Tony was the third generation Italian. His great grandparents were from Carolei, a small hilltop town in Italy. Tony didn’t know too much about his great grandparents or even his grandparents. They had all been dead for a while by the time Tony had turned 14 years old. His parents had recently divorced and his mother had moved him and his sister from their house in Brooklyn to her parents home in Marlboro, New Jersey.
Tony was a heavy set kid and was dark skinned. In Brooklyn he had often been mistaken as a spanish kid. It never bothered him since his best friend, Bobby, was from Mexico City and they were often mistaken as brothers. Also, in Brooklyn, it never really mattered whether he was Spanish, Italian or Jewish; he was liked for who he was – Tony.
When he first went to school in Marlboro (actually in one of the adjoining towns – I won’t mention which)he was surprised how many people avoided speaking with him. He just figured it was because he was new and didn’t exactly smile much.
“It will come in time – you will make friends.” His mother said.
“I want my old friends, mom. Things are so different here – it’s so clean.”
“That’s nice, isn’t it?”
“I just feel so dirty in a clean neighborhood – I don’t belong here, mom.”
“It’s new, honey, I promise you it will get better.”
“I want to go back home, mom. I miss Dad too.” He knew this would be the wrong thing to say and she responded as he expected.
“Your father does not have space for you in his apartment – if you want to go sleep on the floor then, go ahead.” Her eyes welled up and she left the room.
He followed her. “Mom, I am sorry. I want to be with you…it’s just hard.” Now he broke down and she embraced him.
“I know, baby. I know.” She kissed his head and closed her eyes.”Once we get settled in we can invite Bobby to come for the weekends.”
A couple of weeks passed and he found himself trying out for the football team. The coach was a giant man with a crew cut and a shirt that was one or two sizes to small for him. He could have used his belly as a mobile desktop – his whistle sat comfortably on it as he made the rounds.
“You, what’s your name, Garcia?” He was looking towards Tony.
Tony looked around him and waited for someone to respond.
“You,” he was looking and pointing directly at Tony. “What’s your name.”
The kids laughed around him. “My name is Tony, Anthony Carolei.”
“Carol?” The coach responded.
“Carol-lay.” Tony responded. “Call me Tony.”
“I’ll call you Garcia.” The coach said. “Go to Johnny over there and fill out his questionnaire. Don’t lie on it – we will know.”
“Why would I lie?” He said but no one heard – the coach was on to the next kid.
The next day he went to check the board to see if he made the first cut. He felt disappointed when his name was not displayed on the list. He began to walk away when he heard, “Garcia, good job.” He turned and saw a group of boys laughing and one of them was pointing at a name on the list. He walked over and saw, “Garcia.”
“Is this me?” He asked.
“Is your name Garcia?”
“It is now. I am the manager and Coach put you down as ‘Garcia,’ so get used to it.”
He smiled and turned to walk back to his locker. He texted his parents as he walked there and told them he had made the team. He was feeling good for the first time since the move when he noticed something dripping from his locker. He put his phone in his pocket, placed his bag on the floor and unlocked the locker. He opened it up to find several broken bottles of corona beer, black beans and rice strewn all over his books and papers and a dead mouse in a plastic bag. On the bag there was a note, “Swim back home illegal – we don’t want your kind here.”
“My kind?” He said aloud to himself. Some kids, as they walked by laughed and others were whispering in tones that seemed both amused and angered.
“What happened Garcia your mom sent you lunch? Doesn’t she know that you need to be 21 years old to drink ‘cerveza’ here?” Laughter – it was the football manager.
Suddenly a couple of kids came to Tony’s side.
“What is your problem, Kenny?”
“My problem are the illegal Mexicans who come here to take our jobs and our places on the football teams.”
“I don’t think anyone can take your place on the team, if you never made the team, Kenny.”
“It’s Juan, Kenny – get it right.”
“Hooowannn. I got it right?”
With that Juan turned around and walked away. Tony closed his locker and followed him.
“Hey Juan. Thank you.”
“It’s nothing – it gives me an excuse to shut that white trash piece of shit up.”
“You know I am not-”
“You should hang with us – you seem kind of cool. We are all going to Isabelle’s house tonight – like one of those parties you see in the movies? Her parents are away so…anything goes.” He exchanged hand slaps around with his friends.
“I’d like that – but I have no idea who Isabelle is.”
He took Tony’s phone and dialed a number. His phone rang and he said, “I will text you around 7 and we’ll connect – sound good?”
Juan put out his hand and slapped Tony’s.
“See you tonight.”
He decided to go along with the charade. No one had made any gestures to be
his friend so if he was welcomed by the Mexican group what the hell? The only problem was that he did not speak any spanish.
He texted Bobby and told him about the whole “Mexican” thing.
“LOL, Hey I can’t come next weekend, sorry. Why don’t you come to Brooklyn? You can stay by me?”
“I’ll speak to my mom and let you know.”
Juan picked him Tony in a BMW convertible at 730. Tony was surprised to see him driving a BMW – he had assumed that Juan would come in a souped up ghetto car from 1972 or something. When he drove up in his BMW convertible – Tony felt embarrassed.
“Cool car Juan.”
“It’s my brother’s – he is away so he said I could use it.”
Juan spoke perfect english without any accent at all. He was listening to the Rolling Stones and was drinking from a can of seltzer.
