Carlos Antonio Delgado


Mister, Are You Still Very Sad?

They had been fighting—arguing. They were yelling in the way of married people. This kind of thing is not rare. In my own home it happened many times.

My son, at one point, said to his wife, Fuck you, sister. He said, You have to be kidding. He said, You’re rewriting history now—that’s not what you said. He said, You’re crazy.

Then, right then—when he said the word crazy—she punched his face, something she had never done. This was in the bedroom. Under the plant that hung from the ceiling.

On his way out he grabbed their only pack of cigarettes. He cursed under his breath. Had it really happened, he thought. Had she hit him for real. He smoked cigarettes and punched mailboxes and trees on the way.

Some days later he returned. He was drunk. She was not home.

He called out her name, only just sharply at first, then loudly. His voice raised each time she did not answer.

He came into the bedroom, tore down the curtains from the walls. He took out her clothes, all her clothes, put them on the floor, and pissed all over them. He went into the garage and found the cans of paint. Then he poured the paint over the bedroom walls, on the bed, on the dresser, on the sliding glass mirrors, on her clothes in piss on the floor. He picked up the TV and put it through the glass door, into the patio. Then he fell asleep on the couch.

It was midnight before she came in. He did not open his eyes. What would she do. How would she do it. He waited for her to begin.

She said things. Let’s make it better. Please. Please. Please. Please. I’ll do anything.

She knelt beside him. She smelled like herself, he noticed, but the cold outside was attached to her. It had come into the house with her, on her fingers and sweater and breath. The smell of her was sharpened. Crisp.

She said, I’ve been worried. Worried sick. Worried to death. She said, Are you okay now? Are you okay now, baby? How did you hold up? You look terrible. She said, Where did you sleep? She said, I don’t know how that got into me.

She said, I didn’t eat in two days.

She kissed his hands and mouth. She kissed his forehead and put her fingers into his hair and he felt the hard good edges of her fingernails. But he rolled away from her. So she stood up and walked into the bedroom.

Then she left and he never heard from her.


Soon I moved into the second bedroom of the house of my son. This is how I came to live with my son. My mother and father were dead already. My wife, my son’s mother, she had left me years ago. I had no one else. It was right, I had said. More and merrier, misery and company. Things like that. My son agreed, or did not speak up, and we filled our nights with each other. There was drinking, laughter. And in our drunkenness and loneliness and sadnesses—there came a kind of friendship.

These things happen.

Call it desperation. A son desperate for his father. Call it cheap forgiveness. Or call it a strange compassion now—on his part—for when I had been young, too, and married. I don’t care. It does not matter. This is the truth. This is how it happens. I am his father. I understood him. I had become a father to my son.

I took him in as a kind of pupil. I told my stories. Many, many stories. Of my own father who had beat me. Of fights with boys in the neighborhoods. Of coming to America as a young man. Of the soccer game I’d played so hung over I made shit in my shorts as I ran.

I told about the mistresses. About splitting with his mother. About the regret. I was very drunk at these times.

I told about making it with my son’s aunt after my wife had passed out in the living room.

These kinds of things.

And my son listened. It did not bother him. Mostly he was not bothered. Drinking, confessing, hearing stories about his own mother. But he was a man now. These things were from years ago. These things were put away. These were nights of salt air and backyard salsa music and cold beer and toasting to all the women we’d never had and throwing bottles at the wall and pissing on the cement and puke.


One night, my son and I were together. He was the one who still could drive. He had finished only his second when I said, Mexico, mijo. Let’s go. To Mexico we go. To buy whores. A couple each. I am horny tonight.

Nevermind that he had not before been to Tijuana—I would teach him what he needed to know. That was not it—it was not fear my son felt, only a burden. He would have instead gone to the market and bought a magazine with pictures of them, to save him the trip and the money. But he needed to go out, to have a time. I am his father.

We drove his car to the gas station, bought three packs of cigarettes and a case of beer. He put the cigarette packs into his pockets and threw the beer into the backseat. On the passenger side I kicked my feet free, unwrapping them from the plastic bags and things on the car floor—speaker wires, magazines, newspaper, receipts, empty cigarette boxes, an old box of chicken nuggets. I reached back and opened a beer, and then I was reminded.

