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Monday, February 25, 2008

A Visit Next Door

It's been a long time since I just stopped by to hang out next door. This afternoon when I got home from the eyeglass place Dawn was outside. "Are you going to work, or are you home?"

"I'm home," she said.

"Good. I have something for you. Let me go get it." I went in and got her W-2. She and I went in her house together. It's nice in there now that the heater is fixed. They put the furniture back in the living room.

Dawn's mom had made beef stew with vegetables. She invited me to have some. It was good, especially on a sleety winter afternoon. We watched the weather report predicting lots of snow.

Joey wanted to go to the gym at San Miguel with a friend. Mom freaked out about him walking over there by himself. He explained he was going to walk to the friend's house and then the friend's mom would drive them to the gym, but she still had a freakage. They got into a shouting match and Joey was ready to leave the house with or without Mom's permission.

I suggested that if Joey waited until I finished my soup, I'd walk him over to his friend's house (and even to the gym if necessary--I didn't quite catch everything that was going on--the ride from the friend's mom became apparent to me later). Mom thought that was OK and so did Joe, although he was impatient to get going. He went down to Peter Pan's house to see if he wanted to go, but I guess he didn't find him.

We walked over to Hermitage to the friend's house. At Paulina, another friend of his, Frizzy (I'll call him, for his hair) was out on the street kicking a soccer ball by himself. Despite the freezing rain, Frizzy was out in shorts and sneakers with no socks. Joey kicked it back and forth with him a couple of times, then we went on to Paulina. During our walk, Joey told me school is "good and bad." Good: the only thing that is boring right now is math; everything else is interesting. "I'm not bored," he said. Bad: math is boring.

"Boring because it's too hard and you don't get it, or boring because it's easy, or just boring?"

"Boring," he said. "I don't like it."

He has a new friend whom he does like, who apparently went from new bad boy to student of the month in no time flat. This led Joey into a reflection on the mystery of how you get to be student of the month, which I don't understand any better than he does. He was up for it once for improvement but he didn't get it.

"You're always my student of the month," I said, "and for real, this month you're the art student of the month."

"Yeah." His mom's car died so Medicine Man will have to get him there this week.

We got to the friend's house. He went to the side to knock. I waited. He came back and said the friend wasn't going tonight because his mom's work schedule had changed and she wouldn't be able to pick him up. So we walked back together.

"I'm going to play soccer with my friend. He'll be there," Joey told me.

"OK," I said. I decided to blow off working at home and just hang out and watch them play. When we got back to Paulina, Frizzy had already found some other friends to play, and they were kicking it in front of Big Picture. Joey jumped right in.

"Ma-ritza! Is that you hangin' on the corner?" It was Tony.

I laughed. "Oh, yeah, that's me, just hanging on the corner."

Later, some cops apparently thought I was hanging on the corner. I got the bright light in my face. I guess they decided a lone white female didn't fit the description of whatever.

I mostly stayed out of the kids' way, but if the ball came my way I kicked it back to them. A couple of other kids playing knew me and said hi. One of Peter Pan's little brothers was there. He said he had to go home at six, so I decided to stick around until then and see whether Joey would go home, too. I didn't want his mom to think I'd abandoned him.

Sometimes it was sleeting, sometimes it wasn't. Frizzy went after the ball when it went in a giant puddle. He didn't mind sticking his sockless foot in there after it. Yow.

Tony had noticed Frizzy earlier. "I saw that kid in shorts and no socks," he said. "Man, when I was younger...not any more!"

Sure enough, at 6 p.m. a mom came out from the next block down on Paulina and started calling for a couple of the kids. "It's six o'clock," I said. Peter Pan's brother took off, and Joey came along. The three of us walked back to Marshfield together.

I went back in the house with Joey because I hadn't gotten to talk with Dawn, which was the original point of the whole endeavor. She was in the bathroom when I came in, and that could be a long bath, but I hung out anyway and played peek-a-boo with Angel.

Dawn's mom asked me about how to get child support. I don't know the law that well, but I gave her some names of people to talk to. She said she had talked with Mujeres Latinas en Accion a little bit. I hope she keeps talking to them; they know a lot more than I do.

Dawn came out of the bathroom, went in her room a got a big broken piece of mirror, then came and sat on the sofa and trimmed her eyebrows. Apparently that was an old mirror of Joey's that broke, but hers is broken, too. She says her hand mirrors break, too. Cheap mirrors? Bad luck (superstition!)? Who knows?

Dawn stopped working at the dollar store recently because she has to make up credit for a class she failed at semester. With all the drama she's been through, I was grateful to hear she only has one class to make up. I guess the good part is maybe I will see her more often.

While I was there, her dad stopped by. I felt really weird being there but I also felt weird getting up and leaving right away, so I just said hi and stayed put. He went right to Angelito, then went back to Joey's room and gave him a hug. Dawn just kept on trimming her eyebrows, and her mom disappeared into the kitchen until he was done greeting his sons.

Eventually, Dad went out in the garage (he came back later with a toolbox). While he was gone, Joey came in the living room and kissed his little brother's tummy--he still likes to do that--then found a chair with wheels, took his mom's arm, and started pulling himself back and forth, gently. "It's my exercise," he joked in English, for my benefit. Mom was feeding Angel some baby food.

Joey went to hug his mom and Angel started crying. We all laughed at his classic display of sibling rivalry. I told a story about the time when my youngest sister asked my mom, "Are you all my mommy?" Then Joey hugged his mom again and she hugged back. Angel, who had been playing with his mom's cell phone, dropped it on her head. We could tell he didn't mean it to hurt as much as it did, but at least I couldn't tell if he'd done it on purpose as a reaction to the hug or if it just happened.

Maybe Mom couldn't tell either. She tried an experiment. She hugged Dawn (which Dawn accepted with kind of an amused smile). Angel dropped the cell phone on her again, but not as hard--she had also wisely put her back to him. We all cracked up laughing.

Then I realized they were all there and I haven't put many pictures in my cell phone since I lost the old one in November and got a replacement. So I took a cell phone photo of all of them on the sofa, everybody but Dad and Julian, Jr. It didn't come out great, but it seemed like everybody had fun doing it.

Earlier, Mom had told me if she doesn't start working soon, she'll lose the house. School Lady has hooked her up with a cooking job somewhere up on North Avenue and she can get a ride there with her. Mom also said when she's ready to look for new places to live she wants me to drive. "Para servirle/at your service," I said, and saluted her. She giggled.

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