Yes, I was deeply hurt when Pearl González didn’t come to the party for my eighth birthday.
But the worse part was showing up at school the next Monday. Like what was I supposed to do? I had thought about it all weekend long. Was I supposed to ignore the fact that all my classmates who had been invited and said they would come and then hadn’t shown up? Was I supposed to talk about how great the party had been, as if anyone had actually shown up? I mean, if even one or two of them had made a showing I could have saved face on Monday. But here it was Monday morning and no one had shown.
But over the weekend I had come up with a plan. I decided I would play this out the way only a good Zombie Mex could–I walked into the classroom with a big smile on my face–confidant that I had put on an extra smear of make-up and extra deodorant– and made sure that everyone saw that I had three one-dollar bills clinging to my pant legs.
“Hey, Lazo, that your money?”
I pretended I didn’t know what they were talking about. And then I pretended to suddenly notice the dollar bills on my pant legs, all of which had a name written on it. “Pearl,” “Johnnie,” “Maria.”
“Oh my gosh, they must be left over from my Birthday party. I did invite you, right”
“Yeah, I didn’t make it.”
“Nah, I couldn’t go.”
“Too bad! Everyone who came got a dollar bill just for showing up. I guess these are some of the leftovers. Here,” I said, giving out the three dollars to the kids in the class whose names were on the dollar bills. I took a special moment to give Pearl her dollar bill making sure to make eye contact.
“Really sorry you couldn’t make it,” I said to her. All the time I’m thinking, “Damn you, why didn’t you show up? I though you liked me?”
All of a sudden everyone wanted to know about the party. “Was it really fun?”
“Oh, I guess it was for most kids. My mom invited primos and my friends from my old neighborhood. Gosh, the house was packed! Boy, everyone really went after the birthday cakes–my mom made three different kinds–and , of course, the sodas and hot dogs and the piñata with candies and toys. Me, I got kinda bored after the magician’s show, the bike raffle and the free pony rides.
‘You had a bike raffle?”
“You had pony rides?’
“Of course! But we had to stop after a while to make room for the Super-Raffle Prize.
“The Super Raffle Prize?”
“Oh yeah, my mom’s idea. Everyone who came put their name on a slip of paper and then we put it in an empty fish bowl. I got to pick out the winner! It was my distant cousin Huero, whose parents drove him from the San Fernando Valley, who won the Super Raffle Prize–an all expense paid trip to Disneyland!”
That stopped a lot of them. But I could see there were still some doubters in the class. I knew there’d always be–I mean being a Mexican and being a Zombie prepares you for things like this. But I was ready when the assault came.
“Baloney!” It was smart alecky Juan Salazar. “You didn’t have no Super-raffle at your party,” he continued. “You’re just saying that! I bet no one showed up to your party!”
“Well, you’ll never know, will you? You’re just saying that because you’re jealous and wish you could have been there!”
Well, that shut everyone up. Because, truth to tell, I could see that each and everyone one of them wished they could have been at a part with a piñata, magicians, bike raffles and Disneyland raffles.
Okay, I survived the day. And I must say, not a little proud of myself for having turned a potential disaster day into a win–and the best, putring everyone in their place!
Later, as I was walking down the hallway to go home, Pearl González came out of the shadows and stopped in front of me.
She handed me the dollar bill I had given her earlier in the day, the one with her name on it. “Lazo, I don’t need money to be your friend. I really, really wanted to go and my parents said they’d take me. But then my uncle…well, he got himself arrested that morning–traffic tickets– and my parents spent the whole day trying to bail him out of jail That’s why I didn’t come.”
Boy did I feel like a slug! Here I thought she just didn’t like me. “Gee, sorry to hear that, I said..”
“Anyway, I gotta go now. I hope we can still be friends.”
“Of course, Pearl. Count on it!”
She walked way and I suddenly found my feet leaving the hallway floor. I realized I was floating out of the hallway, above the school building and soon drifting into the clouds overhead. I spent the next hour floating on clouds and thinking of Pearl’s deep brown eyes, her smile and the ruddy glow on her cheeks before the honking of my mom’s car jolted me back to reality and I realized it was time to go home.
Copyright 2012 By Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.