Papi

Rigoberto_xqsi

Another June of fatherlessness, childlessness, while the word FATHER floats through the air like pollen, the fecundity of it birthing memories of Apá, Papi, forgivable and forgiven on his one special day. But on the other 364 he remains that shadow of a man, afterimage, ring of precipitation on the counter that slowly vanishes. I’m 40 and I still feel like the boy he abandoned at 13. I attend baptisms and baby showers, skeptical of my friends who say they will love their newborns forever. Every child becomes difficult to love or love back.

“You were born so small, and hairy, and ugly,” my father once told me, “I felt sorry for you. And now you look too handsome to be from this family.”

We were driving to the Mexican border, he to return to his second wife, who was pregnant again, me
on a visit from college to see my brother, who was still childless after two years of marriage.

He no longer asked me about being single, or about having children. I was no longer part of the world he and my brother inhabited. I was a citizen of the unattached, the people who leave no footprints after they die.

“I’m scared for your brother,” my father confessed. “I don’t understand what’s taking so long. I want him to know the happiness of being a father. There’s nothing more beautiful in this life than having a son.”

And I thought, not just yet, beloved brother. Don’t rush into the misery of becoming the disappointing parent of a disappointing child.

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About the author

Rigoberto Gonzalez

Rigoberto González is the author of eight books, most recently of the young adult novel The Mariposa Club, and a story collection titled Men without Bliss. The recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and winner of the American Book Award and The Poetry Center Book Award, Rigoberto writes a Latino book column for the El Paso Times of Texas. He is contributing editor for Poets and Writers Magazine, on the Board of Directors for the National Book Critics Circle, and is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers—Newark: The State University of New Jersey.

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