I said, Mijo, mijo. I just remembered. I just remembered just now. Let me tell you. I said, They took me, mijo. They took me. I had no say. I leaned my head back, almost laughing at the memory. I said again, Mijo. They took me.

I drank the entire beer before I went on. I leaned back the chair and put my hands over my eyes. I sighed with exaggeration—at the late night, or at the memory, or with the weight of drunkenness, I do not know. It was one of those sighs.

My son, who had grown up thinking I was some kind of a big monkey, looked over at me—dark, even for someone from Ecuador. Black hair, a full head of curls, and thick. A round face—a very round face. My low forehead, my big fat jaw. My dark black eyes. My big nose. My nose, because of the oil, reflected light in through the car window while we passed the many lighted things outside. I have acne scars from those days that for me lasted through my thirties, sadly—something which always made my son wonder whether I was some kind of a magician, with the women at least. With women I always was a great success. I was a man to flirt with any woman—my son’s schoolteachers, mothers of his friends, checkout clerks in the supermarket. I maintained a certain eye for women, in those days white women especially. My son thought it did not add up. My face is ugly, oily, scarred. But I always had a way, a charm, an accent the women like. My son’s face his mother gave him. Smooth, clean. Puberty hardly touched him. He was never ugly, though when he shaves, his neck and cheeks become covered with many red spots, like the stains of a woman’s kiss. My son looked back at the street. He was waiting for me to tell my story.

I threw the empty can next to my feet with all the other things. I sighed once again, like before, and my son still was quiet.

I tell you, cholo, I said, with the embarrassment of telling a story about yourself. I tell you, I did not have a say then.

I said, In Ecuador among us it was tradition. The older cousins on my thirteenth birthday took me to 18th Street, La Diez y Ocho, where the hookers worked. They gave me to the one blowing smoke, wearing dark purple. She bent down for us, showing off. The cousins howled. They brought out their money and they bartered with her, all the time looking down her shirt. She saw me and flicked her cigarette. She knew by my shy face whose birthday it was.

Hey, you, boy, she said. You, she said again. Big Boy.

She touched her finger to my chin. I can make you a man today. What do you say, Big Boy, I will make you a man. She smiled at me. She looked at my eyes. But she was ugly, an old cup no one rinsed out. With her fingernails she tucked my hair behind my ears. She kissed me, and gave me a feel of her tongue. But I did not open my mouth and her tongue ran along my closed lips, over my boy’s mustache.

One of the cousins came up from behind her to touch her, and she let him. Do you like what you see, Big Boy, she whispered into my ear. Do you want to touch me too? My pecker was hard in my pants.

The cousins hit each other with the backs of their hands and made sex noises. Ooh, aah, caramba, mierda. They said, Happy birthday, flaco, happy birthday.

Her fingers tickled the back of my neck as she stood leaning in front of me. She turned with me toward the bar, to her empty room upstairs. The older ones paid her and they waited outside in the street with the prostitutes, ogling, fluttering their tongues at the women, and hopelessly counting the rest of their money.

I looked at my son, then I put the chair back in the upright position. I reached to grab another beer from the back seat. I opened it and drank deeply. The next second I pulled the cigarettes from my son’s shirt pocket and lit one for each of us. My son took the cigarette from between my fingers and downshifted and drove the slow loop up to the freeway where there wasn’t any traffic but late-night trucks and college kids. We went in silence for some time and then I started in again on the story I was telling—those stairs in the bar against the back wall, the music from a radio in another room, that smell of old dirty water in her upstairs room.

She took off her shoes. Sit down there, Big Boy, on the bed.

I sat at the edge with my hands in my lap to cover my pecker. I did not know if I also should take off my shoes. What would happen to my pecker if I bent down to try?—would it poke out my pants, or break open, or split in half. Because I’m telling you, it was hard. Harder than ever before.

