Neto was over on the bed shirtless and crudo, shaking his head at the reality of missing his father’s funeral service, when he raised both arms to smell his pits. He started digging in his jeans for a comb and pushed at his dark hair.
This was all in 1983, before the winter ended. I remember Neto often visited from New Mexico to the Abuelito’s home on Spruce Street in Huerfano, Colorado and slept off his drunks.
“There’s a lot of folks upstairs waiting on you, I said.
When he saw it was only me, he kicked off his sneakers and dropped his soiled pants and bent over in the posture of a small child. His nicotine stained fingers shoveled down the plate of rice and beans I had for him. He coughed and spat to the basement’s concrete floor.
“You the only Ortiz worth a damn left alive in this neighborhood,” he complained.
His clothes were in two great big garbage bags and he stood still a minute as I dragged his only collared shirt out from under his stash of nudie magazines and fungus-looking weed.
I put his clothes down deep in the washing machine and asked out loud if he was my father.
“Listen to what I say, Manito. I can tell you this. Born into this world alone and die alone,” Neto went on half-drunkenly. “Family will leave you. Women will leave you. All you have is your own damned self.”