Jose’s breath always smelled interesting. Think funny-ons with a hint of toothpaste.
Although his english and spanish were far more advanced than everyone else Roberto had met at that school, Jose was also in Ms. Jimenez’ 7th grade ESL class. The cute cholos that Roberto was always crushing on would walk by and smack the back of Jose’s head on their way to lunch time and called him moonface because of his facial preteen acne. Roberto, who’d just moved from Guatemala, officially met Jose in PE class and after he showed him around campus, they quickly became friends.
Jose would invite Roberto to sleep over at his house all the time. When they would get to Jose’s house on Fridays after school, Jose’s father would ask his son to clean his car and drive it from the street into the driveway. Roberto was so impressed by this. Once when Roberto was nine years old back in Guatemala, he got a spanking after getting on the driver’s seat of his uncle’s 1979 Datsun and honking the horn. Roberto thought, if all the kids at school knew that Jose knew how to drive, they would stop bothering him. He thought it was such a waste of cool information to hold on to and not brag to everyone at their school. But that was just the kind of humble person Jose was. He was the one who thought Roberto how to play Resident Evil, do backflips in his backyard trampoline and ride a bicycle with no hands.
Jose and Roberto entered the 8th grade a strong duo. People would call them fags because they were always together. Roberto wasn’t sure what the word fag meant, but he had an idea. He’d always known that he was attracted to boys. He made this discovery when saw Aladdin for the first time and felt the urge to kiss the TV screen. Roberto was afraid that if Jose knew how he felt about other boys, their friendship would be awkward. So whenever another kid was being called a fag or jotito, they would secretly join in the bullying by laughing at the other kid’s misery. Not exactly a proud time in Roberto’s childhood, but better them than him, he thought.
It was in the 8th grade where Roberto and Jose met Damian. Damian also spoke really good english and spanish, yet was in their 8th grade ESL class that they met him. Damian was way cooler than Roberto and Jose could ever be. He had no trouble talking to girls and making friends with the cholos. He even had a mustache! So when Damian started to hang out with Roberto and Jose during lunch time, they quickly embraced him. Almost clinged to him like needy boyfriends. Damian joined their sleep overs and back flip sessions on Jose’s trampoline.
Because Damian and Roberto lived closer, they started walking to school together every morning or would get a ride from Damian sister’s husband, whom he lived with. Damian and Roberto started becoming tight. Damian would share intimate secrets about his personal life. He was the first boy who ever talked to Roberto about queerness, going as far as talking to about his bisexuality, which they both somehow agreed it was a phase that would pass and they would eventually fall in love with girls. He begged Roberto not to tell Jose. He told Roberto that he could tell that he was trustworthy about those things.
When the three boys started the ninth grade, Jose began noticing that Damian and Roberto would hang out more and more without him. They felt that Jose was not mature enough to handle the type of conversations they were having. It was also around this time that Damian’s sister asked him to move out and Jose was quick to offer him a room in his more spacious house. When Damian moved into Jose’s house, everything changed. Roberto was so jealous. He knew that Damian and Jose would become best friends and would ignore him the way that he and Damian had been ignoring Jose all along.
One day while riding their bikes, Damian and Jose were talking in secrecy. Damian was trying to get a job and Jose was trying to help him out. Roberto was so furious about being left out of the conversation that he lashed out at them. He told them that best friends were supposed to tell each other everything. That they were being so selfish for not including him in the conversation. Damian and Jose stared at Roberto. He kept yelling at them but deep down he knew that he was wrong. But he couldn’t stop talking. Feeling betrayed, Roberto began to ride his bike away and Damian tried to stop him.
“If you ride your bike away,” Damian calmly told Roberto. “This friendship is over.”
Roberto biked away.
Roberto’s friendship with Damian and Jose came to an abrupt teenage end. Tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade went by. Roberto would occasionally see Damian and Jose hanging out at their old spots by the music department. By this time, Roberto’s english had improved and he’d made a new circle of friends. Who needed them when he had all these new friends.
A couple of years later, as Roberto was mindlessly scrolling through MySpace in his college dorm, he came across Jose’s sister profile. Sure enough, she had Jose and Damian on her top 8. He first clicked on Damian’s page. He looked grown and really handsome. He had a couple of pictures with a very good looking guy who he assumed was his partner. Then he clicked on Jose’s page. He’d just gotten married to a very attractive woman. He looked through his pictures and there was one where he was posing next to Damian and the caption read: the bestest best man one can ask for!
Roberto cried a little bit. He started to type a message to Damian and Jose. He wanted to remind him of all these memories he was having of the three of them just riding their bikes during the summer of 1997. He wanted to let them know that how much their friendship meant for him. He wanted to tell Damian how their young conversations as queer brown boys changed his entire life. He wanted to tell Jose how his friendship was key to his future friendships with straight boys. He wanted to update them about his own life as a college student living in the east coast. How he was about to graduate with an engineering degree and planning to move back to California as soon as he was done.
But just as soon as he started typing the message, he erased the first word. He turned off his computer and went to bed. The idea that they could have potentially forgotten about him and moved on with their lives, just hurt too much. He decided to keep those thoughts to himself and only hope that they remembered his friendship with as much love as he remembered theirs.