AUTHOR’S NOTE: I made some changes to Part 1, so you might want to read here before you begin.
Jack and OddBo, they’re next to each other, talking. Jack declares that if anyone gives him a hospital bill, he’ll push it into their eye socket. Jack said that, and he didn’t see my hand hovering over his shoulder, about to tap him. I dart my hand behind my back. I’d rather go round two with Beaver-Man than face Jack on a bad day.
There’s a crash to my left. I jump up, and send shocks of pain into my bad leg. On my left, Otis writhes on the ground, clutching his backside, looking to the sky. After tonight’s encounter, he doesn’t really have much of a left cheek anymore. Either of them. He’s bawling. I sit back down. On second thought, the next time Beaver-Man confronts me, I’m running straight behind Jack.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Stage 2 (Anger): Jack’s still ranting. Jack hides it from me when he works as my apprentice tailor, but at any other chance he gets, he bitches about Beaver-Man destroying Sid’s death satellite, or me never letting him design the uniforms, or Beaver-Man “accidentally” (so say the papers) hitting a cop. One good way to shut up Jack is to ask him where the money he owes me is. Usually. But it’s cool. When my godfather got in that ranting mood, he got more results than anyone in the family, especially the women.
I almost forgot to say hello to you. Hello, Destinee Delgado. I’m your father, your daddy. Call me César Thumb. I guess you can call me César Delgado, since that’s my Catholic name and all, but just never in public, all right? In fact, just call me papa. Don’t presume too much, got it? We only met once. At the time, your mother just gave birth to you a few months ago. It was the last time I saw both of you. You weren’t old enough to remember anything I said. Don’t act like you know me that well.
I suppose you’re wondering why I’m narrating my life to you right now, given that you’re likely at home and are most definitely not in this bleached-out hospital with me. This hospital feels like what medicine tastes like. Grown-ups shouldn’t have to take medicine.
So you, Destinee, are only present in my bald head at the moment. Here’s the thing. The reason your papa sends you all those dolls and dresses and American “soccer” balls for your birthday is this. Your papa works for Sinister Sid. Who’s Sinister Sid? If you only read the papers, which I’m not sure you can because you’re only 3, although I could read in Spanish at 3 but not in English until 8 so those matones running my school labeled me ‘learning disabled’ even though I could run the school better than— the point is, Sid gets a bad rap. Maybe it’s the streaks of tattoos that cover any skin on him. Maybe it’s the bald head, like your papá has. Maybe it’s because he’s a big guy, unlike your papá. Maybe it’s because he summoned demons from another galaxy to help him in a retail scheme. Who can say. But anyway, Sinister Sid, one of the best men, the best. Took me in when I didn’t have a job. Gave me a good salary. Most importantly, he helped me realize myself. Sid taught me this breathing technique where I breathe in until I feel the oxygen pulse through the tubes in my brain, and breathe out until my shoulders fall back. He says to use these breathing moments to discern, without judgment, the true will of my inner child. I must follow that will without compromises. And when you see a guy who looks like Sinister Sid seem so relaxed, you know it’s legit.
Otis forgot all his meditation lessons. He’s up from the bench now, and he’s talking with Jack about outpatients and movies and bills. Otis says, “Hey Jack, don’t you owe César money or something?”
I shake my head so hard that my leg starts burning. Must be a homeopathic thing. Or was it holistic? Sid would know.
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Dry eyes, calm mind. Jack and Otis go back to talking, and I slink back in my seat like a child, back to waiting.
Sid once told me, “César, my friend, you must satisfy your inner child. Let go of society’s expectations of yourself, and be free to act on your own desires.” That’s what he says. Only thing is, I don’t want to talk to my inner child anymore. I hate my inner child. That pussy— and don’t let me catch you using that word— that pussy needs to stop whining all the time. “I’m lonely! I’m scared! I miss my wife! ¡No puedo apoyar esta vida!” Whine whine whine. I don’t like whiners, I don’t work with whiners. Now you, when we met you were the quietest baby I’ve ever seen. Absolutely wide-eyed, and absolutely beautiful. And smart, too. I’d rather hang out with you than keep glancing at these frosty windows, dreading the moment when Beaver-Man’s thick glove punches through them. One day I’ll come back to you, Destinee, with a big wad of cash and an even bigger excuse.
Stage 3 (Pleading): Otis haggles with the nurse from across the room, begging in a nasal screech to be taken next. He’s annoying, but at least Jack calmed down and stopped shouting along with him. The last time I was that big a crybaby, I got a good smack across the face and no supper. If Otis wants to make it in a world of superheroes, he gotta do what I did: get a henchman name, lose some weight, stop answering his wife’s calls.
Sinister Sid said that in times of anguish I should talk to and console my inner child. Well I don’t want to talk to my inner child. I want to talk to my actual child. Like nothing else. Mi dolor es más grande que palabras, I suppose. I can’t visit you anytime soon, I’m too busy working. So I’ll just talk to you in my head. That’s who you are, my psychic link to myself.
I can see you now: puffy cheeks, peach-fuzz hair, big eyes, eyes with tears in them, no, don’t cry, don’t cry on me. I’m gonna keep looking at you, and I’ll do nothing else if you just stop crying. I refuse to stare at these awful, peeling, off-white hospital walls anymore. I’m breathing in, breathing out, breathing in gasps.
Jack sniffs his nose and grimaces, as if he smells something burnt. He looks at me. I hold my breath.
To Be Continued in Part 3