around, otherwise why bother, right?â
I give him my number. He dials it and waits for the message to pick up. My message is embarrassing. I remember rerecording it a million times and never being satisfied. I can hear my muffled voice against Luisâs ear. He doesnât react to how stupid it is, though. He snaps his phone shut and just like that, Iâve got a gangbangerâs digits locked in.
âThere it is. Youâve got my number, and Iâll be calling yours, so donât forget to carry that celly, yo!â
We say good-bye, with plans to meet tomorrow morning.
I say good-bye to Leticia. She tells me Iâm welcome anytime.
MUST BE NICE
O N THE WALK HOME , I think about what itâd be like to have a mom there for you. To razz you about your life. To give you a hard time. To cook you burgers. To be there. If not every night, then some nights. And on nights when sheâs not there, you still know sheâs thinking about your dreams.
I GET HOME AND GO STRAIGHT TO BED .
But I canât sleep.
I donât know.â¦ This stupid funk has been weighing me down for a while, so hanging out and writing some silly lines with Luis is the most fun Iâve had in a long time.
Iâm awake in bed, staring into the shadows. Thinking about how I used to do this. I used to write stuff. I used to write lyrics in my notebook all the time.
Why did I stop?
I want the morning to come so we can get back at it.
I try to lock my eyelids and count some sheep.
Iâm too amped up.
So I slip out of bed and walk into the living room and find myself standing outside Gilbertâs cage. I watch him for a while. Watch him breathing, his black beak buried in his feathers as his little chest goes up and down with each breath.
Without thinking, I lean into the cageÂ â¦ and I start talking to Gilbert. I whisper, âHello, Sam. Hello, Sam. Hello, Sam.â In the friendliest voice I can manage.
Over and over.
Hello, Sam . Hello, Sam .
Itâs worth a shot.
Over and over, until I canât stay awake.
I TâS S ATURDAY . I got my phone in my pocket and Iâm running for the door, trying to slip out like always.
But Ginnyâs standing at the stove.
In my way.
Sheâs got one hand on a hip, a spatula waving in the other. Her bluish-white hair wrapped in pink curlers to match her pink sweatsuit.
Sheâs damned perky at seven in the morning.
The knee-jerk no is about to hit my lips. Then I think about eating dinner with Luis and his mom. And I canât say no to Ginny.
So I sit.
In a second, sheâs got a hot waffle on my plate. The waffle is great but Ginnyâs smiling and bouncing around in her squeaky tennis shoes, asking all these questions about my new friend .
âItâs just a project for school,â I say. âNo big deal.â
That gets her even more excited.
âA project? Really? Thatâs wonderful, Samuel! Tell me all about it!â
I canât stand all the positivity , so I bolt. I jump up and set my dish in the sink. âThanks for the waffle.â
I head out. But I donât get anywhere.
I gotta go back inside.
I gotta not be an ass.
I poke my head in. Ginny says, âYou back for lunch?â
âYeah,â I say. âWe put in a good five seconds of work and now Iâm starving. You got a sandwich?â
âI got a knuckle sandwich, sonny.â
âNo thanks. How about another waffle?â
âThere youâre in luck.â
I grab my dish out of the sink and by the time Iâm sitting at the table, Ginnyâs got another waffle ready to go. She takes a seat and I ask her the question.
âWhat did you and Grandpa Bill do at Boeing?â
âWhere did that come from?â
âJust curious, I guess.â
âAnd did you want to know if I was single when I started out on the assembly