She moved over to the dresser across the room from me, to look in the mirror above it. She fixed her hair a little, and took out her earrings. The walls of the room had been painted blue many years before, light blue. The coat was wearing thin now. It was cracked in places near the floor. A hole in the ceiling was covered in hanging spider webs and dust. Some wind came through the room that blew at her skirt, but the windows and door were closed, so I wondered, Where did the breeze come from? Then I saw, by the air moving up and through her skirt—she wore nothing underneath. It pleased me. It scared me. It disgusted me.

She put her earrings on the dresser and walked back to the bed. She knelt on the floor in front of me. She smiled and she said, Okay, Big Boy, okay. It is time to make you a man.

Her hands were on my knees. Her fingernails grazed over my pants and my thighs. This is how the thing is done—I knew it. I had heard stories. My cousins had told me how it would happen. This was my time to lean back. Time to open my birthday present. But I did not want to do it. I was afraid to do it. Underneath my shirt my stomach became a kind of liquid and melted into the other parts of my body. She pulled off my shirt and kissed my nipples. She put her hands on my hands. She brought them to her face, to her cheeks. She closed her eyes and groaned and stuck out her tongue to wet my fingers.

She took off her shirt and looked at me to be admired. Her breasts had stretch marks and freckles. As she brought my hands to touch, I thought of curdled milk. What do you think, she said. Have you ever seen tits before? I was quiet. Of course you have. You are so big and strong. So handsome. Are they as nice as the ones you have seen, Big Boy? You want to stick them in your mouth? How about if you suck them? Would you like that, Big Boy? How would you like that?

She dangled them in front of me and she shook them by moving her hips. She smiled and laughed a little. These aren’t your mommy’s tits anymore, are they, Big Boy?

My pecker hurt now. The muscles in my legs jerked out of control. She stood up and unzipped her skirt. She let it fall to the floor. She made a sucking sound with the air between her tongue and lips—sssss—as though she had stepped on something hot. Then she looked back at me.

Come over here and touch me, Big Boy, she said. Put your fingers here. Please, please.

She moaned and closed her eyes. This is how they did it—for birthdays—the cousins had paid her nicely. This was the show they put on. She said, Please. Come over here. Touch me, Big Boy. Touch me right here. Make me ready to fuck you like a real woman. She said, Do you like that word? Fuck. Do you want me to say it again?

She said, Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

She began to masturbate, demonstrating, continuing to beg. Touch me, Big Boy. I will show you how. Like this. Like this. Move your fingers like this. Like I do. She said, Put your fingers here, Big Boy. Then I will teach you to fuck me like a man.

But I did not move. I couldn’t. Because then she would see that I’d already come.


I laughed and dropped a can to the floor. I was only a boy, mijo, I said to my son. I said, This was many years until I came to America. I was just a boy. A boy. No more.

I breathed big, another heavy sigh, and this time it was the sound of reaching backward into the years. I said, I did not have a woman until my last year in high school. A girl from my class with tits the size of your head. I said, But I masturbated myself every day, goddamn it. That whore. I could not make that whore leave my brain.

I grabbed my crotch and scratched, saying, I bet she had crabs anyway, that old bitch. I laughed out loud.

The car passed I-710 and I-605, and I pointed him to I-5 going south. I turned on the radio and he moved his chair back on the rollers.


My son would not bring his car across the border. Eight bucks and we left the car stateside in a 24-hour parking lot. We brought our keys and money and a can of beer each, and when we finished them we threw them empty on the sidewalk. We walked the short distance across the international boarder, and into Tijuana. We had to go through an old revolving metal gate. In Mexico now, we found a taxi to drop us at Revolution Street where the strippers will open their mouths for you. And for practically nothing, I told him. A real deal, I said. In Mexico everything is cheaper. Only watch your money. These women are thieves. They will put their hands in your pockets.

