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Oscar, You’re Going to Die a Virgin – “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”

December 13th, 2010 · No Comments · Fiction

Sophomore year Oscar’s weight stabilized at about two-ten (two-twenty when he was depressed, which was often), and it had become clear to everybody, especially his family, that he’d become the neighborhood pariguayo. He wore his semikink hair in a Puerto Rican Afro, had enormous Section-8 glasses (his anti-pussy devices, his boys Al and Miggs called them), sported an unappealing trace of mustache, and possessed a pair of close-set eyes that made him look somewhat retarded. The Eyes of Mingus (a comparison he made himself one day, going through his mother’s record collection; she was the only old-school Dominicana he knew who loved jazz; she’d arrived in the States in the early sixties and shacked up with morenos for years until she met Oscar’s father, who put an end to that particular chapter of the All-African World Party). Throughout high school he did the usual ghettonerd things: he collected comic books, he played role-playing games, he worked at a hardware store to save money for an outdated Apple IIe. He was an introvert who trembled with fear every time gym class rolled around. He watched nerd shows like “Doctor Who” and “Blake’s 7,” could tell you the difference between a Veritech fighter and a Zentraedi battle pod, and he used a lot of huge-sounding nerd words like “indefatigable” and “ubiquitous” when talking to niggers who would barely graduate from high school.

He read Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman novels (his favorite character was, of course, Raistlin) and became an early devotee of the End of the World. He devoured every book he could find that dealt with the End Times, from John Christopher’s “Empty World” to Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth.” He didn’t date no one. Didn’t even come close. Inside, he was a passionate person who fell in love easily and deeply. His affection—that gravitational mass of love, fear, longing, desire, and lust that he directed at any and every girl in the vicinity—roamed across all Paterson, affixed itself everywhere without regard to looks, age, or availability. Despite the fact that he considered his affection this tremendous, sputtering force, it was actually more like a ghost because no girl ever seemed to notice it.

Anywhere else, his triple-zero batting average with the girls might have passed unremarked, but this is a Dominican kid, in a Dominican family. Everybody noticed his lack of game and everybody offered him advice. His tío Rodolfo (only recently released from Rahway State) was especially generous in his tutelage. We wouldn’t want you to turn into one of those Greenwich Village maricones, Tío Rodolfo muttered ominously. You have to grab a muchacha, broder, y méteselo. That will take care of everything. Start with a fea. Coge that fea y méteselo! Rodolfo had four kids with three different women, so the nigger was without doubt the family’s resident metiéndolo expert.

Oscar’s sister Lola (who I’d start dating in college) was a lot more practical. She was one of those tough Jersey Latinas, a girl soccer star who drove her own car, had her own checkbook, called men bitches, and would eat a fat cat in front of you without a speck of vergüenza. When she was in sixth grade, she was raped by an older acquaintance, and surviving that urikán of pain, judgment, and bochinche had stripped her of cowardice. She’d say anything to anybody and she cut her hair short (anathema to late-eighties Jersey Dominicans) partially, I think, because when she’d been little her family had let it grow down past her ass—a source of pride, something I’m sure her rapist noticed and admired.

Oscar, Lola warned repeatedly, you’re going to die a virgin.

Don’t you think I know that? Another five years of this and I’ll bet you somebody tries to name a church after me.

Cut the hair, lose the glasses, exercise. And get rid of those porn magazines. They’re disgusting, they bother Mami, and they’ll never get you a date.

Sound counsel, which he did not adopt. He was one of those niggers who didn’t have any kind of hope. It wouldn’t have been half bad if Paterson and its surrounding precincts had been, like Don Bosco, all male. Paterson, however, was girls the way N.Y.C. was girls. And if that wasn’t guapas enough for you, well, then, head south, and there’d be Newark, Elizabeth, Jersey City, the Oranges, Union City, West New York, Weehawken—an urban swath known to niggers everywhere as Negrapolis One. He wasn’t even safe in his own house; his sister’s girlfriends were always hanging out, and when they were around he didn’t need no Penthouses. Her girls were the sort of hot-as-balls Latinas who dated only weight-lifting morenos or Latino cats with guns in their cribs. (His sister was the anomaly—she dated the same dude all four years of high school, a failed Golden Gloves welterweight who was excruciatingly courteous and fucked her like he was playing connect the dots, a pretty boy she’d eventually dump after he dirty-dicked her with some Pompton Lakes Irish bitch.) His sister’s friends were the Bergen County All-Stars, New Jersey’s very own Ciguapas: primera was Gladys, who complained constantly about her chest being too big; Marisol, who’d end up in M.I.T. and could out-salsa even the Goya dancers; Leticia, just off the boat, half Haitian, half Dominican, that special blend the Dominican government swears no existe, who spoke with the deepest accent, a girl so good she refused to sleep with three consecutive boyfriends! It wouldn’t have been so bad if these girls hadn’t treated Oscar like some deaf-mute harem guard; they blithely went on about the particulars of their sex lives while he sat in the kitchen clutching the latest issue of Dragon. Hey, he would yell, in case you’re wondering, there’s a male unit in here. Where? Marisol would say blandly. I don’t see one.


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