing up is pointless. To his credit, he does everything with great passion and energy. Run after a soccer ball, full force. Throw a football with all his might. It was cute to me, which bugged him. Of course, when we all went to the movies, he had to sit on a booster seat in the theatre because he was too short to see the screen. As he ate all of the grapes and crackers I packed, he would whisper loudly in my ear, “Do you like this movie? Do you think it’s funny?”, spraying cracker crumbs and grape juice all over my face.
Jose Luis has a natural likability. He’s friendly and helpful, which I greatly appreciated. He was usually the only kid who helped clean up the arts and craft supplies, or stack up the foam mats. When you ask him something like, “What’s your favorite subject at school?” or “Is your big brother nice to you?”, he scrunches his nose, giving the question some serious thought before replying with a smile. In the few years I’ve known him, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get mad. Even after that one time his brother’s friend threw a football that smacked his face so hard, he fell over. After it happened, he got up — in a daze — shook it off with a good-natured laugh and ran back to his place on the field, ready to assume his position on defense. My friend, Eleanor, and I would always refer to him as a “little man”. He wore “wife beaters” tucked into his shorts (and yes, had a little belly to go with it), always with an unbuttoned flannel shirt. He walks around very quickly and purposefully, with his unbuttoned shirt sailing in the wind of his stride. Like a little man.