My son looked around. He watched the many people and things on the street. Cheap Mexican night clubs full of white college kids. Neon signs flashing Club A, Safari, others. All thumping with the same house music out onto the sidewalks. Boys and girls yelling from the balconies, spilling their drinks. Young couples fighting outside—girls who crossed their arms and boys with hands on their hips. Groups of girls smoking outside the clubs, laughing or crying, depending upon how much they had already drunk. Local Mexicans hanging around street vendors who sold pork tacos and Pepsi. Little Mexican children and their mothers everywhere selling bracelets and gum. Some of the children played small guitars or juggled, so you’d give them a little money. And men on the sidewalks in front of the stripper places in broken English saying, Free poosy, free poosy. You like poosy, free poosy here. They held up their hands to you, sticking their tongues between their fingers. They made eye contact and grabbed your shoulder. Come in here, you want poosy, you find it here. It was to get the richer, white customers in through the curtains. Everything was dirty and the street smelled like pee. After a short walk through the crowds, I chose one of the places, ignoring the men. I knew where I wanted to go. My son came in behind me.


The place was halfway full and emptying. Two girls on stage were dancing. One was white and skinny, too skinny for her panties. They sagged like they were heavy with water. Probably only because she was white did she remind me of the mother of my son, back in the years when I had known her. But this one was skinnier. Too skinny for me. The other was bigger. Mexican. Chubby. My taste these days. Her skin shining and rippled. She had already taken off her clothes, and she spun around the golden-colored pole they had on the stage.

There were women, other strippers, seated at some tables to the side of the stage. Mostly Mexicans, but two or three white girls sat with them, and one woman who looked Chinese. When you looked around you saw brown everywhere. Brown walls, brown chairs, brown tables. We found seats at a table next to the stage—on the other side of the stage from the strippers. Another woman, a Mexican, was holding napkins on her tray. She walked to our table, naked from the waist up. She asked what we wanted to drink.

Four tequilas, I said. I waited for her to walk away before I pulled out my money. I had already stuffed it into my sock. I leaned over to my son to say something above the music—American rock ‘n’ roll hits: Bon Jovi, White Snake, Poison, the old stuff. I said, I used to come here after your mom and me. This is the place. The only one worth seeing. I said, But it was cleaner then back then. In the ‘70s and ‘80s. No smell like now. But the girls, I said. The girls. I had already folded a dollar bill between my fingers. I held it up. I said, See these girls. These girls here. Pay them twenty dollars and see what happens to you. I looked up at the white girl dancing. I looked back at my son. Then again up to the white girl. I waved the dollar bill.

Here you go, little girl. Here you go, you pretty little girl.

She took my dollar into her mouth. She mussed the hair of my son. She smiled at him. He looked up at her. He took a glass of the tequila, and another. His lips pulled at his cigarette. All the time he watched the white girl.

Look at that mouth, mijo. You see that mouth. Her mouth is big and strong, mijo. And only for twenty dollars.


We had drinks. We watched the women dance.

We did not speak to one another. It is a mystery in these places—men do not discuss the things they see, or anything else either. It does not take very long to happen after they arrive. At first, sometimes, of course, there is some chatter. A joke or two. A man must settle himself in. But then men sit quietly. At attention. They pay their money and they fill their eyes. They have drinks brought to the table and they pay for them.

Not many girls were in the place. When they were not dancing they occupied the tables to the side of the stage, the side near the front door. They smoked and told jokes. When a girl’s turn was up she danced as though it was a chore, a thing to be bothered by. Then she returned to her cigarettes and laughter, and maybe she drank a glass of water. She put her clothes on and fixed her hair. These were not beautiful women, which was something to notice. They were ugly. They were closer to ugly than to beautiful. They did not look up at the men who came in.

The women danced for two songs at a time, one or two girls at a time. Each time it was the same. The first song is to tease the men. To make the money. The women are slow to remove their clothes. They move and dance and walk around the stage. They throw a scarf to the floor, or a hat. If they were wearing those long white gloves, then that’s what they took off. They remove only one layer. Show a little skin, but just a little. It is only a tease to get the thing started.

You can see the dollars gather then. Men believe if they do not pay quickly they will not see all of her. So they give it away.

The second song is a kind of reward. You have paid your money, now here is your prize. The dancer takes off her top. Her skirt. Her bra. Her panties. But she does not remove her shoes. The dancers never come out of their shoes. And all the time their eyes do not look at the men, except when they are grabbing the money—to make you feel right. It is like saying Thank you when they grab your money, so they look at you. By the end dollar bills have been scattered over the stage and the girls collect, holding the bills to their chests. They step down to the side of the stage and they put their clothes on again, and sit down with the rest of the women.

