This is Part 13 of the story of How I Met Superman. To get caught up (or remember where we left off!), you can find the preceding chapters here.
The light was falling fast when he showed up at my door. My surprise must have shown all over my face.
“What are you doing here?” I whispered. I glanced over my shoulder to see if my mom was nearby, then leapt out onto the porch and clicked the brass-handled door quietly behind me.
“Orly said you –” He glanced behind me: took in the closed door, took in my expression, didn’t finish the sentence. Instead, he shoved his hands in his pockets and ducked his head. “I can leave. I just wanted you to know that everything was fine.”
As he turned to head off, I hustled beside him and motioned toward the front of the garage, where we couldn’t be spotted through the front-door windows. I felt terrible. It’s not that I didn’t want him there, it’s just that … it was such a surprise. … and … well, my mom. … I glanced back over my shoulder.
It was hard enough being a teenage girl and undergoing your parents’ scrutiny about all the boys you liked, but it was harder still when your latest crush was from a completely different culture than yours, and your parents weren’t exactly culturally curious.
In our hometown, we grew up with a community that was about 34% Hispanic. Most of us kids didn’t make distinctions between Hispanics and white kids growing up, although, as we got older, we unfortunately tended to make distinctions — like every high school and every community throughout time — between rich and poor. But my mom — she grew up in central Ohio. And there weren’t many Hispanics there. And, as an adult in California who didn’t work outside of the house, she didn’t meet many. So she made assumptions. All the time. And when Dawn had slipped one day and mentioned that I had a crush on Chris Sanchez (and, before that, a crush on at least one Gonzalez and one Ramirez), my mom looked at me with an expression that I could never decipher between exasperation and curiosity: Sanchez? she had asked. What neighborhood is he from?
But met now, here on the porch, with the Sanchez in question, I just didn’t feel like getting into it with her. I didn’t feel like explaining. I didn’t feel like defending my attractions or listing all of my crushes by last name. And especially defending a new crush that would probably go nowhere anyway: I mean, he didn’t actually like me, did he? That would just be too perfect for my teenage life.
“Did Ruben get in the fight?” I asked hesitantly. We settled by a boxwood bush at the corner of the garage.
“Yes.” His mouth tightened.
“But it’s okay?”
I didn’t know what that meant, but his shuttered expression seemed to close any other questions on the matter. He studied my brothers and the other kids playing in the street for a moment, then turned back toward me. “I just wanted you to know that that’s not a normal thing, for me. Or Ruben, exactly. Well, sometimes with Ruben, but not for me.”
“Is he in a gang?” I whispered.
He smiled slightly, maybe at my numbskull delivery. “He knows how to find trouble.”
“But those guys who were fighting are in gangs, aren’t they? Is it one city versus another?”
He watched the kids in the street again. “These two are actually from the same city — here — but different neighborhoods. But that’s not really him. Ruben just seems to feel a loyalty to a lot of those guys. It’s a loyalty that comes from … I don’t know, sharing a sense that you have to fight hard to fit in. Maybe he thinks he has to fight hard to fit in.”
He looked up at me to see if I was following any of this. I could tell it was hard for him to explain.
“It’s great that he’s loyal, but there’s a lot of misplaced loyalty there,” he went on. “And I hate what it does to my family. It worries my parents. It kills my mom.”
Another glance. He probably couldn’t tell if I was understanding any of this. And mostly I couldn’t. But I appreciated his trying to explain it to me, and wanted desperately to understand. The light was falling below the rooftops now, casting the last of its sharp winter light across his face. A night chill swept through the street and made me grip my elbows.
“I can imagine it would be hard for your mom,” I offered. It was the only part I could completely relate to.
He nodded but seemed suddenly focused on the fact that I was shivering. “I should go,” he said quickly. “I just wanted you to know that everything’s okay, but what happened this afternoon – that’s not me. I want you to know that.”
I nodded again. I wished I could find something intelligent to say. I wished he didn’t make me so tongue-tied just because I thought he was cute. I wished I could make all the connections that I knew were there but that I, for some reason, couldn’t connect right now.
Instead, I nodded goodbye and let him leave. But as I walked back into the house – glancing around for my mom – I knew he and I were both trying to step away from family members, both trying to acknowledge that our family members might feel one way about the 34% Hispanic community and the 66% white community — that they might feel some kind of divide — but we felt something different.
And then it occurred to me that we both felt something different.
And — more importantly — he came all the way over here to tell me.
When I got inside the house, I went upstairs to my room and removed all the vestiges of my last two boyfriends: all the pictures, the shared drawings, the dried corsages, the pining poems. I needed to make room.
I was guessing Sanchez was moving into my life.
Click here for Part 14: Questions. ….
*Names changed to protect the Don’t-Want-to-be-Googled.
You know, growing up in Orange County, I never really thought about the different cultures, not really. I knew there were nice people and bad people and gang members to stay away from, and some “bad” neighborhoods, but I never REALLY thought about it until I moved. I remember going over to a friends house after elementary school once which was in LaJolla (at least that is what the neighborhood was called) and that was really different. My friend was red haired and freckled but lived in a total hispanic neighborhood with a a hispanic family (not sure why, niece maybe) anyways, I was so excited about how different it was being there. There were boys all in white t-shirts with slicked back hair in the small fenced in yards and they all reminded me of Chico and the Man (boy did I have a crush on him!) Anyways, I really was in awe because we made tortillas for dinner and it was just so different than my neighborhood. It wasn’t until I moved up here to Washington, that I really noticed the differnce of being raised around different cultures and experiences. Up here (back then) we didn’t have mixed culture. We had the white community and the indian tribes (which definately was divided),but that was it. I graduated with only two african americans in my class even. Now, thank god, our town has grown and is culturally diverse….but it was different back then. I can see how people would be afraid of what they don’t know, like your mom. My husbands mom is still kind of like that, living back in small town PA.. I feel really blessed to have been raised and also have raised kids with multi cultural backgrounds that see no color! I can’t wait to see how your mom reacted when you came back in the house! I know from being around you guys after high school, that no one seemed to notice or care – but was it always that way…hmm – once again, can’t wait til next friday!!
Debi — I can so relate! Interesting to have your perspective as a Southern Californian who moved away and can sense what I’m talking about here. (And you knew the Ramirez I mentioned in this story!) It’s so interesting to hear all different perspectives. Orange County has a reputation (outside) for being completely homogenous, but in reality it’s a rich tapestry of cultures and religions, giving our children an even greater appreciation for all types of backgrounds. I agree with you — it’s a wonderful way to be able to raise our kids.
Ok – I think this is my favorite post so far! I think because you finally realize that, yes, he does truly care about you…and that you were ready to get rid of the old memories and make knew ones with Superman was awesome.
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