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Biography
Rigoberto González is the author of SO OFTEN THE PITCHER GOES TO WATER UNTIL IT BREAKS, a selection of the National Poetry Series, and of OTHER FUGITIVES AND OTHER STRANGERS. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships and of several international artist residencies, he has also written two children's picture books, a literary biography, and an award-winning novel, CROSSING VINES. He is on the Advisory Circle of Con Tinta—a coalition of Chicano/Latino activist writers. He works and lives in New York City. The selections included in this issue are from Mr. González’s forthcoming work, PIEDRITAS: A COLLECTION OF MICRO-PROSE.

INVISIBLE

- by Rigoberto González

In my freshman year of college I live on the third floor of the dorms, and though there’s an elevator, it’s always quicker to sprint up the two flights of stairs. The only time the elevator’s useful is when I need to haul my laundry down to the basement.  Every other week that’s my routine. The short trip so familiar I can count my breaths to it.  That is how I know I’ve descended too far down, that the elevator has plummeted past the basement, which I never knew was possible.  The small light goes out and I’m stuck there, in the near-dark, dirty clothes in my arms, a handful of quarters heavy in my pocket.

I press the emergency button and nothing happens. I press every other button repeatedly, refusing to have this small space get smaller still by letting the panic set in.  I even giggle at my bad luck but imagine the story I will have to tell later at the cafeteria while my dorm mates align the orange trays of food on the tables. It will finally be my chance to say something interesting since all this time I’ve had nothing much to contribute to the daily dose of jokes, anecdotes, complaints and witty observations flung from one side to the other. All this time I’ve been simply the listener, adding the sound of my laugh to the all-consuming din. I have yet to provoke such a communal response. I have yet to demand the attention, yet to be visible.

But then I’m struck with the paralyzing fear: What if no one notices I’m missing?  It will be business as usual in the cafeteria, with silverware clanging and drinks spilling without me because I’m the most insignificant of witnesses.  And all the while me inside that coffin buried in an unmarked grave, weeping at the memory of them.   

MARTINI

Dirty Absolut.  Up.  With olives. It was another way for me to feel sophisticated, a citizen unapologetic of his bourgeois tastes.  Though in the back of my mind I knew that I would lose control by the second round and I would be no different than my father sitting in front of a 24-pack of beer, the carton torn open and staring out with its gaping wound as can after can was pulled out, consumed.  My father walked around shirtless, proud of his beer belly, his face swollen, shiny as a blister.

                The more he drank, the more his handsome face disappeared into the darkness of his disorientation. And I pitied him—widower, farm worker, drunk. How different I felt—college graduate, professor, social drinker—toasting my successes in the trendy city lounges where the literati converged, all of us deceiving ourselves with accomplishment that we claimed resonated beyond our insular circles.

                My educated friends, I conclude as I stumble into a cab to flirt with the driver, must have learned from their fathers as well.  I imagine each of them observing quietly in the yards of their childhoods, as the men joke and slur and spit and congratulate themselves for how far they have come, what better lives they have in America. Who could forget the beauty of a can of beer changing color as the day collapses into the silence that grows deeper and longer?  Who could blame us for our community of enablers, the blessed people who keep us from plummeting into the loneliness and despair of our anonymous everyday selves?