As the night wore on the girls seemed to grow more and more impatient and bored.


The white girl, the skinny one, she danced most often. Tirelessly, furiously. This amused my son. It was something he began to admire. You could see her skinny legs flex their muscles. You could see the bones in her back. You could see her ribs and the points in her elbows. Her arms were white and pale, with bruises up on her shoulders and down underneath, on the underside of both her arms. She had a bruise on her leg. And one on her stomach. When she kicked her legs up in the air my son prepared to see her slip and fall, or else tear a muscle. But she did not. She was a good dancer. Maybe she had taken classes. She was happy to dance. Her hair flipped in all directions, quick, sharp. And my son watched her each time remove the same set of clothes to a different song.


After a time my son stood up to find the restroom, and the feel of drunkenness filled his legs and arms and face. He walked across the room. He looked at the white woman while she sat at her table. All the time watching the white woman. At her legs, her shoulders. At the form of her breasts beneath her top. Now he understood it was her job to be looked upon, that men paid their money for the right.

She saw him and smiled at him and stood up and walked alongside him.

Hello there, she said in English. You there. Yes. Don’t walk away from me, Mister.

She said, Let me tell you a secret. I’ll tell you something you have not thought of. She said, I see the way you watch me. She said, I like when you look at me.

She leaned in. She put her arm around his waist.

She said, This is not America. She said, There are no laws in here.

She touched his hand and stood on her toes and she said, You look sad tonight, Mister. I do not like when the handsome men look sad. She moved a piece of hair from his forehead. She looked into his face. She said, But I will make you happy. I can make you happy.

She said again, There are no laws in here, Mister. Remember. This is not America.

Then she turned away, letting him go ahead to the restroom.


Pretty soon I took the Mexican girl and the other girl—that waitress with the tray and napkins—to another room in the back.

I’d said to the waitress, What is that girl’s name. I want her name. I was speaking of one the Mexican dancers, the chubby one I liked.

What would you like to call her, the waitress said to me, playing the games of strippers. For the right price, she said, these women become anyone.

Her name, I said. I want her to come with me.

The waitress told me the Mexican girl’s name—Aurelia.

It will cost you, she said. These women are not free. We are not for free.

Why don’t you get your friend, I said. Get your friend Aurelia and come with me.

I showed I meant business. I held out several bills of money.

Why don’t you two come with me and we can play a game I know.

My son watched me with the girl. He paid attention. The girl walked away, to talk to the one she called Aurelia.

I said to my son, It is an easy game. They will do as you tell them. They will do as you say. Not like that one you married.

He was quiet. He watched the white girl again. The skinny one. I stood up and walked away with Aurelia and the waitress.


My son was alone now. He ordered drinks. He walked back and forth from the bar to his seat. He looked up at the white girl dancing. You could tell she was after my son. She came to his side of the stage most often. She touched his hair or face or shoulder or chest. He put a dollar into her mouth or hand or clothes. He gave her one dollar at a time, to save the money he brought with him, which was a lot of money—in case we needed to get out of trouble. In case we needed to bribe somebody.

But the white girl had danced only three times more before my son went into his pockets to discover they were empty.


The first feeling was this: he was afraid.

Then he felt thirsty. A strong and sudden thirst—which was worry. The empty glasses were in front of him. Some used to have beer in them. Some had had the stronger drinks. He tipped one of them to his mouth, one with ice, to gather in its moisture.

He checked his pockets again. Again. Again. Calmly. Not to stir a commotion.

For some reason he looked at his watch.

He felt embarrassed. He looked around in the way of children on the first day of school. He considered the drive home. The taxi fare back to the border. He considered the price of gasoline. Or of having to rent a room for the night.

He tapped his foot on the floor. He shook his leg. He crossed his hands and put them in his lap.

Then he understood. If you could have seen his face then you would know what I mean.


My son stood up and walked to her. He walked crookedly. Quickly. As drunk men walk. He came up from behind.

He said, You, you. He did not form his words like he had wanted. At first she did not turn around. He put his arm on her back and bent down to put his face next to hers.

