Monday, November 21, 2011

Negasonic Teenage Nomad

"Seriously boy you don't have to read the entire thing. It's boring," I say.

"I want to," Antonio says. His eyes narrow for a moment and he points at a word on the glossy page. I look to where he's pointing.

"Infrastructure," I say. When he doesn't answer, I add, "City stuff, roads and sewers and power lines."

He hums acknowledgment and continues reading. He's self-conscious about his difficulty with English. I've reminded him that English is a language that plays by its own rules and constantly changes them, that he has no reason to be ashamed of struggling with its silent letters and inconsistent laws.

We're sitting on the carpeted floor of his apartment, our backs pressed against his couch. He's reading through my most recent article in Columbus Entertainment Magazine, a five-page cover story featuring the August visit of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to a deserving Columbus family.

"You really don't have to read it," I say again.

"Be done if you just be quiet," he says, gently swatting me on the arm. I leave him alone and occupy myself with his bookshelf, looking through the rows of fantasy and horror, mystery and satire.

He looks up from the magazine and says that he liked The Da Vinci Code. "It was hard but I like it."

"Phrasing," I say, almost instinctively. He ignores me and redirects his attention to the magazine. As he reads his head bobs and his shoulders pulsate to the song streaming from his laptop, a YouTube playlist I had set up earlier. He has a rhythm that makes itself known even when he isn't paying attention.

I notice.

"Love this song," I say. He smiles.

"About poor people still having fun without money," he says, then adds, "What being Cuban is all about."

"You got jokes," I say.

We may speak in our own short-handed language, we may have difficulty understanding the sentences we try to relay to each other, but the humor always transcends.

"Been my theme song for a few months," I say, "Traveling and stuff."

Nashville. Atlanta. The island.

Next is Boston. Columbus. Chicago. Maybe Charleston?

We sit around a little longer, doing nothing significant or important, until it's time for me to leave. It's a Friday, my last day of work at a job that is difficult to explain without hours of time and a bottle of bourbon. It was a music job, a combination of office work, studio time, and bizarre errands. But it's time to move from the island, I'm onto the next project.

"You leave too early," he says, "Should stay longer."

"Last day, lots to do, very important."

Antonio hums approval, pecks me on the lips and squeezes my hands.

"Travel safe, boy," he says. He rests his head on my chest, pressing me against the door of my car.

In a few months, after the year passes, I'll settle down in one place, a loud city in a faraway place where the weather is warm and the people are dark. Until then I'm a nomad, and in the month that celebrates giving thanks, I'm thankful for people like Antonio, people who accept the travelers with open arms despite their inevitable departure, someone who can joke about retiring together knowing that it will never happen.

Although I might have to come back in fifty years to keep that promise. After all, this place is an island paradise.

Antonio says we'll have a pool and everything.

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