“You like the Stones?” He asked.
“Yeah of course. My father is a big Stones fan so I grew up listening to their songs.”
“So your parents are divorced?” He asked Tony.
“Yeah – my father lives in Brooklyn, that’s where I came from. My mom grew up here so she wanted to start over, I guess.”
“Do you see your father?”
“I see him every other weekend, sometimes. How about you?”
“My parents are together – they travel a lot but that’s cool.”
He picked up two other guys – Peter and Carlos. Tony was feeling nervous as they joked in Spanish about some people or things that had happened; he had no idea.
“You speak spanish?”
“No, not really.”
“Where is your family -” His phone rang – he answered it on speaker.
“We are on our way – we should be there in 43 seconds or so.”
They pulled up to this giant mansion which looked like a resort and had a park and lake in the backyard. They each strutted up the stairs to the entrance and were greeted by short skirted belly button revealing girls.
Kisses on the cheeks and “come in and have some shots. The adults are on a cruise to Alaska or Europe or somewhere so the place is ours. Don’t you love this view? Stop looking at me and look around silly – ok you can keep looking at me – you are the new kid right? Well please let me take your hand and give you a personal tour. Voy a darle una cálida bienvenida. I don’t speak spanish – what’s your name? Eva and you are Tony right? Antonio? No just Tony but you can call me whatever you’d like. Laughter – she pulls him up the stairs and leads him into her parents bedroom and the view is spectacular…as she softly bites his lower lip.
Some time passed and the door opened. They both walk out of the room hand in hand, laughing. Tony’s hair has been played with and Eva is buttoning up her shirt. They danced a bit and then they went for a walk towards the lake in the back – it was actually a pool which was enormous. They sat on a chaise lounge.
“How come you don’t speak spanish?”
“Because I am-”
“Eva!!! Wooo!!!! Come on let’s do some shots!!! Feliz cumpleanos!”
“No es mi cumpleaños niña tonta” She laughed.
“A quién le importa el cumpleaños de alguien en algún lugar, vamos a celebrar”
“Let’s walk with them before they do something I’ll have to clean up after.”
“How does it feel to live in a house like this?”
“Lonely…” She turned towards her friends, “Vamos, damas, esto es para nosotros!”
Tony downed a shot of what tasted like gasoline. He wasn’t a drinker and had only had beer up until now. But this drink made his chest warm and he felt a sense of recklessness he needed.
“Uno mas!” He yelled out.
“Woo hoo!” They responded.
“This is my friend, Tony. Tony these are my chica’s! Liz, Lydia and Lillian. Los L’s!”
“To the ‘L girls’ and most of all to Eva!”
“See you later ladies – I am taking my new friend for a tour. Vamos Tony.”
They walked past the pool towards a tennis court – it was dark now and it was getting cooler out. She brought out some towels and they sat together on a chaise lounge facing the court. They were kissing and then she put her head on his chest and closed her eyes.
“I am not normally this quick to kiss a guy, you know.” She said.
“We did a little more than kiss, you know?” He answered and she said.
“Shhh – we didn’t go all the way – second base, right?”
“I was rounding second heading to third but you decided to put the stop sign up.”
“I like you, I don’t know what it is about you other than you are cute.”
“I like you too, but, I think I like you for your money.”
They both laughed.
“So where are you from?”
“I mean, where are your family from? Mexico? Puerto Rico?”
“Yeah, around 100 years ago or so.”
“You aren’t spanish?”
“No, I just look it.”
“I guess Italians and Spanish people look alike.”
“I think I am hotter than most, TBH.”
“I think so too…I like the Italian part of you.”
“You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
They were both laughing when they heard a loud noise from the house.
“What was that?” Tony asked.
“I don’t know – let’s go see what happened.”
They ran towards the house and now they heard the sound of voices arguing from outside the front. They ran around towards the front and there was a car on the lawn.
“What the hell is going on here?” She yelled at Juan who was standing across from a group of boys led by Kenny.
“This asshole decided to come here and join the party. But I told him it was by invitation only.”
“It’s a closed party Kenny and why would you want to party with us? All you ever do is talk to us like we are garbage. Get off my property or I will call the police.”
“Your property? Your property? I didn’t see your grandparents fighting for independence here and earning the chance to live on this land.”
“I am not doing this bullshit now, I am calling the police.”
“Kenny get the fuck out of here.” Tony stood and said. “You treat people like shit because they aren’t as white as you are or as American as you are; what makes you better than the KKK or the Neo Nazi’s?”
“I have nothing against those patriots.”
“Don’t expect to be on the team tomorrow Garcia.”
“My name is Tony Carolei, asshole, not Garcia. Now leave.”
“What are you going to do to make me leave?”
Tony picked up a stick and walked towards Kenny.
“You leave now or I will stick this up your ass. Get back in your car and leave.”
The sound of sirens could be heard and one of Kenny’s guys whispered something to him.
“We’re leaving – see you in school, Garcia.” He went into his car and they pulled out leaving a skid mark across the lawn.
The cops came and left, there was nothing they could do unless Kenny and his crew came back again.
The next day in school he checked the bulletin board and saw Garcia was crossed off and replaced by Carolea. First practice was scheduled for after school that afternoon.
Eva saw Tony and called out his name.