He said, You, Miss. You took my money before you earned it. He said, My money. My money. It is gone now.

He gave her a smile, to reassure her.

He said, Take me to a place where you can earn it. I want you to earn your money from me.

Finally she turned around to him. She smiled back at him. She said, I told you already, Mister. There are no laws here. She put her hand on his face. She pinched his cheek and patted it. Then she turned around again.

My son stood up straight. His lips squeezed together.

No, he said. No, no. I want you to hear this. Listen to me now and I will be very clear. He brought his wallet to the table in front of her, between two fingers, as if to make it dangle.

It was closed. He was bluffing.

She turned again to face him and moved her hand to grab him by the back of his head, pulling his face close to hers. She said, But you still look sad, Mister. Mister, are you still very sad?

He leaned in, close to her ear, before he spoke. He said, I have more money. You did not take it all. I have more. Take me to a place where you can earn it.


In the room he sat on the bed while the white girl closed the door. The wood floor made noises when she walked across it. It was nicer in here. Cleaner than out front. The bed was made. The loud music from the main room had turned only to a mumble.

He watched her. He was looking. At the backs of her legs. At her feet in high heel shoes. He watched her let her hair fall down, out of the bun she had put it in. She turned around.

Do you like me, Mister?

He did not answer.

I think you like me. I have seen you watching me tonight. You have watched me all night tonight. Now you want to take me home. She laughed. He brought out his pack of cigarettes. He took one out and he lit it. He offered one to the girl. She took it and walked to the dresser and put it next to a bowl on top. The cigarette rolled and then stopped.

She said, I have watched you too, Mister. I have watched you all night tonight, too. She said, I already know who you are. I like you very much, Mister, and I will make you like me, too.

He was still on the bed on the edge. The girl crawled onto the bed from behind him. On her knees she made her way toward him.

Do you like me yet, Mister?

She put her hands on his back. Then both arms around his waist. She unbuckled his belt and licked the back of his neck. She put her tongue in his ear. She pressed herself against him. She felt around, underneath his pants.

She said, Yes, yes. You sure do, don’t you? You like me very much. I can tell. She said, I will make you happy. I will make you happy. You will like me very much.

She rubbed her fingers along his thighs, bringing down his pants as she moved them, and he let her. She moved over his skin with her fingernails. She brought her hands up and unbuttoned his shirt and moved her fingers around his chest and neck. She stood up on the bed and walked around to the edge. She put one leg on either side of him. She sat down in his lap and moved around on him.

With his face very near her face she removed her top and tossed it on his head. She laughed again. She was teasing, and her face told you so. Her lips were small, wasted away—cracked—and her laugh seemed to bleed out of her body. Her cheeks were covered in makeup and sweat. She reminded him of old paint.

She said, Wait and see, Mister.

She hopped off the bed and he removed her shirt from his face. She knelt in front of him and brought down his underwear. He saw the bruises on her arms, on her stomach. Her ribs pushed out of her skin. He was still drunk. He was still very drunk.

She lowered her face toward him and made a sound out of her nose, preparing herself.

And now his eyes burned behind their sockets.

My son grabbed at her hair, catching a handful. He pulled up at her. He yanked up at her head and rolled it in his fist to make her look at him. Her face was filled with pain and shock. He felt his fingers come together as he squeezed her hair.

She said, What, what, what, what. She said, What is this? What is this you son of a bitch.

He said, You stole a lot of money from me. He said, I don’t know, I don’t know. He said, You took a lot of money.

My son spoke to make himself understood. He talked carefully. His words came out. He said, What do you think? That you can dance and move and smile—and steal a man’s money? He said, You do not get away with that. You cannot get away with that.

He said, I will not let it happen.

So with the one hand he held her hair, and with the other hand he was free to threaten her, and he held it up above her face. It was shaking very much.

He stood up and he did not let go of her hair. She stood up next to him. She stopped making sounds. Her hands came above her head next to his hand, as though this movement would bring a kind of calm. A relief. As though her hands above his hand would lend her some control.

He said, You will give me back my money. He said, You will give it all to me. I will have every bit. He said, Do you hear me? Do you hear me! He pulled tighter at her hair and jerked her head back and forth. He yelled into her ear. It was part yell and part cry. I will have every bit back in my pocket!

