My tío FaceTimes me out of the blue and I’m confused but I pick up. He tells me he’s outside my apartment complex. That he came to visit New York and wanted to see if I wanted to get lunch. I tell him I’m in, cause that’s what you say when someone pulls up to your house and offers to take you out to eat. I slip out of my pajamas and throw on some jeans and a sweater and head out. We drive to this Mexican place that’s just around the corner. My tío orders an appetizer platter that’s meant for four people cause he’s one of those go big or go home type people, one of those tomorrow isn’t promised so today I’m gonna live good type people. He orders a margarita for himself and one for me, cause he says “Hay que brindar” and “No podés brindar con agua”. We toast. To being alive. To existing. The bill is fifty dollars and my tío leaves seventy and tells the waitress to keep the change. I tell him that’s more than twenty percent and he tells me he doesn’t care, that society doesn’t determine what he tips. That he tips whatever he wants. We jump back into the car and he asks me where I wanna go. I tell him we should go to the bookstore, Shakespeare and Co. On our way there he tells me a story. How when he opened up the family driving school the first couple months he only had five students. How the profits didn’t even cover rent. That he and my tía and all my primos were gonna get evicted for sure. But then, he says, something changed. He tells me he went to church one night and prayed, like for real, like he got down on his knees on the hardwood floor, and he says he didn’t see God, but felt God inside him, like some sort of electrical current, like some Frankenstein shit, like he was dead and he came back to life. I’m just like “Puta, qué increíble” cause that’s what you say after someone tells you something that shakes you and you got no other words. We enter the bookstore and I head straight to the poetry section. Flip through Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. I read the poem “On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous”. I translate my favorite line “Hunger is to give the body what it knows it cannot keep.” I tell my tío “Hambre es darle al cuerpo lo que sabe que no puede mantener.” He says “Puta, qué incredible” cause that’s what you say after someone tells you something that shakes you and you got no other words. Then he tells me that maybe hunger is like love. And if it is, he says, then hunger is good. He tells me that maybe we should all stay hungry.
Alejandro Pérez is a student at Columbia University in New York. He is a 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee whose poems and flash fiction pieces have appeared or are forthcoming in Pacifica Literary Review, DIAGRAM, Blue Earth Review, DIALOGIST, Typehouse Magazine, decomP, and Spanish-language magazines in Venezuela, Chile, and Spain.
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