The white girl did not move. She did not move at all. Her face was strained. Red. Her hands were above his hand. Her mouth was open. Her face pointed up at him. She looked at him, at his face.

He was not blinking or moving and she was looking at him. He had come to believe the words he was saying, and his confidence began to move through him like a warm liquid, but she stared into his face. And then, in a moment, she began to laugh. She was laughing at him, at my son. She looked at my son in his face and she was laughing.

She said, This is Mexico. She said, You think you know where you are. You do not know where you are. She said, I am in my home here, and you are far away. She said, You have come from your life somewhere, you son of a bitch, you mother. You have come into my house, into my Mexico.

She said, You have a wife, maybe, and children. Maybe you have a house and a dog. You are from America. You in your America. You come down here to look at us. You pay your money. You throw your money around. And we pick it up, and we suck your dicks. It is cheaper there, you say to yourselves, you Americans, you assholes. It is worth the drive, you say, because there everything is cheap. You say, Nobody knows me there. You say, There is a place I can let loose. And you wave your money around.

She said, Then you go home and you play with yourself.

My son let go of her hair. She yelled. She pointed her fingers and made her arms move all around. She looked angry and her voice was high and loud.

She said, Maybe you are not happy. Maybe you are sad. Your wife is gone. Your job is difficult. You drink too much. It does not matter. She said, I can tell you are sad. You are one of the sad ones. Many men look like you. You are like all of them. She said, You come here to my Mexico and you believe you are a prince here. A king. You pay your money and you get drunk.

She said, But your laws are not our laws. You do not play fair like we play fair. This is all fair to us. This is all fair.

His eyes blurred. He felt his body exhale.

She said, You want your money now, you pig, you asshole son of a bitch. You pig king. You won’t find it. She said, You want to hit me now. You want to kick me in my stomach. You want to punch me in my back. In my face. Look at me. Look at these bruises. Look at what I have borne. You are not the first. She said, It does not matter. You will not find your money.

She laughed again. It is gone already, Señor Mother. It is already gone. I know who you are, Mister. I already know. She said, You are all the same, Mister. All of you are all the same. She said, You need to get out of here, Mister. You need to leave. She had a firmness in her voice. You need to leave—now.

But he sat down on the bed. His pants and underwear were still gathered down around his ankles.

He put his head in his hands. He saw the wood floor between his legs. Under his hands his cheeks and forehead became very hot and then very cold. His neck felt numb. Then his entire face.

Now he began to whisper. He whispered the words at first. Say you’re sorry, he said. Say sorry. Please. Please. Tell me you are sorry.

Did you hear what I said! Did you hear what I said! Get out! Get out! Get out of here before I find someone who will make you get out!

He did not move. He was not going anywhere. He was going to throw up.

And he did.

He threw up. And he threw up again. And again. The white girl stood at the door and watched. She crossed her arms slowly, in amazement. She bent down to get a view.

He was hunched over on the edge of the bed. His legs spread out as far as they could reach, which was not far, since they were still caught by the waist of the pants around his ankles. His hands hung down in between his legs. The smell moved throughout the entire room. He had covered himself in vomit. His shirt, his shoes, his legs, his arms, his hands. Vomit filled his pants. His underwear.

His whole body shook. He threw up again. Mucus and spit and vomit hung from his nose and mouth and dripped down to his pants on the floor. In a voice that sounded like he was crying he said, Please, Miss. Just, please. Just say you’re sorry. At least say I’m sorry to me and I’ll be on my way.


Carlos Antonio Delgado earned his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh and, while studying there, he won the 2008 Turow-Kinder Fiction Award for the first two chapters of his novella, The Voice and Arms of God. He has placed fiction in The Ankeny Briefcase and in Relief Journal’s first annual Best of Relief anthology, and has a story forthcoming in the anthology Pittsburgh Noir (Akashic Books, ed. Kathleen George). He was a K. Leroy Irvis fellow and is a recipient of an Eidos Christian Center grant. He lives and works in Los Angeles—at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute, an honors great-books program for undergraduates.

August 2010